Bristol interview - 24/7

I'm in interview with Bristol 24/7 :)



By MARTIN BOOTH, Wednesday Feb 27, 2019

Massive Attack’s gigs on Friday and Saturday in a huge temporary 14,000-capacity arena coincide with the publication of a new book looking at the band, their Bristol roots and global political outlook.
Until Bristol gets our long-awaited arena, the city’s biggest bands such as Massive Attack will either play in outdoor venues like Queen Square and the Downs like they did in 2003 and 2016; or be forced to build their own venues like the band are doing this week as they celebrate the 21st anniversary of the release of their seminal album Mezzanine with two shows on consecutive nights at the ‘Steel Yard’ on the former Filton Airfield.
The gigs promise to be a completely new audio and visual production designed by Robert Del Naja, using custom audio reconstructed from the original album’s samples and influences. It’s a unique response by a band not known for doing things the usual way. Last year, they encoded Mezzanine into DNA and later made a limited number of spray cans containing the DNA-encoded audio within matt black paint, with each can containing approximately one million copies of the album.
Among the audience in her adopted hometown will be French-born journalist and writer Melissa Chemam, whose book about Massive Attack published originally in French in 2016 will finally be published this month in an English translation for the first time, bringing the story right up to date with the breakout success of Idles.
Melissa appreciates the irony of a Frenchwoman writing the so-far definitive telling of Bristol’s biggest band and delving deeply into the city’s musical heritage. But she also believes that it was her ‘outsider’ status that enabled her to get access to some of the key players in the story who were (on the whole) more than happy to tell her their own parts of a complex story.
One of Melissa’s earliest exposures to Massive Attack was seeing the video to Protection, which was directed by French filmmaker Michel Gondry. Melissa remembers thinking how much more “futuristic” than any other band at that time Massive Attack sounded, “but it was not the type of band where you had a poster of them or you knew their names or you were a fan of them as people, it was more about the atmosphere… so it was an intriguing, mysterious world for me”.
So Melissa became a fan, but a fan content to wait years between album releases, she explained to Bristol24/7 over a coffee at 404 Not Found at the bottom of St Michael’s Hill; a cafe which in a previous incarnation was Wild Bunch hangout Special K’s, close to both the flat of Grant Marshall and famous former club The Dug Out, where the Wild Bunch – the loose collective out of which Massive Attack would spawn – made their name.   
In the summer of 2014, in the midst of another long period between new material, Massive Attack played as part of the Fete de l’Humanité in France, raising money for refugees in Palestine and elsewhere. “It came as something quite striking to me that those guys weren’t promoting anything, hadn’t had an album out in four years – they had had 20 years of fantastic career but been very discreet at the same time. And there they were, doing something extremely engaging and catching up with world news, getting it all.”
A music journalist friend of Melissa’s had asked her to work on a book project about a French story, but she politely declined – instead offering her own idea about writing something about Bristol, connecting the city’s Caribbean roots, power, music and art and politics. The first person that she managed to talk to as part of the research for the book was Del Naja, aka 3D. Later she returned to Bristol where she spoke to long-time Massive Attack producer and collaborator Neil Davidge; and later still met Tricky in Paris before he played a show at Le Bataclan.
“I was not from here,” Melissa explained. “But I was genuine, I was not trying to make a big commercial thing about them, I wasn’t asking them to sign anything or to give me photos, or to do the official biography. They all understood it would have my own point of view, very much linked with the social background and the political history of Bristol and the UK.”

