The Rolling Stone Blog

Portishead to Start Work on New Album in January

The Rolling Stone Blog

Portishead's Dummy will celebrate the 20th anniversary of
its release in 2014 - but the band's founder and producer Geoff Barrow
isn't interested in marking the occasion, as recent reissues by Nirvana,
Pearl Jam and U2 have done.

"I'm a musician, I want to move forward. I don't want to spend my
time thinking about that B side we never released because we're not dead
and we can still produce music," Barrow tells Rolling Stone.
But Barrow's reluctance to revisit the highly influential album goes
well beyond not wanting to look back: He has avoided talk of the album
for nearly two decades because he was turned off by its success.

"When people say it's the record of the decade or that time I never
believe it's in there particularly for the right reasons," Barrow says.
So he's looking ahead with a rare U.S. tour that kicks off at ATP's I'll
Be Your Mirror festival (which the band curated) on October 1st and
thoughts of a new album - though, as he joked, "That could be 10 years."

What prompted the tour now?
We never played [2008 album] Third
in the States. We only played Coachella so when we got asked to do ATP
it seemed like that was our opportunity to go back out and actually play
Third to people who haven't seen it. And we started getting
calls from festivals in Europe and we haven't played festivals in Europe
since 1998 as well, so we thought, "Okay, let's spend a little bit of
time and go and enjoy ourselves." And it was actually incredibly
enjoyable, which makes a change for us.

But you've been able to still play live and still have the following.
Yeah,
we have. Our band's like 20 years old, we're kind of out of the norm
really. We're in this privileged position I never thought we were gonna
get to where people want to come and see us - we don't want to over-tour
so people aren't gonna get sick of us. 

Would you do any sort of special reissues for Dummy?
No,
unfortunately special editions have been a dirty word because they've
just basically been a tool of the industry to try and squeeze more money
out of the fan or the music buyer. We absolutely battled and fought and
pulled our hair out on Dummy to make a record. I can't see
what use there is to release material that we didn't think was worthy
for the record. We never have much bonus material - it's not like
there's me playing acoustic guitar and Beth [Gibbons] singing on it for a
song that didn't make it, it doesn't exist. We would only do that if we
were maybe forced into it by some label contractual thing.

Have you already started the new album?
No, we
haven't. I'm going to start in January, I don't know when Beth's gonna
start or when Adrian [Utley] is gonna start, but I'm gonna get my head
together for January basically to start writing. Historically that could
mean f**king 10 years. [Laughs] We're only ever going to release something that we feel comfortable with or else it's not worth releasing basically.

So you are realistic about the timeline?
Of
course, we'll release it when it feels like we've got something to say. I
think most probably any one of us would prefer to go and take up some
van driving job than release an album that we didn't feel comfortable
about.

So it may be a minute again.
If I could do it in a
couple of weeks then I'd love to. The pressure it'd take off my wife is
huge, but it's less likely too. I can only speak for myself and usually
it only comes around when I'm really, really infused with music I hear
around me. If I hear music around me that freaks me out and actually
scares me into wanting to test myself, then usually I'm pretty
progressive and come up with stuff. If I don't hear stuff around me then
usually it takes quite a while.

What was the last thing then that had that effect on you?
"Temporary Secretary," by Paul McCartney on McCartney II. It could just be a sound, it could literally be two notes that work against each other.

How has the music on Third changed for you revisiting it three years after it came out?
On our first tour after we released Third,
the tour we played in Europe, there was definitely an uncertain feel
about playing the old material next to the new material. And now it
actually feels incredibly on the same path, like playing "Mysterons"
next door to "Machine Gun" or "Sour Times" next to "The Rip." I think
it's gonna be interesting to play to U.S. audiences because there are a
lot of people who haven't seen us for a long time. When we played our
second album I thought we were quite difficult as a band then. 

Was there a moment where you became aware of how influential Dummy had become?
I purposely avoided any conversation about Dummy
with anybody because in the States and in mainland Europe it had the
connotations of kind of trendy England music industry dinner party
bulls**t. What Dummy turned into was not what we intended it to
be. It was assimilated by a dinner party kind of crowd and stuck on the
background or put on by people coming down from pills as well. For me,
it was avoiding that thing - the words "Dummy,"
"sophisticated," "European," "soundtrack," "aren't we clever," "jazz"
aspect of it - because that was the complete opposite of where we'd come
from, what our influences were, but it just rolled into that thing. So
when people say it's the record of the decade or that time I never
believe it's in there particularly for the right reasons. And if it was
just a load of coke-snorting pricks, then that, to me, doesn't mean
anything.

Every artist deals with it though with a successful album,
once the music is out there you can't control who adapts it as their
own.
Oh no, you can't control it, of course. And I never
really expected to, but I think behind the coolness and trip-hop and
bulls**t I've met a lot of people that have been incredibly been touched
by it. And people who lived in the middle of f**king nowhere who heard a
record on a radio whilst they were working on the other side of the
world and you just kind of go, "Wow, that's when you really realize that
you've done something to be proud of." But I'm sure lots of bands have
[that problem].

Do you have any hint of the sound coming up?
No,
but I really want to enable Beth to write the songs that she wants to. I
think our sounds are fairly strong now and we've opened up a door that
doesn't have many boundaries. I just want now to write really good music
for Beth to sing on to and write songs, that's ultimately my goal.
Regardless of sound, if you can write something that enables somebody to
write really beautiful songs then you can't go wrong.

Related
The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time: Portishead, 'Dummy'

 

Photo by Jim Dyson/Redferns

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