Interview Filter


YOU WENT OUT ON TOUR IN NOVEMBER WHERE YOU PLAYED A LOT OF THE MATERIAL TO THE FANS FOR THE FIRST TIME. HOW WAS THE REACTION? Well, we had a really great reaction to the new material. So we kind of went into the studio pretty confident that we had a good record. As long as we didn’t mess it up in the studio, we could make a good record that people would appreciate. We did, from doing the tour, we did kind of learn some stuff about the material ourselves and so consequently we dropped one song and replaced it with another one. We also were able to develop a lot of what you might call the subtleties of the music along the way, things like solos and drum parts and keyboard sounds and guitar sounds and things that normally you would have done in the studio, but we were able to actually develop those things along the way, along the tour and refine the material. So by the time we got to the studio it was actually a relatively quick recording process for us. It was three months and we’ve taken up to a year to make a record before in the past. So in all of that kind of month on the road playing the new material it was really well, time well spent. I think we all benefited usually from that. SO YOU DID FIX THINGS IN THE STUDIO AFTER THE FANS REACTED IN A NOT SO APPRECIATIVE WAY? DID I GET THAT RIGHT? There was one song that we felt was not cutting it so well as the other songs, and I think the fan’s reaction was similarly more muted for that one. So we dropped that. I mean to be fair we wouldn’t have dropped it just because the fans didn’t like it. We are pretty selfish people in that respect. If we sort of really felt strongly about it we would still have persisted with it. But we also felt that it was probably the weakest of the six new pieces that we played. So we dropped that and we wrote new material to replace the gap I READ A QUOTE FROM YOU THAT SAID “YOU NEVER KNOW ABOUT THE QUALITY AND THE DIRECTION OF THE MUSIC UNTIL IT’S RELEASED”. COULD YOU PLEASE EXPLAIN WHAT YOU MEANT BY THAT? That sounds like it has been slightly mistranslated. I never… What I’m not sure about is how it relates to the past. Because one of the questions a lot of people ask when you release a new album is: “How do you think this compares with your previous work?” And it’s very difficult to be objective about that. And I think the reason is, it’s like saying to someone: “How do you think you’ve changed in the last five years as a person?” And it’s very difficult for you to answer that question because to you it’s an incremental thing, day by day, minute by minute. But if someone hasn’t seen you for five years they can tell immediately how you’ve changed. Because to them, they haven’t had this slow incremental change, they’ve had a big gap. And so for them it’s like that, you know. So in that sense, when somebody says to me: “How do you think this record differs from your previous ones?” I can’t really say. It’s easier for them to say as an objective outsider because they haven’t, you know, lived my life in the previous, you know, the two years intervening between, they haven’t lived my life and heard all the music I’ve heard. All the things that potentially have influenced a change in the sound they haven’t been party to. So for them it’s easier to judge. And I think that’s what I was trying to say, I think I’ve been slightly distorted there somehow. ESPECIALLY IN THE STUDIO I GUESS YOU ARE A PERFECTIONIST… Yeah. I mean, I know when something… at least I think I know when something is quality. But the other thing to understand of course is that when you get to the end of a recording process you’ve heard the music so many times and it does at some point… The moment when you write a song and you first kind of demo a song is really the moment that the song is most closest to your heart, emotionally you have the strongest connection to it. By the time you finish recording the song the material has kind of moved somewhere up from your heart to your brain. And you’re now kind of looking at the music in a more intellectual way. Is everything sounding right? Is the vocal too loud or are the drums too loud, etc.? Have I put enough compression on the bass? Which are kind of technical considerations. And so your relationship to the song as a kind of emotional thing – which is how you created the piece way back months before – has changed and has diminished. So in that sense it’s difficult when an album is released to be – again – to be objective about its quality, emotional quality. I can be objective about its technical quality. I can say when it’s a well-produced record and it sounds good and the songs are well-structured. But somebody might say to me: „Well, I don’t, you know, I think it’s a cold record!“ or it hasn’t got the emotion and heart and that’s something that at that point I have no objectivity about. I will have again one day, you know, but I need to not hear that record for like a year and then go back to it and then I can make some kind of judgement on its emotional impact and its quality and all those things. HAS THAT EVER HAPPENED THAT SOMEONE CAME TO YOU AND TOLD YOU THAT THIS MUSIC HAS NO HEART? Not that it has no heart but – no, that’s never happened, because hopefully that’s all it has, you know. It has a lot of heart and soul in it but… No, people have made observations about records that I finished, I’ve been working on for months and months and came as a surprise to me. Not that they were wrong, you know, in many cases they were right about their observations, but things that had never had occurred to me because I’m just too close to the record. You know, people say things all the times like, things that sound kind of slightly trivial like: „Oh, this is your heaviest record so far to day, isn’t it?