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PORTISHEAD's debut album Dummy hit the music scene between the eyes — but with success came an identity crisis. As the band unleash their follow up on a UK tour, we ask
them is the crisis over? Words: Johnnie Mitchell
14 THELIST 7-—-?O Nov 199/
‘Y()l,' (‘AN lil'l‘lllZR crack up and melt. you can have a head as big as a house or you can just try and deal with it and carry on making tnttsic. l genuinely hope people don‘t see me as a wanker because I'm not out to annoy anyone or make ottt that I'm anything that I‘m not.‘
For a man largely responsible for one of
the decade‘s most influential albums. Portishead's (ieoff Barrow makes a singularly insecure figure compared with sortie of the more gargantuan egos littering the music business. Lounging in the front room of this stylishly decorated North Bristol setni. Barrow by his own admission. doesn‘t ‘have to worry about the gas bill for the next couple of months‘. That doesn‘t stop him finding plenty of other things to furrow his brows.
Barrow worries about his mates in Portishead (the semi-seaside suburb of Bristol. not the band) stuck on the dole and still living with their parents. He worries about being seen as a hip hop interloper. pillaging street culture and dressing it up for mainstream consumption. lle worries about being viewed
Head on: Beth Gibbons and Geoff Barrow of Portishead
as the focal point in a band which he insists comprises four equally talented members. ()r as a hick from the sticks. not really a part of Bristol‘s inner city fusion of hip hop. reggae and huge spliffs which gave rise to the likes of 'l‘ricky. Massive Attack. Monk. (‘anatella and a dozen more.
It was the twin insecurities of Barrow and the band's vocalist and chief songwriter. Beth (iibbons which provided the emotional impact
'I genuinely hope people don't see me as a wanker because I'm not out to annoy anyone or make out that I'm anything that I'm not.’
for l’ortishead’s 1994 debut album Utmzmv — and its long-awaited follow-up I’m'tislmul. A groundbreaking fusion of beats. scratches and samples. dusty old valve technology and bedsit indie—angst. Dummy is the product of a bizarre musical alchemy between the maverick hip hop Will/.7. kid and the chain smoking Billie Holiday fan who shared little in musical background or as personalities.
As DHmmv's sales nttdged past the two million point. Portishead played a sttmning live show on Jools Holland. toured North