Massive Attack take MIX to the max (2002)
Acclaimed by many as one of the most influential bands of the last decade, Bristol-based
Massive Attack and their co-producer Neil Davidge are currently working on their
fourth album, under the working title of LP4. In addition, they recently completed
'No Souvenirs', a collaborative track with The Prodigy's Liam Howlett, which is
already being touted by those that have heard it as 'the single of the year'.
Having also recently worked with David Bowie and Craig Armstrong on a track for
the movie Moulin Rouge, there is also a major Hollywood movie soundtrack in the
pipeline. Davidge - assisted by his production team Lee Shephard and Alex Swift
– is a Pro Tools user. This is perhaps an under-statement, given that he
owns three Pro Tools systems. The original set-up and every Pro Tools system since
have been supplied by Andy Brooks, who heads up the GearBox sales division. The
most recent addition to Neil's Pro Tools fleet is a maxed-out Pro Tools|24 MIX3
system based around an Apple G4/867MHz and 13 slot PCI expansion chassis, Marathon-racked
for road durability with a Focusrite ISA 430 Producer Pack front end, supplied
and installed by the GearBox sales team.
"Andy's been amazing in all the years I've dealt with him," Davidge
offers. "If ever I've had any problems with anything, I just ring him up
and it will be sorted out there and then. I really can't fault the guy."
"The team at GearBox make every effort and they seem to succeed as well,"
Davidge continues. "With companies that I've dealt with in the past, you
get all the blag when you first speak to them but when it comes down to it, they
really don't support you. When you've paid your money, you've received your gear
and you say 'Ah, I don't know how this works,' or 'maybe I'm missing something'...
With GearBox, it's all usually sorted out before hand. The 'No Souvenirs' collaboration
between Massive Attack and songwriter Liam Howlett of the Prodigy (which Davidge
co-produced) was a challenge, partly because of physical distance and partly because
of the difference in their set-ups.
Liam would work on the backing track in his programming suite, and then send it
down to us," says Davidge. "I would then edit his backing track into
some sort of structure that would suit the lyrics that 'D' [Massive Attack member
Robert Del Naja, Aka 3D] had written. Then I'd record vocals with 'D' and arrange
them, creating all the harmonies using Wave Mechanics Ultra Tools. That worked
out really well actually, we got some amazing effects. "Then we'd have to
get that back up over to Liam, who would then sample it all, because he works
mainly on Akais," Davidge reveals. "So he was sampling all the vocals
and stuff, then rearranging the track and sending it back down to us." Neil
however thinks that 'No Souvenirs' was definitely worth the effort. "It's
a very unusual track," Davidge opines. "It's quite a departure for both
parties really. On one hand, it's a very new place for Massive Attack - 'D' in
particular - to go in terms of the tempo and the power of the track. It's also
very melodic for a Prodigy track. There's a lot of harmonies and chord progressions.
I'll be interested to see what people think about it when it finally comes out."