Massive Attack

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Finally, in November, it was announced that ''''[[Heligoland]]'''' will be released on February 8th 2010.
Finally, in November, it was announced that ''''[[Heligoland]]'''' will be released on February 8th 2010.
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Revision as of 22:52, 23 November 2009

Massive Attack are a musical collective from Bristol, UK, widely considered to be progenitors of the genre known as trip hop, as well as effectively being a wider collective including other musicians that they assemble. Originally DJ's Grant Marshall (Daddy G), Andrew Vowles (Mushroom) and painter-turned-MC Robert Del Naja (3D) met as members of The Wild Bunch, one of the first sound system collectives in Britain and a dominant force in the early 1980s Bristolian club scene.

Starting out as a production trio in 1988, with their independently-released song, Any Love, sung by falsetto-voiced singer-songwriter Carlton McCarthy, they later signed to Circa Records in 1990. Circa became a subsidiary of (and was later subsumed by) Virgin Records, which in turn was acquired by EMI.

Contents

Style

Some of their most noted songs have been without choruses and have featured dramatically atmospheric dynamics, conveyed through either epic distorted guitar crescendos, lavish orchestral arrangements (like swelling, sustained strings or flourishes of grand piano) or prominent, looped/shifting basslines, often underpinned by high and exacting production values, involving sometimes painstaking digital editing and mixing. The pace of their music has often been slower than prevalent British dance music at the time. These and other psychedelic, soundtrack-like and DJist sonic techniques, formed a much-emulated style journalists began to dub "trip hop" from the mid-nineties onwards, though in an interview in 2006, G said, "'We used to hate that terminology [trip-hop] so bad,' (laughs) 'You know, as far we were concerned, Massive Attack music was unique, so to put it in a box was to pigeonhole it and to say, "Right, we know where you guys are coming from."



Career summary

Their debut album, Blue Lines (1991), was co-produced by Jonny Dollar and Cameron McVey, who also became their first manager. Massive Attack went on to critical acclaim for their ever-changing line-up of distinctive, often 'ethereal' or whispery guest vocalists, interspersed with Del Naja and Marshall's (initially Tricky's) own,'and other eclectic references, musical and lyrical.

With the coffee-table chill-out of Protection in 1994, a rather heavier, guitar-upgraded Mezzanine in 1998, and then the denser, more clinical soundscaping of Robert Del Naja's essentially solo 100th Window in 2003, Massive's overall sound grew persistently more experimental and melancholy, having a greater degree of gothic post-punk texture and moodily cinematic electronica integrated into it. The band became known for often not being able to easily get along with one another and working increasingly separately. Andrew Vowles, aka Mushroom, reluctantly and acrimoniously left Massive Attack altogether in late 1999, at the behest of his colleagues. Daddy G had also effectively left by 2001, but returned to a studio role with greater commitment in 2005, having joined the touring line-up of 2003/4, though he did produce "Live With Me", with Terry Callier, the one new track from [Disc 1 of] 2006's Collected.

A record label, Melankolic, was started back in 1995 (as an imprint of Virgin Records), but had completely folded by 2003. Over the decades, the Bristol collective have collaborated with Neneh Cherry, Madonna, David Bowie, Mos Def and Sinéad O'Connor amongst many others. Roots reggae veteran, Horace Andy has featured on all of their studio LP's.

Throughout 2009, Massive Attack completed their fifth studio LP Heligoland with production from Neil Davidge (and mixed by Mark 'Spike' Stent).

The Splitting The Atom EP, featuring vocals from Massive Attack, Horace Andy, Tunde Adebimpe, Martina Topley-Bird and Guy Garvey was released on October 5 2009 to buy as a digital download and limited edition vinyl. The new album will be released on February 8th 2010.

History

1988-1989: "Any Love" era (with Smith & Mighty)

Any Love

Unsigned, Mushroom (Andy Vowles), Daddy G (Grant Marshall) and 3D (Robert Del Naja) put out Any Love as a single, co-produced by Bristolian double-act Smith and Mighty. Through The Wild Bunch they met Cameron McVey and Neneh Cherry.

