It's a scaled back Massive Attack (The Montreal Gazette, 7th October 2006)
It's fitting that a band whose music has been increasingly fraught with tension over the years would experience that same drama on an interpersonal level.
Pioneering Bristolian trip-hop crew Massive Attack has had its share of competing egos and membership changes over the years. First there were five, then four, then three, then two, and now a different two.
"Myself and D weren't seeing eye-to-eye," said Grant Marshall, aka Daddy G, explaining why he left the band before the release of its fourth album, 100th Window, released in 2003. The D in question is Robert Del Naja, aka 3D, the sole member who has been on board throughout the group's existence.
"It's just the usual thing that happens between bandmembers," Marshall continued. "One of us always seems to fall away from the flock. I think it's because we're all quite strongly opinionated. I decided to walk, rather than disrupt the band."
He also had a baby on the way. Marshall is just back with the group after taking a break for the birth of his third child.
"It's a bit of whirlwind lifestyle in a band," he said. "My friends who live in Bristol all have very different lives. I'm usually in a studio or on tour. It can be quite unreal to get back to normal life. It's a humbling experience. You realize that at the end of the day, you're quite fortunate to be doing what you're doing."
He is happy to be back, despite returning to a complicated situation. On the phone from a tour stop in New York earlier this week, he explained how he and Del Naja have found a way to coexist creatively, despite their ongoing differences.
"It's up and down. It's kinda cool. We respect the fact that we've got something great going, and try to live within those boundaries. There's respect and friction. It's unpredictable."
Doesn't exactly have a big-happy-family ring to it, does it? But hey, it's honest.
"Two's company, three's a crowd," Marshall said. "There's always somebody coming from a different angle. During (1998's dark turn) Mezzanine, Mushroom left," he said, referring to original member Andrew Vowles. "He didn't seem to want to discuss expanding ideas. We fancied bringing in more guitar. He didn't fancy that. So he went for a walk, and never came back."
Another member who left and didn't return was rapper Tricky, who pursued a solo career - and went down a dark path of his own - following Massive Attack's 1994 album Protection.
Looking back, the group's groundbreaking 1991 debut, Blue Lines, had an air of innocence about it that was never reclaimed. A vibrant mix of dub reggae, hip-hop, soul, pop and dance music, it was the work of a band discovering itself.
"It was five guys getting together to make an album from a DJ perspective," Marshall said. "We used a lot of influences that we had grown up with, in a subtle way.
"When it came to making the second one, we had to start from a new perspective. We had crammed all our ideas into one album. So we started looking for new angles to pursue. Every album is just us looking for a different perspective. Now we're on tour, coming back with a harder edge. We've got a lot of ideas that might change - things we've written. But there's no (planned) route. It's more of an experience thing."
Massive Attack's latest release is the greatest-hits compilation, Collected. There are song sketches for a new album, due next year, but Marshall isn't revealing much more than that. Yes, he and 3D are working separately in their Bristol studios, passing tracks back and forth; but that's par for the course, he said:
"(The two of us) haven't worked on anything since Mezzanine, as a group. This is the normal process. It's funny that people are making such a big thing about it."
They still share their Bristol nightclub The Tube, which Marshall describes as a hot spot. "It's more of a social thing, really. It doesn't leak over into the music arrangement. ... It's happening - it's a cool, chic place, one of the best spots in town."
by T'cha Dunlevy