Reluctantly holding a central part in the British 'Trip-Hop' scene in the early 90s, Portishead launched themselves on to the radar of anybody who paid the slightest bit of attention to music. Then, two albums later, they left us. Naturally they were missed, but upon their critically acclaimed return in 2008 with Third, the band was so convincingly and successfully transformed that it was difficult to remember what they had once sounded like.

Third has been with us for 3 years now, and it's certainly not diminished in quality. Portishead are soon to host the I'll Be Your Mirror ATP at Alexandria Palace, and appear to be working on new material. I was therefore delighted to catch up with two thirds of the band (Geoff Barrow and Adrian Utley). Both musicians have had illustrious careers outside of Portishead, firstly as producers, but also with side projects Beak> and The Passion of Joan of Arc score.

You have the I'll be your mirror ATP coming up in just a few months, are you excited about it?

Geoff: What do you think? Yeah!

What was the selection policy for the acts you chose to play?

Geoff: The bands must be alive and have never been covered on Glee.

It's your first ATP since 2007s Nightmare Before Christmas. Do you feel the new I'll Be You Mirror format requires a different approach?

Geoff: Wasn't it 2008? can't remember now. Minehead has something very good and odd about it, anything outside of that will be totally different naturally . As long as it holds ATP's fine standards I'm sure it's going to be good.

Portishead are playing two sets over the weekend, have you got any plans to keep it fresh?

Geoff: Out of the three Records we can switch stuff up. I don't think there's going to be a great shift, because the better tunes are just the better tunes really. We don't usually go into, like, eight minuet free jazz pieces.In terms of new material, we've got Chase The Tear which is the track we did for amnesty. But no new whole sections of the set.

Geoff, You are also playing at the festival with BEAK>, have you done much work with the band since the 2009 debut?

Geoff: Yes, loads we almost have a whole new set.

Do you feel BEAK> demonstrate a significant break in style with your work with Portishead?

Geoff: No, not really.

You used particularly novel recording and writing techniques in the production of the album, could you explain the reasoning behind this?

Geoff: I just got fed up of record production and unnecessary fiddling.

Adrian, you are also performing your soundtrack to the film 'The Passion of Joan of Arc' with Will Gregory at the ATP. Did you enjoy the process of writing it?

Adrian: I did actually, it's a pretty harsh film. It's bleak, obviously the outcome is bleak, but it's a total masterpiece.

The score is a pretty full on thing, it's got 6 electric guitars, a choir, harps and synthesisers. About 23 musicians. But it's a pretty harsh film, it's a bit gruelling watching it about a thousand times. But I enjoyed it, there was a freedom in being able to do exactly what I wanted, to do it with an amazing film.

We managed to use the guitars to make a complete fucking racket on top of this medieval noise, was good fun.

How did the project come about?

Adrian: It was started by an independent cinema in Bristol called the Watershed. It was Mark Cosgrove (who runs it) who showed us about 20 films, thinking about doing some more in the future. It took us years to get it together, because we're always busy with our bands.

What made you choose the film?

Adrian: Well because it's a complete fucking masterpiece really. Also it's quite linear, it doesn't jump from scene to scene, meaning you can create long pieces of music to it. It also facilitated the sort of things we wanted to write, you know?

Are there any challenges to performing a score live? Will you play the film in the background?

Adrian: Yeah we have done. We did at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, and we just did it at the Brighton festival in the Dome, and the Poland Opera house in Krakow. Going to New York to do it later in the year, as well as the ATP. The challenge is in keeping it all in time with the film. The conductor, Charles Hazelwood, is completely amazing. His job is not the music, but what he's doing is completely amazing.

The score appears to have both elements of traditional religious music, and more modern guitar and synth work. Was there a deliberate attempt to juxtapose the old with the new?

Adrian: That's exactly right. It's a definite juxtaposition of early music choir called the sixteen, they just sing early, medieval music, as well as more sacred music. Then I've obviously got about 6 electric guitars coming from another world entirely. It's mostly noise oriented, I worked with Glenn Branca for a little bit and I used his tuning techniques, so it's quite dissonant y'know.

Any plans to do any similar work in the future?

Adrian: Well no, I've got to tour with Portishead now, and then we're writing the new album, so I'm putting in the the back of my mind. But I'd quite like to do a western, and work with a smaller band, or maybe a good horror band. I'm certainly not going to rush into it, you pick the right one and then you can really make it live on.

Both of you have also worked with a number of other bands as a producer, have you enjoyed this process?

Adrian: I kinda do and I don't really. I find with writing your own music, and working with Portishead you have to sort musical problems out. I don't really enjoy sorting out other people's problems, I find that everybody looks at you as if you have the answers, the buck stops with you. I'm not always up for that, it's a stress I don't really want in my life.