Melissa Chemam originally wrote her book about Massive Attack in French
The original aim for the book, Massive Attack: Out of the Comfort Zone, was to show through the prism of Bristol’s music scene how much the UK had changed, and how much immigrant culture – once in the background – “finally got to be the superstars”. Melissa’s parents are from North Africa so in a way she shares a bit of this same story, having grown up in Paris during the 90s which had a hip-hop scene mainly based on sampling that soon left the banlieues for the mainstream.
For Melissa, Bristol has a “complicated relationship” with Massive Attack. Speaking as a fan, she thinks of them as a band whose every album like it is their first, never resting on their laurels or replicating some of their most commercially successful work – of which Mezzanine is the prime example. It’s somewhat of a paradox therefore that for the first time with this month’s shows in Filton (part of a UK and Ireland tour), 3D, Daddy G and co are harking back to a different era.
Del Naja said that “it’s going to be a one-off piece of work; our own personalised nostalgia nightmare head trip”, with Melissa admitting that she was “a bit surprised” that Massive Attack wanted to celebrate the anniversary of Mezzanine, with the tour featuring Elizabeth Fraser, who performed vocals on three tracks from Mezzanine and toured with the band in 2006. “First of all it’s the album that almost destroyed them. And then, they’re very anti-nostalgia.” And playing in a purpose-built venue? “I know! This is the thing I like about them, they’re a bit funny.”
The band famously boycotted the Colston Hall due its name being associated with notorious slave trader Edward Colston, and led calls for the venue’s name to be changed. Del Naja also came out publicly in support for the need for a city centre arena, releasing a statement last year that said: “We need an arena that belongs to Bristol, that is at Bristol’s public transport hub and contributes to city centre life. Something that the city can be proud of, that will inspire future generations of musicians. Rather than going back to square one with an untested plan for a big shed in a car park in the suburbs.”
While Melissa was writing her book and in the time it took to secure its publication in English, Bristol’s arena saga was a similarly long drawn-out process, but one that unlike the book is still to reach a conclusion. “The band were very supportive of the idea of having an arena in Temple Meads,” Melissa said. But this idea that everyone wanted was completely sabotaged. It was completely betrayed. It was obvious that people want it. Maybe it was too expensive, but it was promised for 15 years and finally it’s not going to happen. We’re going to have students that are Londoners sat in front of Temple Meads station instead. It’s the worst decision I’ve ever heard. What can you do? I understand that a stadium might sound like luxury, but it’s still music and sport, it’s what can join the south and north of Bristol.”
Massive Attack have long been spoken of as the ideal band to play the first show at a future Bristol Area, but Melissa thinks that arena shows do not show them at their best. In the year that Massive Attack played on the Downs, she saw the band play eight shows, including in a tiny venue in Dublin, then in Paris twice including Zenith – “the perfect venue for them”, what she describes as a bit bigger than the Roundhouse – as well as in London’s Hyde Park, her highlight of that particular tour.
For the book, she spoke to dozens of people. “I see it as just collecting the truth and putting it together. It’s really crazy that no one did it before me. I’m really proud that I’ve helped, and I also know that some people have reconnected because of it. Because I met so many people. They were talking to each other, like, ‘Have you met this weird French writer?’”
Massive Attack are playing at the Steel Yard at the former Filton Airfield on March 1 & 2. Massive Attack: Out of the Comfort Zone by Melissa Chemam is published by Tangent Books on March 4. Melissa will be launching the book with a talk and a DJ set by Queen Bee at Rough Trade on Nelson Street on March 2 from 2pm.


More on my book event at the British Library

The talk will be hosted by Miranda Sawyer and we have three special guests!!
Read on below!

Massive Attack: Out of the Comfort Zone


 Image: Art by Robert Del Naja

The story of a sound, a city and a group of revolutionary artists
Bristol was part-built on the wealth generated by the slave trade, an arrival point for Caribbean immigrants, and a melting pot that shaped one of the most successful and innovative bands of the last thirty years, Massive Attack. Journalist and broadcaster Miranda Sawyer talks to the author of a new book on their story, Melissa Chemam, and special guests, artist Inkie, producer Mad Professor and musician Mark Stewart.
Massive Attack: Out Of The Comfort Zone (Tangent Books, Bristol, 2019) is based on a long series of interviews with Robert Del Naja (known as 3D), other Massive Attack members as well as many other musicians and artists who worked with Massive Attack or saw them arise. It explores the often non-conformist history of Bristol and how it shaped the formation of the Wild Bunch and then Massive Attack, and how band members 3D, Daddy G and Mushroom shared this space with musicians and artists including Banksy, Tricky, Portishead and so many more. Chemam follows the making of their groundbreaking album Blue Lines; their astounding successors including Mezzanine, and their unique collaborations with Horace Andy, Shara Nelson, Tracey Thorn, Madonna, Elizabeth Fraser, Sinéad O’Connor, Mos Def, Damon Albarn, Young Fathers, Adam Curtis, Banksy and others.
This event will have speech to text interpretation.

