With the release of the excellent new album 'Fear Of A Blank Planet' and a major tour underway we caught up with Porcupine Tree drummer Gavin Harrison before their show in Preston.

R13: With Fear Of A Blank Planet being the biggest gainer in sales at UK Amazon over the last 24 hours & featuring in the top 10/20 sales in many other Euro countries does it feel like you're now getting the recognition that the band has long deserved?
G: I guess it means we're getting a good marketing team! haha
R13: A subtle difference!
G: Well we've got two record companies on it, Roadrunner in Europe and Atlantic in America and perhaps it makes a difference having two teams on it?

R13: You're touring pretty heavily for the next few months, how much are you planning to vary the setlist & with such a large back catalogue how do you decide what pool of songs to choose from?
G: Yeah we have a pool of songs and obviously the priority is to promote the new record, so we're going to play everything off the new record. The idea originally was to play the whole record in one set but it actually makes the set list a bit better pacing if we split it up amongst the old songs. So we're doing all of Blank Planet, a bit of Deadwing, a bit of In Absentia and a few really old ones.

R13: Is the reason behind not selling the new album at shows to try & maximise chart positions?
G: I actually don't know why we're not selling it at the shows! It would make sense wouldn't it? Might make some money! I honestly don't know what the proper answer is to that but it's probably the most reasonable answer but I'm guessing, I don't know!
R13: Is that something that's become important to you personally? Would you like to be able to look at the charts & see a Porcupine Tree album up there?
G: Couldn't care less. I think it's good for the profile, I mean the first time people might get to hear of you is when they pick up a billboard type magazine and they think 'Porcupine Tree, never heard of them but they're new in this week at so & so' and they might get curious enough to go & check it out. Same with the press, they see it in a magazine so they might go to the site and listen to a track, I mean how do you attract brand new people? If it's not from word of mouth then seeing us in a magazine or on the web or in the charts is a great help, personally from my point of view it doesn't make a difference at all.

R13: Although Steve Wilson is still credited with most of the writing credits how much input does the rest of the band have in the creative process?
G: I think we have a lot of input into it, the songs are quite skeletal, as far as arranging and coming up with our own parts it's pretty much every man for himself. Sometimes the songs are written from jams, I've got a studio at my house and the guys will come round and we'll jam and generate pieces like that. It's true to say that Steve is a songsmith, so we might have some good jams but he's the one who's going to take it away and stitch it all together and make some kind of song out of it. He's the one who writes all the lyrics so that it's got a theme, like this new album 'Blank Planet' has a theme to it, so it's got to fit in lyrically. Maybe the public perception is that Steve does it all but it's not really like that.
R13: Do you ever write songs yourself that you think could be PT songs & try & suggest them?
G: Yeah, we all present ideas to each other and some of them might suit the project and some of them don't, they might end up in another project! There's probably going to be some other songs coming out later this year as an EP. Songs that were recorded for this album but we felt this album was actually better being shorter and more concise and the songs flowed in a certain way. We could've jammed another two or three pieces in there, there's enough room in the plastic to put it on there but it didn't make such a good artistic statement.

R13: I think this album flows much better as an album than 'Deadwing' but you seem to have moved away a little from the individual song structures & gone back to the longer compositions. How do you think it differs?
G: Well Deadwing did feel very much like a collection of songs and although Deadwing had a concept, which was loosely based on a film script, the songs felt like they were songs we could change around. Before Deadwing came out we did change it; some songs came off, some went on and we changed the order a little bit because it felt like a set list. This one was pretty much written in stone right from day one, it all had a certain flow to it emotionally and the tempos, the way it all worked together and flowed as one piece. I suppose in a very old fashioned way I'd like people to think as the whole thing as one piece. Previous albums have been more collections of songs that you could fit around each other until it felt like an album.

R13: Musically with Deadwing and In Absentia it was very evident that there was a much more rock/metal influence coming in. With this album, although there are elements in there you seem to have pulled back a little, was that a conscious decision?
G: Really? You think it's less heavy than the previous two?
R13: Well if you listen to the start of In Absentia for example it's pretty full on, although it mellows out in the verse.
G: I don't know, I don't think we go about it thinking 'Oh this album's a bit heavy we ought to thin it out a bit', it just takes a path, I think we try to evolve and the metal influence is certainly something that myself & Steve like. Especially from my point of view, from a rhythmic stance it's an exciting genre and we like to mix it up with very heavy things and very light things to create a contrast, rather than make a whole album that's all death metal or all light floaty music. We try & mix it up to make it more dynamic, I just take each song as it comes really.

