Star Scene: Steven Wilson

Steven Wilson - photo credit Hajo Mueller

Steven Wilson’s scene is one he describes as “nerdy” though many would see as bliss. The multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, producer, award winner, states: “My scene, when I’m not working, is being at home with a cup of tea surrounded by my record collection. I have a very nice record collection. I have about 10,000 albums, and I’m a terrible nerd. I’m an absolutely terrible nerd. I can quite happily spend whole evenings just refiling and re-cataloguing my collection in alphabetical order, chronological order. I’m a terrible nerd, but you know what? It’s whatever makes you happy, right? And that’s what makes me happy.”

Wilson’s musical tastes are eclectic, and his 10,000 or so record collection from A to Z includes “ABBA to ZZ Top and everything in between”. He, himself, has contributed to music collections worldwide with over 100 releases, as a producer and as an artist, both solo and with bands such as Blackfield and Porcupine Tree. Though his latest release, To The Bone, is his most “accessible” yet, Wilson still seems to be ‘the most prolific artist you’ve never known’. Accessibility means that, for Wilson, it has been “fantastic” taking it on tour. He states: “In many ways, I think this album, because it’s a little more direct and the songs are a little more accessible than the previous few records, it seems to have given the show a bit more of a sense of balance, I would say, so whereas previous tours have been very, very, kind of focused on the, kind of, conceptual aspects of my work, To the Bone has given the show a little bit more of a sense of joy. A little more accessibility and directness, so it’s become a really, kind of fun show. Obviously, there’s still a lot of depth to it and a lot of the sort of more melancholic side of my work, but it’s definitely got much more of a fun element to it, too. It’s a very spectacular show, this one. I’ve worked really hard on developing the visual aspects of the show, and I definitely think it’s the most immersive and spectacular show I’ve had, and I think the To the Bone material has been a big reason for how that’s been able to happen.”

As for the addition of fun and hope, Wilson states: “I’ve asked myself that question because in many ways, a lot of subject matter on the album is still very dark.

To the Bone is an album that’s primarily about the concept of truth and deception and all those things that we put up with in the world, these days, whether it’s politicians lying to us or terrorists or the refugee crisis or all of these things.

 I think maybe part of me was feeling that if I allowed myself to, the album could become really depressing, if I just allowed myself to focus on those things, so there was almost a kind of deliberate attempt to also reflect on the kind of more joyful aspects of life and to create some kind of balance because I didn’t want to make an album that would be unrelentingly depressing or melancholy. Hopefully, it isn’t.”

Including hope as a reflection of the world whilst being bombarded by the stark reality of despondency is challenging. Wilson states: “Let’s just say it doesn’t come as naturally to me as the other stuff. It’s a strange thing because when I was growing up, and I was hearing the music my parents listened to, they listened to a lot of different kinds of music, and my dad definitely did listen to the more, kind of, heavier conceptual stuff. He would be listening to Dark Side of the Moon [Pink Floyd] or Tubular Bells [Mike Oldfield], but my mom was always listening to, you know, fantastic disco music or ABBA’s greatest stuff or Carpenters or Bee Gees. She was always listening to this really fantastic pop music, and some of it very, kind of, joyful and accessible, and I kind of grew up hearing both of those sides of the coin. So in many respects, they’re both a part of my musical DNA, but for whatever reason, most of my career, I’ve tended towards the more melancholic, the more kind of conceptual rock aspect. I don’t really know why, but it’s been nice with To the Bone to slightly redress the balance and to tap into that other side of my musical DNA in that respect.” Though Wilson’s father “unfortunately passed away a few years ago”, his mum “loved it”. Wilson exclaims: “My mum’s like, ‘Wow, you’ve actually written songs I can dance to Steven.’ So she, yeah, she’s really proud of the new record.”

Conceptual changes on To The Bone were assisted by a few changes to studio and recording processes. Wilson states: “I actually worked, for the first time, pretty much the first time in my career, I actually worked with a co-producer, and I always thought I was pretty much un-produceable. I always thought I was too much of a control freak to allow myself to involve anyone else in that kind of process, but this time, and partly because I did consciously decide I wanted to make a record that was a little bit more direct, a little bit more accessible, a little bit more focused on the songwriting aspects of what I do, and I thought the best way I could do that was to have someone who would kind of keep me on that path and stop me, perhaps, from disappearing into my more indulgent, sort of cliches. So I worked with a fantastic co-producer, a guy called Paul Stacey, and we worked in his studio, and Paul has been Noel Gallagher’s right hand man for the last 20 years, so he’s very experienced, and he’s very much about the song and bringing out the best from the song that you can bring out. So it was great to work with him. He definitely kept me very focused on that, kind of, initial plan that I had for this record.”

… look at all this stuff going on in the world that’s not particularly positive, but every single one of us has the opportunity to do something incredible and change the world for the better with this gift of life…

He continues: “The record finishes on a real song of hope. There’s a song at the end of the record, and it’s called Song of Unborn, and it’s basically a message. It’s a message to an unborn child. It doesn’t immediately feel, become apparent, that it is a positive song because it does talk about how the world is a very messed up place, but ultimately, the message of the song is that it says to the unborn child, it says, ‘You’re looking out at this world that you’re about to be born into, and you’re saying all of this crazy shit going on. You’re seeing this messed up planet, and you’re thinking why would I want to be born into such a troubled place?’ The positive side comes from the message basically saying the reason is the gift of life, it is something that is unique to every single one of us. We all have the opportunity to do something extraordinary and magical with that gift of life. I do really believe that. I think that is a very positive sentiment to put forward to look at all this stuff going on in the world that’s not particularly positive, but every single one of us has the opportunity to do something incredible and change the world for the better with this gift of life that we have. And I do think that’s a very positive way to end the record.”