1990-1992: Blue Lines era (with Jonny Dollar)

Blue Lines

3D co-wrote (the rap verses of) Neneh Cherry's Manchild, which went to number one. Cameron McVey and Neneh Cherry helped them to record their first LP, '"Blue Lines'", partly in their house, and the album was released in 1991 on Virgin Records.

The album was critically acclaimed across the board. It encompassed a range of different vocalists, normal practice for an eclectic soundsystem but quite unusual for a high-profile album at that time. The singers included Horace Andy, as well as Shara Nelson, a former Wild Bunch cohort. MC's Tricky and Willie Wee, also once part of The Wild Bunch, featured, as well as Daddy G's voice on Five Man Army. Neneh Cherry sang backing vocals on environmentalist anthem, Hymn of the Big Wheel.

That year they released Unfinished Sympathy as a single [an obvious pun on Unfinished Symphony], a grandiosely string-arranged track at Abbey Road Studios, scored by Will Malone, that would go on to be voted the 10th greatest of all time, with a one-take video that also became iconic and much-imitated (by The Verve amongst others). The group shortened their name, on the advice of McVey to avoid controversy relating to the Gulf War.

They went back to being Massive Attack for their next single, Safe From Harm.

They undertook a relatively brief tour, including the United States, as a DJ / MC, hip hop-type setup, with only turntables and microphones. The tour was not particularly well received, spurring the decision to make Massive Attack into a more traditional live entity for the following tour. The impetus for dropping the soundsystem ethos which had been all the band had known from the days in The Wild Bunch was partly to simply try something new and also because some of the scathing reviews Massive Attack had received, particularly in their soundsystem tour of North America the preceding year, where the whole soundsystem concept involving a rotating roster of MC-ing, toasting and DJ-ing, wasn't understood at all by the audience. 3D said of the North American soundsystem- "Didn't go down too well at all. The worst show was Minneapolis. Prince's Club. What was it called? Glam Slam? In the end they had to put the curtain down on us, we were so bad. Bloody terrible". [Details Magazine - February 1995]


1993-1997: Protection era (with Nellee Hooper) and the Melankolic label

Protection

After falling out with Shara Nelson over wages and her decision to make a solo record, the band brought in Tracey Thorn as a new vocalist. Cameron McVey abandoned his role as Massive Attack's manager and Daddy G asked Marc Picken, who worked for Levi's at the time and had some form of organizing role for the Protection tour, to represent the band. Picken left Levi's to manage Massive Attack full-time and also setup their Melankolic record label with them. He also found Nicolette to be the other female vocalist on the album that would become their second studio release, Protection.

With McVey out of the picture, Massive, returning to their roots in some respects, enlisted the production talents of Wild Bunch alumnus, Nellee Hooper to co-produce the record, or rather co-produce some songs on it, with Mushroom. Other tracks were co-produced by The Insects and 3D.

The album was successful. A dub version, No Protection, was released the following year by Mad Professor. Protection won a Brit award for Best Dance Act and Robert Del Naja joked, on receiving it, that none of them could dance. It was more chilled out and overtly electronic than Blue Lines and ends with a lighthearted cover of the Doors classic, Light My Fire, sung by Horace Andy, often thought of now as an ill-chosen reference to their live soundsystem past. The other collaborators on Protection were Marius de Vries, Craig Armstrong, a virtuoso Scottish classical pianist and Tricky. Tricky's solo career was taking off at this time and he decided not to collaborate with Massive anymore after this, having never been very happy with Massive Attack's creative direction or in his relationships with Del Naja and Daddy G.

