Porcupine Tree are at last starting to get some of the recognition they deserve, releasing their first album (as a Steve Wilson solo project) in 1991 they have been at the forefront of underground psychedelic rock for nearly 15 years & have just released their latest (& possibly best?!) album 'Deadwing'. R13 caught up with Porcupine Tree founder Steve Wilson (SW) before their Manchester show on the 'Deadwing' tour.

R13: New album 'Deadwing' gets its UK release this week, for those not yet enlightened in the way of Porcupine Tree how would you describe it?
SW: Well the million dollar question, how do you describe music that's kind of ... well we're trying to make music which is outside a genre, that's beyond classification, because the music that always inspired me was music that was somehow just itself & it was outside of classification. So I've always tried to do that kind of music with Porcupine Tree. It's rock music but it's very sophisticated rock music, it's very kind of, not complex but thoughtful & quite artistic in the way it's produced. It tends to be quite melancholic, it's quite dark music but it's quite dynamic music. I suppose the best way to describe it is that it's a very cinematic form of music it does tend to try to take you on some kind of musical journey that perhaps would be comparable with watching a movie. The album goes through many different moods, many different sounds & textures, it feels like a complete cycle of music rather than ten pop songs.
R13: Ok, well that's pretty comprehensive!

R13: How do you think it compares to 'In Absentia'?
SW: Well 'In Absentia' was kind of a landmark record for us because a lot of things changed at the same time. We moved to a big record label for the first time in our career, we had a new drummer so for the first time in the bands career there was a line up change, a stronger metal or rock aspect came into the bands sound

R13: Yeah I was going to ask you about that, I read an interview you did a couple of years ago where you said you listened to a lot of rock/metal, it's evident that in your later stuff, that influence comes through a lot more
SW: For sure
R13: Was that a conscious decision to let that come into it or does it just seem like a natural evolution?
SW: I don't think anything is ever conscious, it's a natural product of allowing yourself to be open & remain curious as an artist in the sense that what you're inspired by should always change. I think that's the difference between entertainers & artists, both kind of coexist in the music industry. A lot of the music industry is geared towards entertainment, in other words providing what the audience wants. An artist is someone who has to create music for themselves & the fact that there is an audience for it is almost a by product, almost a luck thing but ultimately you're making music to please yourself. With Porcupine Tree we've always tried to be artists in that we make music just to please ourselves but we seem to have tapped into an area that other people respond to positively & the bands evolution is part of that artistic process. There are many fans that we have lost or that have been disappointed with where we've gone

R13: Have you ever worried about alienating fans as a lot of the earlier stuff was much more psychedelic & when you got the full band together you rocked things up a bit?
SW: Did we ever worry? Not to the extent where it made any difference to what we were doing, but yes it was something we were aware would probably happen. Porcupine Tree has always been a band that has had to evolve every two or three albums just to retain our own artistic interest in making music, so it wasn't one of those things we could do anything about. We still get people saying that they preferred the earlier stuff but I have to stress that they're a small minority, ultimately the bands following has continued to grow so it's not like we're losing our audience. Most people are ultimately prepared to go with the band.
I have no objection to people that don't like the way we've gone & say they aren't going to buy the new record, that fine. What is objectionable & offensive is when people try to extend that into some kind of conspiracy between the band & the record company to make dumb music, to make it more marketable & that we've somehow betrayed our fans or sold out which is total nonsense. Everything we've ever done throughout our career we've done for very self indulgent reasons. One of the professional hazards of that is that you tend to lose some fans over it. So be it.

R13: So how do you look back on the early albums now?
SW: It's difficult because I'm still not far enough away from them to listen to them objectively. When I listen to them I tend to relate more to the technical shortcomings more than I do to the music.
R13: Was that a reason behind remastering them?
SW: Yeah, I'm always tinkering with them, what I hear is potentially good songs recorded under very limited circumstances, with no budget, in my home studio, with very little experience. So I'm still relating to them as very much technical exercises. There are some good songs on those records but if I'm honest with myself it's only the last three or four records that I'm completely proud of in the sense that the production is good, the songs are good, the band is smoking. There's always things on the early albums that because of the limitations are difficult for me to listen to.

R13: Coming back to Deadwing, the release got put back by a week due to unprecedented demand. Was that a surprise or a miscalculation on the part of the record company?
SW: It wasn't a surprise to us but it was a surprise to the record company. They totally underestimated our fan base in the UK, in some respects I'm not surprised because Porcupine Tree's the sort of band that doesn't make much of an impression on the radar of popular culture. We are an underground band, we're not on the radio, we're not on TV & we're not in the papers a lot. So when a record company like Warner Brothers is trying to judge how many copies it's difficult for them to gauge, so they expected to not sell very many & it sold something like 5,000 in the first week which was a surprise to them. Now they're a bit more aware of that! So the reason was genuine, it's not bullshit.

