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Topic ClosedSteve Wilson, November 2005

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maani View Drop Down
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Direct Link To This Post Topic: Steve Wilson, November 2005
    Posted: November 17 2005 at 22:11

Steve Wilson is a very busy man.  He is planning another Blackfield collaboration soon, expects to continue collaborating with Opeth, and has other projects in the works as well.  And, oh yes – he also happens to continue to be the guitarist, songwriter, front man and chief inspiration for a little old band called Porcupine Tree.

 

I recently had the privilege of seeing PT live, and was amazed at how faithfully they are able to recreate their recorded music in concert.  Indeed, there seemed to be an even greater sense of “urgency” and complexity in the songs when performed in the immediacy of the live setting.  At the show, I was able to corral Mr. Wilson’s manager, and asked if he would be willing to arrange an interview with Mr. Wilson.  He did so, and I want to thank him for his time, patience and assistance in this regard.

 

Needless to say, I also want to express my sincere gratitude to Mr. Wilson, who took time out from his insanely hectic schedule to answer each and every query in an honest and forthright manner.  His time is greatly appreciated, and his honesty and directness are truly refreshing.

 

Here is the “official” Prog Archives interview with Steve Wilson.

 

-----------------

 

P: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background, especially musically.  For example, when did you start playing guitar?  Composing?


SW:  The first thing that actually inspired me to take an interest in music was my parent's listening tastes.  When I was 7 or 8 years old I heard albums such as Donna Summer's Love to Love You Baby (still one of my favourite albums) and Dark Side of the Moon.  I became fascinated by the whole process of making records.  The first music that actually inspired me to make it myself was the early 80's New Wave of British Heavy Metal scene, bands such as Diamond Head, Saxon and Iron Maiden.  So the first band I had was a school band in this style called Paradox, with whom I played guitar and wrote most of the songs - this would have been when I was about 12-13 years old.

P: Who were your favorite groups as a young adult?  Who were your earliest influences as a guitarist?  As a songwriter?


SW:  I have a hard time answering that question.  I suppose I wasn't really so interested in groups, more in the auteurs who were responsible for creating a whole sound and style of their own - the "architects" of recorded music, people like Zappa, Pete Townsend, Jeff Lynne, Robert Fripp, Brian Wilson, Miles Davis, Roger Waters.... If I had to pick one artist whose music has meant so much to me right through my life and still touches me deeply, I think it would be Nick Drake.

P: What were your earliest professional musical experiences?


SW:  As a professional musician, No-Man was the band/project that got me started and enabled me to make music for a living for the first time.  We signed to Bjork's label One Little Indian in 1990 and started to pick up a lot of good press in the UK.

P: What were you doing immediately preceding the formation of Porcupine Tree?


SW:  I was working with No-Man.

P: Tell us about the formation of Porcupine Tree: when, where, who, how.


SW:  At first it started almost as a joke, or at least it was created to imitate various groups I liked from the sixties and seventies.  I was inspired to do this by XTC's alter egos The Dukes of Stratosphear.  It was only after I got a record deal and started to issue music commercially that I decided to try to make PT a more serious project, and less nostalgic.  I realised that there was an opportunity to make music which was rooted in the classic album music of the past, but looking firmly to the future.  The breakthrough PT piece in this respect was the 30-minute single Voyage 34 which fused ambient trance (then very popular thanks to artists like The Orb and Future Sound of London) with space rock.  PT continued as a solo project until 1994 when the band line-up came together for the first time, primarily to play the existing music live.

P: Among some of the influences that our members hear in Porcupine Tree’s music are Pink Floyd, King Crimson and Dream Theater.  Are these accurate?  If not, who would you say are the bands or artists that have influenced Porcupine Tree, beyond your own personal influences?

 

SW:  I really don't think it's relevant to talk about influences on the band at this stage in our career.  For many years PT have striven to be Porcupine Tree, unlike anyone else.  Also, inspiration comes from so many different sources - movies, books, life, experience....etc....and on top of this there are 4 very distinct personalities with the band.  At least 2 of the 4 members wouldn't listen to any of the groups you mention, and never did, and I think I can say that none of us ever listened to a Dream Theater record!

