>>> interview Steve Wilson - Pratteln - 22/04/05 by Alex Cagli >>>
Alex Cagli: I wanted to ask you if the album was produced the regular way, meaning you make all the demos at home and then present them to the band?
Steve Wilson: Some of it was, but actually for the first time ever within Porcupine Tree's history, we actually wrote some music as a band. And towards the end of the sessions, we got together in a room for three or four days and we just jammed and we worked on some ideas and some good songs came out actually. Glass-Arm Shattering, Halo, So-called Friend, some other pieces which haven't been released yet, so that for me was a surprise, because I'm so used to working on my own and I always felt like… naa, it would never work, you know, everyone in the band in a room, it's never gonna work! But it actually went really well, so I think probably the next time we may try that again and maybe try and write even more stuff like that.
I heard also it was taken from a script you wrote with a friend, but I saw no obvious red line in the album, I cannot say it's a concept album, it's really not.
It's not a concept album, no. I didn't want to make a concept album. I didn't want to transpose the story of the movie because the movie will eventually hopefully get made. So the idea of the album is more to take various ideas, themes, and kind of inspirations from the movie and use them as the basis for writing songs, which can go off in their own direction and there's lot of stuff in the songs that's not in the movie and vice-versa. But everything in the songs, everything in the artwork, all of the projections tonight, on the deadwing.com website, everything is kind of clues to the movie; everything has significance and meaning in the artwork. I don't know if you've seen the full 72-page book, everything in that is significant and inspired by the movie. And I know it's kind of weird for people because they don't know what the movie is about so it doesn't make so much sense to them, but actually I think if they read the lyrics, they look at the artwork, I think it will give them a very strong flavour and idea about where the movie is coming from.
What I could feel was like there was a strong theme about childhood because on the artwork you can see lot of childhood stuff, and in the lyrics something like 'Mother lost her looks for you Father never wanted you', but maybe you wont say anymore…
That's it, yeah, I don't want to say too much, as I said, the clues are all there. In fact if you could understand all the artwork and lyrics, you'd know the whole movie. But actually it's not as simple as that, I know, but yeah, hopefully it's going to get made, so one day all become clear.
How did you work for this artwork?
There was three people involved, the two main guys involved were Lasse Hoile, who is the Danish guy who did the artwork for the last record as well. He did all the photography. All of the collage work, and all of the other imagery, all of the writings were put together by a guy called Mike Bennion who is my co-writer of the script. And then Carl Glover did the final layout. But most of the artwork was really done by Mike and Lasse.
And you give them special guidance when you work with them?
Oh Mike wrote the script with me, so he knew exactly the kind of images that would go in the script. Lasse read the script, and so took a lot of photography based on the script. But yeah, I mean almost everyone that was working on the record knew the script and so was involved in that.
Another fan asked me to ask you something. He says Stupid Dream had a religious undertone. Is there one in the Deadwing title?
Erm, kind of. Deadwing the title actually really only refers to the main character in the script. He's a guy called David, and he is damaged somehow, he's emotionally slightly retarded and he's unable to communicate with other people in a normal way. And you don't know in the beginning of the movie, you don't quite know how he's damaged but you follow him for the first thirty minutes of the movie and you realize he's not a very happy person. And so the image deadwing literally just means like a bird with a broken wing, or a bird with a dead wing, or someone who is unable to fly and to flourish in the world, and to empathize and to relate other human beings. So the deadwing image really is as simple as that, just like a broken wing, or dead wing; or someone who is… A creature that is slightly damaged.
What do trains represent to you, I mean, because as in In Absentia, on Blackfield you can hear like samples, on Deadwing as well, so is there a special symbolic about trains for you?
Yes, actually. When I was very young, I grew up near to a train station and so my whole childhood was kind of punctuated, and… There was this theme running through my childhood of hearing the trains late at night when I was lying in bed and everything else is quiet and I could just hear the trains come hissing in the distance and it's amazing how, and maybe you find this too, it's amazing how things that you experience in your childhood that seem insignificant at the time cast a shadow on the rest of your life. Just things that didn't seem important at the time, and they get the greatest significance in your life, and trains, or everytime I hear trains or anything to do with trains has this immediate kind of nostalgic emotional response in me. And so trains, I've always been fascinated by trains and travel and the sound of trains. Particularly the underground in London is a very strange place as well, and there's lot of things in the movie that are set in the underground. That's the reason.
