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Interiors - Daddy Cool (The Sunday Times, Style 17th October 2004)
A DJ’s Bristol home proves that having a family doesn’t mean sacrificing style, says Lindsay Baker.
Three-year-old Ava Marshall is sitting in the kitchen having her breakfast and telling me about her favourite songs. Nursery rhymes aren’t really her thing, it seems. “Kelis and the Streets,” she informs me, are what she’s listening to at the moment. As for interior decor, she must be unique among her toddler peers, in that she can boast a one-off artwork made specifically for her by the cult graffiti artist Banksy — a friend of her parents — above the mantelpiece in her bedroom.
Such an advanced level of hipness in one so young isn’t quite so surprising when you realise that Ava’s dad is Grant Marshall — otherwise known as Daddy G — a DJ and member of the trip-hop pioneers Massive Attack. He and his companion, Sylvie, are expecting another baby imminently, so are busy organising their home in a bohemian corner of Bristol in preparation for the new arrival. The house is Georgian, and a listed building — when the 6ft 6in Marshall first moved in four years ago, he had to seek permission from English Heritage to increase the height of the doorways. “I was having to limbo around the house,” he laughs.He describes his interior-design style as: “Any old rubbish. Or shabby chic, I suppose, but I hate that phrase. I like stuff that feels like it has a story attached to it.” The house is packed with unexpected, original touches — the 1960s chrome “Superfine” sign that hangs on the kitchen wall, for instance, was rescued by Marshall from a derelict launderette years ago. “In Bristol, if it’s not bolted down, it’ll get salvaged,” he says.
Unsurprisingly, given his family, DJ-ing and recording commitments (he’s about to release a DJ compilation album and is working on the next Massive Attack offering with his musical partner, Robert “3D” Del Naja), Marshall doesn’t have as much time to source interesting artefacts these days. He and Sylvie have used Baileys Home & Garden, the high-end salvage company, to acquire furniture (including a Deep South-style rocking chair) and mirrors. “They charge you about £100 for a bit of sculpted driftwood,” he says, “but they do find great stuff.” The nearby city of Bath is also good for furniture places, such as Walcot Reclamation, as well as pretty antique bed linen. Marshall is also a fan of eBay — he recently purchased a rare picture of his hero Muhammad Ali from the website.
The couple have an aversion to anything “off the peg”, hence the kitchen units, which Marshall had copied from a Japanese design that he spotted while on tour there. The dark wood, along with the deep-brown stained floor, gives the kitchen a cosy feel. “In all the houses I’ve ever had, the kitchen has always been the centre of things — it’s where everyone ends up,” says Marshall.
The shower room, made by his carpenter friend Tom Brown, was similarly inspired by a Japanese look. The refurbishment wasn’t all plain sailing, though — the first time they tried to get the huge pane of red glass installed, it shattered and they had to reorder it. “It was worth it in the end, though,” says Marshall.
The record room, where Marshall practises his DJ-ing at his Technics 1200 decks, is packed with 15,000 records (he has another 10,000 in storage). It was here that he came up with the selection for his compilation album, released as part of the popular DJ-Kicks series, which features his usual mix of Studio One reggae, soul and hip-hop, plus a few rare Massive Attack remixes. “The main thing that runs through this album is my love for bass lines,” says Marshall. “These are records that are always in my box when I DJ.”
The large basement is being decorated, and the plan is to move the record room down there. When Marshall first moved into the house, the idea was to turn this area into an underground party venue or shebeen where his friends could hang out. Now, he’s not so sure — what with the new baby, he rather likes the quiet life these days. “Fatherhood’s brilliant,” he says. “I never dreamt that I’d want to stay in at the weekend and just chill out. There’s something really cosy about being part of a self-contained unit — we just shut the gates and forget we’re in the middle of the city.” So has he given up on the shebeen idea completely? “Maybe in a couple of years,” he says, smiling. By that time, Ava will be five — she’ll probably be down there herself, spinning discs for her mates.