Facebook R&B crooner Mario has been relatively quiet on the music front for…
- Posted on Feb 8th 2010 10:00AM by Stephen Dowling
The hardly-compact frame of one Grantly Evan Marshall – or simply G to those around him – is sat on a stool the other end of the bathroom, holding court on Massive Attack's latest opus, 'Heligoland.' The band's fifth studio album, it's named after an archipelago in North Sea used as a testing range by British armed forces after World War II. They detonated more than 6,800 tonnes of munitions there in1947 -- the explosion was one of the largest non-nuclear detonations and changed the shape of Heligoland island forever. It's a dark and curious tale than serves as the perfect title for an often brooding record. This time, G and collaborator 3D (Robert Del Naja) are joined by the likes of Elbow's Guy Garvey, Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval, Damon Albarn and TV on the Radio's Tunde Adebimpe. It's often unsettling stuff.
'Heligoland' was supposed to come out last year, but it appears to have had a troubled birth.
We worked a lot for the two years previous, on songs, and that was supposed to be a release last September, and we got back from that tour, and we were just bored. Bored with the tour, bored with the record, but also we'd become a victim of our own technology. Before the record came out we toured, and all of the songs were on the internet. We got a bit bored of it. And we're the victim of the same thing now because we haven't released an album, and quite a lot of the songs people have heard before they've come out on vinyl and CD. People have got phones, they put them up on YouTube.
That was one of the factors that made us go back to the studio, just thinking to ourselves 'Maybe we haven't got this right.' We went to New York and met Tim Goldsworthy from DFA, and we brought him back to Bristol and he helped do some beat programming. The aesthetic was different to the last process.
Why the decision to name the record after Heligoland?
D read the name in a book, and he was just investigating it 'cos he thought it was a great word, you could make a lot of anagrams out of it, but digging deeper and finding out it was this German island that had the Big Bang [the name of the British explosion], and found out they're this forsaken place. When they did this experiment they thought they were going to lose the island, and if it sank into the sea, that'd be it. That's what grabbed the imagination.
We're talking about doing a two-day festival on the island.
The list of collaborators – Guy Garvey, Damon Albarn, Hope Sandoval – is particularly impressive this time round. Why do you think people want to work with Massive Attack?
I can't really answer. Sometimes I feel we're one of the luckiest bands around who can knock on people's doors and ask for collaborations. We're music fans, all these people we've worked with the Sineads, the Tracey Thorns, the Liz Frasers, the Horace Andys, the Damons, the Guy Garveys. They're all people that we've admired as songwriters or people in bands. And we've just been fortunate to attract them. There's something quite interesting what Massive Attack do with other singers, and that's grabbed other people's imagination. Not for once being blasé about it. I know we're in a very fortunate position.
Guy Garvey. Damon Albarn. Hope Sandoval. Martina Topley-Bird. Horace Andy. These are dreams coming true.
Guy Garvey's track 'Flat of the Blade' in particular sounds so far removed from his usual style.
There's always a case that we try and get people out of their comfort zones, and make them do something that perhaps they wouldn't do with their own bands. Sometimes you can get the best results.
Working with Horace [Andy], these are songs that are as far removed from what Horace would be doing in Jamaica as the sun is from the moon. It's a brilliant thing to know that someone like Horace has had the guts to come out of his idiom and work with us. I sometimes take the piss out of Horace, I say to him, 'Horace if you were to go back and play some of your tracks to your Jamaican friends they'd look at you like some weirdo.' It's so off-the-wall.
Damon Albarn's made a career of collaborations himself with Gorillaz. What was it like working with him?
It was amazing working with Damon. When we came off touring the first incarnation of the album, we scrapped that and just wanted some new impetus into it. We decided to work with Damon for a week or so, just for a different approach. It was a really positive outcome. There are three or four tracks that have come out of that.
Working with Damon was amazing. The guy was amazing. The guy s---- ideas. You're in a studio with him and we won't stay still for five minutes. You can't pin the guy down. You're talking about this song and he's already two songs ahead. He's an amazing force.
It's the 40th anniversary of Glastonbury this year. Any offers yet?
We haven't heard anything yet. We would have known by now. Glastonbury's always been a festival which Bristol people have gone too, and I just give thanks that it's still with us. I used to go to Glastonbury when it was still free! And it was only two fields, one stage. We'd park our car half a mile away and just walk. And it's evolved into this giant monster.
'Heligoland' is out now.