“Mongrel rage/It’s the new age”
(‘Tricky Kid’)

When he was young, after his mother died and his Dad had gone, Tricky was often looked after by his grandmother.

He cast a strange spell over her. She would keep him off school for company, letting him sleep all day and stay up with her at night, watching vampire movies.

Sometimes, he says, she would sit with him for ages, just watching him. It became a ritual; a way of remembering.

He would be in the middle of the floor, playing or drawing, while his Nan would sit listening to the handful of records they had: Gregory Issacs, Nina Simone, spaghetti western soundtracks – “moody music, melancholy music” – smoking woodbines, just staring at him.

“Every now and again she’d say somethin’ like ‘God, you look so much like her. You look so much like your mum’,” he smiles, frowning, sounding puzzled. “You know… Just to herself really.”

Tricky’s music, you could say, has been about re-creating this potent set of elements ever since. Everything is in there: hypnotic snatches of sound – cinematic samples, dub, and a voice like Billie Holliday (Tricky’s co-vocalist Martina); constant, copious, smoke (he blazes his way through an eighth of weed a day); the loving presence and strange influence of women; the atmosphere of tender melancholy; something childlike and dark. Ghosts.

And of course, as Tricky knows, he is still being scrutinised – studied for his strangeness which invariably only makes him uncomfortable and inevitably stranger.

“All these journalists come along, wantin’ to spend, like, days, hangin’ around with me, diggin’ round, d’you know what I mean ?” he complains. “They all want to get inside my head.”

This is not really surprising. These days, extraordinary individuals like Tricky are in pretty short supply.

The mundanity that is Brit Pop finally saw to that. The days when we would be enthralled by performers operating in their own disturbed universe, obsess over artists convinced of their own exotic enigma or weird genius (Michael Jackson, Prince, Kate Bush, Bowie, Bowie acolytes like Siouxsie or Sylvian) ended with the 80s. These days, even David Bowie just wants to be One of The Lads.

Tricky is in that tradition except, uniquely, mixed up with other influences like Lee Perry, Sly Stone, the Wu-Tang Clans: as soon as you listen to his music, you can’t help wondering what it is that’s going on in his head and what he must be like. At a time when pop music has become a sad parade of people trying to demonstrate how ordinary they are, this is just another thing that marks him out.

Most of his British contemporaries want to be photographed in the pub wearing jeans and trainers, offering nothing more intriguing than the equivalent of an instantly accessible, sing-a-long sit-com.

Tricky always was more at ease disturbing the norm though, and offers an altogether more complex set of complexes.

Since his first record, ‘Maxinquaye’ – a strange brew of bewitching, sinister, beats and samples – his music has provided a series of elliptical but intense expressions of his patently uneasy worldview.

His music seems to stem from a compulsion – to express the rage and confusion, the fear and threat, of living in his world. What it’s like in his head.

So what’s going on in Tricky’s head is an obvious source of fascination to any journalist writing about him. But, even allowing for the fact that you’d have to spend an awfully long time with Tricky before you could begin to work him out, it ignores the more pertinent point that being inside Tricky’s head is the last place anyone would want to be.

Tricky is 28 and was born Adrian Thaws in Knowle West, a rough, run-down, area of Bristol.

He is small and wiry. Tough. He has a punched-in, burnt-up, face, like a boxer’s, with a boxer’s stare that can unnerve people for the simple reason you can never be sure what’s coming next: a cheeky grin or a bitter curse; something tender or intense.

His voice has a deep Bristol burr which after a rough night out becomes a Dalek croak. His laugh is a thick, throaty, chuckle. A mad laugh that sounds unnervingly like a ghetto version of Sid James.

An asthmatic, one of Tricky’s earliest memories is his uncle leaning over him during a particularly bad attack and telling him he suffered the affliction because he was “a half-breed.”

It tells you a lot about him that Tricky actually agrees.

