(Record Collector November 2009)
Porcupine Tree's The Incident is issued by Roadrunner on 21 September (a Deluxe 27CD/ DVD adding a 5.1 mix, a 48-page softeback, and a 116-page hardback photo-book}. RC asked frontman Steven Wilson about it.
It's all new songs, as I like to start afresh and do six-to-seven hour writing sessions every day on my laptop. The only time I've recycled songs was my solo album Insurgentes, using songs that hadn't ntted in elsewhere. l've got a large backlog of songs that got left aside, and one day I'll clean them up and do a box set of outtakes and demos. But I like to go forward, and the first demo is invariably the best vocal, as you're in that emotional space. We've been discussing a BD of The Incident, as it'll be the audio standard. But it's expensive to author. By the next album, though, the 5.1 mixes will be BD rather than DVD. 5.1 is the definitive way to hear music, and it's easy to move to 5.1 after a stereo mix. I did a few 7.1s for a trade exhibition earlier this year, but you have to have a large space to hear sounds move from side to reverse speakers. When l`m mixing, I'm in a small space, and you can't hear a difference and l'd be surprised if it caught on domestically.
Would you ever make an album with cameras in the studio? No. There was a sense of enigma about bands I was growing up with. but with the internet, we know everything. I wish I didn't know as much about Trent Reznor'sa life. as it destroys the myth and mystery. That was the great thing about Floyd, Tool, Radiohead cool, intellectual detachment. Marillion, I have massive respect for, but you can go to the pub and have a beer with them. It wouIdn't work for us. Do you ever listen to your own music?
God, no. Absolute torture. I only ever hear it at an in-store signing. I cringe with embarrassment at things i did four years ago, as your personality changes. I'm sick to death of The Incident already. I had to approve the test pressing of the vinyl and it was painful. I try to keep a copy of evewthing I've done, though, including projects l've worked on, compilations. But along the way, people like my friend Mike [Akerfeldt} from Opeth say, `I never managed to get a copy of Yellow Hedgerow Dreamscape.' And he was going on and on at me, so I gave him my CD, and nowl haven't got one. So your archive gets chipped away.
Do you have any tapes from school?
The first band I was in, 1981, was a NWOBHM band, Paradox. We did gigs in our school hall and made recordings, but nothing that was distributed. I was making demos all the time, sending them to record companies under different names, some of which I'm not going to admit to, unless someone tries to track them down. People will have music of mine sitting in a box but not make a the connection. And l'm not going to help! l`m happy to leave them where they are. I don't want to add to the mountain.
What album did you consider the best ever back then?
Saxon, Maiden, Vardis, and the first Diamond Head was the one. More progressive, Zeppelln- influenced, long songs, and that led me to prog.
Did you have a favourite record shop?
Me and my friends used to go to Virgin Megastore on [London's] Oxforcl Street every fortnight, and the Exchange in Notting Hill. We'd pick up 70s LPs for 50p, like Magma's Kohntarkosz. I still go to shops when I can, such as Sister Ray, and Second Layer, Archway, that specialise in drone. I search for obscure music and tend to have more luck on the internet.
What was the first record you bought?
Pink FIoyd's Animals, though I got my mum to buy me New World Record before it. and Neil Young's Live Rust.
What was your first gig?
Hawkwlnd supported by Vardis, St AIban's Civic Hall, November 1980. Ginger Baker on drums - amazing. But the best I've ever seen is Magma.
When was the best time for music?
1967-77. There's barely a record from that period I don't like when the album was the dominant artform, before punk and music TV eroded that. Who do you think has taken music forward in the last 10 years? l'm a big fan of Radiohead, but their influence is overstated. They're in the mainstream. They got publicity for In Rainbows, but Marillion were doing that five years ago. The best of the mainstream bands is Cotdplay, but they're still cuddly-cosy. I prefer Sigur Ros, The Mars Volta.
What would you ask your musical hero?
l'd ask Edgar Froese what went wrong? Tangenne Dream were so special In the 70s. Same with Yes. What happened? How can you make such terrinc music for 10 years, then be so misguided? Guns N'Roses - why bother?
Do you collect anyone?
I was an Aphex Twin completist till he stopped, but I draw the line at bad albums by favourlte bands.
What record are you looking for?
A long list of obscure drone and electronic records. Eleh makes boutique vinyl editions of 500 or less, and two of them are 200-only copies. I've found one, not the other. That makes collecting exciting.
What would you swap to get it? Anything of mine.
What fact about you would surprise fans? The fact that I`m not morose, miserable and melancholic. Music allows you to exorcise, and I`m a content. happy person.
What's your worst habit?
I`m a control freak and don't listen to people. I always think I know best, though I don't, as history proves. l'm very snobby and passionate about music. If I think it's shit, I say it~s shit, and get myself into a lot of trouble. I know it's arrogant and opinionated, and l've had to apologise in print.
Do you plan an autobiography?
The past is a foreign country and it's not that I don't wish to talk about it or its embarrassing, it's just boring. Sitting in the studio making an album is tedious. I wouldn't watch someone doing double-glazing. It's as exciting as that. It's work. I admire Prince for us not knowing anything about him. He's still an enigma.
What question do you wish people would stop asking you?
Where did you get the name Porcupine Tree from'? l've never answered it and I never will.
Who would you like to work with?
Trent Reznor. I think of myself as a producer, and he's someone l've stolen so many ideas sonically from. l'd love to hang out.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years' time?
When I'm 50, I`m going to spend more time working as a producer. I have to turn down most invitations now, which breaks my heart. I'd love to start my own label, with quality packaging, like Creation, Factory, when I have time; even though I don't have a family, which is how l make four records a year.
Do you have any unfulfilled ambitions?
A purely electronic album. l've started a couple of times over the years, but lt'd take a lot of time.
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