Saturday, April 20, 2013


Massive Attack spent ten contentious months working with a band to create the distorted post punk and hypnotic downtempo electronic grooves of this dark and seductive trip hop landmark.  After the huge response to their first two albums 'Blue Lines' and 'Protection'the group was at a crossroads.  Their live sound had begun to incorporate other musicians and they began experimenting with that idiom in the studio. 'Mezzanine' features Robert '3D' Del Naja on vocals, production, arrangements, programming, keyboards, samples, art direction, and design; Grant 'Daddy G' Marshall on vocals, production, arrangements, programming, keyboards, and samples; Andrew 'Mushroom' Vowles on production, arrangements, programming, keyboards, and samples; Neil Davidge on production, arrangements, programming, keyboards, and samples; with Horace Andy,  Cocteau Twins' Elizabeth Fraser, and Sara Jay on vocals; the Blue Aeroplanes' Angelo Bruschini on guitars; Jon Harris, Bob Locke, and Winston Blisset on bass guitars; Andy Gangadeen on drums; and Dave Jenkins and Michael Timothy on additional keyboards.  The band produced the sessions with Neil Davidge at Massive Attack and Christchurch Studios in Bristol; with mixing and engineering at Olympic Studios and Metropolis Studios in London.  

Not everyone agreed on the new direction that their sound was taking.  Del Naja reveals:   "It's fair to say we're a very dysfunctional band.  There were a lot of arguments making this record and if you saw us together we probably wouldn't even agree on what day it was ... It was more my direction on this record. It's difficult for me to say...I think it's because I spent a lot of time in the studio stressing myself about things—about tracks, ideas and trying to get off the beaten track a bit. I always said it was for the greater good of the fucking project because if this album was a bit different from the last two, the next one would be even freer to be whatever it wants to be, d'ya-know-what-I-mean? And after the last album and the other bands that have come out since us in and around Bristol, I didn't want to feel the fucking net closing in on us as if we had to be what we were and be that defined. I don't want people expecting a certain sound from us because we are what we are, or because of where we come from or whatever. I feel we've totally succeeded in that because we've turned a few people off and turned a lot of people on who weren't into it before. We've also kept a lot of people interested who sort of waited for it. And to a certain extent, we kept ourselves interested in the studio even though we rowed about a lot...I think if it had been more hip-hop and soul it would have died. I feel Protection was more what Mushroom's into—it’s a bit more hip-hop, soulful, and R&B-orientated in places. I think that was fine 'cuz it was a completely different record than Blue Lines. It was about where we were then but I think we would have fenced ourselves in entirely by doing the same thing again. I think we wouldn’t have been true to ourselves—it wouldn't have been reflective of all of us. That would have been a problem for me and probably a problem for 'G. We took the live music back in the studio and vice-versa. It would have been difficult to go out live and develop ourselves as a band and tour the world if we hadn't done what we did. It would have been something sad like Soul II Soul where you repeat your formula and it uses itself up and you dwindle your resources...It wasn't my intention, it was just getting into the studio and working on tracks and it was obvious what was working and what wasn't. I think 'G understood that and Mushroom understood it too but it pissed him off, d'ya-know-what-I-mean? But Mush would bring tracks in that really weren't gonna work with the rest of the album in context and that was difficult. Like I said, I was the only one at the particular time that had a vision of how this album could sound as a whole. Everyone else had fragmented ideas and that's good sometimes and dangerous other times. We'd been fucking around for a long time and it was about time to finish the album d'ya-know-what-I-mean? It wasn't fucking easy. It was painful—the arguments and everything else. But it had to be done, otherwise we'd still be fucking around now discussing what kind of album we're gonna do...I don't want to get too personal about this. [long pause] The problem is, it's very subjective, especially without going into personalities because we all hate each other's personalities in certain ways because we've lived with each other for fucking years. There are things we've hated about each other which have been there for a long time which is like any relationship, d'ya-know-what-I-mean? But if I'm going to get very subjective, I have to say that I'm very much into change. I get bored of things very quickly—bored of ideas and bored of doing the same thing. I think Mush is into doing the same thing. I think he likes what he does—a particular way of making music, a particular sound and that's the difference between us. I like to keep reinventing it. I don't know if that's a strength or weakness. I think Grant sits on the fence sometimes. He sits on it too much. He'll take the easy way out every time. [pauses] This is getting too personal. I'd rather leave it cryptic."