“ And I’m like. „Is it?“ And I say: „Oh, maybe it is! You know, I never thought about it!“ And then somebody will come up and say: „This is your angriest record, or your most intense record!“ I’m not saying specifically about this record, but in the past. And those are things that sometimes come as a surprise to me and they may well be right. But then on the other hand somebody else will come along the same day and says the opposite. So everybody has an opinion, you know, or a different perception about a record. And of course I’m no different, I have my own perception, it’s not always the right one possibly. Or it’s, or every one is the right one, you know. Let’s be wishy-washy. That’s the beauty of music: that you can… I think that one of the great things about music and why for me it is still the greatest art form above cinema even, is that it’s the one art form that demands something from the person who experiences it, too. It requires, it’s almost like a relationship between the person who created the music and the person who listens to it and experiences it. With a movie everything is kind of up there on the screen for you. You know what to think, you know what the characters are feeling, you know what’s happening in the story. Same with a novel. But with music you can interpret in the lyrics and the music in many different ways. And that’s, for me, that’s why it’s still the most potent art form. So I take all of those kind of views as valid in their own right, even though I may not agree with them. The important thing is that they are important to the person that experiences them. SO WHEN YOU WRITE A SONG OR WHEN THE IDEA FOR A SONG COMES INTO YOUR HEAD, DO YOU JUST FOLLOW A FEELING OR AN EMOTION THAT YOU’VE HAD AT THAT POINT? Exactly! Yeah, I mean that’s all you do. I think when you’re song writing in its purest form that is all you’re doing: you’re channelling feelings, you’re channelling emotions. I’m certainly, I’m not-, see, I’m a musician that doesn’t know the names of the chords I use even. I mean, I’m very kind of intuitive, I’ve never learned. So, even when I’m picking up chords and things on a piano or guitar I’m not thinking in any technical way because I can’t. I don’t know the names of the chords anyway. So I’m just feeling around. So it’s a very intuitive process and it is purely… For me it’s the pure tapping in to emotions and allowing them to channel out through you and resulting in a song. And that really is the purest moment of creation. I mean, it’s without wishing to sound pretentious, it is like giving birth, you know. So after that it gradually becomes a more intellectual exercise, the arrangement, the production and the final mixing and realization of the album and the music, gradually becomes more and more of a technical, intellectual exercise. But that shouldn’t detract from the original moment, that powerful moment of emotional outpouring. And I guess sometimes musicians do crush that, you know, with the… It’s a very delicate line you have to walk between making your record sound as well-produced and as glossy and slick as you want it to without crushing that original moment of vulnerability or emotion or anger or melancholy or whatever it was that inspired your song. And there is plenty of examples of bands that have unfortunately done that. And I’m sure I’ve been guilty of doing it in the past, too, because the records are very produced records. So I always hope to trying and walk that fine line between the two. YOU JUST BROUGHT UP THE PERSONAL EXPERIENCES WHICH ARE BEING MIRRORED IN YOUR SONGS. YOU SPENT SIX MONTHS IN ISRAEL, IN TEL AVIV. WOULD YOU SAY IT HAS CHANGED YOU AS A PERSON? HAS IT HAD ANY IMPACT AT ALL? I’m sure it has but I don’t know how. And this comes back to your earlier question: probably it would be easier for someone to see the difference before I went and after I came back. I think it must have changed me. I know it has changed me because going to Israel over the last few years has certainly made me a lot more open and a lot happier as a person. In many respects the Israelis are the opposite of the English, you know. They are very passionate, they are not shy, they are very outspoken and that has rubbed off on me I think. Because beforehand I was very English, you might say. And now I have a little bit more of the Israeli in me. So I… Yeah, I think so. I think it has made a difference. Yeah. A good one! A FEW PEOPLE HAVE DESCRIBED YOU AS SHY AND DISTANCED – VERY BRITISH IF YOU WANT IT THAT WAY. TELL ME SOMETHING TO DISPEL THAT IMAGE. CAN YOU GO REALLY, REALLY WILD? I don’t know if I can get really wild but I can be, I can be pretty loud and obnoxious (laughs) when I want to be. Shy and distant… I mean, I can… yeah, I can be distant, I can be shy but I can also be loud and I can also be very tactile and very friendly and… You know, the thing is that a lot of people – totally understandably – make judgements on a person based on very brief encounters. And I do the same, you know. For example, I always have this thing about that you can… After shows, you know, we meet fans and we talk to fans, and you can meet a hundred fans on the tour and you can be nice-as-pie to ninety-nine of them, get on really well with them and really enjoy their company and give them a good time and so. And the one show where you’re really tired and you had a bad show and you didn’t enjoy it, and you walk off stage and you really don’t feel like, you know, hanging out. And one person gets offended at your attitude. You can bet that that one person will make ten times as many waves as the ninety-nine people that were happy. It’s just in their nature that, you know, it’s like: well, they’ll go on the internet and say: „Steve was just such an arsehole to me last night!