Robert Del Naja

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Robert Del Naja
Robert Del Naja@Barcelone (cropped).jpg
Del Naja in 2007
Background information
Also known as3D, Delge
Born (1965-01-21) 21 January 1965 (age 55)
OriginBristol, England
GenresTrip hop
Occupation(s)Musician, singer-songwriter, graffiti artist
InstrumentsVocals, keyboards, vocoder
Years active1983–present
Associated actsMassive Attack, The Wild Bunch, Horace Andy, Tracey Thorn, Elizabeth Fraser, UNKLE, The Battle Box, Damon Albarn, Gorillaz, Neneh Cherry, Thom Yorke, Portishead, Tricky, Terry Callier, TV on the Radio, Young Fathers

Robert Del Naja (/dɛl ˈnə/; born 21 January 1965),[1] also known as 3D, is a British artist, musician, singer and songwriter. He emerged as a graffiti artist and member of the Bristol collective The Wild Bunch, and later as a founding member of the band Massive Attack, with which he is still active. In 2009, he received the British Academy's Ivor Novello Award[2] for Outstanding Contribution to British Music.[3]


Del Naja started rapping with the Wild Bunch [4] in Bristol in the mid-1980s.[5] He is one of the founding members of Bristol trip hop collective Massive Attack, with Grant Marshall and Andrew Vowles, as a music producer and the only vocalist to feature on all their albums and EPs.[6] The band first received critical acclaim with their first album "Blue Lines", released in 1991.[7]

In addition to his work with Massive Attack, he provided vocals to 'Invasion' on Unkle's album Never, Never, Land, and 'Twilight' on War Stories.[8]

Del Naja has co written a number of film scores and tracks for films with Neil Davidge and more recently with Euan Dickinson. 'Herculaneum', the title track for Italian director Matteo Garrone's 2008 Palme d'Or winning film Gomorrah, based on the book by Roberto Saviano about organised crime in Naples, received the prize for best song at the David Di Donatello Awards – the Italian Oscars - the same year.[9]

In December 2012, Del Naja released the first single of his new project called The Battle Box, which fuses music, art and discourse across one-off live events, exhibitions and exclusive vinyl releases. He counted with the collaboration of artists such as Guy Garvey, Noel Gallagher, Jupiter Bokondji and the Higgins Waterproof Black Magic Band.[10]

In December 2014, Del Naja donated ten unreleased music tracks to the Game Jam site "Ludum Dare", for a game event taking place in December. The songs will be used by the site developers to make soundtracks for the games. This new music material is also available for free download.[11][12]

In February 2015, Del Naja and Thom Yorke released the soundtrack for documentary "The UK Gold". The songs are available for free download.[13]

In 2015 he also collaborated with Jean-Michel Jarre on the Electronica 1: The Time Machine album, resulting in the track "Watching You".[14]

Art work[edit]

Robert Del Naja was a graffiti artist before becoming a vocalist, and was featured in the book Spraycan Art by Henry Chalfant & James Prigoff and in the film Bombin', directed by Dick Fontaine,[15] alongside fellow artist and future drum & bass pioneer, Goldie.

Del Naja is credited as being the first graffiti artist in Bristol.[16] He is also regarded as the pioneer of the stencil graffiti movement and one of those who brought hip hop and graffiti culture from the United States to Bristol in the early 1980s.[17]

His work has been featured on all of Massive Attack's record sleeves.[18][19]

Since 2003, Del Naja has co-designed all of Massive Attack's lighting shows with UVA;[20] the shows have been overtly political, dealing with current local and international issues.[21][22][23]

Del Naja and Massive Attack's producer Neil Davidge collaborated with United Visual Artists on the large scale installation 'Volume' at London's V&A museum in 2006.[24] It consists of a field of 48 luminous, sound-emitting columns that respond to movement. Visitors weave a path through the sculpture, creating their own unique journey in light and music.

