Massive Attack

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Intro

Trip Hop pioneers.

Massive Attack is an English musical group formed in 1988 in Bristol, consisting of Robert "3D" Del Naja and Grant "Daddy G" Marshall.

Their debut album Blue Lines was released in 1991, with the single "Unfinished Sympathy" reaching the charts and later being voted the 63rd greatest song of all time in a poll by NME.

1998's Mezzanine, containing "Teardrop", and 2003's 100th Window charted in the UK at number 1. Both Blue Lines and Mezzanine feature in Rolling Stone '​s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

The group has won numerous music awards throughout their career, including a Brit Award—winning Best British Dance Act, two MTV Europe Music Awards, and two Q Awards. They have released 5 studio albums that have sold over 11 million copies worldwide.

Info

DJs Daddy G and Andrew Vowles and graffiti artist-turned-rapper Robert Del Naja met as members of partying collective The Wild Bunch. One of the first homegrown soundsystems in the UK, The Wild Bunch became dominant on the Bristol club scene in the mid-1980s.

Massive Attack started as a spin-off production trio in 1988, with the independently released song, "Any Love", sung by falsetto-voiced singer-songwriter Carlton McCarthy, and then, with considerable backing from Neneh Cherry.

They signed to Circa Records in 1990 – committing to deliver six studio albums and a "best of" compilation. Circa became a subsidiary of, and was later subsumed into, Virgin Records, which in turn was acquired by EMI.

Blue Lines (1991), was co-produced by Jonny Dollar and Cameron McVey, who also became their first manager. Geoff Barrow, who went on to form Portishead, was an intern and trainee tape operator at Bristol's Coach House studio when the album was recorded. McVey (credited at the time as 'Booga Bear') and his wife, Neneh Cherry, provided crucial financial support and in-kind assistance to the early careers of Massive Attack, Portishead and Tricky during this period, even paying regular wages to them through their Cherry Bear Organisation. Massive Attack used guest vocalists, interspersed with Del Naja and Marshall's (initially Tricky's) own sprechgesang stylings, on top of what became regarded as an essentially British creative sampling production; a trademark sound that fused down-tempo Hip Hop, Soul, Reggae and other eclectic references, musical and lyrical.

In the nineties, the trio became known for often not being able to easily get along with one another and working increasingly separately. Andy Vowles (Mushroom), who had once thought of himself as the trio's musical director, acrimoniously left Massive Attack in late 1999, after an ultimatum from the other two members to end the group immediately if he did not. Despite having taken Del Naja's side in the effective firing of Vowles and then participating in a show-of-unity webcast as a duo the following year, Grant Marshall (G) had also effectively left by 2001 in that he abandoned the studio altogether. Marshall returned to a studio role in 2005, having joined the touring line-up in 2003 and 2004

Any Love Beginnings

Unsigned, Mushroom (Andy Vowles), Daddy G (Grant Marshall) and 3D (Robert Del Naja) put out "Any Love" as a single, co-produced by Bristol double-act Smith & Mighty.

Blue Lines and "Unfinished Sympathy"

3D co-wrote Neneh Cherry's "Manchild", which peaked at number 5 in the UK single chart.

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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.

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The album used vocalists including Horace Andy and 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, a string-arranged track at Abbey Road studio, scored by Will Malone, that went on to be voted the 10th greatest song of all time in a poll by The Guardian.

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The group temporarily shortened their name to "Massive" 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".

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Protection and Melankolic

After Shara Nelson left, the band brought in Everything but the Girl's Tracey Thorn as a vocalist and released "Protection" on 26 September 1994.

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With McVey out of the picture, Massive Attack enlisted the production talents of former Wild Bunch Nellee Hooper to co-produce some songs on it, with Mushroom. Other tracks were co-produced by The Insects and 3D. A Dub version, No Protection, was released the following year by Mad Professor.

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Protection won a Brit award for Best Dance Act. The other collaborators on Protection were Marius de Vries, Craig Armstrong, a Scottish classical pianist, and Tricky. Tricky's solo career was taking off at this time and he decided not to collaborate with Massive Attack after this.

1994-5 was also the period of Portishead's Dummy and Tricky's Maxinquaye albums and the term "Trip Hop" was coined. The media started to refer to the "Bristol scene".

In 1995, Massive Attack started a label distributed by Virgin/EMI, Melankolic, and signed Craig Armstrong and a number of other artists such as 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. Initially, Davidge was brought in as engineer, but soon became 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 in which Del Naja, increasingly filling the production vacuum, was taking the band.

In 1997, the group contributed to the film soundtrack of The Jackal, recording "Superpredators (Metal Postcard)", a number containing a sample of Siouxsie & the Banshees' "Mittageisen" and "Dissolved Girl", a new song with vocals by Sarah Jay (that was later remixed for the next album), which was featured at the beginning of the 1999 film [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0133093 The Matrix, although it was not on the official soundtrack.

