By Alexander Laurence
Geoff Barrow is in Portishead. He has recently produced records for The Coral and The Horrors. Geoff Barrow's new project is called BEAK>; with bass player Billy Fuller (Fuzz Against Junk) and guitarist/keyboardist Matt Williams (Team Brick). Geoff is the drummer. The music was recorded live in one room with no overdubs or repair, only using edits to create arrangements. All tracks were written over a twelve-day session in Bristol, England. The self-titled debut was released on November 17, 2009 on Barrow's label Invada Records.
Barrow was the music supervisor for the Banksy film Exit Through the Gift Shop, premièred at the Sundance Film Festival on 24 January 2010, and to be released in Spring 2010.Beak> played a few festivals and have finally come to do an American tour in September 2010. Their show was a breath of fresh air and everyone was surprised. I got to talk to the band at the Troubadour in West Hollywood.
AL: How do you pronounce that > thing?
Geoff: It’s a “greater than” symbol. It looks like a beak.
AL: So if you play with another band, you look up at the marquee and it’s Beak “is greater than” whoever is playing with you?
Geoff: Not sure about that.
AL: Beak “is greater than” Led Zeppelin.
Geoff: We are definitely greater than Led Zeppelin.
AL: Do you all come from an improvisational background?
Geoff: Not at all. I come from the most anti-improv background. Beak> is almost a complete opposite of what I do.
Billy: A little bit from my point of view. It’s not where I started. I accidently fell over in the mud, and washed myself.
AL: You like the songs to be there already?
Geoff: I come from a sampling and DJ culture. It’s about sampling and looping things. It’s the most unnatural type of creation.
AL: When you shut yourself off in a room, you have to be inspired.
Geoff: I play the drums and I let these guys experiment. So it’s easy for me. I just have to hold a rhythm down.
AL: Do you record a lot?
Geoff: Not a lot really. We have become really prolific. We go into the studio and have four tracks done at the end of the day. It’s full on.
AL: So how does that evolve into the live show? You have done over twenty shows now. Is there additional improvisation?
Geoff: It has become all that. It stays within the structure of the record. It wasn’t supposed to be like that, but the parts are good, so we play them good. The songs are good. Sometimes we can go off a bit and come right back down.
Billy: We already edited the songs before.
AL: Some of this record reminded me of the Jah Wobble “Molem Dub” record. He lays down some grooves and has people solo over it.
Geoff: When most people improvise they end up taking turns blowing. They take turns showing off. We don’t do that. For us it’s the opposite. We have the approach where less is more. We don’t jam in E and have a soloist play for 35 minutes.
AL: You have played the ATP festival. Some of those festivals are like museum pieces and the taste of a curator.
Geoff: We played with Sonic Youth and The Breeders. They are respected acts and they are doing straight ahead stuff.
AL: Then you come here to the Troubadour, which is a bar, a rock club, where people are drinking and talking.
Geoff: It’s a bit weird. We are usually going to be better at some weird art festival with music in it rather than some rock club. To come here to America it costs money and sometimes at this art stuff you don’t get any money. The rock clubs is where you make the money. There you go.
AL: You played at Amoeba Records. You do that often?
Geoff: It’s just an in-store thing. We have played one in London, one in Bristol, and now the Amoeba in San Francisco, and today the one in LA.
AL: Is it weird playing a daytime show?
Geoff: It’s weird because of the daylight. But since you are surrounded by music, it feels like a spiritual place. You are surrounded by vinyl. That is good. We haven’t got much of that in England.
AL: You got an Amoeba gift certificate. Did you get any records?
Geoff: I am going there tomorrow.
AL: Did you spend any money there?
Matt: I spent 180 dollars. I got all these five dollar CDs.
AL: You have been playing in bands and dealing with the record industry for a long time now. Do you feel freer now because you are not trying to have a hit, or trying to create something to played on the radio?
Geoff: Since the start of time there have been bands like us. At least in the modern era. It may be a reaction in a sense. Where the major labels and the industry have gone is so safe. There are all these industry standards: the sound of it, the volume of it. The production of it. They think the record has to have a certain story. There is all this bullshit that is supposed to be how a record is done. But there are a million reocrds that aren’t like that. The sooner the industry wises up to that, the better. You might find some actual artists rather than cans of beans on a shelf.
AL: But don’t you think that the industry favors people like Brian Eno or Dave Sardy, people who I like, and look for their stamp of approval?
Geoff: That is just the industry. Those are respected guys looking for jobs. There have always been certain individuals in the industry. The point is that there is a massive lack of record sales, so they are forced to please everyone with one record. In doing that, you send out records that lack originality. People have forgotten how to hunt for music. They don’t want to bother looking for music. They just want to sit back and be told.
AL: You have this label Invada. What is that about?
Geoff: We are trying to get rid of all that bullshit. We have a label and it’s nice and we release records, and we don’t worry about singles. That stuff doesn’t matter. We have all been involved in situations where you are trying to get a deal. You end up giving up all your energy to the industry, rather than making music. Why are you making a record to please a label?
AL: What are you doing the rest of the year?
Geoff: We have this show with Liquid Liquid. We have a few shows left. Maybe we will record some at the end of the year.
AL: Did you play some festivals?
Geoff: We played Primavera in Spain, and Glastonbury.
HERE'S THE ANIKA INTERVIEW: http://portable-infinite.blogspot.com/2011/10/anika.html