If you think you’re old-school, meet Tricky. The 43-year-old musician and actor grew up in Bristol, England, surrounded by inked family members, and he got his first tattoo—a vampire on his leg—done by a friend when he was just 14. “My great-grandmother had tattoos, but it was more of a community thing back then,” he explains. “My great-granddad was in the military and a couple of my uncles were in prison, so it was less decorative and more a way of life.”
Tricky’s ninth full-length, Mixed Race, is as eclectic as his genetic makeup, with a collection of songs that spans genres from Jamaican dub to traditional French music. “I’ve always acknowledged my race but I don’t think I’ve ever put it into a record,” Tricky says. And although he insists that making Mixed Race in Paris was a laid-back experience, you wouldn’t know that by listening to downbeat songs like “Ghetto Stars.” “People have been saying my music is dark since Maxinquaye,” he says, mentioning his breakthrough 1995 album. “I’ve tried to make a pop song, but it’s difficult for me—this is just the way my music comes out, and I don’t really think about it.”
That same instinct carries over to his tattoos. When Tricky goes to Japan to get his left sleeve finished by the legendary artist Horiyoshi III, he has no plans to interfere with the master’s process. “If an A&R guy has a band and he tries to make them something they’re not, that means he has no trust in his artist,” Tricky explains when asked about his confidence in Horiyoshi’s traditional Japanese work. “If I like your tattoo work and you’re working on me, I have to trust you.”

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