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Progressive Rock Interviews

Portugal The Man

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Portugal The Man from 2007

MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 5 at

Can you catch the readers up a bit on your musical history?
John Gourley: I pretty much tap out notes as they seem to fit. I have been doing this since around 8th grade. Probably 13 or so. Actually started playing guitar with any real intent of performing with the birth of the band. About a two years ago. The progress has been made. I still tap out randomness and don't fully understand paper music - as it should be.

Zach Carothers: I started playing horns when I was nine. I got into drums and guitar in 8th grade. started a s****y high school band that played parties and such. had a lot of fun, but never thought i'd be able to do it full time.

Jason Sechrist: I've playing drums for about 10 good years now - been in a few bands,recorded with a few bands, played live drums for a few. I also played drums for Konami Defense System wich was a fun cult band in Portland.
MSJ: You guys are from Alaska. How has the whole midnight sun / never ending winter night affected your music and lyrics?
John Gourley: Very much so. Every moment of anyone's life has its cause/effect. Our upbringing is much the same as anyone else, it just had a better view and less noise. As for the happy sun and the sad nights, we grew up there, it is much more normal to us than it would be to an outside eye. It is just natural.

Zach Carothers: Well, we didn't have any idea about smaller bands at the time. all we had was the radio and MTV. I think it was more of moving down to portland. it was a real culture shock that opened our eyes to all sorts of new music, art and ideas in general.
MSJ: I know artists are not crazy about having their music pigeon-holed,but how would you describe your sound?
John Gourley: It's just rock and roll. We say what we like and play how we like. I cant see stepping out of that. Though, based on this, I find Wu-Tang and The Roots to be very rock and roll. It's a mind set.

It's all about the song. We jam out and stretch things live but when it comes to records the album is in mind. Make songs that sit and have their place, it is necessary. I have just always loved the pop music at heart. Make songs that stay. We step out every now and then but for the most part it is sitting in the Beatles train of thought - songwriting.

Zach Carothers: I'll use the rock n' roll cop out. a know it's weak, but that's what I think we sound like. maybe a little hip hop and blues sliced up in there.

Jason Sechrist: In our brains we are not trying to follow a genre. We love a lot of different sounds.
MSJ: Who do you see as musical influences?
John Gourley: The Beatles, Leadbelly, Rage Against the Machine, The Zombies, Oasis, many many many sounds. It is always a sound and sometimes a sight.

Zach Carothers: Personally, as far as bass goes, John Paul Jones, Tim from Rage, and Flea...there's a lot more.

Jason Sechrist: There are a lot of good songs from so many good artists in my brain that help my days go by when I sing them, That has to help something.
MSJ: Where did the name for the band come from?
Zach Carothers: We wanted the band to have a man's name. kinda how James Brown's got just that bigger than life sound to it. sadly, none of us have very good names. so, we wanted to create a fictional character like Bowie made Ziggy Stardust or the Beatles became Sergent Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. we wanted our character's name to represent our whole group, and we figure a country was one name for a group of people. If I was named a country, I'd wanna be named portugal. It's better than Pakistan, The Man. Actually, we're really Portugal. The Man and The Approching Airballoons. the backing band for Portugal.

Jason Sechrist: We were trying to create a Ziggy stardust, or The Beatles Sgt. Pepper, but we did not want to use our own names, so we threw Portugal in to represent the name of the character.
MSJ: What's ahead for you?
John Gourley: Piles of songs to be found in piles of albums. My only plan is to write and write as it fits. I hate to sit about too much. I fear complete loss of myself when I sit too long. I will stick to writing out these words.

Zach Carothers: Lots of touring and a new album. We're pumped.

Jason Sechrist: Tours, tours, tours. maybe some quality time with friends and family.
MSJ: Are there musicians you'd like to play with in the future?
John Gourley: So many I would love to play with. I am all about collaboration. Bowie, McCartney, The Zombies, Kay Kay, Celebration, The Only Children, Builders and the Butchers, The Shins... Many many many.

Anyone who will pick up an instrument and throw thought aside for a moment. It is all about being spontaneous and having a good time. If any of these people can't do that then we should probably cross them off the list. The ones I personally know can do it. I know that much.

Zach Carothers: I really like to tour with friends. we recently had an awesome time with the Only Children. i wanna tour with them again real bad. They're funny as hell. not to mention a kick a** band.

Jason Sechrist: I usually get to jam with who ever I am on the road with at the time - so bring em' on.
MSJ: Do you think that downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians? It's been said by the major labels that it's essentially the heart of all the problems they are having in terms of lower sales - would you agree?
John Gourley: Major labels are the cause of the problem. They have watered down music with their test groups for too many years, music has nowhere to go but to the roots at this point. Bands need to be themselves. You can't expect people to buy a record based on your "hit single" if that "hit single" is your entire album. Cut the filler and get to work. I would much rather someone buy our record after hearing it and deciding for themselves. S**t, most people don't even have the money to buy these albums. Download it. We are pro.

Zach Carothers: I'd agree with that, but I'm pro downloading. I'd like whoever want to listen to our band should be able to. I can't afford CDs, and I know a lot of others can't. Bands who b***h about the internet should relax. There's pros and cons to everything. Yeah, kids wanna steal your music, but if it wasn't for the Internet, no one would know who your band is.
MSJ: In a related question how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?
John Gourley: I didn't know people still did that s**t. Its great! Record away. Trade. Do as you please. It is a said to be free country. Quit wasting time. I would like to hear some awful bootlegs already.

Zach Carothers: I give it two fat thumbs up! I just hope we played well.
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought, or what have you been listening to lately?
John Gourley: The last CD I bought was Menomena. Very lovely and amazing band. I rarely buy records. Very rarely, I believe I already said I was pro downloading. Mostly I have a habit of stepping back to my oldies radio childhood. It is not as exciting and fairly predictable. New bands I love would be Kay Kay and his Weathered Underground, The Only Children, The Builders and the Butchers, Celebration, 31Knots etc. - really truly amazing.

Zach Carothers: The Decemberist - can't get enough of that s**t lately.

Jason Sechrist: I think the last album I bought was Rocky Erickson. I also really enjoy The Shins Wincing the night Away.It feels good on the ears.
MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
John Gourley: Celebration with the closer of TV on the Radio. F*** yeah! That's all I can say. I had never heard TOTR before but loved celebration. I actually ran down the street to catch Get Hustle instead of staying for TOTR but their show was seeming to run late so I ran back to see what TOTR was all about. Absolute love. It was great.

Zach Carothers: Rage Against the Machine at Coachella - holy s**t - amazing.

Jason Sechrist: It was a hip-hop show by Immortal Technique we played in Florida a few weeks ago and after we played we rushed over for the show.
MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
John Gourley: Thats a fake band, right? A movie? I haven't seen it.

Zach Carothers: I hate to do this, but really don't know how to answer that one - very good question though.
MSJ: Finally, are there any closing thoughts you'd like to get out there?
John Gourley: Just a very large thank you to everyone for supporting their favorites in the arts. It is amazing. Not even or necessarily our band. We have an understanding that everyone has tastes and opinions, as we do, it is just amazing to see so much love going around for what little of a music community we have. Thanks all around.

Zach Carothers: Thanks a bunch for the interview. We seriously appreciate any love and support we can get. Thanks again.

Jason Sechrist: Thanks, and listen to your headphones!
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