Later that year they released a single, "Risingson".

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Tsken from what would be their third album, Mezzanine.

Mezzanine, Teardrop, the Vowles split and Marshall's absence

Mezzanine was Massive Attack's most commercially successful album, selling nearly 4 million copies. Angelo Bruschini became their permanent lead guitarist both in recording and live.

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The lead single, after "Risingson" was "Teardrop", sung by Cocteau Twin Elizabeth Fraser.

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The song was accompanied by a video directed by Walter Stern, of an animatronic singing fetus. Horace Andy was invited back to sing on three songs, including "Angel" and a track the band made for the film The Jackal, "Dissolved Girl", sung by Sara Jay, was remixed for inclusion on the record.

Mezzanine went on to win a Q Award for Best Album as well as being nominated for a Mercury Award.

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.

Around this time, Del Naja, with Davidge decamped into Ridge Farm studio with friends and band members of Lupine Howl (made up of former members of the band Spiritualized, including Damon Reece who went 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 a Rock direction.

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

Del Naja's 100th Window, Marshall's return and Collected

With Daddy G temporarily no longer involved in the studio, Davidge and Del Naja steered "LP4" on their own. Enlisting the vocals of Sinéad O'Connor and Horace Andy, 100th Window was mastered in August 2002 and released in February 2003.

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Featuring no samples or cover versions, 100th Window was not as critically well received in Britain as the other records, although the album received a warmer reception internationally. The group also collaborated with Mos Def on the track "I Against I", which appeared on the "Special Cases" single and the soundtrack for Blade II. "I Against I" is also notable as the only track from the 100th Window sessions that features a writing credit from Daddy G.

Also in 2003, Del Naja was arrested on child porn allegations, which were reported widely in the media. 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) with Daddy G and fans proffering their support. The arrest affected the beginning of the 100th Window tour schedule.

Despite the difficulties of 2003, 100th Window sold over a million copies and was toured extensively (including Queen Square, Bristol – a one-off sell out concert set up in the city centre park, which was seen as a homecoming).

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. 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 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 compilation album Collected in 2006. They released it with a second disc, made up of previously released non-album songs and unreleased sketches.

"Weather Underground" / Heligoland era

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.

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 politically engaged bands. In 2008, it was announced that Massive Attack were to curate the UK's Southbank Meltdown, a week-long event. It was suggested in interviews that this event would inspire Massive Attack back into action, having spent several years drifting towards the completion of their fifth studio album.

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 film Push, and in December, Del Naja completed the score for 44 Inch Chest with The Insects and Angelo Badalamenti.

Davidge and Del Naja got back together in 2009 with Daddy G to finish the fifth album, incorporating bits of the Albarn material.

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Later it was announced that the band were to headline the 2009 Bestival festival, and soon after that they were to tour the UK and Europe. In May, Robert Del Naja's instrumental "Herculaneum", featured in the film Gomorra, won an Italian award for Best Song. Later that month, Del Naja and Marshall picked up a special Ivor Novello award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music.

On 29 May Jonny Dollar died of cancer aged 45, survived by his wife and 4 children. Dollar was the programmer and hands-on producer behind Blue Lines, writing some of the melodies that were the basis for the string arrangements "Unfinished Sympathy".

On 25 August their new EP, Splitting the Atom, was announced.

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The other new tracks on 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 album.

The fifth album was released on 12 November 2009, and it was called Heligoland, after the German archipelago of Heligoland. "Weather Underground" had been its working title. Del Naja said "I think it's got definitely a more organic feel". The opening track, "Pray For Rain" featured guest vocals of TV on the Radio's Tunde Adebimpe, and Damon Albarn and Hope Sandoval also provide guest vocals on the album.

Albums List

1) Blue Lines (1991)

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2) Protection (1994)

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3) Mezzanine (1998)

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4) 100th Window (2003)

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5) Heligoland (2010)

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Compilations

1) Singles 90/98 (7 December 1998)

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2) Collected (27 March 2006)

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3) Selected (4 April 2006)

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Remix Albums

1) No Protection (with Mad Professor) (20 February 1995)

2) Blue Lines – The Remixes (30 January 2006)

3) Protection – The Remixes (30 January 2006)

4) Mezzanine – The Remixes (30 January 2006)

5) 100th Window – The Remixes (30 January 2006)

Members Name Check

  • Robert "3D" Del Naja ("D")
  • Grant "Daddy G" Marshall ("G")
  • Andy "Mushroom" Vowles ("Mush")
  • Adrian Thaws ("Tricky")

External Links

www.massiveattack.co.uk

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