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by John Wood

Faithless

For this English electronica act, the personal is political

DJ Sister Bliss and rapper Maxi Jazz

Faithless are not exactly the easiest band to define. It would be an injustice to simply label them a “dance” act, as their music is a lot more diverse. Forming in the mid-’90s, Faithless are comprised of three permanent members: DJ/Producer Rollo (also famous for being singer Dido’s brother), renowned DJ Sister Bliss and rapper Maxi Jazz. Currently touring in support of their latest offering, No Roots, they are set to visit Japan next week.

No Roots is Faithless’ fourth studio album and their first in two years. It has so far spawned two strong singles in “I Want More” and the anti-war anthem “Mass Destruction,” which sees Faithless at its most overtly political.

“From the very beginning I wanted to write a song about the state of the world…and of all the songs we have ever put out I would really like ‘Mass Destruction’ to do well,” said Jazz in a recent interview with Metropolis.

Jazz’s haunting trip-hop lyrics create an eerie atmosphere that will no doubt play over in the minds of even the most apathetic of listeners. Such potent words, coupled with a slick video, have seen “Mass Destruction” enter the playlists of major TV and radio stations. To the astonishment of Jazz even American stations like K-Rock and MTV have put the more commercial-friendly remix version on high rotation, especially considering the reaction by Americans to American artists that have openly criticized the government.

“I thought of all the songs, ‘Mass Destruction’ would be the very last one [to be a hit], given that the Dixie Chicks were censured by the president…I thought there was no way American radio was going to have anything to do with it. Corporate America is not famous for its backbone or spine…but they run it. To think that 15-year-old Americans are going to be going around singing, ‘A wicked mind is a weapon of mass destruction’ fills me with joy.”

This is the message that Jazz wants to promote. A practicing Buddhist, he believes that the actions of the individual can have a positive effect on others. “I see the world completely differently from how I used to, so of course my lyrics are completely different from how they use to be. One of the major things that I learned through Buddhism is that one’s external environment can only be a reflection of your internal environment…It’s great to be a pop star, it’s brilliant to be on the telly and earn a few quid, but if I had to write ‘Baby, baby’ lyrics and ‘Let’s all put your hands in the air’ and have fun, then this would be an empty existence and I would have stopped it a long time ago.”

Such an approach has built an intimate connection with audiences and has helped the band become a formidable live outfit. The current tour has already seen them visit places like Bulgaria, Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro and Greece, as well as large festivals across Europe. A recent performance at the Lowlands festival in Holland has been widely talked about. “The bellowing from the crowd was so loud that it was beyond belief…the music was 105 decibels and the crowd was 109. And it [the noise] didn’t stop…it was just astonishing,” Jazz says.

People going to the Japanese shows should expect similar things from Faithless. They have toured here only once to play a brief TV gig and a club gig the same evening. Fortunately, people will have the chance to see them play at both a club in Tokyo and at Asagiri jam. “In the 48 hours I spent here, I fell in love with the place,” says Jazz. The feeling will no doubt be reciprocated.

Ebisu Liquid Room: Sep 30, 8pm, ¥6,000. Tel: Smash 03-3444-5569.

Asagiri Jam: Oct 2, campsite opens 10am, show starts at 2pm; Oct 3 show starts 10am, ¥9,980 (two-day ticket). Asagiri Arena, Shizuoka prefecture. Tel: Smash 03-3444-6751.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Smash


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