Portishead, Radiohead, bag over the head
Do Get the Blessing (left) have the same tailor as the Rubberbandits?
Drumming with Portishead, touring with Radiohead and brewing up a jazz storm: Clive Deamer’s a busy man, writes LAURENCE MACKIN
One of the greatest myths in music is the myth of the scene – suddenly, and for no particular reason, a single location starts producing bands and musicians of exceptional quality: Laurel Canyon in the 1960s; Seattle in the early 1990s; and Toronto in the mid-2000s.
Clive Deamer came of age musically in one such place: Bristol in the early 1990s. As the drummer with Portishead and Roni Size, he was sharing a Bristol underground with the likes of Massive Attack, Tricky and The Wild Bunch. And yet, he’s the last person to say it has anything to do with location.
“The only thing that makes a scene is individuals who happen to cross paths and cross-pollinate,” he says. “Usually when there is a documentary, it boils down to one environment, or café or a studio. But it’s not that; it’s one or two key individuals who happened to have the drive, the imagination to do something that hasn’t been done before. They are trying to get some musical memory or imagination out and they can’t get satisfaction [until it’s out there].”
As Deamer sees it, the “scene thing will become another ‘international, the world is shrinking’ phenomenon. There will be so-called scenes that will pop up in cities because it is possible to record a string part in Copenhagen and send it down the line to Los Angeles with ease. The individual with the idea: they are likely to be the technical or the physical means by which the new music will happen.”
Deamer is not a man to be taken lightly. As well as forming Portishead’s rhythmic backbone along with bassist Jim Barr, he’s a member of Radiohead’s touring band, and tomorrow he and Barr are bringing their jazz outfit, Get the Blessing, to Ireland for a tour.
The band might be jazz, but it’s probably the least serious group Deamer plays in. There’s a sense that the four members, all heavyweight session players, use it as an outlet, away from the strictures of being musical guns-for-hire. “There isn’t a band leader. They way we play is the way we operate at all levels, whether it’s ordering a meal in a restaurant or approaching a recording,” Deamer says. “It is a bunch of guys who get on very well and can simultaneously occupy a music idea and have fun with one another.
“There’s a really interesting phenomenon that happens because we’re perceived as a jazz group. You get people who think they don’t like jazz, and then they come along, enjoy it, and wonder, ‘What is this called?’ There’s a great deal of humour that runs through the things we play. It’s slightly deliberate and accidental because we have so much fun with what we are doing.”
Deamer reckons the “jazz” label is a double-edged sword that is probably stopping a lot of people giving Get the Blessing a fair listen. “Being labelled jazz immediately does box you into a certain thing. That’s another reason we play the way we do, why we do the bags over our heads [the band and the Rubberbandits appear to have the same tailor]; it’s another way of pulling the rug out from under the audience.”