Melissa Chemam’s book Massive Attack – Out of the Comfort Zone

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It charts their rise out of the surprisingly inclusive communities of urban working- and middle-class kids, British with Jamaican, Irish, Italian and Asian immigrants who were particularly productive in Bristol. This hybridity was partly to do with the city’s geography that meant all communities and areas rubbed up against and tumbled into each other easily.

Bristol’s youth of different backgrounds with a passion for music could encounter the interesting musical mix of punk, reggae, soul, funk and later hip-hop, with the notable collective known as The Wild Bunch.

Melissa Chemam charts this musical hybridity expertly through interviews with key Bristol musicians and scene stalwarts such as Mark Stewart of The Pop Group and The Maffia,Jabulani Ngozi of Black Roots, graffiti artist Inkie, Ray Mighty of Smith and Mighty,Tricky, Neil Davidge, and members of Portishead, Lupine Howl and Alpha.

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Central to this book is the unfolding story of Massive Attack, their art, their politics, their reflections on their own identity and the development of their astounding music that has been received and loved all over the world.

The group’s creative driver Robert Del Naja is a key component ofChemam’s analysis, and his account, through interviews conducted by the author and documentary sources, is the spine of this story. Together they detail the making of the groundbreaking album, Blue Lines, as well as the impact of their following albums, includingMezzanine, which is 20 years old this year.

Del Naja was also instrumental in developing the Bristol Graffiti scene, working early on, under the pseudonym of 3D, with Goldie and the U.S. Tats Crew and later with Inkie andBanksy. The story of Bristol’s graffiti scene is intimately linked to the art and vision of Massive Attack themselves and Chemam weaves the evolution of Bristol street art culture into the account with a well-researched empathetic knowledge and understanding of the scene.

Key to the story are also the band’s unique collaborations, from Horace Andy, Shara Nelson, Tracey Thorn and Elizabeth Fraser, to Young Fathers, Adam Curtis and many others.

Melissa Chemam, as a French journalist and writer, gives an outsider’s account of this incredible band and the city they still live within. She interviewed more than 30 artists and musicians from Bristol. Her account and analysis, using Del Naja’s memory of this story, really gets to the roots of what the music and art scene in Bristol has been about and how it was the background for the development of the band.

Massive Attack were always unlike any other band in their combination of emotive music, art, social commentary as well as very unique shows. They also have had such a huge impact worldwide that it is hard to deny their influence in defining an intensely creative and ambitious part of British culture through the past three decades.

Massive Attack – Out of the Comfort Zone is to be published in early September 2018. Price £14.99

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