HIT CHANNEL EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: December 2011. We talked with the greatest modern musician: Steven Wilson (solo, Porcupine Tree, Blackfield, No-Man). Steven’s latest solo work is the amazing “Grace for Drowning” album. Read below the very interesting things about his thoughts and his future plans:
It was a great experience. I was a little anxious for that tour because it was my first solo tour. We had a great time touring is Europe and in U.S.A and we want to do it again.
I ‘m not sure yet. My manager books the shows right now.
Is it possible to play in Greece?
I hope so. I really hope so,yes.
So, I guess there will be another European leg..
It’s gonna be another American leg and another European leg.
For which months we are talking about?
April and May.
Are you satisfied by the feedback you have already got from listeners and press for “Grace for Drowning” album?
Yes, I am. You know, one of the things about making an album -I don’t like the word “album”- when you’re finishing a new record we all believe that it was the best record we have ever done. If we didn’t believe that, we wouldn’t finish it. If we weren’t confident about what we have done, we wouldn’t finish it. But when you finish it, you really don’t know how people will think about it. You put it out, to make the public, the people who are interested in it, to listen to it. It depends on what crowd you have and to satisfy these people with your work, that’s a wonderful thing. So, I’m very happy with the response we’ve got for this album.
In general, could we say that “Grace for Drowning” shows the jazzier side of you as a musician?
Yes, definitely. I think in this album I’m not interested only in jazz, it has all of the sides of my musical taste. I always interesting in progressive rock, in trip hop, in ambient and the only thing that actually I hadn’t done before is writing jazz, which is interesting, but I hadn’t done earlier in my career.
My intention was to write music. I’m not aware of the similarities and what other people used to hear. In “Deform to Form a Star” I can’t say that something directly influenced it. I sat down and wrote music. But sometimes you have a strong idea and there is an influence in that, as King Crimson in “Raider II”. I can’t say there is any direct influence in “Deform to Form a Star”, from my point of view. You know, people usually see things that I don’t see. Interpretations are free to all of them, people always do that. I’m interested in Radiohead since very, very long time and I’m sure that they have influenced in a way, whether I’m aware of it or not.
“Raider II” is the most ambitious song you have ever written. How difficult was NOT to get lost within 23 minutes?
It was difficult. The longer the journey you have to go on, the more chances are to get lost. So, the longer the piece of music is, the more likely is not to be a interesting one as a whole. You have to be in a great form or you will get lost in your way. It’s difficult to make all things work right, the get the best performance from all the musicians, to arrange an orchestra. It ‘s a very demanding part that. But, your question is about how difficult was not to get lost in the valley, and I think I did the very best that I could do.
Yes, it’s a masterpiece! In “Raider II” the first time you say “Every story needs to have an ending” ,your vocals are distorted and sick as Roger Waters did in “Waiting for the Worms”!! Is it a coincidence or I’m a sick Roger Waters fan?
I think your question is the same with that you asked me about “Deform To Form A Star”. You know.. Listen, I spent much of my teenage life listening to Pink Floyd etc. To be honest, I haven’t listened to Pink Floyd for many years, but they are part of my DNA. They are in my music, whether I know it or not. But ofcourse, they are always in my music.
Was there any musician you’d like to participate in “Grace for Drowning” and didn’t happen for any reason?
I think that possibly those I want to play with, they play in it. There are many other musicians I ‘d like to work with. Maybe in the next album. You know, my dream is to work with someone like Kate Bush, but she is a very difficult person. She doesn’t want other people to work with her. That’s why I’m doing solo albums, to have the chance to play with other people.
The striking orange colour on the cover reminds me Amon Duul II “Yeti” album. Did it happened intentionally? Did you want to do a ‘70s cover like “Houses of The Holy”?
No, I think the orange colour it happened accidentally. I will tell you what exactly happened: I was with Lasse Hoile who did the cover of the album and was carrying an analog camera. We didn’t want to do anything digital, we wanted something much like a Polaroid film. And we were shooting all afternoon and when we were about to finish, we saw the orange colour of the sun when was literally about to set down at the very very last moments of the daylight and that time the sun is getting very red and orange. And we shot with the Polaroid film the atmosphere of that light, it was like twilight. We wanted that orange. It happened during one of our last shootings we did that afternoon. We really hadn’t any more time at all to shoot anything else.
Pretty much of it, has already done. You know, Mikael and me, we can play, we can sing, so there aren’t many people involved in it. We have a lot of orchestral ones. We have an orchestra.
Who plays drums?
Drums are played by Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree). But we haven’t much drums on it. Only about 15%-20% of the album has drums.
Will you tour for this?
I don’t think we can. We can’t do that, it isn’t possible.
You would have to carry an orchestra with you.
Exactly. There are many musicians, many overdubs on it. I don’t think we can.
You could do one show in London and film it.
We could do a show and film that. Yes.
How much necessary was working with a legendary producer like Trevor Horn (Yes, Paul McCartney) in Blackfield’ s “Welcome to my DNA”? I mean, you’re a fantastic producer on your own!
