Weather the Attack (Philadelphia Weekly 27th September 2006)
Robert Del Naja delves beneath the surface.
“To be honest,” says Massive Attack’s Robert Del Naja (aka 3D), “if the record companies could sell the same 10 songs over and over again, and all they had to do was reproduce them each week to get them on the radio, they’d be happy. It’s like Coca-Cola. If you can keep selling it, why change the format? The shareholders are happy, so why rock the boat?”
Ever since they burst onto the U.K. music scene in the early ’90s, Massive Attack have rocked the boat in a big way. One of the first bands to combine pulsing dance beats and exotic samples within an R&B style that could be both beautiful and bizarre, Massive Attack were trip-hop pioneers who had a massive influence on the then-nascent electronica movement. But to hear Del Naja tell it, the “electronica revolution” (as it was then called) was anything but.
“We never thought it was a golden moment,” he says over the phone before a gig in Berlin. “What we were trying to do was always a mixture of electronic and acoustic from the samples we chose, which were prog rock, bizarre sources, reggae and dub. Our thing was putting a lot of different places together. When electronica and dance got really big, we continued to do it our own way.”
Joined by Grant “Daddy G” Marshall and Andrew “Mushroom” Vowles, Massive Attack produced such early-’90s classics as Blue Lines and Protection, leading to the increasingly paranoid, eerie and noirish (but no less sonically gorgeous) Mezzanine (1998) and 100th Window (2003). Choice tracks (a recent single “Live With Me”) and video material are compiled on Collected, which serves as a good stopgap until the release of 2007’s Weather Underground. Any allusions to the radical group whose goals were anarchy and destruction are purely intentional.
“That is a mischievous title,” Del Naja laughs. “I’m not suggesting anyone should resort to violence, but the history of the Weathermen and that part of American history is unknown to most British people in the U.K. Weather Underground is an interesting image of what it’s like to be living in the present political climate in the U.K. and in America. Young people feel a bit disenfranchised. Being a multiethnic band from Bristol, there’ll always be that sense of feeling cynical and bitter about the status quo. Our circle of people was mixed in black, white, punk and reggae, and we felt we knew something everyone else didn’t. We weren’t part of the mainstream. We saw beneath the surface. That brings with it a certain amount of paranoia.”
Massive Attack have recorded seven new songs so far, and will return to the studio in October, when they plan to explore the “deviant intricacy” that’s made songs like “Teardrop,” “Inertia Creeps” and “Risingson” anthems for emotional dislocation.
“The new record has to be different,” Del Naja concludes. “It’ll have some signature sounds, that gothic-soul thing. But in an age when music is worth less, being able to retain an identity is really important. If you’ve that after 15 years, then you’ve done something right. But in the studio you want to go somewhere you haven’t been before. You want to twist it and turn it on its head. As many failures as you have, the successes make you most happy.”
by Ken Micallef