“Nos­tal­gia when it is used well is beau­ti­ful ... But when it comes to writ­ing, you have to use nos­tal­gia as an im­age and not as a way to live”

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Cover Story -

such as El­bow, Fly­ing Lo­tus, Tom Tom Club, Gang Of Four, Gong, Yel­low Ma­chine Or­ches­tra, Stiff Lit­tle Fin­gers, Mark Ste­wart and oth­ers to per­form. Nat­u­rally, they also did a gig them­selves. So much for pro­cras­ti­na­tion.

“Our man­ager is very good at im­pos­ing pe­ri­odic dead­lines about tours and col­lab­o­ra­tions and stuff which is very good for fo­cus­ing the mind,” says del Naja. “Without that, we’d be even worse than we are now. Things would drift on and on for­ever and tracks would never see the light of day.”

Some dead­lines, though, don’t stick. Ac­cord­ing to del Naja, the fifth Mas­sive At­tack al­bum was ac­tu­ally ready to roll last year. “We thought we had an al­bum fin­ished last year,” he in­sists. “We did Melt­down and then did an­other tour but when it came to the last shows, we felt we had al­ready re­leased the al­bum. We’d sent it out there, we’d played it in front of X amount of peo­ple and it felt like we should start again.”

That must have come as news to the other mu­si­cians, crew, man­age­ment and record la­bel. “To be fair, they get well frus­trated. The band are pretty cool with it be­cause they’re here in Bris­tol with us in the stu­dio, so they’re al­right, they know the score. The crew, they’re al­right with us too, I sup­pose. I mean, we’re tour­ing more than we’re re­leas­ing records th­ese days.

“For man­age­ment and the record la­bel, though, it’s a to­tally dif­fer­ent ket­tle of fish. They’re like ‘what the fuck?’ ev­ery time. But since we signed with our record la­bel, we’ve seen the pyra­mids built and crum­ble. We’ve seen so many dif­fer­ent peo­ple come and go. The la­bel we signed to is now gone. We signed to Circa, which be­came Vir­gin, which be­came EMI, which be­came Terra Firma. It’s a to­tally dif­fer­ent world.”

With work on that al­bum now ap­pear­ing to be reach­ing a con­clu­sion (see panel), Mas­sive At­tack are about to em­bark on yet an­other tour.

“Af­ter 100th Win­dow, I re­ally be­gan to en­joy the live shows be­cause of the vis­ual stuff,” says del Naja. “What was re­ally miss­ing for me from the live show in the early days was a feel­ing of be­ing able to com­mu­ni­cate the point of the band or project across to the au­di­ence.

“Us­ing the LED art screens or in­for­ma­tion boards, or what­ever you want to call them, to trans­mit all th­ese ideas re­ally ap­pealed to me. It meant that ev­ery time we up­dated tracks, we also up­dated the vis­ual side – which was very in­ter­est­ing to me. It felt more cin­e­matic and it got across all the ex­tra mean­ings that the songs had.”

There’s even some new mu­sic to ac­com­pany this tour. The four-track Split­ting the Atom EP fea­tures con­tri­bu­tions from El­bow’s Guy Gar­vey, TV On The Ra­dio’s Tunde Ade­bimpe, Ho­race Andy and Martina-To­p­ley Bird.

In­tended as a taster for the al­bum (“Peo­ple can hear that we have been work­ing,” gig­gles del Naja), the mu­sic is nat­u­rally deep, broody and cin­e­matic. In­ter­est­ingly, it brings such cur­rent woozy, wonky beat-dig­gers as Fly­ing Lo­tus and Hud­son Mo­hawke to mind – and re­minds you that this new school owe a bit of a debt to the Bris­tol crew. It’s a link del Naja also points to. “When we did the Melt­down scene, we were able to put on acts like Fly­ing Lo­tus and

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Shape Of Broad Minds and it was great to be able to show­case peo­ple like that. Then, there are the new names com­ing from the avant­grade scene like TV On The Ra­dio and Gang Gang Dance who are do­ing some re­ally wild stuff.

“When I hear weird dub­step now, the slow, dark stuff es­pe­cially, it sounds so much like some of our old demos from 10 years ago which we never re­leased. All th­ese dark, druggy, cin­e­matic grooves – we’ve tons of that stuff which we never re­leased.”

But while some at their record la­bel might think the archives could pro­vide an al­bum or two to fill a gap be­fore the new record shows up, del Naja has no in­ten­tion of go­ing back in time.

“Some­times, it’s good to go back through the archives to hear some­thing and go ‘wow, that’s cool’, but you don’t re­ally use it. That’s in the past; I pre­fer to think about the fu­ture.

“Nos­tal­gia when it is used well is beau­ti­ful. It’s an im­por­tant emo­tion for peo­ple and I find that melan­cholic an­gle, that beau­ti­ful, bit­ter­sweet sad­ness, to be very im­por­tant for our mu­sic.

“But when it comes to writ­ing, you have to use nos­tal­gia as an im­age and not as a way to live. You al­ways have to look for­ward.”

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