Steven Wilson is a prog-rock national treasure - in Porcupine Tree and his many other projects he astounds and inspires. But now he's up against the... 10 Questions We Ask Everyone
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST GUITAR AND WHEN DID YOU GET IT?
"When I was about six years old my parents decided I was going to learn to play guitar and they bought me a nylon- string classical, I don't even remember the make, but I hated it. I hated guitar lessons and after about six weeks I gave up and it went in the attic for about four years. Then finally I rediscovered it when I discovered my passion for music."
WHAT IS YOUR FIRST GUITAR PLAYING MEMORY?
"Later, the first thing I did with a guitar was I got an old reel-to-reel tape machine that had a microphone and I was dragging the mic up and down the strings just making silly bugger noises. Right from the start I was more interested in making silly sounds. still am nothing's - changed!"
WHAT'S THE OLDEST GUITAR THAT YOU HAVE?
"Until quite recently I had a USA Strat that I'd had since I was a teenager, but I gave it to a friend of mine because she wanted to learn to play the guitar."
WHAT'S THE LATEST PIECE OF MUSICAL GEAR YOU'VE ACQUIRED?
"I bought an auto harp, because I heard a fantastic David Crosby record. His first solo album from 1971 - I've just turned [Mikael] Akerfeldt from Opeth onto it and he loves it too it's an amazing record. "There's this one song on that record called Traction In The Rain that has this glorious heavenly sound in. And I found out it was an instrument called an auto harp. You're supposed to hit it with hammers like a dulcimer, but you can tune it so you can play it like a harp."
BEATLES OR STONES?
"I like the idea of the Stones more than their music. Everyone goes on about how good Exile On Main Street is but I don't get it. I like the attitude, but so often it sounds like a pub-rock band. They've got some great tunes but The Beatles, well that's almost a flawless catalogue of music. And they pushed the production envelope."
WHAT'S THE WORST THING THAT'S HAPPENED TO YOU ONSTAGE?
"I play barefoot, and nowadays it's okay because I have carpet and my roadie makes sure it's clean. But there were times when we were playing let's not beat around the bush shit holes and I'd come offstage with all kinds of things stuck in my feet. One night I stepped on a used syringe. I had to go and have a shot at the hospital."
IF YOU COULD HAVE A DRINK WITH ANY MUSICIAN, ALIVE OR DEAD, WHO WOULD IT BE?
"Nick Drake. There's something just so pure and divine about his music and everyone says he was very depressed, everyone likes to think they could have somehow got through to him. Just to be able to sit down and say I love your music it means so much. It feels like he never understood that. He died almost in obscurity."
WHAT RECORD IN YOUR COLLECTION WOULD SURPRISE YOUR FANS THE MOST?
"There's a lot because I think people think I go back home and listen to Gentle Giant and Magma records all day. And I do listen to those bands but I'm a huge fan of Abba, The Carpenters - Karen Carpenter's one of the greatest singers of all time, Richard Carpenter's one of the greatest producers. I love Sinatra, I love the Bee Gees the early records are incredible. So I think people would be most surprised about my interest in so-called middle-of-the-road pop. But when it's done well it's as inspiring as anything else."
WHAT ALBUM ARE YOU CURRENTLY LISTENING TO?
"I'm a big fan of a band from Texas called Shearwater. They're a real musicians band, they haven't really crossed over yet, and they're amazing. They're this weird mix of Americana, ambient music and progressive rock."
IS THERE A MYTH ABOUT YOU THAT LIKE TO SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT ON?
"I think there's a myth that we're quite humourless and arrogant. The thing is, I'm incredibly passionate about music. For example, if you're in a pub with your friends and you're talking about the albums you`ve heard today and you might say, What do you I think about the new Metallica record? And your friend might say Oh it's shit - I don't like it at all. But when I do that it makes headlines on progressive rock websites. The I point is, I'm just as passionate about music as anyone else."
Reprinted from Guitarist Summer 2010