R13: Was that disappointing that some of the fans on the first dates hadn't had the chance to hear it before you toured it?
SW: Yeah because we scheduled the UK shows first & as you say, nobody had heard the record & it's a hard sell when you're playing a 60 or 70% show when it's all stuff people haven't heard before.

R13: Something I picked up off the message boards, & I don't know if this is true or not, is that in order to get all the extra tracks you'd have to own something like seven copies of the new album! Is that something you have any control over?
SW: Well yeah because it's me that decides what goes on what but that's not true firstly, in order to get all the tracks you would need to have the album, the 'Lazarus' single & the DVDA because there are two tracks on the DVDA that are only available on the 5.1 mix, so three copies.
R13: Does that include imports as well such as the US release? Is there anything different on that?
SW: No, the American version is the same as the European version, & there's the special edition that we're going to do in a hard back book but that's the same with any band. We recorded fifteen or sixteen songs during the album sessions, there are nine on the record, the others are coming out across singles & special editions. Name me a band that doesn't take the extra songs & put them on singles or as Japanese bonus tracks & so on.

R13: There was talk of 'Deadwing' also being a film script?
SW: It is a film script, it was a film script before it was an album.
R13: So what's the crux behind that?
SW: It's a script I wrote with a friend of mine which we hope we will make one day. It's a very surreal ghost story & I don't want to give too much away about it as I hope we will make it but I basically took the script & used it as source material for the lyrics on the record. Everything to do with the album, the projections you'll see tonight, the artwork, the lyrics, all of the imagery around the album is all taken from the script. There are clues, particularly the seventy two page book version, everything in it, all the artwork is based on it so there are little clues to the subject of the film.

R13: So did you envisage the album being a soundtrack to the film or just a compliment?
SW: More a compliment because I'd taken some of the subject matter from the film script but I've taken it further, so for example I might take a theme from the film script which is a very small part of the film script but I've developed it into a whole song & taken it much further & vice versa. There are many things in the film script that aren't dealt with on the album so it's like you say, more of a compliment. A real soundtrack album would be a very different thing.

R13: There are also rumours that you were going to try & get surround sound at the shows. Has that happened?
SW: That's something I think that they are quite keen to do in America, I haven't been involved in that a lot. I know we're being sponsored by this company DTS & they're very keen to try that. So the rumours are true but I can't tell you much more about it at this stage.

R13: With interest in your back catalogue pretty high, if ebay's anything to go by, is there any particular reason why things like 'Stupid Dream' & 'Lightbulb Sun' are out of print so you can't get hold of them? Is that beyond your control?
SW: No it's not beyond our control & again it's mostly my fault. What happened is that 'Stupid Dream' & 'Lightbulb Sun' were purchased by Warner Brothers, they wanted to buy those two albums & reissue them through Warners. That's been the plan right from the moment that we did the deal, I've just never got around to remastering them. The idea was to mix them both into 5.1 as well, reissue them, mainly improve the artwork, the mastering, possibly add some bonus material, I just never got around to it.
R13: But it's in the pipeline?
SW: I know I must do it, I mean 'In Absentia' came out, then I got involved in Blackfield, No - Man made a new record & I did 'Up the Downstair', finally got that out the way & did the remake. 'Stupid Dream' & 'Lightbulb Sun' are definitely on my list of things I must do before the end of this year.

R13: Just out of interest there's a copy of Bass Communion's 'Atmospherics' on Ebay (SW ambient solo project) going for 77 with a day to go!
SW: It's disappointing for me because we went out of our way to find extra copies of that & we made them available as cheap as we could, 15, we had to buy them quite expensive & it's disappointing to me that people don't find out they can get it. I mean they're on the website, I don't know how much more I can do! You can get it, just come through us, so why people prefer to buy it for $100 on Ebay I don't know, apart from emailing every single person, which I haven't got time to do, saying 'come & get it from us' I just don't know. That's always been a problem for us because we like doing limited editions, or at least I like doing limited editions, & it's unfortunate that there are people that take advantage of that. They buy extra copies & they hoard them & you try & filter those people out as best you can but they find ways around it. I don't know, what can I do? I like doing collectible things!

R13: Ok, well thanks for your time & good luck with the rest of the tour.
SW: It's my pleasure, enjoy the show!

The album 'Deadwing' along with the single 'Lazarus' are both available on general release, do yourself a favour & become immersed in the world of Porcupine Tree. You won't be disappointed.