File this under epic sonic memories: the moment I heard “Black Steel” from Tricky’s Maxinquaye album. I was living as a nomad in the states after starting a modeling career in Milan. Based in Chicago in the summer of ’95, I was driving to a shoot when this menacing, hypnotic, punch-drunk song came on. I blasted the stereo and tried to steer but the voodoo stripped me of my road sense. I pulled over. Music slammed against the door panels and across the dashboard and along my spine. It was mesmeric. Who is this artist and when will my brain stop moshing in its limbic cave? It’s Adrian Thaws! And he is genius!
I drove straight to a record store and bought the album, a beautifully dark masterpiece with Tricky’s hallucinatory vocals contrasting the sultry ones of Martina Topley-Bird. A trip hop album that seethed with languor and poetry, and one that I couldn’t stop playing. I learned that one-time Massive Attack collaborator Tricky had named the album after his late mother Maxine Quaye. The album was somnolent and swaggering, clever and ominous, and it wrecked me in the best way.
I’ve had a love affair with Tricky’s smoldering soundscapes ever since. His music ignites, sates, and purges my inner darkness. It is a conduit to the wildness and edge that I often repress, and informs my feminine creative energy. These are mighty claims, I know. But isn’t that the beauty of music? An entire universe arises within you if you are willing to crack yourself open for it. What I’m saying is, this isn’t just about Tricky making dope albums. It’s about him sating something down deep.
Still, it wasn’t until 2009, after I’d settled in LA to begin writing in earnest, that I saw him perform live. I didn’t know what to expect and neither did my Jamaican buddy Rob. When Tricky took the stage we looked at each other incredulously. What. The. Fuck. Tricky paced with wolfish energy, growling and half-whispering raps, dreadlocks flying, his ropy tattooed arms throttling the mic and thumping it against his bare chest in a “heartbeat” drumbeat. He radiated a glorious savagery.
About two hours into that incendiary performance at The Fonda my buddy and I agreed, “Top five live shows of all time, man, top five!” When Tricky later returned to LA for his first US tour in years, it was like being baptized in a folkloric river that siren-calls your name. I hope he’s back in 2017 to showcase his September release ununiform. Whatever his dreamy, dark seduction, I’m here for it. Tricky, never stop wrecking me.