The Wild Bunch (sound system)

The Wild Bunch were an English sound system and loose collective of musicians and DJs based in the St Paul's, Montpelier and Bishopston districts of Bristol, England.


The group started to perform in 1982 as a sound system on the Bristol scene,[1] with Grant Marshall[2] and Miles Johnson as the main two DJs.[3] In 1984, they invited the young graffiti artist known as 3D (aka Robert Del Naja) to join them, and he soon became one of their MCs, writing lyrics to rap with them.[4] Other rappers joined the collective, such as Willy Wee and later in 1987 Tricky.[4] As pioneers of sound system culture they played all-nighters, clubs and abandoned warehouses.[5] In 1986, they played St Paul's Carnival and signed to 4th & B'way Records on Island Records imprint.[5]

Success and disintegration (1985–1989)Edit

In 1985, the single Tearin Down The Avenue was recorded and in May 1986 the group toured Japan.[6][7] After the tour DJ Milo left to work in Japan.[7] The group would perform sound clashes against other sound systems, on new year's eve 1987 they clashed with Soul II Soul at St Barnabas crypt, Bristol.[8][9] In 1988, Friends & Countrymen was released.[10] However, by this time Robert Del Naja, Grant Marshall and Andrew Vowles had formed Massive Attack.[11] By 1989 the group was defunct.[3]: 80 

Post disbanding (1989–present)Edit

DJ Milo has lived and worked going between Japan and New York. In 2013, he performed at St Paul’s Carnival.[5][12]

Robert Del Naja, Grant Marshall and Andrew Vowles, continued with Massive Attack and in the early days they often collaborated with Adrian Thaws. However, differences between members saw Thaws leave in 1995, Vowles leave in 1998 and Marshall took a break in 2001. Marshall returned to Massive Attack in 2005. Thaws returned to Massive Attack in 2016.

Nellee Hooper, who moved to London after the group's dissolution and worked as a producer and remixer for a number of major artists, including Madonna, U2, No Doubt, Garbage, Björk and others. He won the 1995 BRIT Award for Best Producer. He was also a member of Soul II Soul.[13]

Tricky performed with Massive Attack on their first and second full-length releases, Blue Lines and Protection respectively, before pursuing a successful solo career.

Claude Williams provided vocals on Massive Attack's Five Man Army released in 1991. In 2010, he was jailed for a series of robberies, for three years, alongside five other men.[14][15]

Musical styleEdit

The Wild Bunch were pioneers of amalgamating a very wide variety of genres.[16][17][18] Their shows mixed disparate styles including elements of Hip Hop, punk, R&B and reggae. Further, it was their unique focus on slower rhythms and ambient electronic atmospheres that laid the foundations of Bristol sound, which later developed into the popular trip hop genre. They were key members of the Bristol underground scene.[19][20]


The Wild Bunch is perhaps best known for having been one of the first prominent British DJ and vocalist collaborations:[21]


In 2015, musician James Lavelle put The Wild Bunch's The Look of Love in his top ten British sound system classics that influenced him, calling it 'The record that started it all.'[22]

The 2016, BBC documentary Unfinished: The Making of Massive Attack features the story of The Wild Bunch and the Bristol sound.[23]

In 2019, the story of The Wild Bunch was told extensively in the book Massive Attack – Out of the Comfort Zone by journalist Melissa Chemam (chapter 4 and 5).[2]


  1. ^ Catchpole, Matt (9 February 2018). "THE WILD BUNCH – New Book Tells The Story Of Massive Attack, Trip Hop And The Influential 'Bristol Scene'".
  2. ^ a b Catchpole, Matt (9 February 2018). "THE WILD BUNCH – New Book Tells The Story Of Massive Attack, Trip Hop And The Influential 'Bristol Scene'". Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  3. ^ a b Pride, Dominic (1995). "Trip Hop Steps Out". Billboard. New York (15 April): 1, 80. Retrieved 17 September 2014.
  4. ^ a b [1]
  5. ^ a b c d "The Wild Bunch rock Bristol". Red Bull. Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  6. ^ "The Wild Bunch – Tearin Down The Avenue". Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  7. ^ a b "Scans→NME Magazine Interview #1". Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  8. ^ "Just Because 026: Wild Bunch Vs Soul II Soul Flyer". 9 June 2011. Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  9. ^ Grundy, Gareth (14 June 2011). "Soul II Soul v the Wild Bunch". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  10. ^ "The Wild Bunch – Friends & Countrymen". Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  11. ^ Murray, Robin. "Massive Attack Talk Wild Bunch". Clash Music. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
  12. ^ Q, September 1991
  13. ^ Glamour, Mikey. "Wild Bunch (Massive Attack) v Soul ll Soul Sound". Retrieved 29 November 2015.
  14. ^ Petridis, Alexis (6 December 2012). "Massive Attack: Blue Lines (remastered) – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  15. ^ "'Ikea bag' store robbers jailed". 1 March 2010. Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  16. ^ "Bristol Time: The return of a trip-hop legacy". Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  17. ^ "It happened here: The Wild Bunch rock Bristol". Red Bull. Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  18. ^ "BBC – Radio 1 – Mary Anne Hobbs – Bristol Scene". Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  19. ^ "Wild Bunch". Red Lines. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
  20. ^ "Bristol's The Wild Bunch". Red Bull Music Academy. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
  21. ^ "The Wild Bunch". Red Lines. Retrieved 3 September 2017.
  22. ^ "The 10 best British sound system classics, according to James Lavelle". Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  23. ^ "BBC – Unfinished: The Making Of Massive Attack – Media Centre". Retrieved 22 June 2020.