P: With regard to songwriting, how much is yours and how much is collaborative?  Also, how much is done "in studio" - i.e., as a result of "noodling," "jamming," etc. - and how much is "already written" when you go into the studio?


SW:  Historically, it's almost always been myself coming in with a very worked out set of songs/demos and a structure for the record, but actually this will probably change for the next record, which we intend to be more of a collaborative effort.

P: Many of our members are musicians, and many play in bands. Can you describe some of the guitars and equipment you use in Porcupine Tree and/or at home?


SW:  Apple computer running Logic Audio software, Digidesign Mix TDM system, EXS24 virtual sampler, Apogee Trak2 Mic Pre Amp/A-D convertor, Neumann U87 microphone, Paul Reed Smith Custom 22 guitars, Gibson Les Paul, Line6 XT POD, Marshall/Bad Cat Amplification.

P: Our site defines “prog rock” broadly as “A style that combines rock, non-rock (i.e., classical, folk et al), psychedelic and literary elements.”  And while we believe that it also often includes elements such as “shifting time signatures” and extensive use of keyboards, we believe that other important elements include a certain approach to composition (more “scored” than “linear”), with what might be termed “evolving musical themes,” and, perhaps as important as anything else, the “conscious” use of the studio (production) as an element in creating atmospheres and textures.  Would you comment on all this - i.e., the concept of “prog rock” in general, as well as how you feel Porcupine Tree “fits” into the genre?


SW:  I can't really answer this question as PT has always tried to avoid any generic classification - we make "porcupine tree" music, I guess.  These days I'm not really sure I know what "progressive" means, or if it matters, except that most of the music I hear referred to as "prog-rock" seems the opposite to me - formulaic, regressive, and very poorly executed.  But on the other hand, when I hear bands like The Mars Volta and Sigur Ros, there is a certain spirit that I associate with the original wave of ambitious album-oriented music from the 70's, with a very contemporary twist.

P: Many members consider many of your lyrics “dark.”  Would you agree?  If so, why?  Do you generally consider yourself a “dark” person, e.g., more a pessimist than an optimist?


SW:  I would certainly agree that the lyrics tend to be on the melancholic side, but writing for me is a kind of cathartic process during which I exorcise that side of me, and I think I'm generally a pretty happy person!

P: When you write, do you generally start with lyrics and add music, or do you come up with musical ideas and add lyrics later?


SW:  No rules - a song can start with lyrics, music, guitar, piano, a drum loop, a sample, a bass line...etc....

P: Are there any places, things, ideas, etc. that tend to influence you more than others in your lyric and/or song writing?


SW:  Yes, regret and loss tend to be the subjects I keep coming back to these days.

P: Can you tell us a little about your other project, Blackfield?  Particularly, how it came about, and whether we can look forward to more?


SW:  Blackfield is a collaboration with Israeli singer-songwriter Aviv Geffen - both myself and Aviv write, produce and play most of the instruments between us. We are planning to make a second record early on 2006.

P: Can you also tell us how you got involved with Opeth, what your role is, and whether you will continue to collaborate with them?


SW:  Opeth were fans of PT and I was very impressed with their album Still Life, so I agreed to work with them on an album which became Blackwater Park.  Myself and Mikael hope to collaborate on a project at some time, plus I hope I can continue to work with Opeth on their future recordings.  I think my favorite role is creating in the studio - making records, creating sounds, and mixing are what I believe I do best, so I enjoy collaborating with other artists where that is the sole extent of my job.  I'm proud of many of these collaborations, but if I had to choose two that I'm especially pleased with they would be Anja Garbarek's Smiling and Waving, and Opeth's Blackwater Park.  These 2 albums were done almost back to back, and could not be more different, but still I believe that they contain some of my most creative and sympathetic work.  In both cases my contribution helped to bring the artist to a completely new and stronger phase of their creativity.  As a producer that really is as much as you can hope for.