Melissa Chemam is a French journalist and author who has worked for France 24, the BBC World Service and Radio France International, as well as many magazines, and for the filmmaker Raoul Peck. Massive Attack: Out Of The Comfort Zone is her first book


Miranda Sawyer is journalist and broadcaster. Her career began in 1988 with Smash Hits and through the 1990s she wrote for SelectTime Out The Mirror Mixmag andThe Face. She is now a feature writer for The Observer and its radio critic and her writing also appears in The MirrorGQVogue and The Guardian. She makes radio documentaries for Radio 4 and BBC 6Music and interviews musicians and artists for The Culture Show. Her latest season is Sound and Vision for 6 Music, which invites actors and directors to discuss key musical moments from their films

Inkie emerged as a graffiti writer from the notorious 80s Bristol scene where he painted alongside 3D and Banksy. In 1989 he came 2nd in the 1989 World Street Art Championships, but was also arrested at the head of 72 other writers in the UK's largest ever Graffiti bust, Operation Anderson. Inkie has since worked as head of design for SEGA, Xbox, and creates prints, illustrations and clothing; his beautiful trademark style takes inspiration from everything from Mayan architecture, William Morris, Alfons Mucha and Islamic geometry, and has appeared in the books Bankys Bristol, Children of the Can, Graffiti World and magazines Graphotism and Dazed & Confused
Mad Professor is one of the leading producers of dub Reggae music's second generation and was instrumental in transitioning dub into the digital age through releases on his own Ariwa Sound label and collaborations with the likes of Lee “Scratch” Perry, Sly and Robbie, Pato Banton, Jah Shaka and Horace Andy, as well as artists outside the realm of traditional reggae and dub, such as Sade, The Orb, and Grace Jones. In 19915 he created an entire dub rework of Massive Attack’s Protection album, and went on to repeat this for Mezzanine – with those versions only now appearing, 20 years after being recorded.  
Mark Stewart and his first band The Pop Group blasted out of Bristol in 1979 with the wired, avant future-funk manifesto of their ’We Are All Prostitutes’ single and the vibrant, cyber-punk energy of his music productions has been undiminished ever since - across anarchic dub reggae inspired collaborations with Adrian Sherwood’s On-U Sound; his early hiphop-influenced oufits Maffia and Tackhead, ‘industrial’ albums of the mid 1980s cited as seminal by Ministry’s Al Jorgensen and NIN’s Trent Reznor through to techno and proto dubstep. 



Name:Massive Attack: Out of the Comfort Zone
Where:Knowledge Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Show Map      How to get to the Library
When: - 
Price:Full Price: £12.00
Member: £12.00
Senior 60+: £10.00
Student: £8.00
Registered Unemployed: £8.00
Under 18: £8.00
Enquiries:+44 (0)1937 546546


Remember George Orwell on journalism...

I woke up early, I sleep so little these days.

Saw the recent news about America.


...I refuse to tweet, write, comment about Donald Trump, his policy and the current American administration. I used to be based in Miami in 2008, I covered Obama’s election. But what is happening now in the US is a disgrace and should be commented as such. 

Remember George Orwell on journalism...

“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want published; everything else is public relations.” 

Don’t publish what the worst leaders say all day long and think you’re empowering people. Our job as journalists is to give people tools to see through their lies! Not to give liars a platform to silence other discourse.

That’s why I wrote a book about cultural history, to tell the story of ordinary citizens who became inspirations for others, created something new and powerfully mirrored back to us the state of the world. Massive Attack did that like no other. It’s a counter-history of our time.

I hope there'll be many other books... To retell the true stories we witness, and not the official discourse on facts, that led us in this political deadlock. But this one was hard enough to write. So that's  a start.

It's out next Monday:

This books is the first in-depth study on the band Massive Attack, their members and close collaborators.

