21 Oct 2016

Steven Wilson - producer progressive without being prog-rock.

From RNZ Music, 9:00 am on 21 October 2016
Steven Wilson

Steven Wilson Photo: supplied

In some circles Steven Wilson is referred to as a aural auteur. He is considered a pioneer and perfectionist in the realm of quadraphonic and 5.1 surround sound mixing. In other circles he is better known for his work as a solo musician or with his bands Porcupine Tree and No Man. He’s been nominated for four Grammy’s for his work in that arena. In heavy metal circles he’s known as the man that brought production values and multi-layered melody to the genre through his work with Swedish heavyweights Opeth. No matter which circle you are concerned with, the man is fascinating. 

“My first love is making records and whatever is necessary in order for me to achieve that I will learn how to do it. If that includes writing songs, writing lyrics learning how to mix learning how to produce learning how to do orchestral arrangements then I will do that because what excites me the most is the good old fashioned idea of making an album and making an album that people may listen to from beginning to end. That’s what made me fall in love with music in the first place was the idea of being able to take listeners on a journey across forty or sixty minutes.”

Such a concept may seem outdated in the current climate of playlist culture and YouTube music consumption, which Steven acknowledges but suggests that there may be a swing back to long form listening among certain listeners who are looking for something more. His most recent album Hand. Cannot. Erase is a perfect example.  

“It’s a story, to give it it’s most obvious analogy it’s like a movie for the ears because it’s not ten four minute songs thrown together about different subject matter, it is a continuum of music, sixty five minutes of music which tells a story.  The story is based on true life events of a young woman who dies in her apartment and her body is not discovered for two years.  Now this actually happened about ten years ago in London.  That in itself in mind-blowing and tragic, what was even more surprising was that she was not a lonely little old lady, she was a young relatively popular woman.  So you start to think when you hear that story how is this possible?  And the more I thought about it the more I realised I could absolutely understand how this could happen, in the age of the internet, in the age of social networking, in the age of paranoia or terrorism or fear on the streets.  All of these things factored in and I could understand how it was possible for someone to disappear from view whilst in plain sight.”

In this interview Steven speaks eloquently about his work on this album, the future of sound, his regard for his contemporaries, what he has contributed to the heavy metal scene and his lifelong passion for music and sound. 

His album is available here, and his Auckland show is at the Powerstation on Wednesday October 26th

As is his custom, he’ll be playing in bare feet.