This unusual dance music outfit is formed around the nucleus of Rollo (b. Rollo Armstrong, England), one of the prime movers in the UK house scene, and Sister Bliss (b. Ayalah Bentovim, London, England), one of the most successful and respected female DJs. It is truly an eclectic collaboration, with both Sister Bliss and Rollo being innovative and highly-skilled programmers and producers. They were joined in the original line-up by rapper Maxi Jazz (b. Max Fraser, Hackney, London, England), singer/writer instrumentalist Jamie Catto (who is from a folk background), and guitarist Dave Randall, with occasional vocal input from Rollo’s sister Dido (b. Dido Armstrong, 25 December 1971, England). It is this unique blend of skills and styles and the band’s relentless global touring that has enabled Faithless’ gradual but assured rise to critical and commercial success.
Faithless’ debut single on Rollo’s Cheeky Records, “Salva Mea’, was one of the 90″s greatest and most influential house records. When it was first released in 1995, it made a fleeting appearance in the UK Top 30 in August before disappearing by the following week. Its grass-roots popularity on the UK’s dancefloors was emphatically confirmed when it shot straight into the UK’s Top 10 upon its re-release in December 1996. It went on to sell over one million copies worldwide and its exhilarating pizzicato string sound has spawned countless imitators who have also achieved chart success using the “Faithless sound’, one notable example being Sash!”s “Encore Une Fois”.
Faithless’ debut Reverence was, like the band itself, a slow-burning phenomenon, initially not selling well. On the back of subsequent Top 10 singles and a double album of remix material, however, the album has now been certified gold in 22 countries. Reverence was refreshingly difficult to categorize as its tracks ranged from brooding, dub-influenced ruminations on urban life and relationships, through rap, more traditional love songs (“Don’t Leave”) to storming dancefloor epics, such as “Salva Mea” and “Insomnia”. Maxi Jazz’s melodic, semi-whispered raps always add an intelligent and provocative edge to the soaring electronic sweeps created by Rollo and Sister Bliss. Following its release Faithless were nominated for and won many awards, including a European Grammy for Best International Dance Band. Critical accolades included Michael Stipe of R.E.M. naming Reverence as his favourite album of the year.
The band’s second album, Sunday 8pm, saw them developing the more ambient, meditative element of their work but big-name DJ remixes (Paul Van Dyk, Robbie Rivera) of the singles ensured their sustained popularity in the clubs. The first single from the album, the provocatively titled “God Is A DJ”, was a UK Top 10 hit in 1998. In October they won the UK’s Muzik magazine’s award for the Best Live Act. They reasserted their club credentials with the following year’s remix set and their third studio album, Outrospective, which included the striking single, “We Come 1”. Catto had left by this point to work on his 1 Giant Leap project.
Something of an anomaly in dance music, Faithless strive for originality in their sounds, intelligence in their lyrics as well as seeking to become a respected live band in the fullest sense of the word. Awards, critical plaudits and commercial success all form unequivocal confirmation that integrity and hard work is paying off for Faithless.