1994-5 was also the period of Portishead's 'Dummy' and Tricky's 'Maxinquaye' albums and the term, "trip hop" was coined. Massive Attack bitterly opposed its use, wanting to not be pigeonholed. The media started to refer to the "Bristol scene",although this would be spurious to some extent as Tricky based himself in London [and later in the States] and there was not a great deal of camaraderie between the three entities (although they could be related in that the protagonists were all connected to Blue Lines studio sessions and their wages being initially paid by Neneh Cherry and Cameron McVey's "Cherry Bear Organisation").

Melankolic sampler

In 1995, Massive Attack started a label under EMI, Melankolic, an obvious reference to their interest in elegiac music, and signed Craig Armstrong, as well as a number of other artists: Horace Andy, Alpha, Sunna and Day One. The trio espoused a non-interference philosophy that allowed the artists to make their albums in the way they wanted.

The same year, The Insects became unavailable for co-production and having parted ways with Nellee Hooper, the band were introduced to Neil Davidge, a relatively unknown producer whose main claim to fame thus far had been an association with anonymous dance/pop outfit, DNA. The first track they worked on was The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game, a cover version sung by Tracey Thorn for the 'Batman Forever' soundtrack, foretelling ever greater forays into film music. Initially, Davidge was brought in as engineer, but soon became de facto producer.

The trio increasingly fractured in the lead up to the third album, Davidge having to co-produce the three producers ideas separately. Mushroom was reported to be unhappy with the degree of the post-punk direction Del Naja, increasingly filling the production vacuum, was taking the band in.

In 1997, the group contributed to the movie soundtrack of 'The Jackal', recording Superpredators (Metal Postcard) and Dissolved Girl, a new song with vocals by Sarah Jay (which would later be remixed in a longer, darker form for the next album).

Later that year they delivered a comeback single, Risingson (from what would be their third album, Mezzanine) released to sate the fans' appetite for new material.

1998-2001: Mezzanine era (with Neil Davidge) and the split from Mushroom

Mezzanine

Mezzanine was darker, heavier sounding and more guitar-driven, the album came out initially to rather mixed reviews and a perception that it was not a commercial record, although it went on to be their most commercial. The record marked Massive Attack becoming a live band and incorporated more fresh, recorded live music as well as samples. Angelo Bruschini would become their permanent lead guitarist both in recording and live.

The lead single, after Risingson was Teardrop, perhaps the most accessible track on the album, sung by Cocteau Twin, Elizabeth Fraser. It was accompanied by what would become a very memorable video directed by Walter Stern, of an animatronic singing foetus. Mushroom and Del Naja met Fraser in a Safeway supermarket and her collaboration on three songs came about as the relationship with Tracey Thorn fell by the wayside. Horace Andy was invited back to sing on three songs, including the epic, Angel.

Mezzanine went on to be critically acclaimed, winning a Q Award for Best Album (Q magazine initially only having given it 3/5 stars) as well as being nominated for a Mercury. The record eschewed hip-hop to some extent in favour of more experimental, gothic and post-punk-like music, resulting from Del Naja's influence. The artwork for the album is a beetle, made out of parts of a Volkswagen beetle car.

Touring extensively, friction between Mushroom and the others came to a head. Mushroom was unhappy with the direction of the group, Del Naja's dominating role and having to appear on tour. He is thought to have leaked Massive Attack material to Madonna in an effort to have her involved on an album and to have been refusing to allow anyone else in the band to modify his material (seen to be against the collaborative spirit of the group). Finding his behaviour intolerable to deal with, the other two suggested he would need to leave or the band would have to end. Mushroom acrimoniously split from Massive Attack officially in the autumn of 1999. It is rumoured that he privately blamed his subsequent severe health problems on the strain of the acrimony. It was widely reported in subsequent years that he would produce a solo album, but no such material has ever appeared in the ten years since.

In 2000, Del Naja and Daddy G released a highly publicized webcast on the state of the band and future plans, which was perceived by some to be a show of unity following divorce from Mushroom.

Around this time, Del Naja and Davidge decanted to Ridge Farm studio with friends and band members of Lupine Howl (itself made up of sacked members of the band Spiritualized, including Damon Reece who would go on to be Massive Attack's permanent drummer and one of two live drummers) towards a fourth Massive Attack LP, taking things even further into an experimental, psychedelic rock direction.