R13: You had a couple of guests on this album with Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson and King Crimson's Robert Fripp, did you get to work with them in the studio?
G: Well Robert Fripp had been touring with us as a support act since 2005, we've actually done a lot of gigs with Robert, about 40 or 50 and he was very supportive of us and we obviously like King Crimson and the things that Robert does so it was very easy to ask him. I heard that Neil Pert, the drummer with RUSH, was saying very nice things about me and the band and after about three interviews with him name checking me I decided to get in touch with him and invited him to the show in Los Angeles. He said he couldn't come to the show but he'd take me for lunch and we had a really nice time. Steve got in touch with Alex Lifeson, he'd heard that Alex like Porcupine Tree as well and they developed a bit of an online relationship, I don't think they've actually met in real life! Steve just asked him to play a solo.
R13: So he did his part remotely then?
G: Oh yes, we weren't there when he recorded it.

R13: Roadrunner UK announced on their website that you'd been confirmed for Download yesterday & then promptly took it down again! Can you clear that one up for us?
G: Did they? As far as I know we're doing it on the 8th, maybe there's a contract issue to sort out. That's the trouble with the internet, you say one thing to someone in a dingy little bike shop and next minute it's on the front of someone's webzine! I have conversations with fans outside gigs and then it manages to go through a few Chinese whispers and get distorted and appears all over the forums and I only told some bloke in a car park last night!
R13: Download's not the most obvious festival for a band like Porcupine Tree
G: I know, maybe we're going to find it's a bit heavy for us I don't know. We're playing on the same stage as Korn. We've played a few metal festivals before and we're one of the lighter bands but maybe the audience enjoy it more, they get so bombarded with double bass drums and heavy distorted guitar they get so bombarded with ten bands of really heavy stuff. It's a real assault on the senses, they're so fatigued after that and then we come on and play some of our heavier stuff but nowhere near what they're doing, I mean Steve doesn't do the cookie monster vocal thing and they seem to really like it. I think it's a relief to hear some melody and some lighter stuff after band after band really going for it hell for leather.
R13: Do you tailor your set to beef it up a bit?
G: Yeah, we try & play some of the heavier stuff but nowhere near the other bands, I don't think we're a death metal band at all! haha. I'm quite surprised that people even ask us to do some of these festivals.
R13: Well I think there's probably more of a crossover now with the Opeth connection, that probably has something to do with it.

R13: The video clip for FOABP was withdrawn in light of the Virginia shootings, any idea when we can expect that to resurface?
G: Are you coming to the show tonight?
R13: Yes
G: Well you'll see it tonight! There's a version of it that we're going to project behind that track. I wasn't part of the process of the content of that video or the decision to put it up, that's something you'd have to ask Steve. Obviously there is content in there that is actually more ironic than anything else that it's a reflection of what's going on. The day we put it up something happens just like it, it's not like we're exploiting it but of course we understand that it could be seen as being quite bad taste, especially for the friends and family of the people that got murdered. Rather than it being something that we've taken out of the media and sensationalised it by making a song and a controversial video about it, the lyrical content and the concept of the whole album is actually a reflection of what's going on and it's just ironic that the day we put that up the exact same thing happens! It's all very well saying people don't kill people, guns kill people but if you give a nutter a gun he's more likely to kill people than if you don't give him a gun.

R13: You've been with PT since 2002, do you have a favourite album other than FOABP? I'm guessing it would be one of the more recent ones or are you a big fan of the older stuff as well?
G: I like some of the older albums, I think Stupid Dream is a good album but obviously I don't go back that far in the bands history. When I got involved in the band it was from In Absentia onwards and probably that was quite a turning point in the bands history. We got a major record deal, a change in sound, a change in drummer and a change in influence so that's probably a division in the sound. Funnily enough a lot of people think that's our first album! I can understand that the marketing and being signed to a major label means that for a lot of people they heard 'Blackest Eyes' on the radio and bought 'In Absentia' and got into the band from then on. The more curious people went backwards and bought the older stuff but if you went right back and bought 'On the Sunday of Life' you might be quite shocked! Likewise the people who were in it from the beginning probably don't like the direction we've gone in now but part of an evolving scene is that with every album you're going to make new fans and lose some older ones. Hopefully you bring on board more new ones but you can't stay still and keep on making the same album.

R13: With the long awaited reissue of Stupid Dream can we expect Lightbulb Sun to follow & any idea when that will be?
G: I hope it will be out this year, it's a question of time and working on the 5.1 surround, getting it all remixed and so on but we just haven't got time at the moment.
R13: Are there plans for any bonus discs with that one?
G: I don't know, I know there were extra tracks recorded at that time and the album 'Recordings' featured some of the tracks from around that period. Maybe we could do that again because we do have extra tracks lying around from the last couple of albums that it might be nice to do that again. We've got new stuff that noone's heard that we wrote for FOABP so I think the plan is that we'll release that as an EP in time for the Autumn tour, then play those new songs live.