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Members include RolloArmstrong (born Roland Armstrong c. 1967), producer; Sister Bliss (born Ayalah), keyboards; Maxi Jazz (born Maxwell Fraser c. 1958 in Brixton, England), deejay, rapper. Addresses: Office--Faithless Live Limited, P.O. Box 17336, London, England NW54WP. Website--Faithless Official Website: http://www.faithless.co.uk.
Faithless is "unique among dance acts in excelling at both high-octane club tracks and fully-rounded, satisfying eclectic albums," according to Q magazine. The London-based trio has sold more than three million albums--including Reverence, Sunday 8pm,and Outrospective--and four million singles worldwide with hits such as "Salva Mea," "Insomnia," "God Is a Deejay," and "We Come 1."
Sister Bliss, a classically trained pianist and the group's keyboardist, was born with the first name of Ayalah. She is hesitant to reveal her last name publicly for fear she could be stalked. Before joining Faithless she was deejaying at the London club Heaven and making demos on her synthesizer. Faithless' deejay and rapper Maxi Jazz was born Maxwell Fraser in Brixton, England. He has been a clerical officer, hip-hop deejay, singer, and drummer. He has performed in numerous groups of varying genres, from soul, blues, funk, 1950s-style rock 'n' roll, to the Soul Food Café Band, which landed a deal with the popular Acid Jazz record label in the early 1990s. He is a devout Buddhist who confessed to a passion for "hugely powerful cars" and automobile racing an interview with Q. "Maxi is a modern day preacher," Sister Bliss told the magazine. "He tries to illuminate life and share what he's learned."
The group's producer, Rollo Armstrong, has admitted that he "can't play an instrument, can't dance in time, and can't remember any melodies," according to the band's biography on the group's website. Q called him "the musical genius who can't play or dance." Born Roland Armstrong, he is the brother of Dido, the popular British singer. (Dido has sung lead vocals on songs on all three Faithless albums, and Armstrong coproduced his sister's chart-topping solo record, No Angel.) Armstrong studied philosophy at York University and worked summers at the Why Not? bar on the Greek island of Ios. While traveling as a student, he negotiated a $30,000 advance from an Australian record company. The result was the 1992 dance hit "Don't You Want Me," which he released under the name Felix. Maxi Jazz credits Armstrong with having an ear for hit songs. According to Maxi Jazz in Q, "Rollo has this genius of the common touch. If my boy likes it, you can pretty much guarantee that a lot more people will."
Ironically, Sister Bliss bought the Felix record before she ever met Armstrong, and returned it to the record store, unsatisfied with its sound. Naturally, she was reluctant when a mutual friend suggested she record a track at Rollo's studio in 1993. Though she was frank with Armstong about her feelings--"I told Rollo the Felix record was remedial," she recalled in Q--Armstrong liked her demo. Hers became the first record to be released on Armstrong's independent record label, Cheeky.
Faithless came together when the same friend introduced Maxi Jazz to Armstrong and Sister Bliss in 1995. They got along well and recorded their first single, "Salva Mea," which was released to little fanfare later that year. Feeling definite chemistry between them, Armstrong wanted the group to record a full-length album; the result was Reverence, which took 17 days to complete and was released in 1997. The relationship between the three in the recording studio is "telepathic, symbiotic," Sister Bliss said, according to the band's online biography. "In Faithless there's a real sense of giving," she elaborated in Q. The album and its first single, "Insomnia," were released on Armstrong's record label. Because there was no budget for marketing or promotion, neither the album nor the single received much notice until the "Insomnia" single was rereleased and became a top-five hit in England. Reverence ultimately sold more than one million copies and was R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe's album of the year.
Because funds were still lean, the trio took the grassroots approach to promoting themselves--they packed up and hit the road to tour. So eager were the three to promote Reverence, the group "literally took their music to any place that had shown an interest in the record," according to their online biography. They played the Arctic Circle, Puerto Rico, and under armed guard in Turkey, among many other exotic locales. The Reverence tour would be Armstrong's first and last with the group; for subsequent ventures and media appearances he elected to stay in his studio and let Sister Bliss and Maxi Jazz be the public face of Faithless. After three years of nonstop touring and amid the breakups of each member's romantic relationships, Faithless recorded its second album, Sunday 8pm.
