If you ever get the chance to talk to Portishead, whatever you do, don’t ask them why their third record took so long to make. To head off any potential awkward moments, they’ve issued a succinct run-down of the past 14 years – made an album, went on tour, made another one, then a live album and spent the next decade doing things at home, recording solo projects and working on a new record. Simple really.
They may not want to talk about it (more to do with time constraints on interviews than being precious) but been away they have, and as Adrian Utley is the first to admit, absence makes the myths go stronger.
‘There’s been a lot of misinformation rather than a myth really,’ he avows. ‘Speak to different parts of the world and you’ll hear different stories. Since we haven’t been doing stuff for a while, these ideas have grown up about us. I guess that’s what happens though: if you don’t hear from somebody, you make stuff up. It’s just Chinese whispers.’
The last time that Utley, Beth Gibbons and Geoff Barrow were releasing records as Portishead, it was a hugely different landscape. Promos and white labels were flung around with abandon, whereas now the security surrounding virtually every new release is mind boggling. How does Adrian view this brave new world? ‘I can’t really comment on that from our position,’ he says. ‘It’s different for us in that we’ve had this 10-year gap and one hopes that there is a certain amount of expectation from people, which happily there does seem to be. I can imagine that if you were in a new band, it would be very different with the plethora of stuff that’s around. It’s indecipherable sometimes, but things do cut through if they’re good enough, I think. It’s always been difficult for bands but hopefully in the end, the music will speak for them.’