“ But the ninety-nine people who I was nice to won’t necessarily say anything because bad news travels much faster than good news. And unfortunately that is based on a very, very brief encounter on a day, on one day in a hundred when I was actually feeling pretty tired and pretty pissed off and distant and shy and all those things that you said. So I can be. I can be like that. But I don’t like, I don’t deliberately go out off my way to be like that. I try to be friendly with people and I can party like the rest of them. Yeah. When I want to. Yeah. (laughs) I WOULDN’T WANT TO SAY THAT PROG ROCK OR PROG METAL IS FOR INTELLECTUALS BUT ESPECIALLY THE LYRICS ARE OFTEN VERY POETIC AND CHALLENGING, OFTEN BASED AROUND A CONCEPT. I UNDERSTOOD THE CONCEPT OF “FEAR OF A BLANK PLANET” THAT IT DEALS WITH THE TRANSITION INTO THE NEW MILLENNIUM. PLEASE EXPLAIN THE CONCEPT! Kind of, yeah, kind of. I mean, I’ve always worked very hard on my lyrics, very hard. I don’t want them to be intellectual for the sake of being intellectual but I try to at least give them a degree of sophistication that makes people think about what I’m writing about. I mean, I would actually disagree with you. I think most progressive and progressive metal bands have appalling lyrics. I’m gonna make myself unpopular here but mostly lyrics generally I think are pretty bad. I work very hard on my lyrics and I don’t like lyrics that are deliberately obscure, obtuse about sort of abstract concepts about hobbits and dwarves and goblins. I like to write about interspace, I like to write about things that are happening, you know, to me that I feel I can write about. This goes back to what we were talking about earlier, about the feeling that you can give some emotional quality to what you write. It’s very hard to do that unless you write about things that you personally have experienced. And I think the audience can tell when you’re faking it. So I don’t… A lot of progressive and progressive metal bands tend to write about more fantastical things and that for me is not… It doesn’t appeal, it has never appealed. Porcupine Tree lyrics are all ultimately about me or about using things that I’ve experienced as a spring board for the imagination. This album “Fear of a blank planet”, firstly the title, the title comes from… Originally there was a very famous hip hop album in the eighties called “Fear of a black planet” by Public Enemy. And so the title is like a little riff on that, a nod to that. And I grew up in the eighties and the eighties was definitely a time when race relations was something young people were thinking about a lot. And there were a lot of shows I remember, there were a lot of festivals and concerts dedicated to fighting racism. And it seems to me that in the 21st century there is a whole new set of problems for young people – actually not just for young people, for everyone, but we’ll come back to that – specifically for young people. And it’s for me, it’s the proliferation in information, and news, and gadgets, and music, and culture, and pornography, and violence. And it’s all coming through basically mainly because of the internet, but also the explosion in TV channels, ipods, cell phones, play stations, plasma TVs, “American Idol”, reality TV, “Big Brother”, all of these things, which ultimately are pretty much aimed at the lowest common denominator, most of them. The internet is kind of neutral in a way although it does seem to cater as well for the lowest common denominator pretty well. And unfortunately what’s happening is, is that they are such, there has been such an explosion in the last ten years in technology and information technology, that I think these kids now today – although potentially they have access to a massive amount (of) more culture and information and news – I think most of it is just going straight by them. And the problem is, it’s just too much. It’s almost like where it’s become white noise. I can give you a specific example of what I mean, and of course I can relate it best to music for me. When I was a kid in the eighties growing up, if I heard about a new band that I thought sounded interesting, I wanted to investigate a new band. It could take me two or three months to hunt down a record by that band. And when I did hunt down the record by that band I would have to use my hard earned or hard saved pocket money to invest in that record. And let’s say, when I’m 14 years old I can only afford to buy two or three records a month with my pocket money or however I’m earning my money from my newspaper round or whatever I’m doing. So by the time, what I’m saying is, by the time I get that record back home I have a real investment, not just in terms of money but in terms of the time and the energy I spent looking for that music. So you can bet that when I start to experience that record I’m gonna – even if I don’t like it the first time – I’m gonna give