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6 Questions with Portugal. The Man

Posted by Alex Pearlman  May 25, 2013 10:20 AM

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I sat down with John Gourley, lead singer and guitarist of Portugal. The Man, after their Live in the Lab performance in the Boston Globe Media Lab. While the rest of the band took over the studio, Gourley answered some questions.

The Wasilla, Alaska natives are now based out of Portland, but they're in town this week to play Boston's first ticketed rock festival, Boston Calling. Check them out on City Hall Plaza, and watch the video of their performance, below.

What is the story of your first-ever concert?

My first concert was Pantera. I grew up in Alaska and was painfully, painfully shy. I mean, it was getting thrown into a mosh pit of angry, huge, Alaskans. That’s what it was – it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. I was 14 at the time. It was the craziest experience of my life; it completely changed my view of music. I didn’t know metal existed. I went to the show because… there was a show. In Alaska. And I was finally old enough to go by myself. It opened up the world of metal to me. And that was all we listened to after, just heavy, heavy music.

Who is your favorite emerging artist?

I love Unknown Mortal Orchestra, who are from New Zealand, living in Portland. (Another transplant.) They’re just amazing.

What is the oddest thing in your bag right now?

In my bag? A second bag. I have a bag within a bag. There’s nothing in it. I just have a bag in my bag. That’s the first thing that comes to mind. Also broken hard drives.

Describe the worst picture ever taken of you.

There are so many. I’m gonna give you the best-worst just because my girlfriend always goes back and looks at these photos, just to laugh about it. Right after we recorded “Satanic Satanist,” and "American Ghetto" here in Boston, we decided we’d grow our hair out. This is was like the Beatles thing. I wanted to see these pictures later in life. I want to see that stupid, stupid picture. So I grew my hair out and continued cutting my bangs. It was something I had always done, and we have photos that are just so over-the-top. I’m wearing a Portland Trailblazers tanktop, sunglasses, and this bushy hair, and it’s pretty funny.

What is the weirdest question you’ve ever gotten about being from Alaska?

We get asked ‘Who else famous is from Wasilla, Alaska?’ quite a bit. And I always say, Portugal. The Man! They’re from there. But when all that stuff happened [with Sarah Palin]... nobody’s supposed to know that shit. Nobody is supposed to know that John McCain had picked her, but the night before it was announced, Zach [Carothers, Portugal. The Man’s bassist] and I are getting text messages because Wasilla is such a small place. Stuff like that spreads so quickly. And the text messages said “Sarah Palin…” and Zach and I are like, “There’s no way.”

I mean, we always get, “Can you see Russia from your house?” We get that all the time. But I’ll tell you the weirdest question: Growing up, coming down to visit New York, we had some of my grandparents’ friends, some old people, asking if we had TV, and if we really lived in igloos. Like, they were serious questions. And you’re sitting in front of them wearing somewhat normal clothes… I mean, I’m wearing pants and a shirt. Where do you think I got this? The igloo down the street?


What is the stereotype about Portland that is most true?

If you watch “Portlandia,” you get all of them. They’re all so spot-on. That’s why it’s funny. Those people exist in every city, you see them, you know it. Portland just has a ton of them. They all live there. I mean, we have Wieden+Kennedy and Nike, and pretty much everywhere you’d work in Portland requires not being at work. There are kegs in the office… It’s the silliest thing I’ve ever seen. “Do I want a beer? No… We’re sitting down to talk about business. What do you mean, ‘have a beer?’” I’m pretty sure all the stereotypes are true. I think there are really great movements happening in Portland. It’s nice being in a place that supports itself and stands on its own.

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