Info → Karmacoma
UK Release: 25th March 1995
UK Highest Chart: #28
Track Duration: 05:16
Formats: CD, Vinyl, Cassette, VHS, Digital. View Discography Entry.
Written By: Andrew Vowles, Robert Del Naja, Grant Marshall, Adrian Thaws, Tim Norfolk and Bob Locke
Produced By: Andrew Vowles, Robert Del Naja, Grant Marshall and Nellee Hooper
Promo Video Directed By:Jonathan Glazer
Video Producer: Nick Morris
Filming Location: County Hall, London, UK
Date Of Filming: 8th - 11th November 1994
Video Duration: 04:15
3D claims that himself and Tricky both wrote the majority of the lyrics to Karmacoma and Eurochild while both high on drugs backstage at a music festival somewhere in England.
To help provide the music to hand the lyrics upon, Massive Attack enlisted the help of fellow Bristolians The Insects, whom Massive Attack had befriended while working on Blue Lines at the Coach House Studio in Bristol, UK.
Tricky has made the accusation in the past that Karmacoma is mostly his own work, with Massive Attack themselves own contribution being minimal. This explains Tricky’s eagerness to cover the song in his own image as Overcome on his debut album. It is also undoubtedly one of the issues that would result in Tricky severing all ties with Massive Attack and going it alone on his solo music career.
The middle eastern vibe heard in Karmacoma would be the first but not only time Massive Attack would incorporate such music into their songs. Other songs which could also be deemed to have such a vibe would be Inertia Creeps, Special Cases, Butterfly Caught and Antistar.
Karmacoma has become a signature tune almost, of Massive Attack’s live set with habitual appearances ever since the 1995 tour. The only period it failed to appear live was on two occasions. The first being for the first two months or so at the beginning of the 2003 tour. This absence was due to the graphics to accompany Karmacoma on the large L.E.D screen (a hallmark of the 2003 tour) were not ready in time at the start of the tour. The second time was for a brief period of time during the North American leg of 2006 tour when Daddy G was not present owing to paternity leave.
On the 2008 tour, Karmacoma did not make an appearance until the fourth show of the tour, at the 2nd Meltdown performance in London, UK where it was the final song of the setlist (uncharastically going by prior tours). It would remain as part of the 2008 setlist for the majority of the remaining dates with its placement varying wildly from show to show between either the last song played or around the midway point (as where it usually appears on prior tours setlists).
The live version of Karmacoma is peculiar in that it mixes in elements from the alternative Karmacoma mix of Fake The Aroma, such as the added guitar lines in the chorus and 3D’s whispered last words of “fake the aroma” at the songs end.
Fake The Aroma – This is an alternative version of Karmacoma that was recorded specifically for inclusion on “Help”, a special compilation charity album to raise money for the children affected by the war in the former Yugoslavia. Other artists also involved included Radiohead, Portishead and the Manic Street Preachers. For Fake the Aroma, Massive Attack enlisted the help of the famous ambient music producer Brian Eno to help with adding extra production to the track. Brian Eno had previously remixed the Protection single earlier that same year. The song was recorded with new Daddy G vocals replacing Tricky’s own vocals in the original Karmacoma, and was done so all in one day on the 4th September 1995 at the Townhouse Studios in London, UK.
Portishead Experience – Perhaps and historic remix for the simple fact that this is the only coming together of Massive Attack and Portishead (two bands so synonymously linked together in the Bristol music culture) to collaborate together even if it only is a remix (not to mention a very good remix). Included on all single releases. This remix was performed live, on only two occasions at the Tsumani Benefit shows held in Bristol in 2005, where Portishead played live on stage alongside Massive Attack. This remix also contains a sample of “En Melody” by Serge Gainsbourg.
The Napoli Trip – Another pretty unique remix coming from a dub troupe called Almamegretta from Naples, Italy, which probably not coincidentally is where 3D’s family on his father’s side hails from and which he visits frequently. This remix features entirely new re-recorded vocals where Rino from Almamegretta completely replaces Tricky’s original vocals with his own vocals sung in Napoletano. 3D’s vocals parts are largely the same as the original version expect for one verse which like Rino, he also sings in Napoletano. This version of Karmacoma would also be performed on some select Italian dates in Naples and Milan on Massive Attack’s 1995 tour where Rino would join 3D on stage. Included on all single releases as well as on Daddy G’s DJ Kicks.
U.N.K.L.E Situation – The first collaboration between Massive Attack and fellow trip-hop band U.N.K.L.E. This remix would end up being mostly DJ Shadow’s (who was apart of U.N.K.L.E at the time) work with minimal input from James Lavelle, who looked up to 3D as an idol and would later become one of his best friends in the music industry. Included on all single releases. This remix also contains a sample of “Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya” by Doctor John.
Bumber Ball Dub – Another remix provided by the Mad Professor. Included on all single releases and on the Mad Professor remix album "No Protection".
Ventom Dub Special – An alternative version of the Bumper Ball Dub remix from Mad Professor. Included on all single releases but not on No Protection.
The bass line sample featured is the same bass line used by Serge Gainsbourg in the song “Melody” from his 1971 album “Histoire de Melody Nelson”. It is not credited officially by Massive Attack.