it a second, third, fourth, fifth try. I’m gonna really trying to get whatever it is I could get of that music, I’m gonna find it. I’m gonna de-code that record. And eventually I might end up getting something really special from that record. In fact I can honestly say that most of the music that really means something to me in my life, I didn’t like it the first time I heard it. It’s mostly the records that took a few times, a few plays to click, that are the most special to me – which is an important point. And the reason it’s an important point is that now the equivalent for kids today, if they hear about a new band they reach over to their computer, their PC or their Mac or whatever, a few clicks and they can download the entire back catalogue of that band in five minutes, listen to the first thirty seconds of a couple of tracks: “Naaah, I don’t like that!” – Erase! And this is why I’m saying what I said before is the key about the records I really love and that really have been special to me in my life are the ones I didn’t like the first time I heard them. And now, if music is so easily accessible and you have no investment in time or energy or money in obtaining that music it’s very easy to dismiss it also. I think it’s in our nature as human beings that things that come easy to us we don’t appreciate. And things that we have to fight for we have a lot more investment and we have a lot more passion for, whether it’s relationships or music or possessions or anything – if we’ve really had to pay for them and earn them we do tend to appreciate them more. So this is the problem, and I’ve used music as one example but that really is the microcosm of the whole problem for me is that kids today have abhorrage (?) of information, and it just becomes that white noise. And it’s so easy for them to ignore almost all of it and to be distracted by the next thing or the next thing after that. I mean, and I have to say that I think we are the same, grown-up people are the same. It’s not just the kids. When I was a teenager I spent my whole probably teenage years reading books and listening to records. Now I find it really hard to read a book for more than three pages before I’m like: “Oh, I’ll just check my email!” (laughs) And I can’t concentrate on a book anymore and I used to be able to devour a book in one sitting when I was fourteen years old. Now I put it down after a few pages and I check my email, then I get distracted by the email that’s coming, then a phone call, you know, I get a call on my cell phone, then someone is texting me, then I will update my ipod and make sure it’s all up to date, I check my email again. And by the time you’ve done all that the book, you’ve forgotten what you read in the first place. So I totally appreciate it, this is not just an issue with kids but here is the difference: I have something to compare it to, I know what it used to be like, I can appreciate the art of the conversation, the art of being able to read a book, all those things. Kids now are being born into the generation where they may never develop the skills to even have a conversation with another human being without using their cell phone or without using texting or without using messenger. How are they ever gonna develop those skills? I don’t know, because they are tied permanently to computers or to play stations or to ipods or to cell phones, to plasma TVs. It’s – anyway, this is a very long answer – but basically I’m trying to encapsulate what it is that the “Fear of a blank planet” is all about, and it is quite literally my fear that we have a generation of blank kids growing up with no real passion for anything, when everything is so easily available from culture to pornography. Everything is there on the internet in all its most extreme forms as well. That’s it. It’s depressing, isn’t it? (laughs) IT’S TRUE THOUGH. The kids won’t do that. The kids will not do that anymore because… THEY DON’T NEED TO! It’s… They’re the ipod-generation. And the ipod unfortunately lends itself to the kind of jukebox mentality where you download some tracks onto your ipod. You listen to them and if you don’t like them you erase them straight away and you just keep the ones you like. Now that unfortunately also has an impact on the whole idea of “the” album. Now I grew up on “the” album and to be specific, I mean a sequence of music programmed, mastered, you know, very carefully by the artist to provide a kind of musical journey across 45 minutes in the case of the old vinyl LPs. Now with the jukebox ipod mentality that’s gone out of the window because you just erase the tracks you don’t want. You stick it on random or shuffle and you’re listening to the album in the wrong order. And I don’t like that because I’ve always thought of the album as a single flow of music. That’s the Porcupine Tree way. It’s not just ten songs thrown together, it’s very carefully sequenced and a lot of the songs run together. And so this ipod sort of mentality is the antithesis of that in a way. It’s: “Let’s just have the hit singles or my favourite songs, stick it on random!” You might as well be listening to a radio station, you know. And there are many, you know, we could talk about this all day, there are many other aspects of modern life that I don’t… that I find quite depressing. But at the same time I’ve, I myself have embraced them, you know, because it’s almost like: once the genie is out of the bottle you can’t put it back in again. But so I