This is part two of two.
Part one of this interview can be read HERE
Something that’s really changed since the self-titled is the state of the internet, the size of it. Sure, the internet was there when you last released a studio album, but it was nowhere near as important to the music industry as it is today. You certainly wouldn’t have had an online press officer; you’d be talking to Select, and Vox.
(Laughs) There was always one bloke who’d have made up some site, you’d talk to him too. He’d have these ideas, and be ahead of the pack, but they’d never quite come together. It is completely different now – I mean, our album’s been leaked this week.
I heard. Well, I saw it mentioned on Wikipedia.
Wikipedia is really weird. We used to use it as our biography – we thought we’d write it, and that’d be it…
** But it can be edited by anyone, can’t it?**
Of course. You look at it now and it says something like:_ “A trip-hop band from the south-west that loves jazz music.” (Laughs)_ So someone’s got hold of that, then…
How do you feel about your album leaking? It seems to be something you just have to live with, but at the same time artists aren’t selling albums in the quantities they could in the late ‘90s – that’s something Nina from The Cardigans mentioned to me (interview). So a leak could lose you significant sales, no?
I don’t know, I really don’t know. But neither does the record company, or anybody for that matter. The best thing you can do is accept that it’s inevitable if you choose to go down certain routes of promotion. It is going to happen. But, the feedback to the album’s good, so as a band you think that’s alright.
Video: 'Only You', from Portishead
I looked on MySpace before coming here, and one comment went along the lines of “I’ve heard it already, but don’t worry, I’ll still buy it”. _ (Laughs)_ Yeah, and if they do that, it’s fine. Also, once the album is properly released it’s going to be everywhere anyway. I used to record off the radio…
I’m sure you burn the odd CD off friends, too.
No, no_. But people do, and that’s the way it goes. I think everybody does. Actually, no – I know people who never do, and they were like, _“How could they do this?” And I was like, “Well, it’s inevitable”. We’re aware of it, and this is what I do, and we do need sales to make money because we’re not a big touring band. I don’t mean that in terms of Robbie Williams’ money. We were talking about corporate gigs the other day, wondering why Destiny’s Child do a million-dollar gig when they’re already worth something like $45 million? They must really want to do it.
You wanna get yourself some corporate gigs.
Exactly! The thing is that I’m not pleading skintness, but I do need sales to survive as an artist. People say that you’ll make it live – as that’s how the industry is changing – but we’re not the biggest live band. Yeah, we are playing Coachella, and there’s going to be good money in that; and we’re doing Primavera, too. But we’ve this ginormous production.
So you must sometimes lose money?
Exactly. We’ve this production that’s set up for 8,000 people, but we’re playing in a 2,000-capacity place… we lose money. When we’re touring around Europe, you lose money on some shows. But you balance it all up by playing bigger shows. Thing is, I wouldn’t expect anyone to work and not get paid.
The way it works is that the band gets paid last, isn’t it? The guy hauling crates gets paid before you do?
That’s how it is, absolutely. So when it comes to downloading, it is inevitable. People boo and stuff, and I’ve had a boo at it, but it has got to the point where people almost expect you to give for nothing, and that’s what we don’t like. I think the media has made it that way – radio shows aren’t so programmed anymore, but encourage listeners to tell them what they think. So the thing is that’s a shit-pit, because someone needs to stand up and say, “This is what I’m into, and this is what I’m going to play”. On radio, or whatever it is. The internet is so kind of strange – you get these alternative blog sites, but they’re not alternative – they’re just that person’s very specific music taste. So you end up in this weird place thinking this is a great alternative site, but then read this review and wonder, “Why is this guy caning this band? How can he?” Turns out in 2004 he couldn’t get tickets to see this band, so he now hates them. So that’s strange, and it’s really spread out. I don’t think alternative music has really found its place on the internet, apart from sites like DrownedinSound and Pitchfork. And where’s that in the mainstream, really? Well, I suppose they are mainstream, and there are magazines.
Portishead's Third (cover art)
Yeah, that’s a good one. And it’s a self-made magazine isn’t it, started by Everett True? I really like Rock-A-Rolla too.