“I look at myself as a mongrel,” he says. “I got all the races in me – American Indian, white, Welsh, black, British, Jamaican, African… ”

Tricky’s mother died when he was 4 – as a result of epilepsy or suicide according to some reports. After his mother died he did not see his father again for years and when he did, it was usually just to say ‘hello’ to, out and about in the clubs around St. Paul’s.

“Who was that ?” friends would ask.
“I think it was my Dad,” he would smile.

He says he never thought anything of it. He was always looked after and loved – by the uncles and cousins he stayed with, or his grandmother who is now in her 80s. (“All the women in my family live til their 90s,” he adds ignoring the obvious minor detail that his mother didn’t).

He has four half-brothers and a sister but never grew up with them, spending his youth moving around Arcliffe and Knowle West, around the streets called ‘the Bristol Bronx’, never really in one place. Now it’s in his nature.

Tricky cannot sit still, cannot stop talking, or stop thinking. Sometimes it seems the only way he knows how to stop, how to cope with what’s going on in his head, is to get out of it – hammering the hydroponic, the coke, and the brandy and cokes. In New York, he says cheerfully, he’s tried to stop getting so “para” on weed, to cut down the paranoia in his head.

Tricky being Tricky, his way of doing this is to do some mushrooms instead and walk round the streets, chilling.

He says he started getting obsessed with music when he heard the first Specials album.
“I used to think ‘this is a record about my life!’”

Then there was the advent of hip-hop, or “‘ip-op” as he pronounces it.

He would be making music – DJ-ing, making white labels – regardless of whether it was successful.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s all I got.”

He became part of Bristol’s semi-legendary club posse the Wild Bunch and first emerged under the name Tricky Kid, rapping on Massive Attack’s 1991 classic ‘Blue Lines’. The cry “where’s Tricky ?” would pop up, like one of Massive Attack’s catchphrases.

5 years ago, according to pop legend, a chance meeting with a 15 year-old schoolgirl sitting on a wall having a cigarette changed his life.

Although her background was as different to his as it was possible to be, Martina Topley-Bird was destined to hit Tricky like a magnet, like a soul-mate, with a voice like a sleepy, sleazy, Billie Holliday and, as luck would have it, was desperate to get away from boarding school and be a singer. She became Tricky’s co-star – on his records and in his personal life, first as his partner and then as the mother of their daughter Maisie (“a very serious little baby indeed”).

Tricky had a version of his/their ground-breaking debut single ‘Aftermath’ (which he has variously described as being about “the end of the world”, about “seeing through the eyes of the dead”, and “about mothers”) for three years before he finally recognised that Massive Attack had no room for him and released it as a solo artist.

The first Tricky album ‘Maxinquaye’ (named after his mother, Maxine Quaye) was a revolutionary collection of haunting collages made up of rap, dub, soul, reggae, funk, House, even thrash metal (Martina’s punk version of Public Enemy’s ‘Black Steel’).

Tricky called it “hip-hop blues.” Most people called it “trip-hop.” The press hailed it as urban Britain’s equivalent of ‘What’s Goin’ On’, ‘There’s A Riot Goin’ On’, or ‘Sign o’ The Times’. They called him “the black Bowie”, “a Prince for the 90s”, “a 21st Century Brian Eno.”

If anything, Tricky became too fashionable. ‘Maxinquaye’ became a badge of credibility – the record that instantly showed you were not just hip but weird or Edgy. To his dismay, it was adopted by white students who found hip-hop too abrasive or radical and was reduced to the status of background music in TV ads, trendy clothes shops, and virtually every sex scene in arty television dramas.

His life went mad and suddenly Tricky had carte blanche to do whatever he wanted.

He started his own label Durban Poison (named after a particularly lethal brand of weed and independent from his deal with Island) and signed a film development deal with New Line. (His first acting role is in the new Luc Besson film alongside Gary Oldman).

“Everybody want a piece of me,” he sang/sighed on the brilliantly bleak single ‘Poems’, a characteristically doomed, self-fulfilling, prophecy.

Lead by Damon Albarn, even the dreaded Brit Pop mob wanted to hang out with him. David Bowie wrote him a short story in ‘Q’. He and Bjork starting dating.

