Back On The Attack
(The Journal 11th August 2003)
When Robert `3D' Del Naja was arrested last year it looked as though the end had
come for a band who helped create an entirely new musical genre.
In 1991, Massive Attack's Blue Lines invigorated the British music scene and beyond,
breathed life into the domestic urban scene, helped form the concept of a chill-out
album and proved dance music was not just to dance to. It paved the way for a
host of other acts, including one-time collaborator Tricky, as well as Portishead,
Morcheeba, Beth Orton, Sneaker Pimps and other less talented imitators.
If Blue Lines was the
revolution, their follow-ups backed the new way of thinking, Protection, Mezzanine
and this year's 100th Window evolved and refreshed the sound, opening the band
to new fans.
But no band's passage
is ever smooth and, behind the scenes, Massive Attack were coming apart. With
Mushroom having already departed, Daddy G made virtually no input for 100th Window,
leaving 3D to construct their darkest record to date alone.
The end result was their
least critically applauded LP yet - an inevitable backlash after years of praise
- and news that 3D and Daddy G were no longer talking was closely followed by
the arrest of the former over child pornography charges. The charges were false
and were dropped, but the stain on his character was harder to shift.
But out of the adversity
came hope: those who were once friends, including Daddy G, but had drifted away
amid artistic pressure, rallied around their beleaguered friend.
As a result, Massive
Attack are back. 100th Window, although dark and paranoid, has proven to be an
album which grows with each listening; the boys are fresh from a world tour and
planning to return to the studio in a few months' time. On top of all this the
band are now set for a headline slot at the Creamfields Festival in Liverpool
over August Bank Holiday weekend.
"When things get
rough you work out who your friends are," says 3D, whose appearance at Creamfields
will mark the first time the band has performed in Scouseland.
"Being a cynical
person, I've been very surprised how many friends I've got and how many supporters
I've had. The good thing about me and G is that after having distance and going
through a silent period, and moving away from each other, we have seen how bad
it can get. I don't know any band that doesn't have its problems because you are
mostly dealing with men, egos, vanity, creative differences.
"When people hang
out together for a long time, you know what it is like, people change and it is
really difficult to hold relationships together anyway. We have been through a
lot, me and G, and we have seen what it is all about now."
With apocalyptic statistics
and other heart-tingling images flashing up on giant screens, the live rendition
of the 100th Window tracks gives them an even greater sense of paranoia, but the
darkness is also interspersed with light, symbolic of the band's reconciliation.
Daddy G explained: "We
weren't really seeing eye-to-eye and getting on. That thing that happened to D,
which was complete bullshit, that was the catalyst that got us together. I just
remember thinking `I know this is bullshit'. At that point, it was one of the
lowest points of his life.
"We started talking
again. I could see that he was having a really hard time. We have known each other
for such a long time that I wasn't going to turn my back on him. In the face of
adversity, I was going to stand by him, Massive or not."
Having been dubbed the
originators of everything from the Bristol Sound to Trip-Hop, to Chill-Out, Massive
Attack are undoubtedly one of the most important acts of recent times. Without
them, much of the thriving UK Urban scene which now exists would not have had
the soil from which to grow. And having rediscovered the friendship which brought
their music out in the first place, the future looks bright.
3D added: "When
myself and Tricky started doing what we were doing we were very keen to keep it
local, real and English, as the tendency is to be very American.
"I think UK acts
are more aware of that now. For example, Mike Skinner (The Streets) is doing the
same sort of thing we did, albeit in a different style, and I think that is very
The Creamfields Festival
is being held at Speke Airport in Liverpool on Saturday, August 23. Other acts
include Audio Bullys, Chemical Brothers, Paul Oakenfold, Tiesto, Erick Morillo,
Yousef, Erol Alkan, Steve Lawler, Sasha and anyone who is anyone.
By Luke Edwards