P:  Is there anything that you would like to add for our members?  Any info about Porcupine Tree, or about yourself, your feelings, thoughts, ideas in any regard?

SW:  No, I think that about covers it.

P:  Well, thank you so much for taking the time to answer our queries.  I know I speak for almost the entire membership when I say that we very much look forward to new music from Porcupine Tree, Blackfield and Opeth.  And, of course, we wish you continued personal and professional success!

 

SW:  Thank you.  Best of luck to Prog Archives as well.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 17 2005 at 23:37

Great job, Maani!

And it's good to see you here once again, even if briefly.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 18 2005 at 00:03
Excellent read :) good job man.
Glad to see that we're still having Wilson and Opeth working together in the future
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 18 2005 at 00:16

awesome, just awesome

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 18 2005 at 00:27

Great interview,very well done

I can't wait to hear some more Blackfield.

And it sounds like Steven or the rest of PT aren't fans of Dream Theater!!



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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 18 2005 at 08:15

Yeah, I had a good chuckle when Wilson ASSURED the reader that nobody listened to Dream Theater... 

Great interview!

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 18 2005 at 08:37
Very interestening interview. Great job Maani!
"All you need to do is sit back, and acquire the taste." - GENTLE GIANT
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 18 2005 at 08:47
Well done Maani, great interview.Clap
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 18 2005 at 10:02
We want... a shrubbery!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 18 2005 at 10:26
Impressive and enlightening interview manni, thanks
Spending more than I should on Prog since 2005

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 18 2005 at 10:43
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 18 2005 at 11:51
Arrogant b*****d that he is, Steve Wilson!

- "I hear referred to as "prog-rock" seems the opposite to me - formulaic, regressive, and very poorly executed."

- "No, I think that about covers it."

We cannot really poke at him and say his music is poorly executed, but he shouldn't imply with all his entity that PT is the greatest band on Earth (great as it is)!

Further, I salute Maani for his effort, but I must say the interview is, in fact, poorly done. He apparently just jotted down some obvious questions on paper before the interview and then Steve Wilson replied to them. Notice that Maani never reacted to Steve Wilson's replies, never tried to clarify certain points in his interviewee's quite shocking revelations ("never listened to DT" -- I don't believe this, I think he's just bluffing), never sidetracked from the "written down" questions (as a professional interviewer would surely do!).

And one more thing, Maani: prog-rock is not a genre, it is simply the highest standard in rock-oriented music.

I never agree with Maani

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 18 2005 at 12:57
Steven Wilson said:

I hear referred to as "prog-rock" seems the opposite to me - formulaic, regressive, and very poorly executed.
"

---------------------------------------------------------- ------------------

He might have a point here in terms of certain throwbacks...
Progressive Rock means to progress in one's music, if you're out there to sound like Yes or Genesis well your not really progressing are you...
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 18 2005 at 12:58
Maani,

Solid interview by the way, well-thought out and insightful!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 18 2005 at 14:04

Awesome information

Wilson is one of the best...no doubt

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 18 2005 at 16:12
Quite well done, Maani.  I enjoyed reading it, and I think you should be encouraged to do more interviews with other prog artists.  How's about one with, say, Howe, Hackett or even Peter Gabriel?  Fish, perhaps?
Some world views are spacious, and some are merely spaced...
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 18 2005 at 18:14

Nice work Maani.Clap

Keep 'em coming!

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 18 2005 at 19:35
Kinda arrogant-sounding...but oh well, PTree is still my favorite band ever. Great interview!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 18 2005 at 22:09

Arteum:

Admittedly, it is not easy to do "back and forths" via e-mail, due to both time and logistics.  I have never purported to do so.  If that opportunity presents itself in future interviews, then I will most certainly take advantage of it.

That said, sometimes it is even more revealing when a person is not given the opportunity to "justify" or "rationalize" a statement or position.  Still, were I able to do interviews by phone, I would of course ask for clarification if something seemed to require it.

Peace.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 19 2005 at 03:44
Thanks Maani...great to catch a glimpse. Imagine if all the interviewees filled our boring expectations!!! Steve Wilson is a rae talent for sure
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