Continuing the post from yesterday; here’s the interview with Blackfield‘s Steven Wilson:
Hey everybody. What are you talking about?
MOTM: We were talking about God, World politics and the deeper meaning of life.
OK then… let me know then what you want to talk about with me, alright? (laughs)
I was just asking Aviv if he knew where you hide your time-machine to manage all the projects you’re working on.
hmm… I just don’t have a private life at the moment. I’m constantly working.
Good for your fans.
yeah, but not so good for me. But that’s the way it is, I just can’t stop myself.
This is your second concert with Blackfield in Switzerland; I’ve seen you here with Porcupine Tree four times, and with every concert, the audience grew bigger. Do you think this will work as well with Blackfield?
I hope so, ’cause the last time we played here with Blackfield, there were about 50 people in the audience. I really hope this is a trend, at least it was for the rest of Europe. Most of the shows were sold out. We are bit worried about the gig here as it wasn’t such a success last time. But as you said, the numbers doubled with Porcupine Tree, and I hope it will work here as well. (It did, btw.!)
I guess the word of mouth amongst PT-fans helps in that matter?
Yes, probably, but Blackfield has started to built a reputation of its own. There must be lots of people who like Blackfield, but have no clue about PT. Especially in countries were we already had a hitsingle from our first album, like Greece or Poland.
Why did you plan your tour without any concerts in the south of Germany?
I don’t really know. Personally, I would have loved to play there. With PT we’re often in Stuttgart or Munich. But I think there’s a general misunderstanding concerning the band’s decision on a tour route. You don’t get to choose where you’d like to go. We rely on offers from Promoters or Agents for the tour. If a venue in a city isn’t available for a certain date, it just doesn’t work, and it might be that by the first available date, you’re already in the opposite corner of the country. And then there are times where there’s just no good offer. With PT, it grew over the years; we now have a more effective way to plan a tour. In the beginning, we played whenever and wherever we could.
Thanks for this insight!
Did you think that bands pick where they would like to play? I wish it was that easy!
Is it true that you have recorded a Blackfield-show for a DVD?
Yes, we have recorded one, but we will do another one next month in New York. We weren’t really happy with the one we made. Yes, there are plans for a DVD release. Another point on my to-do-list.
The last releases of PT were also available in Surround-Sound. Can we expect something like that with Blackfield?
I would like to do that. I really like Surround-Sound-discs. PT is perfect for Surround-Sound with all the production details and the sound, the tracks are very long, and there’s a lot going on. Perfect for 5.1. Blackfield is simpler and straighter in structure, but I think it would sound very good in Surround. Can you expect something like that? Hm… I haven’t thought about it really, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. But don’t expect it… just be surprised when it happens!
Most of the songs on Blackfield II were written by Aviv again. Don’t you have problems to decide which songs will end up on the album?
It’s just that Aviv is more productive. He is more effective when it comes to writing songs like this. Opposite to the longer and more complex stuff I normally write, these shorter songs are not what I normally do. It’s rather an exception here, and it’s really Aviv’s thing which he does very well. The relation on this album is 7:3. It was our intention from the beginnings of Blackfield to merge Aviv’s talent for melodies and songwriting with my sound and my production. For me, this is the magic that happened between us from the very first moment, and we just continued doing that.
If one listens to “1’000 People”, it might seem as if you don’t like being on stage really…
This is one of Aviv’s songs, and it’s my favourite of the album. For me, this song is all about loneliness. It says that loneliness is not about being without anyone around, it’s more like a state of mind. If you tend to be a lonely person – like we both are – it doesn’t matter how much love you get, how many people visit your gigs and shout your name… you’ll still feel lonely.
In an earlier interview you said that you don’t like explaining songs to leave some room for one’s own interpretation. So how is it to talk about one special song then?
That is pretty difficult, in two ways. First there’s the artist who might not be aware of the deeper meaning of the lyrics when he writes a song. Happened to me on various occasions over the past years. Then there’s suddenly someone who has its own interpretation that I never thought of, but makes complete sense. It’s then when I realize that I really had similar feelings about the song back when I wrote it, but was not aware of it.
And second: if you give an undisputed definition about what the song is about, it robs the listener of his ability to make his own interpretation. That’s why I still think that music is the highest art, because it demands as much time from the listener as well as the artist who wrote the music. You can’t say that about movies; everything is clearly displayed there. Same about books where everything is explained. But music demands input and interpretation from the listener. To sit here and talk about how I meant this and that is a bit embarrassing really, because you rob the listener of the connection he might have built to the artist. That’s the reason why I don’t like talking about it. And as I said before, sometimes I’m not even sure anymore what I was writing about!Today’s music fans are turning more and more into downloaders and have a collection of bits and bytes instead of an actual CD or LP. The tendencies are clearly pointing to a more song-orientated listening behaviour…
Well, I have a personal, but also a professional opinion about that. Personally, I hate it. I don’t own an iPod. I hate the whole jukebox-mentality of those things. You download a few songs, but don’t care about the rest of the album. I really hate it! From a professional point of view the internet was essential for all my projects, especially for Porcupine Tree and Blackfield; there was no media coverage for Porcupine Tree at all for a long time. Most people discovered the band through the net and filesharing, and then went out to buy the albums. In the end it is all about reaching as many people as possible and touching them with your music. You may like it or not, but the genie is out of the bottle now. That’s how the majority of the listeners will consume music in the future. But I hope, that there will always be a strong minority – to which I belong, too – who wants to have a physical media. I don’t have any needs to buy myself an iPod ever; sometimes I think I’m the only one thinking like that…
But there’s also an opposite trend: many blogs or similar sites promote artists and release some tracks, but clearly support the musicians behind the music.
