Massive Attack interview transcript part 3
When Mushroom left the band and Daddy G took a back seat did you feel able to go in your own direction?
I think when people realised it was going to be mostly myself and Neil (Davidge), because of Mushroom leaving and G being unavailable, they thought it was going to be a real guitar-fest. Big and very dark, and very heavy. But, being stubborn, I didnít want to prove everyone right, so I did completely the opposite. Something a bit more gentle, more intricate and a bit more thoughtful, rather than just using power to convey emotion.
Most of the fights that took place over Mezzanine were fights between me and Mushroom about the guitar aspect and the new wave approach to it, as opposed to the hip-hop soul approach. But I got over all that. Itís not there in this record. When you know someone as well as I know Mushroom as a friend, itís always going to be hard not to work with him again. But the hip-hop or reggae thing is always going to be there in our music.
Neil Davidge is lesser known. What does he bring to the project?
Iíve worked with Neil for seven years now. Heís the co-writer really. Heís someone I trust. We have an intuition between each other and a communication process. Itís important because, not being traditional musicians, lots of things need to be verbalised. Or even a look can mean, you know, let's try this.
How do you tend to work with vocalists?
We often send people very simple things so that theyíve got room to develop them. On Prayer For England we just sent Sinead a bassline. With all the singers we work with we never write their lyrics for them because thatís truncating the project before youíve started. We want someone to collaborate on a project fully.
The tourís coming up. What can we expect to see?
Itís difficult because we want to do so many things but weíre also aware that we want to keep it quite pure and simple. Weíve got a lot of ideas about using lights, using pure white light around the stage, not using spots or moving lights. And using LED screens to transmit pure colour because LED is a very pure source of light. And using lasers in a very subtle way. We want to use information and data and code and statistics, then turn that into light and colour.
Itís about trying to do all the things you want to do but presenting it in a very simple pure, direct, way. Itís the same as the artwork. On this album, creating the glass figures and destroying them again and filming them. Thereís so much stuff there, you can really go to town with it. Trying to distil it and make something out of it which is direct and pure is a really exciting exercise. You have to challenge yourself to remain subtle and not show everyone everything.
Do you get involved in the graphics and presentation?
Iíve always loved presentation. As an artist, presenting ideas is important to me, and packaging is an exciting process. I find it amazing that all bands donít want to be involved in it.
Youíve said that Massive Attack is more of a concept than anything else. Which is why its members have tended to stay out of the spotlight. If thatís the case, what is the concept?
I think itís ambiguous. Itís more a project than a band. The project is where itís at, at this stage, and itís going to change again. Which is why I baulk when people ask if itís a solo thing because, no, itís just events and history that has led to this moment, and the project was always meant to be so much bigger than that, in terms of its ability to evolve and change. Thatís why weíve worked with so many different vocalists. Iíve always liked bands that had the ability to evolve. The Clash, Public Image were two bands that I loved when I was growing up that represent themselves, and I find that idea really exciting. I think it's destructive using your own self-image as a presentation of the music, because itís not just about one face or a group of faces. Thereís so much more that goes into it, so many different layers.
Can you imagine a Massive Attack album without you being involved?
Yeah. Maybe in the future (Daddy) G and Neil and some other people can make an album without me. In some ways that would be a real release. I could go around the world for a year and disappear and get spiritual and pretentious you know, a voyage of self discovery etc.
part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5 ,