Del Naja took part in a group show in 2007 called Warpaint at the Lazarides Gallery in London, featuring his art from the Unkle album "War Stories". He also created an exhibition of flags at "Massive Attack's Meltdown Festival" on London's Southbank Centre in 2008.[25] The installation was called "Favoured Nations". In the exhibition, alternative flags of the British Commonwealth were recoloured in the anarchist red and black and hung from the ceiling of the Royal Festival Hall main floor.[26]

Robert Del Naja's art

In a 2010 interview, Del Naja said "Painting is difficult for me because I'm colour blind. Back in the day, I had to label my spray cans with what colour they were because I couldn't tell. It's like the emperor's new clothes: [people] telling me it's great, and me pretending that's what I intended."[27] Del Naja's first solo art show ran in the Lazarides gallery, central London from 24 May to 22 June. The show featured many of the works he created for Massive Attack, reinterpreted especially for the exhibition. The show also featured three one-off 'digital infinity mirrors' two of which contained phrases supplied by Reprieve extracted from drone pilot dialogues. Del Naja and Grant DJ'd at the opening night on 23 May.[28]

Del Naja cover art 2009

Del Naja had a solo art show at the Lazarides gallery in central London from 24 May to 22 June 2013. The show's content spanned a period of over twenty years and featured many of the art pieces that Del Naja created for Massive Attack. Each piece, reinterpreted especially for the exhibition, was hand-printed and finished.[29]

Del Naja performing in Massive Attack V Adam Curtis 2013

A multi-medium show conceived and designed by Del Naja and filmmaker Adam Curtis – in collaboration with United Visual Artists (UVA) – premiered in Manchester in July 2013. The show featured a Curtis film, unofficially titled 'The Plan', which was projected onto a huge screen surrounding the audience. The lighting and LED elements that surrounded the film and players were designed by Del Naja and UVA.[30] Del Naja also orchestrated the show's soundtrack, and the music later became part of the score for Curtis' BBC production entitled HyperNormalisation in 2016.[31]


In 2016, Massive Attack released their EP 'Ritual Spirit' as part of a procedural music app called Fantom and was co-developed by Robert Del Naja[32] (with a new version developed in 2019).[33] The “sensory remixer” let you create unique versions of tracks, with the app taking into account variables like movement, time of day or night, location and what your phone’s camera can see. An Apple Watch version of the app that varies the song’s rhythm and harmony based on heartbeat was also developed, while live social media notifications sent via a Twitter feed triggered alternative real time mix events.[34]

In April 2018, Massive Attack encoded Mezzanine into synthetic DNA to mark the 20th anniversary of the 1998 album.[35] A limited number of cans were manufactured with the DNA encoded audio within matt black paint - each can contained approximately one million copies of the album.[36] Addressing the novel storage method, Del Naja said: “It’s a creative way to store your back catalogue, although DNA-encoded spray paint is unlikely to be adopted by street artists seeking anonymity”.[37]

Mezzanine DNA in matt black paint

In 2019, Del Naja and Adam Curtis teamed up for a second time on a live show based on the bands' Mezzanine album.[38] The show challenged the idea of nostalgia and power, and featured machine learning generative adversarial networks and deep fakes from Mario Klingemman, as well as new films from Curtis that were used to tell a narrative story. They were used as visuals for cover versions of non Massive Attack songs based on samples and loops that made up the album's identity.[39]

Since the spring 2019, the band's explorations with artificial intelligence have been featured in an international art show that debuted at the Barbican Centre in London[40], called 'AI - More Than Human'.[41]

Music for film[edit]

With Massive Attack

Robert Del Naja with Neil Davidge (as 1.6)

UVA/Del Naja LED stage art 2015

Robert Del Naja with Euan Dickinson

  • 2008: Gomorrah (Matteo Garrone) – Herculaneum (winner of best song at the David Di Donatello)
  • 2010: Women Are Heroes (JR) – 2011 Dias De Gracia (Everardo Valerio Gout) Summertime/with Scarlett Johansson
  • 2013: The UK Gold (Mark Donne) with Thom Yorke
  • 2015: The Standing March (JR/Darren Aronofsky)
  • 2016: La Fête Est Finie, for the COP 21 (Mark Donne)
  • 2016: Hypernormalisation (Adam Curtis)

With The Insects

  1. 2009 44-Inch Chest – full score with Angelo Badalamenti

Musical scene and artistic peers[edit]

Robert Del Naja's music has been associated with the Bristol Sound.

