Interview (Eye Weekly, 7th September 2006)
Eighteen years. Eight albums. Zero creative missteps. And eight years since their last North American tour. Which makes the appearance of Massive Attack at Toronto's inaugural V Fest cause for much joyous weeping from fans of trip-hop's very dark horse, and an elevation of the fest from trendy band-overload to special event. The Bristol collective are supporting both their latest best-of release, Collected, and building anticipation for the forthcoming Weather Underground, half-recorded with such pals as Brooklyn's TV on the Radio. Massive maestro Robert del Naja (a.k.a. 3D) called in from a stop in Paris.
Why did you interrupt making your new record to tour North America?
Coachella was the catalyst. They've asked us for the last three years and we figured we shouldn't turn them down again. We do have fond memories of gigs done there in the past: west coast and east coast and very bizarre ones in the middle.
You are playing the first V Festival here in Canada. Any words of wisdom from Richard Branson?
We met Mr. Branson very early on, when we signed [to Virgin Records]. He's a very nice man indeed. Unfortunately, I spend my money as I earn it. As an entrepreneur, I can't stand up to his shadow, really.
You make a rare vocal appearance on "False Flags," a new track on Collected. Is it political?
It is definitely political, but I've tried to make it more like a rant in a French jazz bar. My girlfriend at the time got sick of me ranting at dinner every time I got the news on, so I decided to write some of it down. It's about the state of the union, as in European Union. The very mixed ethnic communities, how that's working, the frustration, the colonial past of our countries, the wars and how that translates to a civic movement on the streets, like the troubles in France last summer. It's my belief you'll see a lot more of that in Europe. It's all those things, but trying to be as poetic as I could possibly be considering the subject matter.
I was surprised to see Sepultura cover [1998's] "Angel." You have impact in unexpected places. Any new influences of yours that might surprise us?
Well, the new-wave punk thing is what got me into music: The Clash, Public Image Ltd. More recently, one band I really do love is Queens of the Stone Age.
What's the status of the new album?
We got a lot of tracks but we need an angle. Every record comes from that thread, something you have a relationship with. At the moment, it feels like a lot of things are floating around. The main thing is getting into a good position with the people you want to collaborate with so you have time to do something meaningful.
How much have you changed since your Wild Bunch graffiti days?
I'm still a boy at heart. At the same time, I carry the weight of the world around with me -- as any of my girlfriends would testify to. We never expected anything after [1991's] Blue Lines. Our goal was to complete the record without killing each other. That should have been it. It's a privilege to still be around.
by Liisa Ladouceur