Daddy G became increasingly disillusioned with this approach, despite having supported the direction up until the point of Mezzanine, and stayed away from the studio from around 2001, effectively leaving Massive Attack as a producer.

Robert Del Naja and Davidge eventually conceded that the separate elements of the Lupine Howl sessions did not make for great music and this material is almost entirely discarded in favour of a more cinematic and busily electronic sound.

It was around this point that their label, Melankolic started to dwindle. There were no releases from after 2002 and the company dissolved in 2003. Del Naja later suggested in interviews that it was in part due to the artists "taking the piss" in spending too much money and Daddy G cited Virgin Records' lack of infrastructural support as a reason for the downfall.

2001 also saw the release of Eleven Promos, a DVD of all Massive Attack's 11 music videos thus far (including Angel, a £100,000+ promo that they initially withdrew from fear of inflaming unhelpful speculation about the relationships in the band at the time, even though it was Daddy G, and not Mushroom who is depicted running away.)


2002-2005: 100th Window era (with 3D solo) and Danny the Dog

100th Window

With Daddy G no longer involved in the studio, Davidge and Del Naja steered "LP4" on their own. Enlisting the vocals of a flu-ridden Sinéad O'Connor and perennial favourite Horace Andy, 100th Window was mastered in August 2002 and released in February 2003. More sonically conceptual than the other records and featuring no samples of other artists or cover versions, 100th Window, a reference to a book about internet security used as a metaphor apropos 'no man is an island'. It was not as critically well received in Britain as the other records, although the album received a warmer reception internationally; scoring a 75 outof 100 on review aggregation site Metacritic.

Also in 2003, Del Naja was arrested on child porn allegations, which were reported very widely in all media outlets, thanks to the UK police and The Sun newspaper. The allegations resulted from his having entered his credit card details into a website in 1999 that was connected to other material which he did not view. Del Naja was soon eliminated as a suspect (although he was charged with Ecstasy possession and unable to get a US visa for a while) and Daddy G and fans offered support. The arrest affected the beginning of the 100th Window tour schedule. The tour did not include the United States and was very elaborate in terms of its light show, collaborating again with UVA (United Visual Artists).

Despite the difficulties of 2003, 100th Window sold over a million copies and was toured extensively (including Queen Square, Bristol - a one-off free concert set up in the city centre park, which was seen as a homecoming). Daddy G was fully involved as a member of the tour. It was rumoured that the tour of 2003 was so expensive, it sent Massive Attack into the red, with the group unable to fully pay the roadies at the time. A less ambitious tour took place in 2004.

Danny The Dog

Afterwards, Del Naja and Davidge agreed to an offer from director Louis Leterrier, to score the entire soundtrack for Danny The Dog (aka Unleashed), starring Jet Li. It was off the back of this lucrative job that they would have the funding to buy their own '100 Suns' studio. Dot Allison, who had sung with the band on the 100th Window tour, sang the end titles track, Aftersun. Davidge also scored the soundtrack for the more critically well-received Bullet Boy film, with Del Naja on the end titles.

In 2005, Daddy G started coming into the studio, although little came of the material. He decided to instead work with a production duo, Robot Club, in another studio, feeling that he would be more free to develop tracks in the way he wanted. Meanwhile, Del Naja and Davidge recorded with a number of different singers as well as creating a track named Twilight, for UNKLE's War Stories album. Later that year, Massive Attack decided to release their contractually-obliged, Best Of, Collected in 2006. To make things more interesting they released it with a second disc, made up of previously released non-album songs and unreleased sketches.

2006-present: Collected, the Meltdown festival, LP5's slow progress and the Splitting The Atom EP

Collected

Massive Attack toured their greatest hits record, including North America for the first time in nearly eight years. It sold well and was critically well-received for the most part. The artwork is an echo of the concept of Mezzanine, depicting four wreath-looking flowers as if they were made out of weapons. The justification given for the "Best Of" was that the record buys the band more time with the record company to develop "LP5" in the way that they want, i.e. to hold off on releasing it for six years.