On a more positive note, Tricky did dazzling re-mixes for everyone from Stevie Wonder, Afrika Islam, to Elvis Costello, taking enormous satisfaction that Garbage and Beck couldn’t handle what he delivered.

He describes this as “spastic Jungle. Just… weird. You couldn’t even nod your head to it. So fucking far ahead of anything.”

Growing more outspoken, Tricky frequently got into spats with former collaborators like Massive, Portishead, and Neneh Cherry, which invariably (typically) he ended up regretting and apologising for in the press.

In interviews, he demonstrated an increasingly bizarre identification with both Jesus and Satan, something he attributed to chronic spliff paranoia, and specifically a line in ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ greeting the devil’s son.
“And he shall be called Adrian.”

His make-up on the cover of ‘The Face’ made him look like some sort of voodoo prince. He appeared on the cover of the NME wearing devil’s horns and Time Out’s ‘Easter Special’ in crucifixion pose, wearing only Jockey shorts, handcuffs, and a crown of thorns. (Well we’ve all done it…)

Part of Tricky’s contradiction is that although he is proud of being different and relishes the attention, reading certain observations made him uneasy.

When people focused in on ‘Maxinquaye’s almost sinister sensuality and strange sexual ambivalence, Tricky himself went into denial, saying there was too much anger and confusion in there for it to be ‘sexy’ – as if that made any difference.

Still, it can’t be easy reading how unstable you are. He says he’s a victim of his own lack of defences.
“I’ve just been honest about being weak.”

“Everyone goes on about how mad I am and that,” he complains sounding as chirpy as ever. “But to me, I’m one of the most normal people I know… Everyone says I’m ‘dark’ or something. I don’t think I’m scary at all. I think I’m funny.”

And of course, what can you say ? This is brilliantly funny. Tricky’s wicked sense of humour makes him one of the funniest people you could ever meet. Watching him change Maisie’s nappy or having a cup of tea, he could also easily be one of the most normal.

Unlike the only contemporary figures he has anything in common with at all (Liam Gallagher, Michael Stipe, or PJ Harvey), Tricky does not play up his own enigma. He is incredibly friendly, almost unnaturally – stopping and saying hello to everyone, sometimes even when they’re just walking by.

With the accent, the laughing, the note of wonder in his voice, he seems like a big kid. Daft. Full of mad enthusiasm. Ask him what music he’s been listening to and he’ll give you a list – something people in his position never do – as if there’s nothing he’d love more than go home and play them to you.

“Old music ! ” he grins. “Danzig, Public Enemy, Prince, Kate Bush, PJ ‘arvey, Nirvana, Bob Marley, Tom Waits, The Goodie Mob, Nas, Neil Diamond. I love Neil Diamond !”
He starts singing ‘She Feeds The Children’.
“Captain Beefheart was a genius. He was just ridiculous, wasn’t he ?! ”

He is a ball of nerves. When he starts telling stories sometimes it’s as if he’ll tell you anything to keep the possibility of silence at bay.

He comes alive talking about the old days: going to blues parties as a kid, selling weed, talking his way in or out of fights, running riot round the shops. He will tell you mad stories – about his dentist (“He is Old Skool my dentist ! He’s cock-eyed !”). Or the tattoo he had done by a tattooist called Painless Phil.
“The most painful ta’’oo anyone ever ‘ad in their life I am tellin’ you dread!” he cackles.

Hardly any of his stories are about the music business, except when he is up on his feet, doing impressions of former members of his band, doing their walk or their body language, like a ragga version of footballer Ian Wright doing Buster Keaton.

“He was mad !” he roars about one of them – the biggest compliment he can give.

Tricky’s show in Oxford confirms what a lot of people who heard his last record suspected: Tricky is going to be remembered, not as the man who fathered ‘trip-hop’ but as the man who tried to strangle it at birth; the only artist around to kill the cross-over.

