Life on the Fretboard: Adrian Utley (Portishead)

Adrian Utley is one of the most versatile and creative musicians the UK has produced. His work with artists such as Jeff Beck, Patti Smith and Glenn Branca is testament to this.

Shooting to prominence in the mid 1990s with Portishead, Adrian’s beautifully judged, nuanced playing – with its unique jazz and soul sensibilities – set the band apart from their contemporaries in what would become known as the trip-hop scene.

Dummy, Portishead’s debut album, would go multi-platinum. The band continues to have a lasting influence in terms of production values, musicianship and sheer style.

Adrian accepted an invitation to join me for this episode of Life on the Fretboard after an online conversation about our shared love of the work of Fred Frith – a pioneer in the improvised and exploratory music scene.

Shortly after, I was invited to film an original 1958 Gibson Flying V. Those of you familiar with my work will understand my trepidation to go it alone with a guitar that was so far out of my comfort zone, so I asked Adrian if he’d like to join me in exploring one of the rarest and pointiest electric guitars known to humanity. I was a little taken aback at the speed with which he accepted. I made a video of us exploring that Flying V here: https://youtu.be/VM95mN7eDC0

Once we had finished with the pointy beast, we sat down to record this conversation. Adrian shares his memories of working with Jeff Beck and Glenn Branca and we talk about Adrian’s love of all guitars, from vintage L-5s to dumpster-find acoustics. We also chat about learning to love limitations, the Fender Jazzmaster, the best footwear for wah-wah pedal usage, and that solo from the song “Glory Box.”

Here’s a reminder if you need one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MnMTK8EdsOc

I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did. Be advised there is adult language throughout.

This episode of Life on the Fretboard was brought to you by the kind sponsorship of Elixir Strings https://www.elixirstrings.com. I use Phosphor Bronze 12-53s on all my acoustic guitars

We are also brought to you by Microtech Gefell Microphones https://www.microtechgefell.de

I used a pair of their M300 small diaphragm models to record this interview and you’re hearing my voice on the M930 model.

To support this podcast please use this Tip Jar link https://michaelwattsguitar.com/tip-jars/4745

Your Host,

Michael Watts

Learn more about the Fretboard Journal and our new, 53rd issue here: https://www.fretboardjournal.com