I do love working with music though, it's only a small reservation really, I do love the whole world of it really. But apart from the Coral I've never really had that massive responsibility, with a record company on my back. If I'm honest with you, I'd much rather spend my time writing my own music than producing bands. That's how I feel at the moment, I've got two tiny kids at the moment, so they are really taking up my entire brain-space for that sort of thing.

Geoff: It's been cool to work with talented people but I'm not cut out for it really.

Geoff, much of The Horrors second album appears to be influenced by your style, how much sway did you have over the band in your role as producer?

Geoff: They wrote it all before I met them so not much.

Do you either of you have any plans to work with other bands as a producer?

Geoff: Beak> and Anika.

As a producer, are there any bands that you'd absolutely love to work with?

Geoff: Radiohead even though I would most probably make them sound crap.

You've been hinting at new material for Portishead for a while now, how is it coming along?

Adrian: We're just rehearsing now for touring, so that's kinda stopped for a bit. Geoff and I were playing something the other day that we got really excited about, couple of new ideas that we've got. There's nothing really to talk about now to be honest, other than that we will be doing it, and we are excited about it.

Are you planning to continue in the musical direction that Third set?

Adrian: I don't know. There will probably be a fair amount of difference. It's hard to tell you that because we haven't done it yet. We always try and move things forward a bit, set new parameters, try and think differently for the next one, new mindset.

Would you class Third as an experimental album?

Adrian: I think that's for you to say that. It's experimental in that we were experimenting in new sounds, new ideas and new ways of approaching things. I think that's a term that other people can put to us, I can't really comment on that.

Geoff: No, definitely not. It's a pop record.

Is it possible to be truly innovative musically anymore?

Geoff: Yes. It's just about combinations, like cooking. It's just different ingredients. That's a terrible analogy, but I guess it works. I saw this band the other day, they were indie-kids playing fusion. Weather Report meets, I dunno, some indie band? It was really weird, I didn't like it, but I hadn't heard anything like that before.

With that in mind are there any bands that you would point to, today, as being truly experimental?

Adrian: I don't really hear any at the moment. I'm not hip to every single band that's happening at the moment. I still listen to Sonic Youth and the free jazz players, who I still find exciting in that world.

Geoff: It's difficult because there's a difference between experimental and innovative really. Experimental can be anything. Somebody like Aphex Twin is experimental and innovative, or something like Mad Lib in his field. There are still people out there doing that stuff. A lot of music that people pin down as a experimental and innovative leaves me a bit cold. The bands you see on Pitchfork, people going crazy about, I listen to a minute of it, and I just think it's only really innovative to younger people who haven't heard what came before them. You just think, well, you're just doing “that”. Talking Heads did 'that'.

I suppose the Glitch-tech, laptop stuff, I'm not a big fan of that.

Not a big James Blake fan then?

Geoff: Ah no, wasn't talking about him really. He's quite good I guess, because there's a human element to his songs, but he just really reminds me of what programmers were doing in Bristol ages ago. No, but yeah, but, I guess.

To me, Third appeared to be a very percussive album. Was the percussive element of the album particularly important to you?

Adrian: It always is. It was a new way of thinking about it, it's actually more live playing than ever before. Faster than we've ever done really.

Was there a different process than writing the two earlier albums?

Adrian: Yeah it was. Took a while, trying to find an answer to problems. How to make a song work, trying to find something that's original. Maybe not as hard as the first, but still difficult.

Do you believe Portishead have fully moved away from your Trip-Hop roots?

Adrian: Definitely. If you want to use that term. I really hate that term. It's not something really ever called ourselves. I say things that probably irritate the hell out of other bands, genres. But Trip-hop? I don't know, it doesn't matter, it's gone.

Are there any upcoming releases or new bands you are particularly excited about?

Adrian: I don't have a brain at the moment. We've got some great bands on at ATP. I waded through a box of CDs given to me by the label, nothing that really excited me. But I'm just excited by medieval music these days, some old Egyptian singers.

Geoff: I did like the Cats Eyes record. Really achieved what Farris was going for. Horrors new record, haven't fully heard it yet. I'm a bit down on modern music, really.

Who are you looking forward to seeing at your ATP then?

Adrian: Grinderman. Polly Harvey she's a friend, I've seen her loads of time, but still. I'm quite excited about everything you know! It's a great concept. We've got some great films on, we've got Submarine. We've Mark Cousins coming down to talk about a film he made in Iran with children. I watched that film, can't remember the name, but I thought it was genius.

You can find out more about the Portishead curated I'll Be Your Mirror event by heading clicking here.