The live show is performed in virtual darkness with Tricky spending most of the show standing, eyes closed, sucking the life out of a joint, nodding his head to rhythms most of the audience can’t fathom and may not even be there (except in his head).

Rather than follow-up ‘Maxinquaye’, earlier this year Tricky rush-released ‘Nearly God’, a set of “brilliant demos” recorded in just two weeks with guest vocalists Terry Hall, Neneh Cherry, Alison Moyet and Bjork. The project took its title from a German journalist opening his interview by asking him: “so what’s it like to be God ? Or nearly God ? ”

Spurning the admiration of what he derisively calls the “yuppies and trendies” who enjoyed feeling mildly out of it to ‘Maxinquaye’, ‘Nearly God’ is the sound of Tricky’s bleak, bitter, comedown; like modern voodoo, the sound of Tricky sticking pins in to his own image.

No matter what Tricky says, it’s hard not to see ‘Nearly God’ as evidence of a dark, disturbed, vision with a tone of drug-deadened, almost static, antagonism seeping out of ‘Tattoo’, ‘Poems’, and ‘I Be The Prophet’: “would you like to ride my night-train ?/Or would you like to drink from my vein?/I’m already on the other side.”

‘Nearly God’ failed in frightening his disciples away. Unlike the Brit Pop boys, Tricky does not regard imitation as the sincerest form of flattery. As far as he’s concerned, the proliferation of trip-hop bands (Moloko, Ruby, 12 Rounds, Morcheeba, Baby Fox, and Lamb) has diluted ‘Maxinquaye’ until there is nothing left.

“I thought ‘Maxinquaye’ would be a underground album. A hip-hop kinda vibe. But it became really popular,” he complains. “It turned into a proper album in a way. When it came out it was new. Everything sounds like it now.”

The new Tricky album ‘Pre-Milennium Tension’ is not as extreme as ‘Nearly God’ (although the more it goes on, the more discordant and fractured it becomes) but it is raw – recorded in seven weeks in a “very, very, cheap” studio in Jamaica.

“I didn’t wanna come back with anything too nice,” he beams. “Or too polished. We’re not perfect as people, see ? So I don’t think the music should be perfect.”

Middle-brow critics may want to embrace Tricky as a “21st Century Brian Eno” but Tricky’s music is almost purely visceral, pure instinct, only ‘cerebral’ in the sense that he has to get it out of his head. Asking him what’s going on in his mind would be pointless. If he could express himself in any other way he would do.

The new single ‘Christiansands’ is an ingeniously simple, insistent, oddity featuring the nearest thing Tricky has ever had to a chorus, albeit one built around his hoarse, mildly menacing, claustrophobic comment on the possibilities of a lasting relationship: “You and me/what does that mean ? Always/what does that mean ? It means we’ll manage.”

Anything overtly commercial gets distorted into something darker. The second single, ‘Tricky Kid’, is a fabulously catchy, strutting, piece of ragga hip-hop/funk, full of menacing references like “coke in your nose/knock out your gold fronts.”

‘She Makes Me Wanna Die’ (“the only pretty song on the album… My attempt at an REM number”) is an unbearably lovely melody about the traumas of drug dread and how worthless we all are: “you’re insignificant/A small piece/An -ism/No more, no less.”

You almost begin to feel sorry for the record company, Island. He won’t put his picture on the covers and is notoriously difficult to coerce when it comes to promotion. Unimpressed by one music magazine’s photographer trying to take shots of him and guest vocalist Terry Hall for a piece when they released ‘Poems’, Hall just stared morosely at the ground while Tricky put a nearby cardboard box over his head. Plugging the merits of the new record during this interview doesn’t interest him. In fact, he goes further smiling: “I can’t listen to it to be honest ! It’s old to me. Record companies move too slow for me.” (It was actually only recorded at Christmas).

Tricky’s output has become so prolific he is resigned to doing more touring if only as a way to stay out of the studio and slow down.

