Massive Attack offers 'calm, collected class' (LA Daily News, 21st September 2006)
Massive Attack's dark, cinematic music has often been more of a sedative than a call to arms.
But behind the scenes, in conversation with the British collective's leader, Robert del Naja (also known as 3D), angry feelings surface about the state of the world, particularly the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Del Naja puts the blame squarely at the doorstep of Prime Minister Tony Blair for what he calls "the misrepresentation of the British people, the passive compliance to U.S. global affairs and the constant denial of civilian slaughter."
Like most reasonable people, del Naja separates a country's citizens from its government's policies, but is still perturbed about what he views as tacit approval in the U.S. for the Iraq War and the policies of President George W. Bush.
'Much is being hidden'
"Doesn't anyone realize what's going on?" he asks. "So much is being hidden in Britain and the United States. Everyone's kept so busy trying to make ends meet, they can't get angry enough to at least try and change things."
Those who prefer to keep their politics outside the concert hall can relax. When Massive Attack arrives at the Hollywood Bowl on Sunday in one of the most anticipated shows of the year, the ensemble led by del Naja and Grant Marshall ("Daddy G") will couch its rhetoric in some of the most appealingly atmospheric pop music around.
A pioneering force behind the chilly, sample-driven electronica genre called trip-hop, Massive Attack was among the most innovative and influential bands of the '90s. Its hypnotic, darkly sensual underground club music fused hip-hop rhythms, soulful melodies, dub reggae grooves and well-placed samples for sublime late-night listening. The band's 1991 instant classic, "Blue Lines," highlighted by the landmark track "Unfinished Symphony," created a template for such acclaimed artists as Portishead, Beth Orton, Zero 7, Roni Size, and Tricky, himself a Massive Attack alumnus.
"Our sound is a direct result of where we live," del Naja, 41, said, referring to Bristol, a hilly, culturally diverse university town on the River Avon in the southwest of England. "We grew up with Jamaican music, dub, punk, soul, funk and hip-hop. Some of us got heavily into obscure film scores. It just made sense to put everything together. It's a very multicultural vibe."
Sunday's Hollywood Bowl date marks Massive Attack's first local show in eight years. It should be one to remember — the 10-member ensemble features both Elizabeth Frazer (Cocteau Twins) and sweet-voiced reggae great Horace Andy.
After the group played to 50,000 mesmerized concertgoers at the Austin City Limits festival last Saturday, the Austin American Statesman raved, "Massive Attack was the definition of calm and collected class ... for a headlining slot that was nothing short of spectacular."
We just do what we like'
Del Naja says a Massive Attack show doesn't aim to duplicate the recordings. Instead, he hopes to sustain a mood strong enough to keep an audience enthralled for almost two hours.
"Sometimes we don't use vocals at all," he said. "And I think our audience expects something different. You're getting an experience with some of the sounds and personality of the records, but it's being created in the time we're on stage. We've learned not to even try and please everyone, so we just do what we like and hope everyone's with us."
by Fred Shuster