Before ending on a message of hope, the lyrics also delve deep in to today’s social realities and of “dreams being public domain”. Wilson states: “it’s also referring to the idea, now, that everyone, I think, feels the need to live their lives in public. And social media encourages us to share every single detail of our lives. Every banal incident that happens to us in our lives, we’re kind of encouraged to share that with the rest of the world, and I don’t think that’s a good thing, obviously. I think that just creates a lot of noise in the world, really, a lot of unnecessary information and disinformation online, particularly. So the idea that even our dreams, now, are being shared with everyone else in the virtual world, so yes, it’s kind of referring to that need that everyone seems to have, these days, to live their lives in a very, kind of, public way, and I’m not just talking about celebrities or musicians, I’m talking about everyone. We all seem to do it. And it’s not only kids. There’s at least one guy in my band, and I’m not gonna name him. I’m not gonna name him, but there’s one guy in my band that is completely addicted to social media. It’s almost like everything he does in his life, he has to publish it online. I’ve discussed it with him, and it strikes me as very strange. He’s not what I would call a narcissistic person. He’s not an egomaniac, and yet he seems to be completely immersed in this world of social media to the extent that he almost clearly doesn’t exist unless he shares his life with people that essentially are strangers to him, and I find that a very strange twist and turn in the history of the human race, and it’d be very interesting to see where this is all heading because of course, it’s all a very recent and very sudden change, the internet has pretty much changed our lives beyond recognition in a very, very short period of time. I mean, when I was growing up, we did not have the internet. Life was a very different thing to what it is, now. So it’s been amazing, in my lifetime, to see how that thing, the internet, has changed everything about our lives. Almost everything about our lives.”

As for touring, Wilson states: “There was a time when I didn’t really relish the prospect of touring because I very much thought of myself as a producer and a songwriter, and I thought of myself as someone who was most at home when I was in the studio creating songs, painting with music, painting with textures and sound, and the touring was kind of a necessary path of promoting my career and being able to sustain a living, and I didn’t always relish that, but I have to say that since I’ve kind of started my solo band, I’ve really grown to love it, and I’ve grown to actually enjoy the prospect of being a front man, a kind of master of ceremonies. It’s not something that comes naturally to me. I never thought of myself as someone that would be a front man, or someone that would kind of like be playing the rock star and I’ve kind of come to enjoy it and relish it, actually, a lot more.  So I would say that touring, for me, is certainly a lot more pleasurable now than it has ever been, and part of that, of course, is that I know the show is quite special. It’s a spectacular. I’m talking about the visuals. I’m talking about the quality of the sound. I’m talking about the quality of the musicians I’m very fortunate to have in my band, and I’m just kinda this guy that’s kind of standing in the middle of all this incredible stuff going on and thinking to myself, ‘Wow, we’re doing something really special, here, and it’s my name on the ticket. How did that happen?’ I’m kind of enjoying that now.”

In respect to touring Australia, Wilson states: “It took me a long time to actually make it out to Australia. I mean, I started my professional career about ’92, ’93, and it was about 15 years before I was actually able to come to Australia for the first time, and it’s one of those things where you never really know what to expect when you come to a country for the first time. Particularly in the days before the internet, you weren’t so conscious of people all over the world. I think we’re a little bit more conscious of what’s going on in the rest of the planet, these days, but in the early days, I wasn’t necessarily aware if I had any fans at all in Australia, and I really didn’t know, and I really wasn’t sure. It was incredible to come that first time and meet people and realise that there are people that have been listening to the music pretty much since the beginning. And they arrived; they came to the gigs. I mean, by that time, I’d probably made about 30 albums, so there were people literally coming to the gigs with like, this pile of records to be signed, and they knew everything about me and all the records, and they’d been listening for years, and that was amazing. You know, the guys with my face tattooed on their arms and all this stuff, and that’s kind of surreal when you get confronted with that level of passion for the music, and I’ve always find the Australian fans to be incredibly enthusiastic and incredibly passionate, and it’s one of the reasons why I always look forward so much to coming back to Australia.”

Catch Steven Wilson when he tours Australia this November:

Steven Wilson Tour Dates

Brisbane – Thursday 8th November – Eatons

Sydney – Friday 9th November – Enmore Theatre

Saturday 10th November – Melbourne, Palais Theatre

Monday 12th November – Auckland, Bruce Mason Centre

Tickets On Sale now! Tickets available from www.davidroywilliams.com

 

VIP tickets are available for purchase as an additional ticket for this tour.

Gold VIP includes:

Admission to Q&A Session

Limited edition A3 Thick Card Poster

Official commemorative Steven Wilson guitar pick

Official commemorative Steven Wilson VIP Laminate

Priority Access to the Venue

Platinum VIP (limited to 20 per show) includes:

Meet Steven Wilson
Photo with Steven Wilson

2 items signed by Steven Wilson

Admission to Q&A Session

Limited edition A3 Thick Card Poster

Official commemorative Steven Wilson guitar pick

Official commemorative Steven Wilson VIP Laminate

Priority Access to the Venue

Questions for Q&A will be selected from those submitted to DRW Entertainment by VIPs via email and will be proffered by a moderator.

Steven’s band will not attend Meet and Greet, nor Q&A session.

About Mary Boukouvalas 951 Articles
Mary is a music photographer and reviewer.

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