Another Tricky album is already virtually complete as is ‘Drunkenstein’ – “the first Anglo-American hip-hop album” – which he may or may not release on Island. He has just given a fabulous 5-track collaboration titled ‘Tricky Presents Grassroots’ to the American hip-hop label Payday and has been working with Grace Jones, already making good his declaration/threat that he “wants a big piece of jungle this year.”

Island not surprisingly urged him against releasing records under the names Nearly God or The Starving Souls, worrying that his output was becoming increasingly unfocussed and confusing ‘his audience profile.’

“I ain’t interested in bein’ focused !” Tricky snorts, fabulously. “I ain’t never got anywhere by being focused.”

On the single ‘Tricky Kid’ the way he raps: “they used to call me Tricky Kid/I lived the life they wish they did” underlines his contempt for modern pop-stars’ propensity for trading on any vague or passing history/experience of criminality to enhance their ‘street cred.’

Tricky’s stories about his youth as a Bristol ‘bad bwoy’ or ‘ruff-neck’  are not like this. You get the impression that he partly regards the tales as evidence of his normality; his sanity. His life growing up in Knowle West was not ‘mad’, he explains. It was rough. “Mad real.”

Many of his relatives have been involved in everything from petty theft and “drug things” to professional criminality and protection rackets.
“Top villains,” he says matter-of-factly. “Gangsters.”

The series of stories he tells in the band’s dressing-room before their gig in Oxford confirms he is not exaggerating given that they include stories of people getting stabbed, getting shot, and getting dropped off tower blocks.

Tricky’s own exploits were relatively minor – breaking into shops, dealing weed, and getting involved in a vast and vivid array of fights in the clubs, pubs, and blues parties of Knowle West or St. Paul’s. Blades, chains, and machetes not only feature but were directed his way. In one anecdote he happily recalls “the only time I pissed myself – when this geezer pulled a sword on me !”

There’s a touching naivety about the way he remembers the times he would “lie in bed at night smoking draw, thinking: ‘that was a really fucked up thing to do to someone!’” Like a kid who’s still curious, and confused, about himself.

Tricky says he re-thought things after he was sentenced to a few days Youth Custody for buying a batch of forged £50 notes (tricky fifties, literally), showing no trace of bravado as he recalls the terror of being led through the main cell block.

“Me, this little kid, carrying this huge pile of blankets, bigger than I was ! Just looking at the people in there, thinking ‘I am never going to get out of here alive’. I knew I never wanted to go to prison again. I still ran with the same crowd, but I learnt to fade into the background.”

Things started to deteriorate, he says, when he saw some of the characters he had hung around with since school hurting people not for fun (which was bad enough) but for money.

“I know some real bad characters, heavy geezers. But, you know, they are nice people too. Not evil. Evil is confusion – just confusion and not being cared for.”

The stories keep coming – not because he’s trying to show how that he’s hard but because it’s his way of trying to show that he isn’t. Show that he could have gone that way but wasn’t suited or cut out for it.

Part of him also wants you to realise there are legacies. The life is still with him – family members he still sees, friends or enemies who will always crop up when he goes home. Even recently, he explains the shock of being in a mate’s car and feeling a gun under the seat.

Mostly though he tells so many stories because they’re funny. Stories like the time he spent the night trying to break into Gap only to find that whatever they used to try and break the store window would just bounce off the glass, even when they launched a park bench at it.

“We sat there all night just smoking spliff, shaking our ‘eads in disbelief !” he grins fondly.

He makes the fight scenes sounds like cartoons. His mates smashing people’s heads in with car-doors, or talking his way out of being beaten up by bouncers.
“I said ‘look, you are huge. You have nothing to prove by beatin’ someone as small as me up… BAM ! They smacked me.”

When he finally stops, and stops smiling and laughing, a sort of dark cloud resettles round him. I realise the main reason he tells so many stories is that these were the days when he was happy.

Tricky’s photo-shoot for this piece, not surprisingly proves fairly eventful. Tricky seems as happy as Larry, larking about, cheekily chatting up the stream of models arriving for an audition next door.
“That one thought I was the receptionist ! ” he cackles. “A bloke in a dress with green eyeliner and blue fuckin lipstick ! ”

Make-up (heavy make-up), he smiles, makes him feel “less naked.”