And a song like 'Arriving somewhere', the feel I have about this song is that it's like describing the gate to the other world, somehow. And it's like a soul departure.
I hadn't thought about it, I mean the beauty about songs is that you can interpret them in different ways. And sometimes I'm kind of reluctant to say 'well, no, it's about this and it's about that'. And it isn't really about that, it's about something different but I like your explanation too and it's good that you can interpret it that way. (Note: that night, this is how Steven introduced the song: "This is a song about a guy that has somehow cheated his own destiny, and he's reached a point in his life that he never attended to reach, and fate never attended to reach. It's a new song, it's called Arriving Somewhere But Not Here (loud cheers)")
So now some questions about promotion and touring. I wanted to know how you appreciate Warner and Lava's work regarding promotion so far?
It's definitely helped the band step up a level. You know, no record companies are perfect as I found, and there's always things that you feel like they could have done better or differently, but actually I have to say they've done optimally on this record, they have definitely done very good things, and in terms of radio play particularly in America we're getting massive amount of radio play now, and it's just amazing to us, like this far in our career, find and get that kind of support. I just think being on a major label just gives you more profile and somehow takes you … People take you more seriously, you know for example something trivial like just getting your CD racked in a Virgin Megastore in the new releases, if you're on a tiny little label, it's very hard to get that. If you're on a label like Warner, you just have a lot more chance of getting your CD in a place where people will see it, they walk into the store and it's visible, things like that which don't seem so important, but actually they really are important things about just, you know, in terms of people that don't know you, discovering you and getting to hear the name Porcupine Tree. Also the next time they see your name, 'I remember that band, I saw their CD in the store', and they read a review and it kind of all connect, and that's how people discover bands, so in that sense the relationship we have with them is very good at the moment and we're very happy.
Yeah, and headlining in venues like Paradiso or Elysee-Montmartre, soon, the Astoria, is it like a dream coming true, somehow?
Oh my dreams are always changing, I mean, 15 years ago my dream was just to make an album. Just to hold an album I've made in my hands and say 'yeah, that's my dream come true', then my next dream was to take that music and play it live, and so that dream came true, and then my next dream was just to say that, or see if I could make a living from just doing what I love doing, and that dream came true. And so in a sense each time you get to the point where you dreams come true you have new dreams. So it's great, I mean everything is fantastic, we're selling out all of these shows and everything is going great and the band reaching more people all the time. But still my dream now is to sell a million records, and my dream is to make a movie, and my dream is to go and play in Japan, Australia which I haven't done. So there's always new dreams, do you know what I mean. They're always coming true but there's always new ones to take their place.
Now what about collectible items being sold for ridiculous prices on e-bay and this kind of stuff?
It really pisses me off, but unfortunately there's not lot I can do about it because it's kind of my own fault, because I do like to do limited editions. And I always like to do limited editions, and it's a way to make music available that wouldn't normally be made available. And I've always liked artists that do that themselves, because I'm a collector myself so I like to collect obscure rare things. And yes sometimes I bought stuff on e-bay by artists I like for, you know, 50, 60, 70, 100 dollars and you do it because you collect and you need that thing. But what annoys me is when people deliberately take advantage of the fact, like we're selling this solo sampler at the gigs, three pounds you get 80 minutes of music, and some guy came to one of the first shows, bought ten copies, put them on e-bay, and sold one of them for like 50 dollars or something. So for me, that's really just so… it makes me really pissed off. And, because we try to make that music available, unfortunately, there's always going to be people, I think it's one of the realities of life that if you become successful there will be people who will take advantage of that. It really annoys me, but I don't know what we can do about it to be honest, and I mean apart from reissuing everything, you know, we could keep reissuing stuff. But I don't want to have to do that, because if you say something's limited edition, and if you reissue it later you're going to go back on your word you know, for the people who bought it at the time thinking this is limited edition, this is special. I see you can't win, you lose both way, I don't know what to tell.
I hope you continue to make limited editions, because I think it's precious, for fans, especially those who were there in the beginning.
Right, we will do that, I'm sure, yeah.
Another fan question: Did you ever consider getting a biography done for the band and the members ?
