A Massive Weekend !!!
Last weekend was such a fun weekend. After a PR shoot in Stonehouse, Gloucestershire, involving two house builders, a local football team and a stray football, I travelled back to Bristol to attend the launch of a new book about Massive Attack, at Rough Trade in Bridewell, Bristol.
The book is called ‘Out of the Comfort Zone’ and has just been released in English, after first being published in French around two years ago. Luckily I was there a little early so I was able to introduce myself to the author, Melissa Chemam, and take her photograph. What immediately struck me about her was how relaxed and smiley she was. I kinda presumed that someone who spent 2-3 years interviewing Massive Attack and related artists included Tricky, Portishead and 1970s Bristol punk bands might be a little on the serious side. After all, for the thousands that attended any of the two Steel Yard gigs in Filton over the Weekend, Massive Attack aren’t anything but serious artists, intense, political and humanely focused. I don’t think the audience even got an ‘hello’. But don’t let that put you off seeing them live. Just go with the experience, soak it up and enjoy. But it was very difficult to get photos of Melissa not smiling. I did ask her at one point to give me her ‘Serious Journalist’ face, but to be honest that photo doesn’t really represent the afternoon.
Being interviewed by local writer Annie McGann they both shared warm stories about knowing and working with the band and had the audience laughing along with them as Melissa recounted tales of how the band struggled to remember dates and events with any consistency. Annie spoke of hanging out with 3D when they were teenagers and refusing to lend him her video camera, because “he looked a bit dodgy!”
For me as a Bristolian this book is fascinating. Bristolians aren’t known for boasting about their city; we sit in a difficult place, overshadowed by our posh neighbours Bath, and long weighed down by our part in the slave trade. We do have the same history as Liverpool in that respect, but unlike Liverpool, we have no world famous football team, no ferry across the Mersey (we have little yellow boats with Gromit pointing the way) and we have no Beatles. But we do have Massive Attack and with that comes Banksy, The Mild, Mild West, Portishead, Tricky, the graffiti quarter.
Massive attack are imprinted onto the fabric of the city. In the 90s you couldn’t help but bump into them if you were at all active around town and in the clubs. As a Press photographer in Bristol I photographed and met the boys a few times, photographing them at Glastonbury in 1997 (See pic below) . I’m pretty sure this was on the Jazz/World stage and I remember having to photograph their performance without a flashgun. It had been clean knocked off and destroyed in the snappers pit, while trying to photograph The Prodigy on the Pyramid Stage (RIP Keith Flint)
I loosely worked with 3D on the Ultra magazine, I was the official photographer photographing the action and tasked with trying to make Bristol City look cool on the pitch and on the terraces, I also played 5 a side with 3D on Golden Hill and remember while most of us wore our colourful footy shirts, 3D’s kit was unsurprisingly all black.
And In Melissa we also have an author who is perfectly placed to give a fair view of Bristol and its scene. Most Bristolians would struggle to do that - we’d die of embarrassment if we had to talk seriously about the Gloucester Rd, of Park Row or South/East Bristol. We’d much rather grumble about the traffic around Temple Meads, or bemoan the lack of a Clarks Pie shop on Church Road.
So I’m really looking forward to reading this book, to get a serious view of the city I grew up in, its arts and music scene, Here is a link to Melissa’s Website where you can find out more about her background and why an acclaimed French journalist fell in love with our city and Massive Attack http://melissa-on-the-road.blogspot.com