"Song of I points the way for the next album." Steven Wilson (Paris, november 2018)
As we caught Steven Wilson last time to review the extensive Prince discography and pick his favourites, we also had the opportunity to talk about his upcoming album, female singers and trip hop.
I think Song of I is the best song on To The Bone. I think you managed to do something quite interesting with that trip hop vibe. Would you be interested in exploring that style on a whole album or EP maybe ?
Steven Wilson : [Smiles] Wait for the next album. Because I'm already working on it. I won't say it's there all the way through but let's just say that if there's any song on To The Bone that would point the way forward for me, it would be Song of I. I've done a couple tracks and I'm working with a producer this time, a guy called David Costin. He's really interesting, he's produced Bats for Lashes, Everything Everything, Keane, he's a very contemporary producer. And he's fascinated by that trip hop world too and together, we're having a lot of fun working on these new songs. Wait and see. If Song of I is your favourite track, I think you'll like where I'm going. Not everyone will, but you probably will.
I suppose you're a Cocteau Twins fan ?
Ever thought about working with Liz Fraser ?
I tried so many times to get Liz Fraser... The thing is you probably noticed she doesn't do anything, unfortunately. She's been working on her solo record for about twelve years apparently. I tried so hard to make it happen when I was working on Insurgentes. Before I had Ninet Tayeb on Hand Cannot Erase, I was thinking about Liz Fraser and I went trough her management. She's not interested to do anything.
I guess that's why she doesn't tour with Massive Attack.
[ED : History proved us wrong as the Mezzanine tour featuring Liz Fraser has now been announced]
It's a shame. What a divine voice ! I also thought about Lisa Gerrard (Dead Can Dance) at one point. Anyway, I still think Teardrop is one of my top five songs ever, by anyone, and part of what makes it so special is her voice.
Are you familiar with the band Leprous from Norway ?
I've heard the name.
On their last european tour, they've been playing Angel as an encore. And even as a Massive Attack worshiper, I have to say they nailed it. Hands down.
Wow. 'Cause it's a heavy song, isn't it ? You could almost imagine Swans doing an Angel cover. There's a remastered version of Mezzanine that just came out, three discs.
Did you take care of the remastering ?
I wish ! [Laughs] Listen, Mezzanine was one of the things at the top of my list to do a 5.1 remaster. But this 3cd version with bsides, outtakes and mixes...
Are you going to buy it ?
I probably will. But I'm getting to the point now where, even though I know I'm part of the problem here, I'm a bit tired of these packages.
The remastered editions ?
Not the remastering so much. You get an album that you love, it gets reissued and there's suddenly four discs of outtakes. And there's very rarely anything that you really want to listen to more than once. So I find myself just going back to the album itself, and suddenly, the album that should have taken that much space in my shelf takes THAT much space. And I'm running out of space ! Some of these albums albums I love get those deluxe reissues and I buy them but never listen to the bonus shit. And you know, Mezzanine is so perfect as it is. But anyway, I'll probably buy it 'cause it is a favourite.
My favourite is Protection.
The song or the album ?
The song is also great ! And the video.
Of course ! And the singer.
Yes, Tracey Horne, I love her. Another singer I'd love to work with. You know, that Protection clip is one of my favourite videos of all time.
Fredrik Thordendal from Meshuggah doesn't do interviews anymore. But he did one seven years ago and someone asked him about his most frequently played albums at that time. And he said "100th Window, because it takes me to this other place.".
I love that album too. That is a masterpiece. It's the one that 3D pretty much did on his own, isn't it ? It's like all of the darkest aspects of Mezzanine but for a whole record. [Smiles] I mean, Butterfly Caught, wow !
I really dig What Your Soul Sings, and the singer !
That would be Sinead O'Connor. And we just talked about Nothing Compares 2 U, yeah amazing !
I could talk about this band all day so, let's jump to something else, shall we ?
Yeah me too. Unfortunately, we have to talk about my shit !
Maybe you could do a Massive Attack selection for us next time.
Sure. Not so many albums to choose from though.
Yeah, and that's why I thought it was great you picked Prince because it's interesting. He released so many albums and when you want to discover him, it can be really intimidating. Same goes for King Crimson, they have like 15 albums.
Yeah, and there are ones to avoid with Prince, like Graffiti Bridge I would say. Also, the Batman album. Anyway, it would be a bit more tricky with Massive Attack because all the albums are good.
You played Hand Cannot Erase in full on tour. Would you be interested about playing other full albums of your career, being it Porcupine Tree or your solo stuff ?
I'm pretty ambivalent about this at this stage of my career. I just feel like I have a body of songs and they're mine. I don't really think of songs as Porcupine Tree songs or Steven Wilson songs or Blackfield songs. They're just my songs. One of the things I do like about going out to see a show is the surprise element, that you don't necessarily know which song is gonna be played next. It's that moment when you hear the intro and you recognize the song. It's part of the fun of going to a show. And if you just say "now we're gonna do the album", you take away that element of surprise because the audience knows exactly what's coming. And I think it's a shame. I mean, I did it a few times with Hand Cannot Erase and just towards the end of that album cycle. But what I like about the Home Invasion show is that it's bit like a voyage through my career and you don't know what's coming. And some of the songs I've chose from my back catalogue are not the obvious ones. Like The Creator Has a Master Tape which is not even a particularly popular song but I always liked it. Porcupine Tree never played it live, they never liked it, so I thought it would be great. Now I can fucking tell my band they have to play it ! I like the fact that you might get a song that's 20 years old, which, let's face it, is more cult that a new one. So doing a whole album, I think if it was something that had a strong conceptual flow to it, it might make sense to play the whole thing, as Hand Cannot Erase did. But is that the case for To The Bone ? No, it's a bunch of songs that have a vague common theme but I'm not sure there are other conceptual albums in my catalogue. Maybe The Incident, the last Porcupine Tree album, which not one of our better records.
I would love to hear Grace For Drowning in full, just because I think it's a great double LP.
Really ? I like it a lot, I'm very proud of it. It's interesting, it's the one with the biggest jazz influence.
Yeah, it has also a bit of an avant-garde element. But it also has songs like Postcard.
Yes, and a few other simple, more straightforward songs like the opener simply titled Grace for Drowning. It's funny, I don't play anything from that record right now. But the thing is I've played Index for about seven or eight years straight at every single show and I LOVE playing it so much. And I just got to the point where I thought I had to move on. And in a way, in terms of atmosphere, Song of I became the replacement song for Index. We still do Postcard sometimes, though.
Live photo by Florian Denis
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