'Out of the Comfort Zone': Out of Bristol came... Massive Attack

More in English on my book on Massive Attack & Bristol...

Named En dehors de la zone de confort, in French, this book, released last year, retells the story behind a very rare sort of band, diverse, creative, independent, extremely open and gathering a wide array of collaboration... But also uniquely politically aware.

From their early years as the Wild Bunch collective and even more since their first album, Blue Lines, released in 1991, Massive Attack produced a revolutionary sound and always managed to bring a form of consciousness in their discourse and visual.


This book was inspired by the journey the band took to Lebanon in August 2014... 

While covering international news for the French national radio, France Culture, I realized when reading their interviews ho much power music and art could have on political issues, human rights and social change.

The first chapter starts with Massive Attack's first album, the remarkable and inimitable Blue Lines, analysing its impact in its context, in a year of radical changes, in the United Kingdom and worldwide, 1991.

It then goes back to their first influences. This includes their very own hometown, Bristol, a port city that has been enriched by the colonies in America, the sugar and the slave trade in the eighteenth century. That very history also provoked a counter reaction and a sense of rebellion in its inhabitants, who fought against slavery a few decades later and rioted against unfair political decisions, inequalities, big corporations, etc.

This sense of rebellion materialized in the city's culture from the 1960s and mainly the 1970s, when the Caribbean population imported their very onw reggae music in the city's homes and clubs just before Bristol gave birth to its own punk and post-punk movement.

Then started Bristol's homegrown sound with the unforgettable post-punk band The Pop Group - and friends like Nick Sheppard and his band, The Cortinas, Maximum Joy, the Glaxo Babies, etc. Meanwhile, a properly genuine reggae scene also came to life in Bristol's Jamaican neighbourhood, St Pauls...

From then started a new movement

A few years later, hip hop and electronic music started to pour into Bristol's records shops and nightclubs, and a new generation of DJs started to bloom. From that trend came to life the now legendary Wild Bunch, a collective that changed the game and gave to Bristol its gateway into the history of music. The Wild Bunch was originally an informal posse composed of the joined efforts of two young Black DJs, Miles Johnson, known as DJ Milo, and Grantley Marshall, nicknamed Daddy G. They were quickly joined by Nellee Hooper, a massive fan of punk music, who acted as a sort of producer / manager.

The Wild Bunch was quickly enriched in 1983 by a couple of MCs and by the first blooming and generally admired graffiti artist in the city, nicknamed 3D, aka in real life Robert Del Naja, an 18 year-old music junkie.

After years of adventures that this book retells, 3D and a young DJ nicknamed Mushroom formed Massive Attack in 1988, quickly joined by Daddy G. And their talent soon outburst everywhere else in the UK when they released their first album.

In their path came to form a large number of other bands, producers and DJs, including the well-known Tricky and Portishead. A few years later, the graffiti movement 3D invigorated and deepened also took off in a wider scale.

From 1994 and their second album, Protection, Massive Attack never stopped transforming themselves, revolutionising their sound and stage shows up until the critically acclaim and popular success Mezzanine and they brilliant followers, 100th Window and Heligoland.


I specifically wanted to write about Massive Attack's relationship with their city, Bristol, to show the roots of their greatness & mention their predecessors. To demonstrate how the city's history had a major influence on these self-taught and conscious, rebellious artists.

I then realized it would also be fascinating to retell the band's links with the artists and musicians who followed them, with their many brilliant collaborators and with those they inspired, from UNKLE to Gorillaz.

The book also follows Massive Attack's journey in the UK and further away around the world, via their tours and collaborations, in America and in the Middle East notably.

Therefore, the book becomes a form of parallel history of British culture, from an underground and unorthodox point of view. Bristol epitomizes another side of England, less known and much more humorous and rebellious!

Over two years, I spent months coming to Bristol, interviewing about 30 musicians, artists and other local actors. 


The book also mentions today's music scene in Bristol, from the return of the Pop Group and the birth of new musical trends to the recent E.P. produced by Massive Attack in 2016.

French speakers: Profitez de la version française! Unique et probablement limitée... 

(The book cover is a creation by Robert Del Naja, originally designed in 2009 for the E.P. named 'Atlas Air').


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