Del Naja has said of the Bristol Scene: "We all grew up listening to punk music and funk stuff and those attitudes sort of snuck into our music. That sort of brought people from different circles together and maybe it wasn't as 'cultural melting pot' as it all sounds but because Bristol is quite a small place, it becomes a lot more focused then."[42]

Activism and politics[edit]

Del Naja has been critical of the government policies of the United Kingdom. He was strongly opposed to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and with fellow musician Damon Albarn personally paid for full page adverts in the NME magazine.[43][44] On the eve of the invasion of Iraq, they tried to organise a group of prominent musicians into an anti-war campaign, only according to Del Naja to be greeted with silence bordering on hostility.[45] Massive Attack have previously played two shows in Israel, but have declined recent offers. They have described this "not an action of aggression towards the Israeli people" but "towards the [Israeli] government and its policies", arguing that "the Palestinians [in Gaza and the west bank] have no access to the same fundamental benefits that the Israelis do."[46]

In 2005, Del Naja organised and performed at a charity concert in Bristol for Tsunami Relief with Adrian Utley and Geoff Barrow of Portishead. The two-night event featured Massive Attack, Portishead, Robert Plant, The Coral and Damon Albarn. Del Naja and Marshall performed three shows in 2005 in support of Hoping, an organisation that helps raise money, support projects for Palestinian youth in refugee camps in the Gaza strip and the west bank, Lebanon and Syria.

Del Naja and Thom Yorke of Radiohead threw an unofficial office Christmas party at an occupied UBS bank in London in December 2011, in recognition and support for the international Occupy movement.[47]

Having previously boycotted playing at Bristol's Colston Hall due to its connection with the city's historic slave trade, in October 2012, Del Naja heavily criticised Bristol Mayor candidate George Ferguson because of his membership of a local organisation the Society of Merchant Venturers.[48] The organisation dates back to the 16th century and had many connections with the Bristol slave trade, continuing to this day as an elitist private organisation, open to very few by invitation only.[49] In November 2012, Del Naja then took a surprising stance to reverse his position and endorse George Ferguson. Del Naja was cited by local media as saying that the other candidates had only party political agendas at heart and a newly elected mayor needed more imagination to help implement creative projects for Bristol.[50]

In July 2014, Robert Del Naja and Grant Marshall visited the Bourj El-Barajneh refugee camp in Lebanon to meet with Palestinian volunteers at an educational centre. The band's profit from the show in Byblos was donated to the centre.[51]

In 2016, Robert worked with photographer Giles Duley to show their support for refugees; Massive Attack used his photographs from different sites of the crisis for their new show.[52]

From 2018, 3D has been supporting the climate activists of the Extinction Rebellion group, also known as XR, which have conducted protests in London since October 2018. In April, he played a DJ set for the Extinction Rebellion protesters[53] in the heart of London in Marble Arch.[54] In July and October 2019, the group protested in 60 other cities worldwide and Del Naja provided a portable radio network using speakers in backpacks with receivers and transmitters for the campaigners in London.[55] Massive Attack also concluded their Mezzanine XXI tour of the USA in October by organising a benefit gig at Webster Hall in NYC to help pay protestor's legal fees.[56]

In November 2019, along with other public figures, Massive Attack signed a letter supporting Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn describing him as "a beacon of hope in the struggle against emergent far-right nationalism, xenophobia and racism in much of the democratic world" and endorsed him in the 2019 UK general election.[57]

And on 28 November 2019, Robert Del Naja announced that Massive Attack partnered with a research centre based at the University of Manchester to explore music industry climate impact. He wrote in a column in The Guardian: "The commissioning of the renowned Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research to map the full carbon footprint of typical tour cycles, and to look specifically at the three key areas where CO2 emissions in our sector are generated".[58]

Legal issues[edit]

Del Naja was arrested and cautioned twice in Bristol during the 1980s for painting graffiti and made to do community service.[59]

In March 2003, Del Naja was arrested and interviewed under Operation Ore, an investigation into child abuse images. No further action was taken against him. The allegations disrupted Massive Attack's tour following the release of 100th Window, but the band eventually decided against suing the Sun newspaper or the police.[44]

Personal life[edit]

