Ally Carnwath talks to Robert Del Naja of Massive Attack about their festival Meltdown

There's much more than trip hop at Massive Attack's Meltdown. Ally Carnwath talks to Robert Del Naja

In the past it has staged gigs chosen by reggae visionary Lee 'Scratch' Perry and punk icon Patti Smith. Last year the line-up included five middle-aged electropop artists wearing flowerpots as hats.

So, as the programme is announced for 2008's Meltdown - the exalted musical Jim'll Fix It in which a seminal act selects a wishlist of performers for a week-long festival at London's Southbank Centre - it's unlikely that anyone will ask Noel Gallagher if there are enough guitar bands playing.

Highlights of this year's festival, curated by Bristol electronic dub duo Massive Attack, will range from the esoteric - a rare British gig by the Japanese electronica outfit Yellow Magic Orchestra - to the showstopping - a performance by the iconic disco diva and one-time Warhol muse Grace Jones.

There will be guitars; influential punks Stiff Little Fingers and post-punks Gang of Four will perform. But hip hop, reggae and orchestral music are also well represented on a bill that Massive Attack say reflects the origins of their sound.

'The threads which run through it are to do with our heritage and the lineage we see ourselves fitting into,' explains the group's Robert Del Naja, aka 3D. 'There's our history in dub and reggae, the hip hop that got us into the studio and the connection we had to the punk and new wave scene.'

The return of Grace Jones will provide the line-up's main talking point. Last year she made a brief appearance at Jarvis Cocker's Meltdown; this time she will play a full-length set. 'We're totally chuffed to have her,' says Del Naja. 'Nightclubbing was a total soundtrack to getting around Bristol. She was a supernatural being and still is one of the world's truly unique bodies.'

One style conspicuously under-represented, though, is the Nineties Bristol sound which Massive Attack pioneered. They will open and close the festival with performances, and former Tricky collaborator Martina Topley Bird is on the bill, but some of the scene's biggest names - Portishead, Goldfrapp and Tricky - are absent.

Del Naja says this was a conscious decision: 'Meltdown was an opportunity to reach much further and see all the things that interested us from all continents. We're going to save that [the Bristol sound] for our Massive Attack-Portishead double-header stadium tour in 10 years when the tax men finally catch us.'

The festival's main cinematic coup is a preview showing of Shane Meadows' new film Somers Town. There will also be talks and films reflecting Massive Attack's interest in human rights, including Taxi to the Dark Side, a documentary by the Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney about the death of an Afghan taxi driver in US custody, followed by a discussion with former Guantánamo detainee Moazzam Begg.

But though politics and esoterica will never be far away, Del Naja says the main goal of Meltdown is the same as for all festivals. 'Although the Southbank Centre is not a crusty old disused building we've just broken into, this is like going back to the sound system nights we used to put on,' he says. 'It's an opportunity to throw a pretty wild party.'

· Massive Attack's Meltdown runs from 14 to 22 June. For full details, visit

Meltdown moments

Highlights of Massive Attack's South Bank extravaganza

Grace Jones

An Eighties icon, Jones released a string of disco and new wave records which are still regarded as classics of the genres.

· 19 June

Martina Topley Bird

Topley Bird's distinctive voice first hypnotised listeners on Tricky's trip-hop masterpiece Maxinquaye. Her 2003 solo debut, Quixotic, was Mercury-nominated.

· 18 June

Yellow Magic Orchestra

Featuring revered musician Ryuichi Sakamoto, YMO pioneered electro-pop in Seventies Japan.

· 15 June

Gang of Four

The post-punk band's angular sound has influenced contemporary artists from Franz Ferdinand to LCD Soundsystem.

· 20 June


Ally Carnwath

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Massive Attack talk to Miranda Sawyer

The Bristol band's sound has helped define British pop for 20 years. Now, they are curating the South Bank's influential Meltdown festival. In an exclusive interview, Miranda Sawyer talks politics, camper vans, and their upcoming album

Miranda Sawyer

11, May, 2008 @12:13 PM

Article image
Anny Shaw speaks to Massive Attack's Robert Del Naja about curating Meltdown

Anny Shaw speaks to graffiti artist, Massive Attack founder and Meltdown festival curator Robert Del Naja about street art

Anny Shaw

13, Jun, 2008 @1:28 PM

Pop review: Massive Attack and the Heritage Orchestra, Royal Festival Hall, London SE1

Pop: Massive Attack and the Heritage Orchestra both play atmospheric sets at the Meltdown festival

Ally Carnwath

21, Jun, 2008 @11:05 PM

Grant Marshall and Robert Del Naja pick 10 nights to catch at this year's Meltdown

For two weeks in June, Massive Attack take over the Southbank Centre in London for the Meltdown Festival. Grant Marshall and Robert Del Naja pick 10 nights to catch

18, May, 2008 @7:20 AM

Article image
Massive Attack take on Meltdown

The members of infuential trip-hop group Massive Attack have been announced as artistic directors of this year's Meltdown festival.

Rosie Swash

14, Feb, 2008 @3:20 PM

Meltdown launches Massive Attack as festival curators

Massive Attack enter new territory to become first band to curate Meltdown Festival

Owen Gibson, media correspondent

15, Feb, 2008 @12:29 AM

Pop review: Grace Jones, Meltdown, Royal Festival Hall, London SE1

Pop: Back on stage at London's Meltdown festival, Grace Jones at 60 proves herself to be not just a style icon but a living work of art. And those hats...

Kitty Empire

21, Jun, 2008 @11:05 PM

How to look good half-naked

Meltdown Festival: Seventies robo-popsters Devo cavorted like embarrassing uncles, but Iggy defied the years with a blistering display of defiant punk attitud.

23, Jun, 2007 @11:12 PM

Scott Walker's Meltdown review – a crisp selection
Scott Walker’s Meltdown review – a crisp selection

Carol McDaid

01, Jul, 2000 @11:02 PM

Performance: Patti Smith's Meltdown

Performance: Thirty years after she burst on to the New York music scene, three events at Patti Smith's highly personal Meltdown festival show her to be an inspired curator and still very much a star, says Molloy Woodcraft.

Molloy Woodcraft

25, Jun, 2005 @11:55 PM