When Portishead’s headlining gig at this year’s Coachella fest was announced, it was to be the British trip-hop trio’s first U.S. concert in a decade, so they were less than thrilled when Prince was added to the bill above them. “I’m not the biggest Prince fan,” says band multi-instrumentalist Geoff Barrow. “I don’t mean any disrespect. Obviously he’s an amazing musician. Usually when somebody that big comes in — we just thought we were going to be pushed aside a bit. At a lot of festivals it’s about how big your bollocks are and how many cricket bats your manager’s got.”
Not that touring was ever the first priority for Portishead. They are studio artists first. Coachella is likely to be the band’s last American concert appearance until 2009. But there are perks to festival life. As Barrow sits by the band’s trailer backstage, he hears a song off in the distance, something exciting, nervous and indie called “Hang Me Out To Dry.” Barrow smiles. “That’s a really good tune. Cold War Kids, right? I’ll bet they’re having it!” Rock Daily wanted to hear more:
How do you deal with desert heat?
“I don’t. It’s that simple. I don’t deal with it at all. This is just doing things to my body that alcohol could never do. We’re just trying not to get burned.”
What’s the coolest thing about your own set?
“We’re playing a lot of the old tunes, mainly because we don’t want to make it difficult. When you come out to see a band you like, you want to hear the old tunes. I mean, you can be arty and fucking odd — we get accused of that as it is.”
What’s your favorite Coachella drug (or cocktail)?
“I try not drink before we play, and then get trashed afterwards. I can’t do drugs, so it’s always beer. I’ve tried drugs and they just don’t work, or they do stuff to my head that I’d rather not.”
What’s the Coachella band to see?
“Kraftwerk. It’s just insane to me that they’re playing before us.”
What time is your soundcheck?
“Six thirty AM!”
What’s the joy of playing huge festival crowds?
“That’s part of the reason we stopped. The bigger the show got, it was more and more difficult. The gigs were great and people were enjoying them, but we weren’t. Now we’re older, fatter, bolder and now we’re going to [only] do what we feel strong about.”
Are you planning to watch Prince?
“No. I’ll be drunk by then.”