kind of… But on the other hand I kind of mourn the way it used to be, you know. I can’t offer any great solution up except by making records that I hope people will, you know, treasure in a way that perhaps they’re not so used to these days. “ANESTHETIZE” IS THE LONGEST PIECE OF MUSIC YOU HAVE CREATED IN A LONG, LONG TIME. IT’S ABOUT 17 MINUTES LONG. WAS THAT LIKE TO CREATE A COUNTERPART TO WHAT YOU JUST SAID? THAT THE LISTENER ACTUALLY HAS TO SIT DOWN? I suppose so. I suppose in a way this album is a reaction against that in that we have created deliberately… set out to create a very large chunk of music which you can’t divide up. And there is nothing on this record really that you could say is an obvious radio song. There have been on the precious records and I don’t know if there is on this record. Certainly we have kind of conceived it and created it as a fifty minute continuous sequence of music. And of course the biggest chunk of that is the 17 minute piece “Anesthetize”. Yes, I suppose there is an element of being bloody-minded about it and deliberately going against the whole kind of ipod generational thing. WHEN YOU’RE IN THE STUDIO PRODUCING YOUR MUSIC, HOW HARD IS IT FOR OTHER PEOPLE, FOR EXAMPLE YOUR BAND MEMBERS, TO CRITICISE YOU? DO YOU TAKE ANY SHIT FROM ANYBODY OR DO YOU JUST TELL THEM TO SHUT UP? Well, the answer is both. I can if I want to push something through and, you know, there is kind of acceptance I think in the band I am the captain. All, I believe, all great bands in history have had a captain, you know. I don’t think it’s an unusual concept, you know. If you look at a band like The Who, you have Pete Townsend, you know, for example. A band like Led Zeppelin, you have Jimmy Page. There is always someone that is kind of the ideological hub of the band. Otherwise you just get this kind of rather wishy-washy, you know, four people pulling into different directions so you get too much compromise. And too much compromise is like an ugly thing for music. So there is an acceptance I’m the captain. But on the other hand, if they really don’t like a piece of music or they don’t like a song they will say so, and probably it won’t be on the record. I find it very hard to – although I can push something through – it’s not pleasant for me because I have to put up with the knowledge that they all actually hate it. And so that becomes a real trudge and I don’t want that. You know, I don’t want that. So I want people to, you know, you’re in a band you want people to, you want to believe that there is people up behind you and supporting you. So to push something through that you know the other people don’t believe in is not good. So I don’t think… I think I’ve hardly ever done it. And I would have to feel so strongly about something to actually do that. Actually on this album nobody liked the title except me. So I did push that through but because I believe so strongly, I wanted that kind of reference to the Public Enemy album, but they didn’t really like that. But I pushed that through but that’s a really exceptional thing. Mostly I would want to have the support of the band behind me on everything. We do write together, too. I would say on this record 75% of it I wrote on my own, but the last 25% was written as a band, which is an interesting… We are always trying to do that now. So I do some writing, then we get together and we try to write together, because that does give a different flavour. So a couple of songs on this record are collaborations. So they are very much involved. And I don’t, you know, I’m not… Although I’m… ultimately I’m the producer, I’m not telling any of them what to play. In fact mostly it’s, I’ll say when it’s… when I don’t like something. And I say: “Well!” That’s – in Porcupine Tree that’s as much production as I do really. I just say – in fact I don’t say anything until I hear something that I don’t think is right -then I’ll say: “I don’t think that’s right! Go and re-think it!” Which again, very rarely do I have to do that because these guys are great, you know. I mean they are much better musicians than me. And I think intuitively now they understand the Porcupine Tree sound and they are part of it. So we don’t actually have to talk much about that process. It’s a very intu-, well, I use that word a lot – intuitive, every one is very intuitive about each other and their place in the band we’ve been together that long. YOU JUST SAID THAT THE OTHER BAND MEMBERS ARE MUCH BETTER MUSICIANS THAN YOU ARE, WHERE THE OUTSIDE PERSPECTIVE OF THE FANS AND THE MEDIA IS THAT STEVE WILSON IS THE MASTERMIND, THE GENIUS… I THINK IT’S ASTONISHING THAT YOU GIVE YOUR BAND MEMBERS SO MUCH CREDIT! Because they are. But I think this is… I think what you… The difference is that people outside see me as the creative sort of hub of the band. But I think even the fans would recognize that Gavin Harrison, the drummer, musician-wise is the star. I mean he’s amazing. He’s amazing. As a guitar player I’m not exceptional, I’m a very average guitar player. But I do think I’m a good producer and I do think I’m a good songwriter and a good architect. I make good records. So I’m not, I don’t want you to think I’m modest to a full. I’m not! I know what I’m good at. I don’t think I’m a great guitar player. Gavin is a great drummer, Richard is a great keyboard player. This is what they do, they are not writers so much. You know, I know what my strengths are and I know what my weaknesses are. So yeah, I can be