Author Melissa Chemam looks into Bristol's past to explore how their city helped shape one of the most successful and innovative musical movements of the last 30 years. She has spent 4 years coming to Bristol to interview over 30 artists in order to retell this story.

She starts by describing the influences that led to the formation of an underground scene in Bristol, infused with punk and reggae, through bands like The Pop Group, The Cortinas, Maximum Joy, Black Roots, Talisman, Restriction... 

The author then tells the story of the Wild Bunch, the seminal collective of DJs and graffiti artists that changed bristol completely in the mid-1980s. They were followed by crews like Smith & Mighty, Fresh Four, and joined by graffiti writers such as Inkie and FLX. The Wild Bunch dissolved in 1987 and three of the former members then formed Massive Attack a year later. 

Melissa Chemam gives a unique insight into Massive Attack's work - by main members 3D, Daddy G and Mushroom - as well as into their influences, artwork, collaborations and politics. She also described the way they opened the door for a whole scene, including other Bristol musicians and artists like Portishead, Tricky, Roni Size, and street artist Banksy.  

Over 30 years, Massive Attack sold more than 13 million albums, incorporated influences from different continents, and redefined the way musicians could remain faithful to their underground roots while challenging the music business with an independent spirit.


Bristol at the British Library

Come and listen to us on March 14.

I'll be talking with the brilliant journalist Miranda Sawyer and some of the musicians & artists from the scene will join us, notably Mark Stewart and Inkie!

Cover art from Out of the Comfort Zone

Massive Attack: Out of the Comfort Zone

14 March

Massive Attack, one of the most successful and innovative bands of the last 30 years, were formed in the melting pot city of Bristol.

Journalist and broadcaster Miranda Sawyer talks to Melissa Chemam, the author of a new book on their story.

And now I've got to know much more >


A new book on the band's story
Bristol was part-built on the wealth generated by the slave trade, an arrival point for Caribbean immigrants, and a melting pot that shaped one of the most successful and innovative bands of the last thirty years, Massive Attack. Journalist and broadcaster Miranda Sawyer talks to the author of a new book on their story, Melissa Chemam.
This event will have speech to text interpretation.

Image: Cover art from Massive Attack: Out of the Comfort Zone by Melissa Chemam. 
Artwork by Robert Del Naja.


Name:Massive Attack: Out of the Comfort Zone
Where:Knowledge Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Show Map      How to get to the Library
When: - 
Price:Full Price: £12.00
Senior 60+: £10.00
Student: £8.00
Registered Unemployed: £8.00
Under 18: £8.00
Member Ticket: £12.00
Enquiries:+44 (0)1937 546546


Ides of March?

February is almost ending, bring on March!!!
Very busy weeks ahead...

On Feb. 25, the podcast I'm working on as a co-producer for the BBC World Service is to be launched worldwide on multiple platforms!! With 'Parentland', we hope to change the way we discuss raising children and by then to empower parents and the next generation!! 

Children are the future and the future the previous generations have built for them is quite appalling... We can do better than this and learn and parents and children can actually help each other improve and better themselves.

Then my book is out on March 2nd. That's another challenge as I don't feel very much supported in this British release... 
It was so much work though. Trying to talk about social and political issues in today's world is not an easy task. But it's easier when the people working with you act like real partners.

We're here to empower each other. Let's make that happen.
Then we're arriving close to the doom day of 'Brexit' later in March. 

We can still do so much to open people's eyes on this mess. Please don't give up!!

‘Put It To The People March’: London, March 23

A message from the People's Vote campaign:

"Join us on 23rd of March for the ‘Put It To The People March’ to make the calls for a People’s Vote too loud to ignore.

On the 23rd of March, just six days before the Government hopes to take Britain out of the EU, hundreds of thousands of people will march on Parliament offering a solution to a crisis that threatens their living standards, businesses and jobs. We demand a People’s Vote, and come 23 March, it could be a case of now or never.

Please sign up to join us. We will be congregating from 12pm, high noon in Park Lane, and marching to Parliament Square to make our voices heard. Our demand is a simple one: that any Brexit is put the people so that we can have the final say. This will be a day to tell your children about, to tell your grandchildren about."