Dressing up is another legacy of his youth, even in such a rough area. His mate Junior first got him into it – to get girls.
“They love it !” he roars. “They love a bit of rough in a skirt.”

His grandmother almost encouraged it, rather than watch him drift into more criminal activity. Even in New York (where he’s living now), he goes out to hardcore hip-hop clubs in Brooklyn or the Bronx in a hooded top and make-up.
“No-one touches me. Nah. They don’t want trouble with somebody looking like this.”

This would probably be very wise. It doesn’t take much for Tricky’s mood o darken from unpredictable eccentricity into something more erratic and potentially…tricky.

His nature is notoriously contradictory. He can seem gregarious, garrulous, almost happy-go-lucky, but also solitary, saturnine, alarmingly intense. He can be touchingly trusting and naive or then madly paranoid, savagely cynical. Irrationally honest and then wilfully contrary.

At times, he seems to have welcomed the chance to confide in the writers profiling him, opening up to interviewers only to eventually find a reason to push them away and claim betrayal. He has threatened reprisals against journalists who he’s felt have intruded in his private life, even though he let them into it in the first place.

Nonetheless, he still makes certain comments you know he ultimately doesn’t really want printed.
“This is terrible…” he begins when I ask him about the jungle-driven frenzy of a new song called ‘Sex Drive.’ “It’s about a girl… It’s about Bjork.”

It doesn’t take much to provoke him. His temper is as raw as his talent. Sometimes you wonder whether the confrontation of his youth eventually becomes habitual.

During the photo session, when he wanders upstairs, a snooty receptionist asks him “What do you want ?”
“Nuthin’ from you !” he snarls rising to the offence, forcing a hasty retreat if not an actual apology.

Students or fans who have caught him in the wrong mood and made the mistake of being patronising or over-familiar (“telling me ’ow ‘wicked’ I am”) have swiftly felt the wrath of what he calls his “mongrel rage.”

He can’t tolerate fakes. Since the Brit Awards rumpus, he has been practically alone in backing Michael Jackson’s “genius” and railing against artists like Jarvis Cocker who he calls “fucking liars” for claiming they are one of the ‘common people.’

When a member of the trip-hop act Lamb tried bonding with his hero in a nightclub recently, eventually Tricky turned on him.
“I am gonna break this bottle and I’m gonna put it in your face,” he screamed. “Test me if you think I’m joking. I need someone like you to vent my anger on.”

What enraged him was the idea that people like Lamb (“students claiming they’re making bluesy-hip-hop”) have had it so easy and try to relate to him even though they show no sense of understanding the struggle(s) he’s had to go through – “too much for him to even talk to me.”

For someone who is such a flagrantly touching, vulnerable, soul, he makes it clear Lamb and Jarvis Cocker aren’t the only artists who should approach him with caution.

“Sometimes,” he announces suddenly, “I lie in bed at night thinking about beating up Liam !” sounding positively enthusiastic about such a confrontation with Oasis singer Liam Gallagher. Then justifying the threat with troubled logic: “You know, someone who’s got loads of front and thinks they’re a lad… Make a statement.”

When I ask what he thinks the statement would be, he says: ‘Like… leave me alone.”

Maybe Tricky’s just been alone for too long – or feels he has – and such violent volatility is his way of protecting himself, keeping people at bay.

He admits he is lonely.
“Yeah. We’re all lonely, ain’t we ?” he smiles. And that he would like someone to be with – “to lean on and talk to.”

His relationship with Bjork lasted 8 months. They could easily have married he says “cos she was like my mum. She became my mum. She done everything for me. Plus she’s insecure and I’m insecure, so it would’ve been the easiest thing to marry each other.”

Clearly for someone like Tricky, who’s grown up in his sort of world, this kind of rationale makes perfect sense.

