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Publication Date: August 2003

Massive Attack’s linchpin Robert “3D” Del Naja sits at a garden table in the grounds of his hotel, nursing a beer and trying to procure a match for the cigarette he so keenly wants to smoke.
He looks battle-weary, his band having played Istanbul, Athens, Turin and Naples over the last four days. Tonight, it’s a small town 30 minutes from the French Riviera, and tomorrow they play a beach party in Cannes. By the weekend they’ll be at the Mount Fuji Festival in Japan. The match arrives and as he exhales smoke he squints his eyes, sending crow’s feet shooting all points north and south. Right now, he seems every bit his 38 years, the lines on his face redolent of a life heartily lived.

“Well, you know what its like on the road,” he winks, and in doing so briefly resembles Wilfred Brambell, of’70s sitcom Steptoe And Son fame. “You meet people in every town, and everybody wants to take you out for a good time. There’s a whole lot of partying to be done,
and the social obligations are considerable.”

Not tonight, they’re not. Back in the hotel garden just a couple of hours after the show, Del Naja and the recently returned Grant “Daddy G” Marshall, 43, resemble the middle-aged men they will soon become, quietly drinking beers and smoking, reminiscing about summer barbecues and Spanish olive groves. The former is tucked up in bed by 3am.

But touring clearly suits Del Naja. After a turbulentyearwhich saw the temporary departure of Marshall due, apparently, to parental duties (but rumoured to be a falling out), the album 100th Window receiving a lukewarm reception and Del Naja’s recent arrest over child porn allegations, being away from home and on the road has helped him keep focused and remain positive.
“It has been a rough year one way and another,” he acknowledges, “but the bad is all behind me now. Things are on the up again.” He reaches for another cigarette before realising he still has one on the go.

Traditionally, music venues are vulgar places with the acoustics of aircraft hangars, but tonight in Nimes Arena, Massive Attack seem to have found their spiritual home.
A close relation of Rome’s Coliseum, and believed to be at least 1000 years old, its beautiful austerity lends the band a visual dynamic it has often lacked. And so, as it happens, does the giant LED screen at the back of the stage that looks like it was lifted from the set of Family Fortunes, but is employed to much darker effect.

Del Naja came up with the concept 18 months previously. “Basically, I really wanted an electronic visualisation of our sound, a light show effectively, but one that transmits all kinds of information. It’s fucking expensive, and a nightmare to orchestrate because we update the information on it daily, but it’s very organic and beautiful. It’s a journal of the world.”

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