DATE: 23 March 2019
TIME: Arrive from 12pm to march at 1pm
WHERE: Meet on Park Lane, Central London

For more information visit www.peoples-vote.uk/march


"How Bristol became a musical and artistic melting pot"

My interview with Eve Irvine on France 24 yesterday, talking about my book on Massive Attack and Bristol:

"How Bristol became a musical and artistic melting pot"

FRANCE 24 Historically a centre of the slave trade, Bristol is the hometown of a wealth of internationally renowned artists: Damien Hirst, Banksy, Portishead, Tricky and Massive Attack. 

Author Melissa Chemam says that there is a clear link between those two facts. As people were brought in from across the world, their cultures came with them. 

The result put Bristol ahead of much of the UK when it came to new and different sounds and ideas.


For more, check my book: "Massive Attack: Out Of The Comfort Zone" here:


'Bela Lugosi's Dead'

One of my recordings for the band's first Paris show:

Massive Attack cover Bauhaus' 'Bela Lugosi's Dead' - Paris, Zénith, 11 Feb. 2019

Massive Attack cover Bauhaus' 'Bela Lugosi's Dead' in Paris - Le Zénith, on the 11th of Feb. 2019. 
As part of their "Mezzanine XX1" Tour. 

The song is one of 3D's favourite and was already covered in 2013 in their first show with Adam Curtis. The band inspired D, who saw them for the first time in 1979...
For more, check my book: "Massive Attack: Out Of The Comfort Zone":


L’histoire de “Mezzanine” de Massive Attack racontée pour Tsugi 119

Un extrait de mon article sur 'Mezzanine' dans le nouveau numéro du magazine TSUGI, à paraître vendredi 8 février : 

L’histoire secrète de “Mezzanine” de Massive Attack 

racontée en couv’ de Tsugi 119 

— en kiosque vendredi 8 février ! 


La tournée française de Massive Attack, à l’occasion de la réédition de l’album mythique Mezzanine qui va fêter ses vingt et un ans, nous permet de nous replonger dans la genèse troublée et passionnante d’une œuvre majeure, qui a contribué largement au basculement de nombre de “rockeurs” dans la musique électronique. Comme un pont entre les styles.

(Patrice Bardot)

En kiosque (ou sur notre boutique en ligne) ce vendredi 8 février ! En attendant, vu qu’on est sympa, voilà le début de notre article consacré à Massive Attack par Mélissa Chemam :

D’une manière très bristolienne, Massive Attack va célébrer cette année les 21 ans de l’album Mezzanine. Vingt‐et‐unième au lieu du vingtième anniversaire, fêté avec sa réédition et surtout à travers un show concocté dans le secret avec Horace Andy, Elizabeth Fraser et Adam Curtis, consacré entièrement à ce troisième album, qui leur permettra de le déconstruire sur scène et de mettre en valeur leurs influences et inspirations de l’époque. Retour sur la genèse d’un album qui incarne plus qu’aucun autre le son de la fin du XXe siècle.

Bristol, été 1996. Massive Attack rentre de tournée. Depuis la sortie de leur premier album, Blue Lines, en 1991, la ville a bien changé… L’ambiance provinciale d’une cité marquée par le chômage n’est plus. Bristol compte désormais une importante scène musicale. Geoff Barrow, ancien assistant au studio où a été enregistré Blue Lines, a fondé le groupe Portishead. De même, Tricky a sorti son premier album solo sans les Massive, Maxinquaye, et remporté un succès mérité. Les liens entre les groupes sont si évidents, les imitateurs si nombreux que la presse rebaptise ce “son de Bristol” d’un nouveau genre: “trip hop”. Ce qui est cependant loin de plaire aux groupes.

Le milieu des années 1990 se révèle une période ultra‐créative au Royaume‐Uni, et l’influence de Massive Attack est partout. Des groupes phares de la scène rock et britpop, comme Radiohead et Blur, se lancent dans des expériences électroniques et citent le collectif comme modèle. Mais les trois membres de Massive Attack, 3D (de son vrai nom Robert Del Naja), Daddy G (Grant Marshall) et Mushroom (Andrew Vowles) souhaitent évoluer vers un nouveau son. Ils n’ont cependant pas la même vision en tête… Alors que des rockers d’Oxford, Manchester et Londres s’ouvrent aux musiques électroniques, à Bristol, 3D a décidé de puiser son inspiration dans ses premières amours : des disques de punk.