** You know The Stool Pigeon? I really like that.**
Yeah! That’s really good. I wonder if we’re doing things with Stool Pigeon? Things like that are ten times more interesting – you end up having conversations like we’re having rather than just…
…Stop, start, look at a piece of paper…
Yeah._ “So, why so long?”_ It’s going to be interesting with this record, going back to the download thing – I wouldn’t expect someone to come to my house to fix the fridge for fucking nothing.
You’ve been quite good at keeping in touch with fans via various sites, MySpace and the like.
Well, sometimes I’m drunk and I’m just having a rant, but I think it’s okay to do that because it’s in my character, and it’s me being honest. Even then, though, I feel weird that people want to read it. It worries me that I’m thinking highly of myself, writing these things down when drunk. But then it doesn’t matter, and my wife knows I’m like that anyway. And it’s usually not about the downloading – it’s usually about some shit band, or some wanker. There has been a few things – I’ve ended up in the wider press for opening my mouth, but it doesn’t matter, because I would say those things anyway.
I think downloading predominantly affected new bands, but I guess you’re still doing okay from the older records?
Yeah, and that’s the thing with playing live – it produces awareness, and people will go and buy the records. Coachella is going to find us playing to a new generation of people entirely.
Do you think Third will find you new fans?
I think it will, but it’ll be devoured by our existing fanbase first. I hope it’ll appeal to those who are really into their music; I can’t see it appealing to the mainstream. You can get to the… the route seems to be getting your music on Grey’s Anatomy, out to music supervisors, and we refuse to do that.
You have had tracks appear in films though, and one their soundtracks.
Yeah, but traditionally what happens is people will tell us this film is going to be really good, so we figure if it’s going to be really good, sure. And then you read the script and it’s okay, but it comes out and it’s this awful film!
I recall The Craft using ‘Scorn’.
Yeah, and that’s what I’m saying – that’s a teenager film, and perhaps its audience will get into us through the film. Ade and Beth always remind me of this – Ade says he heard Jimi Hendrix through something that wasn’t a Jimi Hendrix album, but a compilation. And you think if we close ourselves completely down… I mean, I’ve found loads of hip-hop through electro albums, but if I’d been a purist I wouldn’t have. So if we don’t do compilations you’re stopping this spread of your music.
Video: 'All Mine', from Portishead
You’ve gotta get on Skins nowadays, I think.
That’s shot in Bristol y’know. I think they asked us to feature on it, too. It seems like another planet, a bit, to me. I feel like, personally, we relate most to… Charlie…
That’s him. I hear so much of what he says, and think that’s me! I absolutely love him, and if he was a politician I’d vote for him, hands down. Have you seen all the Screenwipe stuff on YouTube? It’s so quick, and then it’s over. He has this brilliant one about reality TV and sets up a fake reality TV show in some massive tin shed with no windows. They out these celebrity wannabes (ish, watch the clip – Ed) in there for two nights, and don’t film them. They’re just left there. I think it’s right that he just tells them that they didn’t film them… it’s just brilliant.
I remember one where he’s spoofing The Apprentice, sat there with a crown on as King Charlie (link).
(Laughs) Yeah! But then also they did that thing with teenage TV, showing these shows like My Sweet 16 or something, these MTV shows. They had a load of teenagers saying they didn’t want to watch this stuff, and when they put on this brilliant Attenborough wildlife thing, they all thought it was the best thing they’d ever seen. So who are the kids TV people are going to, to find out what they want to watch? Don’t they do focus groups? Universal were doing that with records not long after our last record came out. I think Gabrielle’s singles went to focus groups – which was the best for radio. I think they still do it these days, on a massive level. They base it on cross-marketing. But what actually happens is you find out that to some people, this is their whole world; we have interviews with these people.
With talk turning to more industry methods and madness, DiS flips its Dictaphone off to talk all sorts of twaddle with Geoff until we realise the time and remember we’ve a site to run. Which we do – straight to the Tube and back to HQ to tell all what a lovely man Geoff is. Which he is. Hi Geoff.
DiS’s review of Third, released April 28, will be live on the site later this month (preview here); the single ‘Machine Gun’ is released on April 14 physically and is available to download now. Hear it on MySpace here. Tour dates:
April (support from A Hawk And A Hacksaw)
9 Manchester Apollo
10 London Hammersmith Apollo
11 Edinburgh Corn Exchange
13 Wolverhampton Civic Hall
17 London Brixton Academy
This is part two of two.
Part one of this interview can be read HERE