Vowles says if he had his way, "It would have been more soul-orientated—much soul-ier. More like Blue Lines. Well, I can’t say more like Blue Lines, really. But it would have felt much more soul-ier. It would have been much more of a black sounding album with hip-hop influences too. It came out kinda rocky. That was from 'D who is quite rock and punk-orientated....It’s the record company that decided in the end. They said "Enough’s enough. You’ve got to put the record out now." It just got done, really. We just write the music and choose the tracks and certain tracks made it through and some didn’t...I've always played a bit of the drums since school and now I program a lot of beats. I also play a bit of keyboards, but DJ-ing is my main thing. It's quite a natural progression to go from being a DJ to being a musician, like Funk Master Flex. If you’re into music as a DJ and a great buyer and listener of music, you’re going to want to make music yourself someday. I guess if you make music, you’re a musician...This publishing stuff. It's sad in a way. It's like samples as well, really. I sample myself and I do think that it's good to sample and make a mix tape. But on the other hand, you are taking someone else’s piece of music. We've been in legal battles with Isaac Hayes, and now John McLaughlin over samples...He reckons we infringed on his copyright by taking "Hey, hey, hey" for "Unfinished Sympathy" which I think is really stupid. But if you sample people for a four or eight bar section, it's fair to pay up money to the original artist. I guess it's the extent of what you take it to really. The mixed tape thing—you are using a complete record. It’s another artist's piece of music and you’re making money from it really. I've got nothing against that though, unless the mixed tapes become number one hits ... They say within Pink Floyd it was a battle of egos, but I think creativity is about ego. If you're in a band you're having a battle to protect your imagination. It's all about freedom for your ideas and it just builds into this mad crescendo...
We've never been comfortable in those traditional pop star poses.  No one recognises us and that's the way we like it." 

Marshall considers:   "Massive Attack represents that whole group of people who may have been DJs originally, but who've ended up in the recording studio without any prior training. It's only our love of music that's put us there, not an ambition to be a band or pop stars. We were an anti-band and now we are a band. We're music fans, listening to everything and anything and using what we like." 

'Mezzanine' rose to number seventy-two in Japan; sixty in the US; fifty-one in Canada; seventeen in the Netherlands; fourteen in Denmark and Hungary; six in Germany and Switzerland; four in Belgium, Finland, and Sweden; three in Austria, France, and Italy; two in Norway; and number one in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, the UK, and on the European top 100 chart.  The album made its debut in the UK at the top spot.

'Teardrop' features vocals by Liz Fraser.  It hit one hundred and ten in the US, seventy-five in Switzerland, fifty-two in Germany, nineteen in New Zealand, sixteen in Australia, twelve in Denmark, and number ten in the UK.


full album:

Mezzanine from Massive Attack on Myspace.

1. "Angel" (Robert Del Naja Grant Marshall Andrew Vowles Horace Hinds)  6:18
2. "Risingson" (Del Naja Marshall Vowles Lou Reed Pete Seeger)  4:58
3. "Teardrop" (Del Naja Marshall Vowles Elizabeth Fraser)  5:29
4. "Inertia Creeps" (Del Naja Marshall Vowles)  5:56
5. "Exchange" (Del Naja Marshall Vowles Bob Hilliard Mort Garson)  4:11
6. "Dissolved Girl" (Del Naja Marshall Vowles Sara Jay Matt Schwartz)  6:07
7. "Man Next Door" (John Holt) 5:55
8. "Black Milk" (Del Naja Marshall Vowles Fraser)  6:20
9. "Mezzanine" (Del Naja Marshall Vowles)  5:54
10. "Group Four"  (Del Naja Marshall Vowles Fraser)  8:13
11. "(Exchange)"  (Del Naja Marshall Vowles Hinds Hilliard Garson)  4:08

"Angel" sampled "Last Bongo In Belgium" by The Incredible Bongo Band
"Risingson" sampled "I Found a Reason" by The Velvet Underground
"Teardrop" sampled "Sometimes I Cry" by Les McCann
"Inertia Creeps" sampled "Rockwrok" by Ultravox
"Exchange" sampled "Our Day Will Come" by Isaac Hayes and "Summer in the City" by Quincy Jones
"Man Next Door" sampled "10:15 Saturday Night" by The Cure and "When the Levee Breaks" by Led Zeppelin
"Black Milk" sampled "Tribute" by Manfred Mann's Earth Band
"Mezzanine" sampled "Heavy Soul Slinger" by Bernard Purdie
"(Exchange)" once again sampled "Our Day Will Come" by Isaac Hayes and "Summer in the City" by Quincy Jones

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