In 2007, Del Naja and Davidge scored three soundtracks, In Prison My Whole Life (which featured a track called Calling Mumia with vocals by American rapper Snoop Dogg), Battle In Seattle and Trouble the Water (which received an Oscar nomination for the music). All of this soundtrack work was either credited as Neil Davidge and Robert Del Naja or under the guise of 100 Suns, in an effort to differentiate the soundtrack/film scoring work from the brand name of Massive Attack.

It became apparent in 2007, through the band's MySpace, that they were working with Stephanie Dosen and she later became part of the touring line-up, Elizabeth Fraser having returned to the live repertoire initially.

Meltdown 2008

In February 2007, Massive Attack hosted a charity benefit for the Hoping Foundation, a charity for Palestinian children, cementing their reputation as one of Britain's most obviously political bands. A year afterwards, in 2008, it was announced that Massive Attack were to curate the UK's Southbank Meltdown, a week long event encompassing numerous bands Massive Attack like and relate to. It was suggested in interviews that this event would inspire Massive back into action, having spent several years drifting towards the completion of their fifth studio album. Later on the same year, the band picked up a Q award for Innovation.

Later that year, Del Naja and Daddy G headed to Damon Albarn's studios for some writing and jamming. Around this time, Davidge scored the soundtrack for a Paul McGuigan movie, 'Push' and in December, Del Naja completed the score for '44 Inch Chest' with The Insects and Angelo Badalamenti.

Davidge and Del Naja then got back together in 2009 with Daddy G to concertedly finish the fifth album, incorporating bits of the Albarn material. It had been widely suggested that "LP5" (formerly known as Weather Underground) would be released in September 2009 (even as specifically as 22 September 2009 on the official forum). Massive Attack have claimed the album will be released in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008 and now 2009, but recent indications have been given for early 2010.

Robert and Grant winning an Ivor Novello award, 2009

Later it was announced that the band are to headline the 2009 Bestival festival and soon after that they are to tour the UK which has led to speculation that "LP5" is imminent, along with two strange and typically caps-locked blog entries by 3D on the official site, one being entitled SUMMER OF SUBMISSION. In May, Robert Del Naja's instrumental Herculaneum, featured in the movie 'Gomorra', won the Italian version of the Oscar for Best Song.

Splitting The Atom

Later that month, Del Naja and Marshall picked up a special Ivor Novello award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music.

In June of 2009, it was announced that, on May 29, Jonny Dollar, aged 45, lost his battle against cancer, survived by his wife and 4 children. Dollar was the programmer and hands-on producer behind Blue Lines, writing the melody that was the basis for the band's enduring classic Unfinished Sympathy.

On 5th October 2009. their new EP, Splitting the Atom, was released. The other new tracks off of the EP were revealed to be, Tunde Adebimpe's Pray For Rain, Martina Topley-Bird's Psyche and Guy Garvey's Bulletproof Love. The latter two tracks appear as remixes of the intended album versions and none of "LP5"'s tracks are expected to resemble the versions that were played on tour, with some songs, such as Dobro, dropped altogether. The Track Splitting The Atom was accompanied by a film directed by Baillie Walsh.


"Heligoland" speculation

Heligoland

Speculation surrounding the next album was addressed by D in a recent interview (at the Ivor Novello awards), where he mooted a release date of October 2009 for "LP5". However, it turned out that only a previewing EP will be released then and "LP5"'s release date is to be put back yet again, for a fourth year of delay, now to Spring 2010, to the frustration of some fans.

Backing tracks were sent to Alice Russell, Patti Smith and David Bowie respectively that did not develop further and past discussions also had with Tom Waits and Tricky respectively, in terms of being guest vocalists, have not, to date, worked out.