modest and I can be, I can be very arrogant sometimes, too, as my fans will tell you. Oh yeah! There is a few quotes that I’ve never been allowed to be forgotten that (laughs) have been flying around for years, and I’m not gonna repeat them here because that would just perpetuate the myth. Anyway, they know what they are. DO YOU FIND IT MORE CHALLENGING TO PRODUCE YOUR OWN MUSIC OR OTHER BANDS? Oh, definitely my own, because… Producing other bands is really fun for me because there is none of the pressures in the sense that it’s not your composition. You’re not the one that has the record company to please. You’re not the one who is risking the fans. You’re not the one that, who is dealing with all the politics, with the rest of the band, and the marketing people and all this stuff. You’re just there to basically give an opinion and to make suggestions. And if the people you’re making a record for don’t like ‚em, you say: „Fine!“ There is no politics involved or bitterness or anything, you suggest something else. It’s a much more, it’s a real lightness of being, producing.. Or so far it has been for me anyway. I’ve never had difficult projects. The people I’ve worked with have all been lovely people and they knew… they kind of came to me because they knew what I did. So it wasn’t like they were asking me to do something that I wasn’t already naturally inclined to do. And so it was easy. With my own material there is obviously more politics to deal with in terms of the inter-band politics and the record company and the management and all these people. But also the main kind of pressure comes from yourself. I’ve written the songs, so if it’s not coming out the way I wanted it to I can get really down on myself and get into a kind of vicious spiral of, you know, depression. „Ah, it’s not how I wanted it to be, my baby is not being born how I wanted it to be!“, and disappearing into some ridiculous, like, cul-de-sac of listening to the same drum sound for days on end. I’ve been through all that, you know, the kind of self-indulgent…. And you do – after a while it’s what we were talking earlier about, you know, the initial moment of emotional impact as the song gradually becoming an intellectual process – you can loose perspective and you can get to a point where you cannot see the wood for the trees. You’re listening too closely to details like drum sounds and keyboard sounds and guitar tones, you’ve forgotten what was special about the song in the first place. And that’s, I think that’s something that’s very specific to when I’m working on my own music. I don’t have that when I’m working with other bands. It’s just fun, it’s like being in a toy shop for me. PORCUPINE TREE OBVIOUSLY IS YOUR MAIN FOCUS. BUT HOW WOULD YOU REACT IF FOR EXAMPLE BLACKFIELD WENT THROUGH THE ROOF WITH A NEW ALBUM OR ANY OTHER OF YOUR NUMEROUS PROJECTS? WOULDN’T YOU FEEL CHEATED IF PORCUPINE TREE FOR SOME REASON WOULDN’T GET AS BIG, IF ANOTHER OF YOUR BABIES MADE IT? Yes. It wouldn’t affect my passion for any of those things because you’ve asked a question that people have asked me in a slightly different way before which is, no, which is good. You’ve asked it in a different way which is why I’m struggling now to answer it because most people ask me the question: „If one of your bands became very successful, would you kind of give up on the others?“, or variations on that. And the answer is always: „No!“, because that’s, that kind of ignores the fact that the reason I do these projects is for musical reasons, not for reasons of success or money. I do them all because I have a passion for many different kinds of music. I have a passion for working with many different artists from different cultures, different countries, and it’s important to me to be whole, for my musical personality to be whole and to be complete. So if one of them was successful, I guess I would feel… Well, actually, you know, I wouldn’t, you know, because Blackfield is much more commercial. It is more commercial, I have to accept that. Porcupine Tree has never been particularly commercial or mainstream-friendly. I think the music is very special. I think it’s as special as Blackfield but I have to also recognize that Blackfield is much more commercial, has got more possibilities for the mainstream. So I wouldn’t feel bad. No, I mean, obviously I would feel very happy if one of my projects would be doing well. But it would not affect my resolve to continue doing all of my other musical things, too. So it’s not really an issue for me. I’ll be very happy if any… Listen, I mean if Blackfield was successful it can only help Porcupine Tree, too. It can only help. So I guess I would feel very good about that. YOU’RE INVOLVED IN SO MANY PROJECTS. THERE HAS GOT TO BE A POINT WHERE YOU CAN’T TAKE ON ANY MORE THINGS. I MEAN, HAVE YOU EVER FELT SOMETHING LIKE A BURNOUT SYNDROME CREEPING IN ON YOU? Yeah, now! Yeah, I feel it now. I feel like I need a year off, and I feel like next year I’m gonna take a year out and not do anything. Because of course the main victim in all of these things is my personal life and I don’t have one at the moment. And 2008 is, I’ve kind of made a deal with my manager that, you know, I’m gonna work really hard this year, promoting and touring both of these records, Blackfield and Porcupine Tree, and then next year we’re all gonna take a year off. And that’s the deal. I’ve had to in the last few years turn down a lot of things that I would love to have