Progress Report

Progress Report: Massive Attack

NAME: Massive Attack
PROGRESS REPORT: Wrapping up their fifth album, working title Weather Underground (“It’s not going to be the title”), at their studio in Bristol.

Massive Attack have been working on their new record on and off for about five years, but when it comes out early next year, it’ll be a last minute affair. Maybe because members Grant Marshall (“G”) and Robert Del Naja (“D”) have been working so long, something’s relaxed — maybe too relaxed — about the album’s progress. For instance, last year they toured with what was to be their next album, then decided to scrap all that material and start over. “By the time we played it out we were kinda going nowhere with it. It had already been broadcast. It was kind of one of those ‘start again’ moments,” Del Naja explains. Former member Tricky wanted to make whole albums, not them. “We came from a DJ background and we were all about single tracks, playlisting single things, not really making an album as a whole. To us it didn’t really matter because we were just ripping things apart and sampling them. There was a sort of irreverence towards other peoples’ albums.”

The irreverence seems to extend to their own work. According to Marshall, “Everything will distract us. Most of the things that distract us are people saying, ‘Do you want to come down to the pub?’ We love to drink.” The spread-out recording sessions had one great benefit though: They allowed difficult-to-schedule artists to contribute to the album. Some of the people they’ve worked with for this record include Tim Goldsworthy, Martina Topley-Bird, Damon Albarn, and Dave Sitek and Tunde Adebimpe. As on the Adebimpe track they debut on their upcoming Splitting The Atom EP, the tracks are sparser, more minimal, and leave lots of space for their vocalists. “After 1000th Window, which was tied up with trying to be too clever, we just wanted to get back to sparse, lovely songs with simple production,” Marshall says. “We wanted to get back to the minimalist thing where you don’t have to fill the song up with shit.” Del Naja agrees, in different language: “I’ve been really harsh with this record. If anything hasn’t got a purpose, it’s not meant to be there. It’s just things that need to be there. And this record was a move into a more spartan area where electronic sounds and acoustic sounds can coexist in a much more clear zone without too many things happening.” It won’t be all spartan though, they’ve included some “cheeky” moments on the album, which they’re eager to test out when they play their new songs for audiences this year. Among the new tracks are “Hartcliffe Star,” named for the heat-seeking helicopters that fly over Bristol looking for weed growing operations, which may not be as cheeky as it implies — Hartcliffe is “quite a down-turned place,” according to Marshall.

They’re going on a UK tour soon, so they’re rehearsing new songs for live performance as well as for final recording. This time they’ll finish the recording before they start tour, as Del Naja says their manager will have an anxiety attack otherwise. “He’ll be a lot more secure knowing we’ve finished it before hitting the road, so we can’t come back and say, ‘We hate all that, we’re really bored with it, can we start the album again, please?'” Or before the guys get distracted, again. “I’ve got three kids and [Del Naja’s] the eternal bachelor. That’s a lifestyle in itself. I do a bit of DJing, a bit of babysitting, a bit of fatherhood, a bit of Massive Attack, then a bit of drinking and a bit of smoking,” Marshall says. “So it’s all pretty boring and simple, but we call it work.”

“Splitting The Atom”

“Pray For Rain” (Feat. Tunde Adebimpe)

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