As for being happy, he snorts: “Nah ! To me, I don’t think anyone is. People tell themselves they are, but the thing is….” he adds with the simple logic of a child who thinks he has worked out some great adult mystery, “what is there to be happy about ?”

The only time he seems genuinely happy is in New York where he hangs around in the studio with gangs of kids hanging around him. Where no-one knows who he is, or cares, just respects his talent. No fame, no photo sessions, no-one trying to get inside his head. Just have a smoke and a drink, making music. Like being fifteen again. Certainly the ‘Grassroots’ EP is not just his most confident but his most relaxed-sounding record to date.

“I find positive people really weird,” he says later, frowning so hard he’s almost scowling. “People who look on the bright side. I think I always look on the dark side ! If something’s going well for me, I’m waiting for something to go wrong. When I used to go to court, you’d tell yourself you were going to prison. Then if you did, you’re ready. I think it’s a way of not getting hurt.”

In bed at night, sometimes Tricky lies for hours, struggling for sleep, buzzing from the drugs or drink, trying to work it all out. Trying to work himself out, invariably fighting the mad depression of the comedown.

He says he lies there, thinking about what he’s been doing. Whether the people in his apartment block are trying to frame him. Whether his record company is trying to kill him. What is going to happen to Maisie.

In an interview with Arena recently, he says he wouldn’t mind her becoming a “total yuppie” – just interested in fast cars and shopping. Which seems out of character, until you realise he just wants her out of it, out of the struggle. Spare her all the confusion, the fear and rage, paranoia and pain, going on in his own life. In his own head.

Mostly though at the moment what he thinks about is… revenge.
“Yeah G, a lot of revenge goes on in my head. I get hurt really fuckin’ easily.”

Walking back from the photo session through Portobello market, Tricky was (as usual) thinking about all the things he had to do: bathe Maisie, get changed, make a few calls. He still had the make-up on from the shoot and a sari,  thinking nothing of it (being nothing new to him). But outside one pub, someone was looking at him.

“Alright mate,” Tricky says to him, fronting him out immediately. “How’s it goin’ ?” – the sort of friendly greeting you know immediately is never going to have a friendly ending.

When the other bloke starts “getting mouthy”, Tricky calmly gives the baby’s pram to his cousin and goes back to finish it, hostility blazing and challenging: “what’s your problem then ?!”

Days later, he still maintains the bloke was “way out of order”, arguing he was “threatening aggression around Maisie.”

“I’ve been thinking about that for two weeks now,” he tells me, banging an ashtray on the table as he repeats “thinking about it, thinking about it, thinking about it…”

Specifically what he’s thinking about is going back there one night, waiting outside that pub, putting a balaclava on and taking his rage out on him – someone who is ultimately the sort of idiot you find on every corner if you’re looking for one.

I tell him he should be careful. One of these days, he really is going to glass someone, lay into someone with a pool cue.
“Nah !” he laughs, before muttering “I’d rather pay someone else to do it.”

Later he asks: “Don’t you think that’s how everyone feels ?”
Maybe, I say, but not that many people who are in your position. Generally, success makes people feel more stable.

“I know I am unsettled – since my childhood. If I’d had a Mum and a Dad and been brought up by them, I’d have been a bit more not-confused and unsettled.”

I asked him if it was true that his mother had committed suicide. His face seemed to darken for a second before he grinned: “I’ve read that too ! I don’t really know to tell you the truth. No-one in the family really talks about it.”

Either way, he doesn’t feel it scarred him.
“You get numb. I made myself numb,” he says, although I suppose he only thinks he has. “I never seen it as hard,” he adds sounding surprised. “One thing I did miss was, when I’d go to a mate’s house and someone called ‘Mum’. The fact I had no-one to call Mum. I used to find that strange. But you can’t afford for it to be hard. I forgot about my Mum. I mean, I thought about her. I wished she was here to see this now but I hardened up. Otherwise you’re gonna feel it and it’d probably destroy you.”

He stands up to get going, announcing with one last statement of his own particular pride: “You know that the mongrel is the strongest of the litter.”