Del Naja was brought up in Bristol. His father was from Naples, Italy, and as a result Robert is a passionate supporter of the S.S.C. Napoli football team, as well as Bristol City.[60] Del Naja attended state school in Filton, Bristol, but didn't complete the A level term and never went on to University.[61]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Robert Del Naja - New Songs, Playlists & Latest News - BBC Music". BBC. Retrieved 17 February 2019.
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ THE WILD BUNCH – New Book Tells The Story Of Massive Attack, Trip Hop And The Influential ‘Bristol Scene’, by Matt Catchpole | Posted on 09/02/2018
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ 'Massive Attack - Out of the Comfort Zone', Melissa Chemam, An Excerpt,
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Massive Attack's Robert Del Naja unveils new Battle Box project; Guy Garvey features". Retrieved 22 September 2014.
  11. ^ "Del Naja donates new music material". Ludum Dare. Retrieved 10 December 2014.
  12. ^ "New music from 3D of Massive Attack". Retrieved 10 December 2014.
  13. ^ "Thom Yorke and Massive Attack's Robert Del Naja Release UK Gold Soundtrack for Free". Pitchfork. Retrieved 25 February 2015.
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ Melissa Chemam, "Massive Attack - Out of the Comfort Zone", Tangent Books, Bristol (2019), pp. 49-51. ISBN 978-1910089729
  17. ^ Steve Wright, "Banksy's Bristol: Home Sweet Home", Tangent Books, Bath (2007), pp. 3–4. ISBN 978-1-906477-00-4
  18. ^ "Filthy Modern Art – Street Artists, Stencils, Graffiti – Originals and Prints". Archived from the original on 10 February 2008. Retrieved 29 January 2013.
  19. ^ "Red Lines: Bristol, England". Retrieved 29 January 2013.
  20. ^
  21. ^ "Massive Attack per Stefano Cucchi &#124 Global Project". Retrieved 15 September 2012.
  22. ^ "Massive Attack". United Visual Artists. Archived from the original on 8 August 2012. Retrieved 15 September 2012.
  23. ^ " issue 16". Issuu. Retrieved 15 September 2012.
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^ "Meltdown | FAVOURED NATIONS BY ROBERT DEL NAJA". Archived from the original on 15 August 2012. Retrieved 15 September 2012.
  27. ^ Nosheen Iqbal. "Massive Attack's art of darkness". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 September 2014.
  28. ^ "Lazarides – Fire Sale". Retrieved 19 July 2013.
  29. ^ "Exhibition 3D: Fire Sale". Lazarides. Retrieved 26 October 2013.
  30. ^ "Massive Attack v Adam Curtis at Manchester International Festival". 9 July 2013. Retrieved 29 August 2013.
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  42. ^ Dave "the Wave" Dresden, Interview with Massive Attack Archived 18 September 2005 at the Wayback Machine, Retrieved 16 June 2009.
  43. ^ "Massive Attack: the beat goes on". The Daily Telegraph. 8 July 2010. Retrieved 22 September 2014.
  44. ^ a b Petridis, Alexis (11 April 2003). "Massive Attack's Robert del Naja: a victim of the 'nudge-nudge culture'". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
  45. ^ O'Keeffe, Alice (5 February 2007). "Two-man army". New Statesman. Retrieved 14 June 2019.
  46. ^ "The silent treatment". Retrieved 22 September 2014.
  47. ^ "Dazed Digital". Occupy 2012. Retrieved 15 September 2012.
  48. ^ Staff (9 October 2012). "Massive Attack star criticises Bristol Mayor candidate George Ferguson". This Is Bristol. Archived from the original on 2 June 2013. Retrieved 8 May 2013.
  49. ^ Nash, Andrew, "The Society of Merchant Venturers", Bristol Slavery, Andrew Nash
  50. ^ Brown, Christopher (14 November 2012). "Bristol mayor: Massive Attack give vocal backing for Ferguson". Bristol 24–7. Archived from the original on 22 May 2013. Retrieved 8 May 2013.
  51. ^ "Massive Attack visit Palestinian refugees in Lebanon: 'All of them have a right to a life of dignity and beauty'". The Independent. Retrieved 22 September 2014.
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  60. ^ "Robert Del Naja, 3D from Massive Attack, on Bristol City and Napoli". The Observer. 2 December 2001. Retrieved 16 April 2016.
  61. ^ 'Out of the Comfort Zone', p. 49

External links[edit]