If Thievery Corporation or Massive Attack came to town separately, it’d be big news. But put them together on the same bill and the buzz is deafening. The D.C. dub and downtempo duo is teaming up with the British trip-hop pioneer for a must-see outdoor show at Miami’s Bayfront Park Amphitheater. Both acts bridge the gap between world music and electronic beats, tapping Jamaican, Indian, Latin, jazz and hip-hop for a super-cool sound that’s both retro and decidedly now. For a taste of what to expect, check out Thievery’s new best-of album, “It Takes a Thief,” plus Massive Attack’s excellent new release, “Heligoland.” Rob Garza from Thievery and Robert del Naja from Massive Attack took time to talk to Miami.com about the tour.
What can we expect from your live show?
[Rob Garza]: We have about 12 or 13 different musicians who travel with us, and sometimes certain people will come along and other times others will come. Female vocalists, Rastafarian singers, we have a sitar player, bass, two percussionists, horn players, myself and Eric [Hilton] – it’s a pretty big crew, and the show is pretty intense.
[Robert del Naja]: We’re just gonna have a bit of fun, change it up a bit, play some stuff from the new album and play some new stuff that hasn’t been recorded yet, and play it all at an angle, with quite a lot of interesting visual information as well: cultural, political, economic, relevant, irrelevant, serious, ridiculous, all of it.
How did you hook up for the tour?
[RG]: Basically, our agent represents us both, and she was flirting the idea by us and flirting the idea by them, and we thought, “Man, this would be a great bill to do a tour together.” We were all excited and just jumped at the chance to bring this kind of music together.
[RDN]: It came from a mutual friend who suggested it, that it’d be interesting if we’d play together because we might have a bit of fun on the road, and also it might be a good combination for people to watch.
What inspired Thievery to mix exotic or world music with dance beats?
[RG]: That’s the kind of music we were listening to when we met each other. Eric has just opened up the 18th Street Lounge, and the grooves there were very eclectic and very worldly – you had Jamaican music, Brazilian tracks, Bollywood soundtracks – we were into all these exotic sounds, and at the time we were making electronic music, so it kind of felt natural to meld all of the elements together.
What would you say most influenced the Massive Attack sound?
[RDN]: Probably a combination of reggae, punk and hip-hop. Public Image Ltd., The Clash, The Specials, and then the hip-hop movement was a new and completely revolutionary music form for us – it really blew our minds and influenced the way we approached even becoming writers of music.
All the Thievery recordings sound really good, but especially the percussion. Is that coincidental, or do you give special attention to the percussion?
[RG]: Well, percussion is an element that we love in all different kinds of music – I think it’s one thing you can find in Brazilian music or Latin music or Jamaican music or Indian music with the tabla. Percussion seems to create this kind of fluidity with the sound that we incorporate in a lot of our tracks. So we’re very aware of it – I don’t know if we paid special attention, but it’s a very important part of our music for sure.
What does Massive Attack think of the term “trip-hop”?
[RDN]: “Trip-hop” was a phrase coined by many of us, I think to sort of define what made us different from hip-hop, you know, something a bit more psychedelic and a bit strange. And it was quite an amusing term initially.
What were you doing before Thievery Corporation became a reality?
[RG]: I was doing some crazy, fast, breakbeat techno things – I’ve been doing music since I was 16, just kind of messing around with drum machines, sequencers, keyboards, those kinds of things. And when Eric and I met, we were like, let’s put our equipment together and see what kind of noise we can make, and what came out was soon to be named Thievery Corporation.
Massive Attack has had some incredible female singers, including Tracey Thorn, Elizabeth Fraser, Sinead O’Connor, Hope Sandoval and now Martina Topley-Bird. Do you write songs with a specific singer in mind?
[RDN]: Certain times we’ve done that – certain times we’ve sent things to people and written things for people. Other times, we’ll get them in the studio and let them pick things and suddenly we’re like, “Wow, I love that.”
What inspired Thievery to release a best-of album?
[RG]: I guess for us, the fan base for Thievery in the United States has been growing over the past 10 years at a great rate, but there are still a lot of people who don’t know who Thievery Corporation are, and this might be a good starting point or catching-up point if you haven’t heard the band. At first it felt strange, because we never thought of ourselves as a group that would have a best-of, so it was awkward.