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Massive Attack Promise Politics and Spectacle on New Tour

Robert Del Naja on special guests and the group's "aggressive" next album

May 4, 2010 2:10 PM ET

For the first time in four years, British electro duo Massive Attack are gearing up for a U.S. tour — and the group is planning an eye-popping, potentially controversial stage show for eager fans who've waited since 2006 to see the band perform live. The nine-date trek in support of Heligoland kicks off May 7th in Toronto before wrapping up at the Sasquatch! Music Festival on May 30th in George, Washington. "We've been touring for the last 10 years, to my horror," jokes singer Robert Del Naja. "A lot of that has been around Europe so I'm looking forward to finally playing in the U.S. again."

On their last outing, Massive Attack brought a visual spectacle to complement the band's stunning atmospheric tracks. They'll deliver a similar setup this time around: the stage will feature an illuminated scrim that broadcasts scrolling words and phrases in order to reflect today's economic and political uncertainties. (Think of it as a giant CNN news ticker.) "We're really into the global state of the world and the financial climate — the issues of news and media," says Del Naja. "For me, as a sort of graffiti artist, you can be provocative, throwing up words and phrases. And you can be interesting. And slightly childish at the same time." Del Naja is encouraging fans who wear sunglasses to diminish the scrim's blinding light to take them off: "They're missing the point," he says.

On their latest disc, Massive Attack roped in Damon Albarn and Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval to contribute vocals. While Del Naja says it's difficult to have special guests appear live because of conflicting schedules, he is optimistic for a couple of collaborations. "We're not able to tour with everyone we've recorded with, but we'll see with this tour."

After they wrap up their U.S. dates, Massive Attack will head back into the studio to record their next LP and Del Naja says the band has already sketched out plenty of ideas. "There's no shirking with us," he says. As for the general vibe of the new tunes, Del Naja adds, "At the moment, these new songs are sounding aggressive. We hope to put it out next year, but, you know, obviously we've made statements like that before. But you never know."

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Song Stories

“Whoomp! (There It Is)”

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Cecil Glenn — a.k.a., "D.C." — was a cook at Magic City, a nude dance club in Atlanta, when he first heard women shout "Whoomp — there it is!" Inspired by the party chant, he and partner Steve "Roll'n" Gibson wrote a song around it. Undaunted by label rejections, they borrowed $2,500 from Glenn's parents and pressed 800 singles, which quickly sold out in the Atlanta area. A record deal came soon after. Glenn said the song was meant for positive partying. "If you're going to say 'Whoomp there it is,' and you're doing something negative, we'd rather it not have come out of your mouth."

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