Incidents, that is what the biggest (personal) disasters are called sometimes. Porcupine Tree singer Steven Wilson is horrified. On his new album The Incident the band brings progressive rock with substance: You will never catch us doing songs on outer space. Id rather go for inner space.
The progressive rockband Porcupine Tree has been through a lot of developments in her 22-year existence. From the psychedelic fun and games of On the Sunday of Life to the dead-serious Fear of a Blank Planet. The band started as a joke between Wilson and his schoolfriend Malcolm Stocks. They made experimental music together and made up bandmembers like Sir Tarquin Underspoon and crewmembers like Linton Samuel Dawson (initials LSD. They held him responsible for the lightshow.)
Steven Wilson is not only the founder of Porcupine Tree, but also counts successful projects like Blackfield and No-Man amongst his brainchildren. He also produces the Swedish progmetalsensation Opeth. Music is clearly this mans life.
Were born, live, die, the singer unconsciously quotes his own song Born Life Die from the Porcupine Tree album Signify. In between we have to unravel the meaning of our existence.
Absurdity of Life
The absurdity of life and the search for meaning is a leitmotiv throughout the life and work of Wilson, although his last few albums have a growing tendency towards serious subjects. Steven Wilson is feeling his age. I was born in 1967 and not getting any younger. Im starting to notice that Im more honest towards myself and that Im more conscious of the things that influenced me as a kid. The central song of The Incident, called Time Flies is a good example of that because its about the first records that I heard.
Incident is a terribly distant word, explains the Brit. I noticed it when I was stuck in traffic because of an accident. A sign read Police Incident. You see it a lot in the media, when there has been a murder or hundreds die in an earthquake. They call those incidents, but for the people involved its a terrible event that changes their entire live. With the songs on his new album Wilson wants to show the human side of incidents. Something which happens too little or in the wrong way in newspapers. Just look at all the media-attention for the death of Michael Jackson. Suddenly people are all emotional about it and the media feeds that emotion. Why is emotion in an article about the death of a pop-icon not an incident but the death of hundreds is? Maybe because everyone knew him and not everyone knows the victims of a disaster. It seems very random at times.
I miss passion in people, especially the younger generation, sighs the 41 year old singer. I dont want to sound like an old goat, but I miss the passion of the years I grew up in.
At the mention of his youth Wilson gets a glint in his eye. Im only now starting to realize how fortunate I have been growing up with parents who let me be free. In choosing my religion and other things. I went to Sunday School, but not because my parents were religious or wanted me to be religious. They just thought I should consider all options.
The sentiment of Wilsons youth lies always just on the surface. Like his love of trains, bringing back memories of living next to a trainstation. If someone would ask me if I loved trains, or like looking at trains, Id say no. But subconsciously I lay some connection between the hiss of a train and a certain calm and security that I felt as a child. Its amazing how that works. How the most simple things have an influence on your inner world. Im just concerned that the youngest generation of mtv and playstations arent amazed by many things any more. Thats one of the reasons why I make records. I want people to realize how beautiful and amazing life is.
No elves or dragons
Wilson rants about the cliché that progressive rockbands only make music about fantasy subjects. I dont care about elves or dragons or whatever. I havent even seen Star Wars yet. Im much more interested in whats going on inside people. Escapism is fine and theres a time and place for that, but thats not for me. I would much rather explore the inner space through surrealism.
This exploration through the human psyche is an important theme for the various projects Wilson sets his mind to. In 2005 he wrote a surreal filmscript on which he based the album Deadwing. Unfortunately it seems impossible to get the funds together to get the film produced. I am completely unknown in the filmworld. Recordcompanies are happy enough to finance a new album, but a filmproducer who doesnt know me gets loads of scripts on his desk and has no reason to pick up mine.
This year Wilsons dream will become reality though. A film about the making of his first solo-album Insurgentes will premierein November on the International Documentary Film Festival in Copenhagen. Wilson describes the film as a surreal roadmovie. Making a documentary costs a lot less then making a feature film, like we were planning with Deadwing. You dont have to drag a script from producer to producer, because there isnt any.
His biggest dream is a collaboration with the American filmmaker David Lynch, known from Twin Peaks and Mullholland Drive. David Lynch is a real artist, someone with passion who encourages people to look inside themselves. His films are a huge influence for me.
Despite Wilsons love of obscure projects and artistic escapades the star of Porcupine Tree keeps rising. Fear of a Blank Planet sold even more copies then the record-selling Deadwing. Wilson does not have a problem with the game of recordcompanies. I am happy to play along, he confides after a long pressday. When I make something and they can get a lot of people to hear it, all the better. And I just love chatting about music and ideas.