Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Massive Attack: Heligoland

'You're only paranoid if they're not out to get you,' is an adage that's self-evidently true. With that as a given, Massive Attack mainstay 3D (a.k.a. Robert Del Naja) has every right to feel more than a little suspicious and mistrustful, especially when it comes to matters of internet privacy, security and surveillance.

After the FBI passed on a list of 7,300 UK credit card numbers associated with various porn sites (some legal and some of an illicit nature) to UK authorities, 3D was swept up in the excessively wide net of an indiscriminate police sting in 2003. Though allegations of any wrongdoing were unfounded, the repercussions were severe for the outspoken graffiti artist, vocalist and music producer. His home was raided, and all his computers and hard drives were confiscated for several months. To compound the situation, despite the fact that no charges directly relating to the police operation were ever filed, the furor that surrounded the investigation and baseless accusations (which were leaked and sensationally reported by a tabloid newspaper) meant that touring plans to promote Massive Attack's fourth studio album 100th Window had to be put on hold. The situation was all the more ironic considering the title of that album referred to a book that exposed the flaws in computer security and the rampant misuse of information in the internet age.

That unfortunate episode however was not the only incident that might have put 3D on the various "person of interest" lists around the world. He has been extremely open and vocal about his disapproval of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, going as far as designing and funding a series of anti-war ads which were published in the NME (with cohort Damon Albarn). Furthermore, having made several forays to the Middle East with the band, 3D has frequently voiced his concern for the plight of the Palestinian people, and in 2007 put the issue at the top of Massive Attack's political agenda with a series of sold out benefit concerts for the Hoping Foundation (an organization which aids children of the troubled state).

These distractions coupled with increasing demand from filmmakers for scores and soundtracks, meant that a new full-length Massive Attack release took a little longer than expected to manifest. However the wait - and the adversity - has paid off. Original band member Daddy G (a.k.a. Grant Marshall), who'd been absent from the project for several years, came back into the fold, and the resulting fifth studio album, Heligoland (released last month), debuted at #46 on the Billboard Top 200, giving Massive Attack their highest US chart position to date.

I caught up with 3D while he was in LA on a brief promotional trip ahead of Massive Attack's first North American tour in 4 years. During our phone conversation, he spoke about the new CD (which features contributions from Damon Albarn, Hope Sandoval, Martina Topley-Bird, and longtime Massive Attack collaborator Horace Andy, among others), and shared his thoughts on the increasingly pointless posturing of British and American party politics, the inherent dangers of our heavily surveilled states, and the futility of exporting such a culture to the Middle East.

Read the full interview with Massive Attack's 3D on

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