done, simply because I don’t have time. I started, I did really start to make a name for myself as a producer about three or four years ago, and unfortunately I haven’t done anything since that because I simply don’t have the time. I’ve taken on, I’ve accepted one production job for later this year. But I have, really had to let the production side of my career lapse because I simply do not have the time. And that’s a shame to me but on the other hand I know that one day I will come back to it and one day I hope I will retire from the road and I’ll just become a producer because that’s really what I think I’m best at doing anyway, and what I love to do most. THAT WAS MY BIGGEST FEAR THAT YOU WOULD ANSWER EXACTLY THAT: THAT ONE DAY YOU WILL DROP THE MUSIC AND BECOME A FULL-TIME PRODUCER. BUT THAT’S HOPEFULLY NOT TO COME FOR THE NEXT TEN YEARS? WE’RE TALKING ABOUT 60+, RETIREMENT, RIGHT? Exactly. And it wouldn’t be like I would stop making my own records. I think it would be more a case of: I would stop touring. Because touring is the thing that really takes you away. I mean, this year I’m away for literally seven or eight months of the year on the road. And I’m not the kind of person that can create. A lot of people can write on the road, a lot of artists write albums. I can’t do that, it’s not inspiring for me as an environment to write music. I need something around me that inspires me. So, really for this year I’m touring, I’m promoting, there is no time for me to write. So, you know, when I say I retire from making my music, I mean I would retire to the studio. PORCUPINE TREE IS SOMETHING LIKE AN UNDERGROUND BAND WITH A MAJOR DEAL CONSIDERING THAT YOU’RE NOT EXACTLY MAINSTREAM. HOW DO YOU MANAGE TO STAY ARTISTICALLY… INNOCENT? ACTUALLY, I WANTED TO SAY „INDEPENDENT“, BUT „INNOCENT“ IS OK, TOO, I GUESS… Oh, innocent is a good word, too. I think innocence is a very important word because staying childish is kind of important in a way. Childish in the sense that when you first were kind of in awe of music and people who made records. And I’m still in awe of that whole process. When I was a kid all I wanted to do was to be able to hold in my hand a record and say: „This is my record!“ I didn’t care if anyone bought it. And I didn’t know what things like production and lyrics were, you know, I was just kind of in awe of all of these things, what wonder what they were. And I still feel that way to an extent even though I know too much now about the industry. i know the dark sides and the plus sides. But I still remain very kind of naive in a way about the industry. But to answer your question, how do I stay – what was the word you used in the end? INDEPENDENT. Well, two reasons really. Firstly I have no respect for the opinions of record companies, which I think is a healthy thing. I’ve been through the period where I had respect and I realised they really do not know what the hell they’re doing. I know, this goes back to Roadrunner who are better than most. They are better than most. But most-, I’m talking more about the majors I’ve been with. I’ve been with Sony and I’ve been with Warner various times. They have no clue. Those kind of companies are run by accountants largely. And at least a label like Roadrunner, they’re run by people who love music. But still, they are people that love music. The< have opinions and they have agendas and they have tastes like all of us. Everyone has a musical taste. And it's very subjective objective thing. So, for a record company to come to me and say: "We don't think this song is strong enough. We don't think we hear a radio song!" I've given up, ignoring them. I've given up sort of listening to those kind of opinions. And I feel good about that! I feel good about myself that I don't care what these people say about those things anymore. I'm more interested in what they've got to say about how to market the record, in those kind of things because that's their area of expertise. But if they try and say things about - and to be fair, Roadrunner and Warner this time, they haven't interfered at all in the making of the music. And I think Porcupine Tree now have gotten to the stage where people know to leave us alone, you know. We've been doing this long enough, we've managed to build a fan base without having to compromise. So they kind of leave us to it. And where we want their expertise is when it comes to the marketing and the promotion of the record because we don't know anything about that or not much, very little anyway. So we've... in that respect that's the first reason that we remain independent. The second reason that I think is very important from a point of view of continuing to make music is continuing to absorb and listen to new music. I found with a lot of artists when they get to a certain age they do stop listening to music. And I totally understand why: it's because it's become their job. So because it's their job they don't really want to go home and listen to music when they 've been listening to music all day in the studio or playing music all day on the road. And I understand that but you can almost hear in certain artist's careers the point at which they stopped listening to music. It's the point at which their music stopped evolving. And I think it's very important to keep listening to music, to keep listening to new music, and I've always believed that if the input continues to change then the output will continue to change, too, and will continue to be fresh. And