Faithless: ‘We created something bigger than the sum of its parts’
Written by on 30 October 2020
They are one of the defining electronic acts of the last three decades, responsible for arguably the greatest dance track of all time.
Now, Faithless are back with their first album in 10 years; titled All Blessed, but it has come with challenges.
Of course, the effect of the coronavirus pandemic does not need overstating. For an album featuring several collaborations, lockdown threw a few hurdles into the mix.
But this record, their seventh, was different for another reason, too; for the first time, founders Sister Bliss and Rollo have worked without Maxi Jazz, the group’s enigmatic frontman and instantly recognisable face and voice.
There was no fallout, simply a break to make music with his new band, The E-Types. And the presence of the man who can command a crowd like very few others is still keenly felt; he set the bar high.
“It was definitely a challenge for us to make sure that we honoured that and that Faithless carries on in the spirit which it started, which is really to have lyrics that are meaningful,” Sister Bliss tells Sky News.
Maxi Jazz’s lyrical agenda and poetic style, as well as “the amazing tone of his voice”, have been the “central spine” of the band since they started releasing music in the 1990s, she says.
“For me personally, Maxi’s voice is in my head and it’s in my heart and in my spirit and… [talking about] music being a conversation, so much of our relationship was getting to know each other – on the tour bus, touring the world, late nights in hotel bars, and the first album we made together, Reverence, was that process of us getting to know each other.
“We didn’t all start band at school. This was the meeting of people from three very different corners of the musical triangle, if you like, coming together to create something that has ended up being bigger than the sum of its parts.”
The Faithless energy – so distinctive in the goosebump-inducing hits they are best known for, such as Insomnia, God Is A DJ and One Step Too Far – has been carried forward, despite Maxi’s absence, with collaborations with artists including Suli Breaks, Caleb Femi, Gaika and Soul II Soul founder Jazzie B.
“It has been this beautiful process of getting to know new artists, getting used to their flow and their lyrics and the tone of their voices, where they sit,” Sister Bliss says.
“Suli Breaks has quite a high voice, so it was really interesting putting him on a track with Jazzie; it was like the elder statesman speaking in this deep, gravelly voice that has so much gravitas and this rich bassy tone, to a voice that was slightly higher. So it challenged us musically.
“You know, it’s not the same but hopefully it’s fresh and there’s still this intelligence and thoughtfulness. The people we’ve worked with I feel are really incredible artists and we’ve been very blessed to work with them.”
Faithless were lucky to have the majority of the record finished before lockdown hit.
“This year’s definitely been a challenge, putting a new album out into this particular environment, especially as it’s our first album in 10 years,” Sister Bliss says. “And usually while I would have had a summer of festivals, loads of gigs beyond that, live touring and so forth, everything has had to be put on hold because our industry has been in absolute disarray.
“So the good thing is at least there is recorded music to put out into the world. And some of it was refined and finished in lockdown but I would say 80% of the album was done before COVID struck. So I would say that was really… a great blessing because we collaborated with lots of different artists on this album, which would have been much harder to do had we been in a lockdown situation for the last couple of years.”
The musician and DJ says she writes a lot of music on her own, but there is “an energy” that comes from being in the same space as other artists that cannot be replicated.
“Writing a song is quite a vulnerable process,” she says. “You’re showing somebody you don’t know very well something quite intimate about yourself, if you’re writing the kind of songs that you want to connect and have some kind of meaning in the world, which is what we try and do with Faithless.
“So if you’re doing that with someone you’ve known for many, many years, it’s part of a conversation and your relationship. But working with new artists, being in the same room, there is this tangible energy and there’s this alchemy that happens when you talk or you ask what they think about something, their opinion, relationships they have. And from that, inspiration comes.
“So for me personally, being in the same room, especially with vocalists, singers, spoken word artists, rappers, the kind of people we collaborated with on this album, it was really important.”
All Blessed, by Faithless, is out now