I think he was one of my heroes. He does one thing that I don’t do: He usually records things in analog and I learned to record in digital. He has a different approach stylistically than me. He listened to the songs and made suggestions about what we needed in a song and what not. My approach in a song is that of a songwriter: how you can things creatively and the structure you use and that’s interesting. I learned a lot watching him what we he was doing in the studio.
Yes, it’s kind of surreal. You know, after the first couple of hours it starts to become (ed: he’s thinking)..
Not a job. That’s your words. I know what I certainly have to do in an album. I know to make things short. I don’t have to spend a lot of time to do a mix. You know what? I believe, I very much believe from my heart that I was the right person to do it.
Ofcourse! I don’t know anyone better than you!!
That happens because I love these albums so much.
In 10th June 2006 in Arrow Rock Festival in Holland, you played support in the same stage to Roger Waters. I guess it was a great honour for you. Did you get the chance to meet him?
To be honest, he is one of the people I certainly don’t want to meet.
Are you afraid that this would change the opinion you have about him?
I’m doing, I’m doing that thing. But you know, he is one of those people.. It’s difficult to meet your hero. I know Robert Fripp (ed: King Crimson’s leader), but I know him in a professional level and we have collaborated together. It’s much easier when you work with some people, than to meet them as a fan. They used to meet fans. I used to meet fans of mine and sometimes you don’t know what you have to do, not to disappoint them, sometimes they are annoying you in a way and sometimes it’s some kind of uncomfortable, and I understand that. The only reason I would like to meet someone like Roger Waters is to work with him.
I hope so.
I’d love to work with Roger Waters.
I do. You know, I love to partying (laughs). You know, I don’t like to have a family. I ‘m not interested to see things to slow down because I would have a family. No, I don’t. If you have a family, you would have to spend time with it, it gets difficult to tour and this slows down the things. I’m interested in my work. I think people think that I spend all day, every day of the year, working in the studio and I honestly, don’t do it. I have my own studio now, so I do the things more quickly now. I know the work the songs quickly. I don’t spend a lot of time. I don’t take as time as it gets to make things work. No. I work quickly and I think I do the things right. What I takes me time, is writing. The writing process of “Raider II” took me about a year. It took a long time.
What was the best thing you recently listened to? As a listener.
Oh.. I don’t know.. I didn’t hear quite a lot.
Did you like Radiohead’s “The King of Limbs”?
I did like that. I mean, I like all things Radiohead do. That isn’t their best effort, but I really liked their whole kind of philosophy of that album. I liked its sound. Apart of that, I don’t hear a lot of people, I don’t have a lot of time to do that. Not much.
Do you remember under which circumstances you wrote the great “Collapse The Light Into Earth” song from “In Absentia”? I love that song!
Thank you. Really good song, yeah.
One of the greatest you have ever written!
That would be one of my 9/11 songs. It was written the day after 9/11. “Collapse The Light Into Earth” is one of those songs, although it doesn’t speak about 9/11. It’s basically a love song. “Collapse The Light Into Earth” was written when I saw one those images of the building, which collapsed literally into earth. That image particularly inspired me to write “Collapse The Light Into Earth” the day after 9/11.
No, there were progressive songs written before that. When was that written? In 1969, in “Abbey Road”, right? I think there was a lot more recording before. I would say “A Day In The Life” (1967). I would say The Moody Blues album “Days of Future Passed” (1967). I think that’s one of the first progressive rock albums. You know, many people are discussing which is the first progressive rock song.
As a fan, I ‘m asking the right person.
The first progressive rock songs are in The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s”, the album “Pet Sounds” by The Beach Boys, “The Piper At The Gates of Dawn” by Pink Floyd. But I think the first real progressive rock album and the best work of The Moody Blues, is “Days of Future Passed”. And ofcourse King Crimson’s “In The Court of The Crimson King”.
You have collaborated many times with Robert Fripp. Alex Lifeson (Rush) recorded a guitar solo for Porcupine Tree. You recorded in David Gilmour’s boat. Do you think your childhood dreams have already fulfilled?
You know, my childhood dream was to make a living playing music and that I have already fulfilled it. I think what you’re saying in a way is that I grew up listening to some people and now I’m working with those people. Ofcourse, I’ve known all those people and I have worked with some of them, like Robert Fripp which is amazing. Amazing! And playing with Steve Hackett (ed:ex-Genesis guitarist), one of the greatest guitarist of rock’n’roll history. I haven’t had to tell him anything to do. He knew exactly what he had to do. There are still many dreams to fulfill.
After the Storm Corrotion album, what’s next? A next Porcupine Tree album?
No, I’m currently working on my third solo album. The band I toured with, I’m so happy with that line-up. To write music to play with that band. To write music with a band it’s different that the music I wrote for “Grace for Drowning” with various people.
Will you bring any guests or these are the only who participate in it?
Possibly, yes. I think so. That’s why I’m doing the solo records. I’m writing during the last weeks for three hours a day. That’s my new project.
A huge “THANK YOU” to Steven Wilson.
A million thanks to Linn Hutchinson for her valuable help.