that's not just about listening to music, that's movies, that's books, that's new experiences in life. I still try and travel a lot. And that's one of the other reasons I try to work with many musicians and collaborate with musicians from other countries, is because if the opportunities it gives me to travel and to experience different cultures and different ways of looking at life and living life. And all of those things keep the output fresh I believe. If I settled down, got married, had kids and stayed in London for the rest of my life and stopped listening to music and stopped going to the movies, I think inevitably my creative output would start to stagnate and... Although part of me hopes that will happen one day - cause I would love to have, you know, a stable family life and all that stuff - I'm also aware that that does, that will probably have an impact. My life right now is chaotic and I think that's reflected in the quality of the work, is what I'm trying to say. I think if my life ever becomes wonderfully stable and homely, I suspect my music will probably start to flow not quite as well. It's kind of a depressing way of looking at it but in a way inevitable. It's not gonna happen for a while anyway. DO YOU SENSE A CHANGE IN THE PERCEPTION OF PROGRESSIVE MUSIC AT THE MOMENT, THAT IT'S ON THE RISE AGAIN? BANDS THAT ARE NOT EASILY ACCESSIBLE, LIKE FOR EXAMPLE MASTODON, OPETH OR DREAM THEATER ARE VERY SUCCESSFUL AT WHAT THEY DO. DO YOU HAVE THE SAME FEELING REGARDING THAT? Yeah, I think, I would actually expand that slightly. I think in the last five or six years there has been a real resurgence in - I wouldn't use the word progressive per se - but in ambitious album-orientated music. Bands that make albums not necessarily interested in the three minute pop song format. I would include bands like Radiohead, obviously. I think Radiohead were the first band that really started to change things again for the better. But then you have bands like Tool, you have the Mars Volta, you have Flaming Lips, Mastodon you mentioned, Opeth. There seems to be now a group of bands that are doing very well - thank you very much - selling decent quantities of records, but making what is on the surface very challenging, very un-commercial music, and people seem to be buying it in massive quantities. I mean, Tool had a number one album, didn't they? Mastodon, I think charted in top ten in Billboard in America, which is amazing, amazing. Both Opeth and Porcupine Tree charted in the Billboard charts with our last records, Mars Volta have had a top ten album, Radiohead of course are, you know, constantly releasing platinum selling albums, while seemingly making more and more extreme, experimental music. And there are other bands, Flaming Lips again, very successful. There are other bands coming up all the time now that I think are being encouraged and inspired by this climate that we have now where creativity doesn't seem to be a dirty word anymore. And being pretentious or being a little bit more ambitious is no longer something to be laughed at, which was such a stupid mentality anyway. I'm amazed it persisted for so long, you know, it did. And it did pretty much persist from punk, the late seventies, right through to grunge and beyond. And even to the extent that guitar solos were sniggered out, you know, the idea you could have a guitar solo was… And that kind of attitude persisted for so long and I think it was really maintained by the journalists. I think particularly in the UK press, the NME and the Q, and those kind of…, they kind of, that climate went on for far too long. But of course two things have happened in the last few years. Now we’re gonna come full circle in our conversation, because I’m actually gonna say the internet is a good thing in some respects. And it is a good thing in some respects. It’s been fantastic for liberating music from genre and from the kind of influence from the holier-than-thou music press, who never really got over the Sex Pistols and the Velvet Underground, and there is a lot of that in the UK. I don’t know about here but there is a whole group of journalists who still believe that if you can play your instrument you can’t possibly make good records. And, you know, that kind of punk mentality, and the kind of Iggy and the Stooges, Velvet Underground, Sex Pistols, Clash mentality still persists really right through the UK music industry - with the exception of the metal magazines obviously - and that persisted for way too long. And I’m so happy that the internet, and in particular the metal scene has got a lot, has to take a lot of credit for opening up that kind of whole area of music again. And although bands like Radiohead and the Flaming Lips have come from the other direction so many of the really ambitious bands that are changing things for the better now seem to be coming from the extreme metal direction, whether it’s Mastodon, or Opeth or Tool. I guess Porcupine Tree is kind of somewhere in the middle because we’ve kind of moved towards metal but you could hardly say we’re as m metal as those guys are. We never will be. I wouldn’t want to be. I love those bands but that’s not what we’re about. So yes, I would certainly agree with you, there seems to be now a different feeling, a different climate which really encourages ambition and creativity and album-orientated music again. Thank God! Thank God! RECORDED FEBRUARY 26TH

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