If it wasn’t for the internet, there wouldn’t be Porcupine Tree anymore. For years no one has talked about us or played our music. Word of mouth was clearly the one thing that has kept us alive. It would be pretty childish to say that I hate the internet, because I wouldn’t possibly be here without it. On the other hand I don’t like what the internet has made out of music, from an aestethical point of view. MP3s sound terrible, but there’s a whole generation growing up who thinks that this is what music sounds like. Terrible! Kids growing up and don’t even know about the concept of an album, the creative flow and the musical journey through 40, 50 or 60 minutes of music. “I’ll just download this song I’ve recently heard on the radio or seen the video on TV…” I think it’s quite sad…
OK, I think about lots of things that are sad, but this is special. The new Porcupine Tree-album deals with excactly that matter. Fear Of A Blank Planet is about the question if we raise a new generation who’s completely empty inside. A generation growing up with mobile phones, iPods, Playstation, Internet, Reality-TV, Big Brother, American Idol and that whole crap. What kind of humans are we raising here? But on the other hand I know that my parents must have thought excactly the same about my generation. Maybe they thought that television corrupts our minds. It’s probably a part of growing older to look down disapprovingly on the next generation.
You talked about your fans’ reactions when you signed with Warner. Now Porcupine Tree is with Roadrunner Records (a German Metal-label). Guess what your fans thought now…
Yeah, everyone thought we were turning into a heavy-metal band. I know, I know. Thing is that fans always complain, whatever you do. It’s probably part of being a fan complaining that the band doesn’t do what you like. I don’t really pay attention to that anymore. The absurd thing about the story is this: when we signed with Warner or Roadrunner, the albums were already written. We signed with Roadrunner in October, but the album was already written in January before. You could hear things like “oh my God, they’re with Roadrunner now and will release a heavy-metal-album”. No! It was completed long before. This is just a silly thing…
Imagine what would happen if the release was postponed…
That won’t happen… no way. No. We have already booked the tour, starting on April 18th in London, visit the rest of Europe and we will also play some festivals in summer.
You will get more and more into troubles when putting together the setlist for your concerts. The new PT-songs have turned out quite long again…
We have yet to discuss what we will play. We will certainly play the whole new album and we will have to fill another hour with our by now very considerable back-catalogue. Another thing for the fans to complain here: “they haven’t played my favourite tune!” But you’re right, it gets more and more difficult. The more albums you have, the less songs you can chose from them. Except you play overlong shows. Rush for example played for over 3 hours with a lot of songs from their back-catalogue, but even they were only scratching the surface!
You mentioned Rush; how was working with Alex Lifeson?
Fantastic! Very enjoyable, great guy. And a wonderful musician. It was a great honour for me, as I grew up with Rush’s music.
What’s your favourite Rush album?
Moving Pictures… or Farewell To Kings… or Permanent Waves… or one of the others! (laughs) No, Moving Picture it is.
Is there any artist with which you would desperately like to work?
Not necessary desperately, but there are a few ones that I would be quite curious how it would sound with a collaboration. Meshugga for example, or Trent Reznor…
Any “old heroes”?
I’ve worked with Robert Fripp and Alex before. OK, they’re not that old, but you know what I mean. The problem with the “old heroes”, as you call them, is that most of them have released their best work years ago. When I grew up in the 80ies and listened to 70ies-music, I loved the stuff from Tangerine Dream and the likes, but they haven’t released anything worthy during the last 20 years. And I don’t think they’ll ever be able to repeat what they’ve done in their heydays. If I had a time-machine and could travel back in time, I’d be more than happy to work with them, but not in the here and now. There would be Can and all the other German bands in their heydays. Klaus Schulz, Faust, Neu, Amon Düül, all the Progressive Bands of the early 70ies, Jimi Hendrix… who wouldn’t like to work with them? It would be quite easy with a time-machine, but without it, it’s rather difficult.
Our interview-time was over then. It was a real pleasure to talk to those two guys who seem really down-to-earth and in no way arrogant. I guess I couldn’t have picked a better band for my first-ever interview! Thanks again to Alex from Laut.de for making this happen.
Blackfield II is out now, the next Porcupine Tree-album Fear Of A Blank Planet, will be released in April. There are already some tourdates on the homepage, and Steven let slip that they’ll visit the Z7 in Pratteln as well… good for me! 🙂