La suite dans le magazine!!


Bristol book launch

Hello Bristol!

Last round :)

See you there.


More "Roads"

The world is so vast... What to do when you reach a blockade, a dead end...? Just keep on moving! The world is vast, there will always be another place for a good soul.

I've been "on the road" now since 2006. Started my first blog in 2008, in French, from Miami. It was a peculiar adventure. Barack Obama did win the election I was covering but so many others lost a lot more, and see what the US look like now.

Then from 2010 came Africa, Kenya East Africa, and that experience changed me deeply and my life. In between all these moves was always England where I am again now. My heart is still here but my head is ready for more.

I had to cancel my plans to go to Ivory Coast this month of February, too busy, but I'll still go to Paris for a few days, still have an eye on Brussels - for a film projet with my oldest friend.

"On the road"... An open heart always holds space for new places, new loves.
I will have to go back to Bristol and to close that chapter now.

So, next project. I'm going to be in Greece in August for a lot of reasons, including a Documentary Film Festival - Beyond Borders.

I've also applied to many new jobs - one I hope will take me back to Africa and maybe, if I'm lucky, to Lebanon. Always wanted to go to Beirut, I feel a great connection with the place and most people here often think I'm Lebanese.

In the meantime, there will be a great deal of room for new space... New places.

When I went to India and Mexico in 2012, they were totally improvised trips to nourish my soul, not to complete my duty as a journalist.

Then I miss the music... Roads are great to merge with music!

Since I've been a teenager, my dream has been to follow a band on the road. To write while they were playing music. I think R.E.M. inspired that dream. Then, briefly, Jeff Buckley.

I could still do it. Just need to find a band or an artist who likes people as much as I do, who likes documentary work, and won't spend time concentrating on the usual "booze & fans", feeding the ego. There is so much more sounds, words, music and images can do, can mean.
Then maybe go back to my roots. The sounds of real life, of cities, of people, these are what needs to be heard at the moment. Let music help us dream!

We'll see.

Maybe we'll meet somewhere, on the road.

Current soundtrack: 

THYLACINE - 'Purmamarca' (Official Video)

Thylacine built himself a music studio on wheels and solar powered, to compose his next album on Argentinians roads. 
Listen the album on every platform: https://IDOL.lnk.to/ROADS-Vol1 Follow the journey: https://www.instagram.com/thylacine_m... Subscribe to the Channel: http://bit.ly/Subscribe_Thylacine Voice by José Larralde Lyrics by Milton Aguilar Video directed by Thylacine Shot by Morgan Prêleur, Thylacine & Jonatan Magario with Marcos Salatin. Editor : Zoé Sassier Colorist : Thibaut Petillon Post production : Everest

ROADS vol.1, my next album is out now ! 

THYLACINE - The Road (Official Video)


Qu’importe si le thylacine, sorte de mammifère au pelage tigré, vient de Tasmanie, c’est en Argentine que le jeune prodige de la scène électro française a décidé d’enregistrer son deuxième album. Pour donner suite à « Transsiberian », son premier essai composé en 2015 à bord du train qui relie Moscou à Vladivostock, Thylacine s’est offert une caravane datée de 1972, la fameuse Airstream tout en aluminium et l’a lui-même, magnifiquement transformée en studio d’enregistrement. Il embarque ensuite sa belle américaine sur un cargo pour la récupérer un mois plus tard à Buenos Aires. Direction la Cordillère des Andes. C’est l’attrait de l’inconnu et l’absence absolue de repère qui donnent envie à Thylacine de s’évader en Amérique du Sud pour enrichir son electronica, et conjuguer à merveille les mélodies aériennes de Moderat, la touche solaire d’un Nicola Cruz, et la puissance techno d’un Paul Kalkbrenner.