Few people have asked the last couple of years actually to write out… I just think it's too soon… I mean… I don't know if I want it written anyway, but if I was going to be written about then, for me the time to do it would be at a time that the band are like winding down you know, when we're still going up! Wait until the band has kind of, you know, maybe broken up, or retired or on their way down, not now! And that's what I said to these people, I said 'Why don't you wait for a few more years and then maybe try to do something'.
And what about touring in Latin America?
Yeah, we'd love to, I think we're going to do it this year, for the first time. We're going to get to South America for the first time, I'm really looking forward to it.
Other fans have asked about Florida and LA also?
We're doing LA, and we're playing Florida too! We're playing Atlanta, is that Florida? Or that's near to Florida anyway.
And Israel? Are you going back?
Israel no… I'm afraid not… We've just been invoiced to play in Israel, but there's still two members of the band that won't go there… so… I would, Listen! I would love to go and play Porcupine Tree in Israel… Blackfield is playing the Haifa Sea Pop festival at the end of June, Porcupine Tree was supposed to do it too but we cant I'm afraid…
While on tour, do you have ideas for a song coming, and if so how do you record them?
I never write on tour. I don't find it a very inspiring environment of writing. I can't do… I have tried, and it's just not very inspiring. You're always in dressing rooms, you're in soundchecks, you're in the bus, with the band, talking with fans, and it's not the right place for me to write. If I'm going to write, I need do be in a certain state of mind, in a certain location, and this is not it.
I'll go to some questions about production now, and that will be it, you mentioned that you're using lots of Native Instruments, can I ask your favourite plug-ins?
The NI stuff is actually the stuff Richard uses, so you really need to ask Richard, I know he uses Absynth, he uses the Prophet 5 plug-in, some others, you will need to ask him.
And the technique for recording voice when you use harmony vocals?
There's no great trick to it, I work with three part harmony usually, so I have three melodic lines that all link together. All singing different notes, but all kind of working together. So then usually I will record each of those three parts 3 or 4 times, so there's 9 or 12 voices, EQ a little bit of, just round some, put a hi-pass filter to put the low frequencies out, a little bit of compression, that's it! Really! It's quite natural, there's no great secret to it, it's just lowering the voices in the right way, and … Oh, I mean, there's one thing I do ... Each of the three parts, if you record it three times you put one voice on the left, one on the right and one on the middle.
And you mix them differently?
No, all exactly the same level, all the sequence.
And about mixing bass, what frequency range do you use, what spectrum. Are you filtering out frequencies?
Usually filter out little bit of the low subsonic frequencies like below 60. Just to make space in the track for other things you know.
Any artists or producers you want to work with now?
Erm, not really, no… I mean, there's still lot of artists I really admire and I would love to meet them. To work with, actually yeah, there are some, mostly electronic though, because with electronic music there are lot of guys I really like that I would love to work with, you know, the kind of Warp staff, and some other that I would love to work with, other more atmospheric… But in terms of Porcupine Tree, what I like about Porcupine Tree is that it's a very tight four-piece band!
I meant about Steven Wilson really!
Ok, so yeah, there are some electronic artists, you know, people like Autechre and Aphex Twin.
And you were also talking about making film scores, that was one of your goal.
I would love to do that, yeah, I would love to. That's one of the reason why I wrote my own movie, it's because I figured it was the best chance I had to actually be able to score a movie, yeah!
Any ambient or electronic projects on the way?
I'm doing two new Bass Communion records this year, both of which are going to be on vinyl only, one for a Dutch label and one for an American label, both asked me to make a very limited edition vinyl… They will probably come out as CDs one day as well, but right now I'm making two 40 minutes vinyl records for them… Which I love! It's just a real pleasure for me to do that stuff! I think that's it, yeah.
And any new No-Man album on the way?
Not this year, I think maybe next year I'll start to write some stuff with Tim. This year is really so Porcupine Tree intend, I haven't got time for No-Man issue.
And what about plans or updates for a DVD?
Yes, we've pretty much decided where we want to shoot the DVD now, we've chosen a venue, so we're looking now to book that venue sometime over the summer or early autumn, to film a show, and then over the next Christmas and until new year next year, we'll be editing it, combining with lots of documentary footage we've got, footage of us in the studio, footage of us on tour, we've got a lot of great stuff, so we're trying to put together a really amazing package: show, and lots of extras, and maybe surround sound, so I would think hopefully by this time next year (that means April), there will be a really amazing DVD package available.