Massive Attack – Out of the Comfort Zone Melissa Chemam
Melissa Chemam’s book Massive Attack – Out of the Comfort Zone discusses, analyses and presents the unique development of the band Massive Attack through a story of the band’s members and the group’s gestation in the inner city cultural melting pot that was the Bristol of the 1970s and 1980s. It is charting their rise out of the fairly inclusive communities of urban working and middle class kids, Jamaican, Irish, Italian and Asian immigrants that were particularly productive and mixed in Bristol, partly to do with the city’s closely intermingled communities and partly with its geography that meant all communities rubbed up against 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. 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 Mafia, Jabulani Ngozi of Black Roots, Graf Artist Inkie, Ray Mighty of Smith and Mighty, Tricky, Neil Davidge, and members of Portishead, Lupine Howl and Alpha.
But 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 of Chemam’s analysis and his account, through interviews conducted by the author and documentary sources, is the spine of this story. Together they for instance detailed the making of their ground-breaking album, Blue Lines, as well as the impact of their third album, Mezzanine. They also reviewed the coming of the band’s incredible collaborations, defining to their uniqueness, from Horace Andy and Elizabeth Frazer to Young Fathers and Adam Curtis.
Robert 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 and Banksy. The story of Bristol’s graffiti scene is intimately linked to the art and vision of Massive Attack themselves and Melissa Chemam weaves the evolution of Bristol street art culture into the account with a researched empathetic knowledge and understanding of the scene.
Melissa Chemam, as a French Journalist and writer, gives an outsider’s account of this incredible band and the city they still live within. 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 until their recent show in Bristol in 2016. 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 had such a huge impact worldwide that it is hard to deny their influence in defining a very unique part of British culture through the past three decades.