The song also features a sample from the track “Dream Time In Lake Jackson” by The KLF, which can be found 2 minutes in. It is not credited officially by Massive Attack.
The one and only cover of Karmacoma is by none another than Tricky, who not long after he went solo from Massive Attack re-recorded Karmacoma under a brand new name of “Overcome” and got his new muse Martina Topley-Bird to do the vocals on it. Overcome appears on Tricky’s 1995 release “Maxinquaye”. Martina Topley-Bird would later collaborate directly with Massive Attack on Heligoland.
3D on the meaning behind the lyrics of Karmacoma – “It’s a piss-take between me and Tricky – about me having Italian blood and Tricky having West Indian blood. It’s not about anything in particular… Er, it’s got a lot to do with apathy in relationships and general life. ‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go’, that sort of thing. A bit of sex, quirky laziness: I dunno, try and explain your own raps and you end up using words you were trying to avoid in the first place” [DJ Magazine – September 1994]
Tricky on how Karmacoma was one of the reasons for the break-up with Massive Attack – “I’ve got animosity towards them for saying they co-wrote Karmacoma when I did all the music and most of the words, and they’ve got animosity towards me
for doing my own thing. It’s something you can’t put your finger on” [NME Magazine – January 1995]
You sure you want to be with me. I’ve nothing to give. Won’t lie and say this lovin’s best. Well leave us in emotional pace. Take a walk, taste the rest. No, take a rest.
I see you digging a hole in your neighborhood. You’re crazy but you’re lazy. I need to live and I need to. Your troubles must be seen to see through. Money like it’s paper with faces I remember. I drink on a daily basis. Though it Seldom cools my temper. It never cools my temper.
Walking through the suburbs though not exactly lovers. You’re a couple, ‘specially when your body’s doubled. Duplicate, then you wait for the next kuwait.
3D & Tricky:
Karmacoma, Jamaica an’ Roma. (x4)
You sure you want to be with me I’ve nothing to give. Take a walk take a rest taste the rest. Take a walk take a rest taste the rest. Take a walk take a rest a taste of rest.
Don’t want to be on top of your list. Monopoly and properly kissed. We overcome in sixty seconds. With the strenght we have together. But for now, emotional ties they stay severed. When there’s trust there’ll be treats. And when we funk we’ll hear beats.
3D & Tricky:
Karmacoma, Jamaica an’ Roma. (x4)
Deflowering my baby, i.e. my baby mate. I must be crazy, see I’m swazy. Digging a hole in your neighborhood. You’re crazy but you’re lazy, must be lazy.
Don’t wanna on top of your list. Monopoly and properly kissed.
Deflowering my baby, my baby mate. My baby. Deflowering my baby, my baby mate. I must be crazy, you must be lazy.
3D & Tricky:
Karmacoma, what?, Jamaica an’ Roma. (x4)
This was the first promo music video Jonathan Glazer would direct. After a successful music video career of directing such bands as Radiohead and Blur, he would leave promo videos behind and begin a successful film career before returning to promo video directing after a hiatus of nearly six years in 2006 by directing Massive Attack’s Live With Me.
The video for Karmacoma references many famous Hollywood horror films most noticeable “The Shining”.
The name of the actor in the video who is typing the word “Karmacoma” repeatedly with the missing “K” is Daniel Tatarsky. You can read his profile at the IMDB by clicking here.
Karmacoma is one of the first examples (of many pop promo videos to come), to use dialogue and sound effects throughout the video to tell a story.
Some scenes in the video for Karmacoma were censored when shown on TV promoting the single release at the time. These scenes (or shots) were – the man standing on the bed with the big pointed piercing in his tongue, the dark-haired woman getting a nose bleed, the gunman’s duplicate pointing the gun at himself and the man covered in oil slowly removing his finger out of his navel. All of these cuts were restored on the video that appears onEleven Promos.
3D about working with Jonathan Glazer – “We had seen some of his stuff he had done in advertising and he came recommended and obviously we just really got on with him and we talked about films, which is the most important thing to reference really for us. We don’t really normally go into songs with a complete vision of a video or a trailer for it as we don’t normally write that way. Most things come about in the studio in quite a haphazard or an abstract way. You don’t think about as a picture or a story, so you don’t necessarily have a story in terms of the visuals to go with it. So it was good to meet someone who has references you can relate to and vice-versea. And with Jonathan that was the case, really.” [Mirrorball TV Documentary – November 1999]
3D about the director Jonathan Glazer – “We met up with Jonathan Glazer who was doing ads at the time and Karmacoma was his first venture into doing promo videos. Obviously he’s directing movies like Sexy Beast and Radiohead videos now.” [The Raft – November 2001]
- Interpretations From SongMeanings.com
- Wikipedia Entry
- Jools Holland Show 1995 Live Performance
- MTV Europe 1998 Live Performance
- Exit Festival 2004 Live Performance
- Glastonbury 2008 Live Performance
- Clip From The 1997 Movie “187” Featuring Karmacoma On The Soundtrack
- Clip From The TV Series “Sleeper Cell” Featuring Karmacoma On The Soundtrack