Some websites refer to Sia having worked with Massive in the past. Also, Mark Stewart announced in April 2009 that he would be collaborating with Massive Attack, but it is not thought that he has contributed vocally to "LP5".

Finally, in November, it was announced that 'Heligoland' will be released on February 8th 2010.




Previous guest vocalists

Blue Lines:

  • Shara Nelson (Safe from Harm, Unfinished Sympathy, Daydreaming, Lately)
  • Horace Andy (One Love, Five Man Army, Hymn of the Big Wheel)
  • Tricky (Blue Lines, Five Man Army, Daydreaming)
  • Tony Bryan (Be Thankful for What You've Got)
  • Claude Williams (Five Man Army)
  • Neneh Cherry (backing vocals on Hymn of the Big Wheel)

Protection

Mezzanine

100th Window

± Damon Albarn is lightheartedly credited as 2D from Gorillaz and his vocal only features on the song as a barely detectable, synth-like vocoder sound.

Other known Massive Attack songs:

  • Carlton McCarthy (on Any Love, the original, independently-released single of 1988)
  • Tony Bryan (on Any Love, alternate Daydreaming single version)
  • Caroline Lavelle (on Home of the Whale from the Massive Attack EP)
  • Tracey Thorn (on The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game from the 'Batman Forever' soundtrack)
  • Madonna (on I Want You from the Marvin Gaye Tribute album, 'Collected', and 'Something to Remember')
  • Sarah Jay (on Wire from the end titles of 'Welcome to Sarajevo' and on the original Dissolved Girl from the film 'The Jackal')
  • David Bowie (on Nature Boy from the 'Moulin Rouge' soundtrack)
  • Mos Def (on I Against I from the 'Blade 2' soundtrack and Collected)
  • Dot Allison (on "Aftersun" from the end titles of Danny the Dog)
  • Damon Albarn (sings a discernable backing vocal on Small Time Shoot 'Em Up from Collected)
  • Elizabeth Fraser (on Silent Spring and Black Melt from Collected)
  • Debbie Clare (on Joy Luck Club from Collected)
  • Terry Callier (on Live with Me from Collected)
  • Horace Andy (on Splitting The Atom, from Splitting the Atom EP, with Del Naja and Marshall, likely to feature on "LP5")
  • Damon Albarn (backing vocal on Splitting The Atom, from Splitting the Atom EP, likely to feature on "LP5")
  • Tunde Adebimpe (on Pray For Rain, from Splitting the Atom EP, likely to feature on "LP5")
  • Martina Topley-Bird (on Psyche [remix], from Splitting the Atom EP, likely to feature on "LP5" in its unremixed form)
  • Guy Garvey (on Bulletproof Love [remix]", from Splitting the Atom EP, likely to feature on "LP5" in its unremixed form)

Under the alias "100 Suns"

  • Snoop Dogg (on Calling Mumia from the film 'In Prison My Whole Life'). '100 Suns' is Del Naja/Davidge's releasing alias for certain non-Massive Attack projects and name of their co-owned studio. Their joint company is legally called 'Onepointsix productions' and the two names, '100 Suns' and 'Onepointsix' have seemed interchangeable.

Remixography

Massive Attack / 3D have remixed the following artists:

  • Neneh Cherry
  • Lisa Stansfield
  • Jesus Loves You
  • Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
  • Kwanzaa Posse
  • Les Negresses Vertes
  • Peter Gabriel
  • U2
  • Indo Aminata
  • Garbage
  • Manic Street Preachers
  • Unkle
  • Primal Scream
  • A Perfect Circle
  • The Dandy Warhols
  • Lupine Howl

Daddy G has remixed the following "solo":

  • Ini Kamose and Damian Marley
  • 4 Hero

Discography

Studio albums


Other

± Credited as a Massive Attack album due to insistence from the film's director, but regarded as a Del Naja/Davidge soundtrack and not a proper Massive Attack studio LP, hence "LP5" as a referencing title for the next album, rather than "LP6"