Noth­ing’s quite right with­out the wrong­ness

He’s on tour with his other band BEAK>,BUT Ge­off Bar­row hasn’t for­got­ten about the next Por­tishead al­bum, he tells Jim Car­roll

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC -

YOU CAN BE sure that Ge­off Bar­row gets the most out of ev­ery hour of the day. The roll-call of projects that the Por­tishead mu­si­cian, pro­ducer and col­lab­o­ra­tor is in­volved in seems to grow with ev­ery year.

In 2012 so far, there have been al­bums from Quak­ers, Bar­row’s sprawl­ing hip-hop project; BEAK>, his lo-fi Krautrock trio who play Dublin this month; and Drokk: Mu­sic In­spired By Mega-City One, a sound­track-of-sorts for a mooted Judge Dredd film with com­poser Ben Sal­is­bury.

You could ar­gue that all of these side projects are a dis­trac­tion from the work on a new Por­tishead al­bum, but Bar­row would beg to dif­fer. These al­bums and col­lab­o­ra­tions are clearly just as im­por­tant to him as re­leas­ing a fourth al­bum with a big P on the cover.

Take Quak­ers, for ex­am­ple. Helmed by long-time hip-hop fa­natic Bar­row, stu­dio en­gi­neer Stu­art Matthews and pro­ducer Kat­a­lyst, Quak­ers stars 35 dif­fer­ent MCs work­ing with im­pres­sive, backin-the-day beats and breaks.

“We were work­ing on it for four years on and off be­tween other projects and wait­ing for MCs to get back to us and peo­ple drop­ping off and pick­ing up new peo­ple,” ex­plains Bar­row. “We ap­proached peo­ple via MyS­pace ini­tially and said this is a hip-hop band called Quak­ers. We were quite con­fi­dent that if you get a MC with the right mind­set, he’ll hear a cou­ple of those beats and he will want to get in­volved. If you’re into it for the love of hip-hop, you’ll get it.

Bar­row says there was a “no bull­shit” pol­icy in ef­fect for the al­bum. “As the artist gets big­ger, the bull­shit gets big­ger. We could have said this is a record by Ge­off Bar­row from Por­tishead˚, but it’s not a Ge­off Bar­row from Por­tishead record. The pol­icy was to bring in any­body and not to just fo­cus on the ones who had some­thing to say. The vibe with Quak­ers was that ev­ery­one was wel­come as long as they were cool and had a good voice.”

This year also saw Bar­row re­sume BEAK> ac­tiv­i­ties with Matt Wil­lams and Billy Fuller. Like their first al­bum, the plan with al­bum num­ber two, BEAK>>, was to record it very quickly in a room with no over­dubs or re­takes. “The first time, we just got in a room and played. The tracks that were good, we kept and the ones that weren’t as good, we kept for the bonus disc.”

That, though, didn’t hap­pen on this oc­ca­sion. “When we started play­ing in the room to­gether at the start of the new record, it was fuck­ing aw­ful,” ad­mits Bar­row. “I don’t think any of us liked what we were do­ing. We then went away and did our other things be­fore some­thing clicked and we went from there.

“It was a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence to the first record. But it’s all done on the ba­sis of the op­po­site to the grand com­puter-pro­duced mu­sic we hear so read­ily. It’s not say­ing that we’re any bet­ter for that, but it’s dif­fer­ent.”

Bar­row be­lieves mod­ern mu­sic pro­duc­tion has be­come very sani­tised and ho­mo­ge­neous. “It’s very, very rare to turn on a main­stream ra­dio sta­tion and hear some­thing that sounds dif­fer­ent. Be it a rock track or a hip-hop track or a coun­try track, it all son­i­cally sounds the same. All the lev­els are up to 11, all the fre­quen­cies sound the same.

“There’s no wrong­ness and wrong­ness is what makes in­di­vid­u­al­ity and that’s what miss­ing. I can’t tell the dif­fer­ence be­tween Ex­am­ple and Chase N Sta­tus or Mum­ford & Sons or The Killers. Go back to the Stones and the Bea­tles and they had an in­di­vid­ual sound to dif­fer­en­ti­ate them from ev­ery­one else.”

He has done some pro­duc­tion work him­self with bands, though he tends to shy away from it. “There are bands I re­ally like who come to me and I lis­ten to the demo and tell them that they don’t need me. They just need a de­cent en­gi­neer be­cause the mu­sic is strong enough and doesn’t need me to fuck with it.

“I don’t do that much pro­duc­tion be­cause I’ve only got the en­ergy and en­thu­si­asm and pas­sion re­ally for my own projects. It takes a lot to pro­duce a band and there are some bril­liant peo­ple who are re­ally good at it and I don’t think I’m one of them. I re­ally en­joyed do­ing The Hor­rors’ record ( Pri­mary Colours), but I was very ner­vous about it and it wore me out and scared me away from pro­duc­tion a bit. Hope­fully I am go­ing do a week or so with Sav­ages. I doubt that they need a pro­ducer but I’ll def­i­nitely help them out.”

He’s also keen to do more sound­track work fol­low­ing his col­lab­o­ra­tion with Ben Sal­is­bury on the Drokk al­bum for the Judge Dredd film that never hap­pened. “We’re now look­ing for in­de­pen­dent films to start work­ing on,” he says.

There is an­other project in the back­ground which Bar­row has to get to at some stage. The last Por­tishead al­bum came out in 2008 and, while there has been a sub­se­quent Amnesty In­ter­na­tional sin­gle and lots of live shows, there’s been lit­tle sign of a fol­low-up to Third.

Bar­row says it’s on the cards. “I’m just fin­ish­ing up all the other projects I’m in­volved in and mov­ing stu­dio so I can con­cen­trate on it. ”

Right now, he’s ea­ger to get to Dublin. “It’s been so, so long since we’ve played Dublin. We’ve been try­ing to get a Por­tishead gig to­gether in Ire­land for so long and we’ve tried so many times and it just hasn’t worked out so I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to this BEAK> show over there.”

BEAK> play Whe­lan’s, Dublin, on Novem­ber 18

Billy Fuller And Jeff Bar­row of BEAK>

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