We go on with the in depth interview to Geoff Barrow regarding his new project Quakers: we question him on hist other projects, Duch as Drokk,, the label Invada and the hypothetical new Portishead album.
You’ve already touched on it, but I was wondering if there was any specific reason why you’d chosen to go with Stones Throw in the end?
Well, being massive Madlib fans helped [laughs]. And Dilla too. Both the past and future of the label are of interest to me, the new kids like Jonwayne and Vex Ruffin are interesting, and I did the Anika record through them as well for the States, so I just liked their vibe, really. They’ve had success and stuff that’s levelled out, but it’s not really like dealing with the American industry when you’re dealing with them.
You’re not a big fan of the American industry then?
I am. It’s very direct and successful. People open their mouths because they think that they should sometimes, and that is a downside [laughs]. The thing about Quakers is that it’s a play on earthquakes, but there’s the whole thing with the Quaker religion too… I’m an atheist, by the way, but what I liked about the idea of Quakers as a religious movement is that it welcomes people from all walks of life and beliefs and that if you feel moved by what’s happening you can stand up and speak. And I like that as an idea, outside of religion. You’ve got all these people from all over the place sitting in a room and one might be a nutter, gangster guy and the other might be a college lecturer, yet they’ve got the same level playing field. For our project it means you’ve got MCs that wouldn’t necessarily be on a record together like this actually side by side, and that’s a very good thing. There are different MC styles and they work.
Do you guys have any intention of doing something live around it? I can imagine the logistics are an issue.
There’s talk about doing something in Germany, but that would most probably be Katalyst, as the whole DJing with MCs is more his thing. I’ve never done that; I come from a rock-n-roll angle, in terms of live. Obviously we’re not going to get all the MCs together as that cost in flights would alone bankrupt a small country (laughs). I know there are people travelling in Europe this year, so we might be able to tie something together, but in reality we don’t know yet.
You mentioned Quakers was a long time in the making. And there are two more projects also coming out shortly, Beak> and Drokk. Those two were also a while in the making, weren’t they?
Not really. Drokk was about six months in the making, while the Beak> album took two years, but only over day sessions, as we’re still working under the same restrictions that we did before, where we all play live in a room with no overdubs. I think there might be two overdubs in the whole thing, when one of us ballsed up too badly. I’ve just mastered the record today actually. I’ve always been slow about the work I put out, but I’m obviously working with Ashley, Ben on the Drokk stuff and the Beak> guys, so that helps to speed things up a bit sometimes. I’m also planning to work on new Portishead material once I’ve moved studios.
"Quality level for me
always has to be right
up there. My own
standard of quality at
least. I feel strongly
about all three releases
even though they’ve
ended up coming out
close to each other.
And that’s ultimately
not as long as a
takes to come out."
The reason I asked was because I wondered whether or not you felt there was a benefit in taking your time to release stuff, that in a way it gives the music more power, more effect, as it can mean more time is spent crafting something. It’s less rushed so it has more potential to make an impact, in a sense.
The thing is… quality level for me always has to be right up there. My own standard of quality at least. Because things have taken quite a long time, it might seem to some like it’s all being rushed out, but that’s not the case. I feel strongly about all three releases even though they’ve ended up coming out close to each other. And that’s ultimately not as long as a Portishead record takes to come out.
You also did music supervision for Banksy’s movie. How was that?
It was brilliant, a really good experience. I’ve known him over the years, not closely, but enough to become involved. He came to me, asked me to give him a hand, and I did. It was an enjoyable process, no stress, lots of weird sessions with us recording French music and all sorts of things. Stuff that sounded like ESG covers to making hip hop tracks. That’s how a few of the Quakers tracks ended up on the soundtrack for it.
Did it have any influence or impact on you guys deciding to put the “Drive” OST out through your label?
We just were really into it, to be honest. The manager of Invada, the label manager, saw “Drive” and got on the phone. He tracked down the right guy and asked if anyone was doing the vinyl. The answer was no, so he asked if we could do it and the answer was yes, and that was kind of it. It was really simple and obviously I really like it too, it’s a good film and so it made sense! It’s nice for us to know we can do things like this and continue to put out interesting soundtrack stuff.
It feels like a fairly logical move all things considered. Especially with the Drokk project as well.
Well yeah. The Drokk stuff is music inspired by “2000 A.D” and “Mega City One”, which is where Judge Dredd lives. As an avid 2000 A.D fan throughout my early years – it’s the one thing that runs alongside hip hop in terms of life-long interests – it made sense. Ben and I worked on a film project which didn’t work out early on, but we thought the music was good and we’d enjoyed the process of working together, especially as we’d talked about it over the years. That’s how Drokk was born. It’s the 35th birthday of “2000 A.D” this year, and it just seemed like a good idea to tie it into that. Ben didn’t know so much about it, but he got into it once I put him onto some stuff. It seemed like instead of doing film music or electronic music for the sake of it, tying it to something like “2000 A.D” was the most logical thing to do. The music we’ve made is reminiscent of it anyways; “2000 A.D” came out in 1977 and the sound on Drokk has that feel to it even though we’ve tried not to make it a retro record. But due to the instruments being used, it just happened. It’s all made on old synths; it’s Carpenter-esque, something we didn’t shy away from. So we went to “2000 A.D” and they were into it, and we’re doing it in conjunction with them and they’ve given us the go-ahead. When you’re dealing with something that has so much history, I wanted to make sure it wasn’t taking the mike, I wanted to get the OK from them, and they’ve been great about it. It’s coming out through Invada. We’ve got a really good publicist we work with now on all the different projects, and the idea of having it in your own stable is really nice. Quakers is different because Stones Throw have such a massive audience and they specialise in quality hip hop, so it made sense to go with them, but these other projects like Drokk and Beak>, we have our own fan bases for them and we can grow from there.
Albums Quakers - Quakers
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