Sunday 8pm created as wild a furor as Reverence had. It featured former Culture Club vocalist Boy George and sold more than 1.2 million copies worldwide. With the dance hits "Bring My Family Back," "Why Go?," and "God Is a Deejay," Sunday 8pm "established Faithless among the dance music elite," according to Q. The album received nominations at the BRIT, MTV Europe, and Mercury Prize awards in 1999. The use of the Faithless single "If Lovin' You Is Wrong" on an ad campaign for British beer propelled the group's popularity even further.
After another rigorous performance schedule for Sunday 8pm, the trio spent 18 months apart, each pursuing his or her own interests. For Armstrong, that meant building a new recording studio and releasing a single, "Always Remember to Respect and Honor Your Mother," and album, When We Were Young with keyboardist Mark Bates under the moniker Dusted. Maxi Jazz spent his time off racing cars. Sister Bliss released the dance singles "Bad Man," "Deliver Me," and "Sister, Sister," and spent her time off from the group as a globetrotting deejay. She spun records in some of America's biggest clubs, including New York's Twilo and Crobar in Chicago and Miami, as well as clubs in Southeast Asia, South Africa, and Brazil. "Few women in dance music have risen to the ranks of Sister Bliss," fawned one critic in DMA magazine.
After a year and a half apart, the three were more than ready to enter the studio together again. Outrospective was written and recorded between the summer of 2000 and spring of 2001. Even before they had finished, Sister Bliss had high expectations for Outrospective. "I want this next album to be a groundbreaking one." she said, according to the band's online biography. "I want this to be the peak of our creative powers."
Outrospective hit big. DMA critic Sam LaBelle noted that Faithless was treading unfamiliar ground with Outrospective and that the result was an album of "epic grandness." Sister Bliss stated as much in an interview with Mixmag: "Bliss says the band will deliberately go out of their way not to repeat past successes by just following a Faithless formula; they will always try something different." Critic Steve Baltin called it a "superb collection of genre-crossing grooves" in the Los Angeles Times. Billboard critic Michael Paoletta called the album "wickedly smart" and "steeped in life's emotional depth charges. Said another way, it's the human condition put to words and music."
Regardless of its intelligence or depth, the album was also danceable, including such tracks as "Tarantula," "Liontamer," "Machines R Us," and "One Step Too Far." It debuted at number four on the Music & Media European Top 100 chart, in the top ten on the charts in Norway, Germany, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Switzerland, and Finland, and climbed to number two in Holland--all in the same week. The album's anthemic first single, "We Come 1," was already a dance hit in several parts of the world as it climbed the American Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart. "It's a juggernaut of a record," Sister Bliss told Q about the single.
by Brenna Sanchez
Group formed, 1995; released "Salva Mea," 1995; released Reverence, 1997; rereleased "Insomnia," which became a top-five hit in England; toured to promote Reverence, 1997-99; released Sunday 8pm,1999; received nominations at the BRIT, MTV Europe, and Mercury Prize awards, 1999; toured for Sunday 8pm;released Outrospective, 2001.
- Selected discography
- Reverence Arista, 1996.
- Sunday 8pm Arista, 1998.
- Testimony, Chapter I BMG, 1999.
- Back to Mine Ultra, 2001.
- Outrospective Arista, 2001.
- Reverence/Irreverence Mushroom, 2001.
- Billboard, July 14, 2001.
- DMA, July 2001.
- Los Angeles Times, July 15, 2001.
- Mixmag, May 2001.
- Q, July 2001.
- "Faithless," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (January 24, 2002).
- Faithless Official Website, http://www.faithless.co.uk (January 24, 2002).
- Additional materials were provided by the Arista Records publicity department, 2002.
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