(Progressive Newsletter Nr.15 06/97)
excerpts from an interview with Steven Wilson (Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards, Samples)
I wouldn't try to describe our music or put it in a category. We have been described in many different ways in the media - avantgarde, ambient rock, psychedelic, neo-progressive, space rock etc. All of these descriptions point towards specific aspects of our sound, but none of them fully sum up the Porcupine Tree sound.
Are you satisfied to be an independent band, which isn't controlled by a big record company or do you still hope being sigend by a major label somewhere in the future?
The 5 years Porcupine Tree have been on Delerium has been a very important profile building period. However, we have now got to the stage where it is difficult for us to go any further without the kind of money and power that major record companies have. For example although we have managed to build the profile of the band by touring, we have not been able to back this up with major advertising campaigns, posters, promotional videos etc. It doesn't matter how great your music is, people also need to know that you exist and unfortunately most people don't look that far beyond what they see on TV or hear on the radio to find their music. For that reason we may release the next album on a bigger label. We have been approached by a few big labels recently so it's now a question of deciding which one has the most sympathy with the Porcupine Tree ideology.
You also played live on several events related to the progressive scene, e.g. Planet Pul Festival '94 in Uden or Progscape '96 in Baltimore. Do you feel part of that movement or are you open to every muscial direction?
Of course there are elements of what we do that have much in common with generic progressive rock and we always enjoy playing to these audiences. However obviously I feel that our sound is much more diverse and experimental than most other bands referred to as progressive. I certainly don't feel we have anything in common with bands like IQ and Pendragon who - regardless of how good they are - seem to play a very old fashioned regressive form of music. Personally, I feel there are lot of excellent artists identified more with other genres despite obviously strong progressive or psychedelic influences - for example Underworld, Orbital, Stereolab, Talk Talk, Dead Can Dance, Tortoise and UI. There are many elements to Pocrupine Tree that are inspired by much more contemporary sources, notably the use of sampling, trance rhythms and even a bit of thrash metal!
When you look back to all the release from "On the sunday of life..." until "Signify", which albums were the most important ones for you?
Each album has been very important to me."On the sunday of life...", because it was the first and also because it was very diverse and could have led Porcupine Tree in any one of a number of future directions. "Up the downstair" was significant in that a very identifiable Porcupine Tree sound began to establish itself. "The sky moves sideways" was important to me because it was the first time other musicians really became involved, although it was still really a solo album. It was also an exploration of the more ambient side of the Porcupine Tree sound. "Signify" is the first real Porcupine Tree band album and has more of a rock ensemble sound. And of course each album has represented for me an improvement in my songwriting and production skills.
"The sky moves sideways" has been sold over 20.000 times. Do you expect from "Signify" even higher sales figures or how important is it for you at all how many albums you sell?
Commercial success was certainly the last thing on my mind when I started writing and recording Porcupine Tree music, since I was doing it purely for my own pleasure and had no idea of its commercial possibilities. On the other hand it's only natural that when you believe in something so much and work so hard on making it live up to your own expectations that you want as many people to hear it as possible. For that reason I do have ambitions to sell millions of albums, but I would never compromise the music or direction of the band to achieve more success. For me the integrity of the music is paramount.
Kristian Selm © Progressive Newsletter 1997