Hot on the heels of their second album Protection, MASSIVE ATTACK are about to start their first UK tour which promises to be more than just a good night out. Calvin Bush went to talk to the Bristol-based posse about their idiosyncratic style over a merry bun fight.
lumped into the plush neo-Georgian splendour of Bristol’s Swallow Royal hotel. it’s clear that today is not going to be a good day to interview Massive Attack. Exchanging witty repartee and tossing philosophical salads with chopsticks. perhaps. But finding a direct route to the beating heart that provides the daily working lifeblood of the finest post—rave soul collective extant? Out of the question. Daddy (3. 3-D and Mushroom. the core trio of the band. have just passed the half-hour mark in arguing over our cat ’n’ greet location.
‘What about the Black Boy cafe‘.’ They got excellent lishcakes.’ ventures Daddy G. 34. patriarchal figure of the group. his enormous thick-set oft 4m frame inviting obeisance.
But Mushroom. youngest of the trio. mischievous man-child with an infinite capacity for questions. is having none of it. ‘Nah. we can’t go there. I hate lishcakes. And anyway. all them had boys will be coming in round now.‘ he counters.
‘So let‘s try llenry Afrika’s then.’ suggests 3- 1). football lover and graffiti artist. dirty rain poncho buttoned up tight against his unshaven
chin. This indecision — he may be used to it by now. but it still riles him occasionally.
‘No way.’ chime Daddy G and Mushroom in unison. before offering up further competing options. Twenty minutes later we inadvertently stumble into what appears to be a replica of a colonial Ceylon tearoom. all wicker and palms and plummy accents. It’s been some achievement.
So this. then. is the mad. crazy world of Massive Attack. where nothing happens as planned. because nothing is ever planned. The heart of cool. The home of the post-modern blues. And the hub of Slackersville. UK.
With their astounding 1991 debut album. Blue Lines. and its symphonic single. ‘Unfmished Sympathy’. Massive Attack not only rewrote the rule-book for British soul music in the post-rave afterglow. but also provided the perfect sonic manifesto of Britain’s multi-cultural melting pot. In the same way that this accumulated Bristol posse composed a creatively interactive hybrid of nationalities and backgrounds. so Blue Lines (five years in the making) spun together their collective inﬂuences: American hip-hop. Jamaican reggae. universal soul. with DIY dashes of punk and house music. and wove a unique tapestry that has struck a chord with all who’ve ever heard it.
Here was the ultimate street sound of Britain’s inner cities after Thatcher, the hip and stylish equivalent of a Mike Leigh or Ken Loach ﬁlm: confused. pressurised. proud. defiant. paranoid. restless. and. in the optimistic swell of closing coda ‘Hymn of the Big Wheel’. trusting in a greater faith where really you had no right to expect any. It was classic stuff. a benchmark album that, like Primal Scream’s Screamadelica and Bjork’s Debut. remains both of its time and out of time.
This is the mad, crazy world of Massive Attack, where nothing happens as planned, because nothing is ever
planned. The heart of cool. The home of
the post-modern blues. And the hub of Slackersville, UK.
Perhaps the key to it all is that Massive Attack don’t think. talk or work like any other group. In the Massive timezone. decisions take aeons. Life’s minutiae. like items from a menu, become insoluble dramas handed round from member to member. Hitch a lift on a train of thought. and you’ll soon find yourself hi-jacked by crazy interjections from Mushroom. or a giggling whispering session between G and 3—D. Massive Attack. you see. are completely unfazed. endowed with pure Brit-slacker lassitude that runs contrary to every ordinance in the music industry’s holy canon. Perhaps it’s the safe distance of Bristol. where life proceeds at a more ‘leisurely’ pace, that accounts for it. ‘Yeh. in a way. it is an escape.’ agrees G. "cos there‘s not so much bullshit going on. And the good thing about it is. nobody even recognises us in this town. I mean. you’ve been with us all afternoon. have you seen one person who’s spotted us‘?’
Massive Attack is the perfect hang-out story that came good. It’s an evolution that accounts for much of their working processes and indifference to stardom. Their origins lie in the Wild Bunch. a loose gathering of Bristolian