ScanS → Q Magazine Interview #1
Publication Date: March 1991
“We’re more together now than we ever have been I suppose, but it’s still kind of pretty lazy and disorganised. It’s really hard sometimes to get any motivation in the group. Everyone’s just so laid- back and Bristol’s so easy to chill out in and forget about it all.”
So muses “3D” Del Naja, 25-year-old rapper, graffiti artist and Yokel With Attitude with Bristolian mellow men Massive Attack. He does not lie. Even the prospect of an interview with The World’s Greatest Rock Magazine cannot shake these dedicated somnambulists from their afternoon sleep and an hour and a half after our appointed meeting time, his similarly wonkily-titled pals, Mushroom (23) and Daddy G (32), are yet to turn up.
It was this mutual lethargy that led to the threesome forming Massive Attack in 1988. After six years of pootling around with sound systems, spray paint and minor records (Fucking Me Up by The Wild Bunch in ’83, Tearing Down The Neighbourhood in ’85, fellow Wild Bunch gang members Nellie Hooper and Milo Johnson left Bristol, Nellie to join Soul II Soul in London, Milo to work in Japan. “Me, Mushroom and G were more like stick-in-the-muds in a way. We were into staying in Bristol and having an easy life.” A working liaison with the trainer-tuff Neneh Cherry (3D wrote the lyrics to Manchild, Mushroom toured with her in Europe) led to their meeting her “Booga Bear” paramour and production guru Cameron McVey, who cajoled the sleepy threesome into studio action. The late-at-night smoky hip hop LP Blue Lines was the result, from which last year’s Daydreaming and ’91 ’s chart-ticklers Unfinished Sympathy and Safe From Harm were taken. Suddenly, Massive Attack are happening. A silver album! That “all-important” critical acclaim! Even seminal world rockers U2 want to meet them!
“Actually, I think we’re overrated,” 3D ponders. “We’re still not artists. We’re not going to go on stage live like someone like Sinead O’Connor or something really raw.”
More enthusiastic and rapidly articulate than his laid-back image would have you believe, 3D is anxious to explain the group’s apparent failure to capitalise on their initial successes. They could have been the Soul II Soul of the ’90s and yet…
“We wanted to do it slowly and we didn’t want to get real obvious, working with people we can function and communicate with to keep control over photos and videos and sleeves and not give too much away. By doing it slowly and anonymously, we can actually enjoy it.”
Despite their refusal to don pop’s glamour wigs, Massive Attack are aware that too much shunning of the limelight could lead them back to the dole queues. “It’s a dilemma, really. 1991 is the only time in our careers that we’ve had the backing of a company like Circa, who’ve got the media potential as well as being small enough to avoid all the big-wig red tape. But if we don’t have hits, we can’t work with Circa any more. It’s trying to get a balance, so that we can do our thing and get paid for it.”
Balances and dilemmas form much of 3D’s thinking on the state of his world: how to “break” America when they don’t know what you look like; how to tour when you’re studio-based; and, possibly most importantly, how to combine musical prolificacy with a season-length stay in Italy to watch how Napoli get on without Diego Maradona.
Written By Miranda Sawyer