MANCHESTER awaits royalty on 29 January.
The King of progressive rock, Steven Wilson, brings his “complex show of music, films and quadraphonic sound” to the Apollo theatre next year.
Armed with a new album, ‘4 ½’, Wilson brings the fifth iteration of his solo career to a city he knows well.
“A lot of people associate me with music from the 70s, but I grew up in the 80s, so Manchester was – especially in the 80s – a very, very fertile scene for tremendous music.
“I grew up listening to a lot of bands from Factory Records. Outside of London, Manchester is probably the city I’ve played in more than any other in the UK over the years. I always have a tremendous reaction from the fans in Manchester so I’m very much looking forward to returning.
Wilson is almost 50-years-old, an expert craftsman in his field, but his passion for writing and producing music remains untainted. His latest offering is destined to be a hit with those who have followed his career closely for the past three decades. Making records, he says, is what drives him on.
“I still get a thrill out of making records. For me, that was what I fell in love with originally about music. Not necessarily being a guitar player or even being a singer, but being able to hold – what at the time would have been a vinyl – an album in my hand and say ‘I made this, this is mine, this is a piece of me, it’s an extension of my personality’ or whatever you want to call it, and I still get that buzz.
“I got the vinyl copy through just this morning of 4 ½ , and to hold it in my hand and say ‘this is something I made’ gives me a little bit of a buzz and a thrill to know that there’s something else, another piece of me that’s come out and is out there. You put something out there of yourself which can resonate with other people, and hopefully people will find something positive and enjoyable about it.”
Wilson was as young as eight when he established an affinity with music, but really took off in the 80s with Porcupine Tree. The influence of other musicians was prevalent within the band’s music – “I grew up listening to a lot of the bands, a lot of labels from Factory Records for example” – but seeking an identity remaining critical; Porcupine Tree’s music provided a great source of inspiration for many crowds and young artists at that time.
But the idea of inspiring does not come as comfortably for Wilson as some may suggest. The musician suggests he would much rather listen to music that is far removed from the generic boundaries as his own.
“I know my music influences others because people tell me. Barely a day goes by without a band messaging me through Facebook saying ‘we’re influenced by your music, can we send you our album?’ and on one hand that’s very flattering. I suppose it’s vindication in a way that I’ve done something that means something to people over the years, and that people would find something distinctive about it that they would be influenced by.
“On the other hand, musically speaking, the last thing I would ever want to listen to is something that sounds influenced by my music. It’s not something that interests me and I think that’s where people are slightly disappointed sometimes.
“They come to me with their demo or CD and say ‘we’re really influenced by you’ or ‘Porcupine Tree’ and I just think to myself ‘that’s not anything I would want to listen to.’ I’d rather listen to a completely different musical area or genre.
The future of progressive rock, largely thanks to the Internet, is only going to go from strength to strength.
“I think progressive rock is going to grow. Not everything on the internet is wonderful, but the barriers that used to exist between someone like myself and my potential audience aren’t there anymore.
“Let’s face it – you don’t read a lot about this kind of music in the press, you don’t see it on the television and you don’t hear it on the radio. Partly because of the music; it doesn’t lends itself that well to mainstream coverage, so I think the Internet has saved it in a way and is also making it grow. Very slowly but surely it is reaching new audiences and I’m happy to be a part of that process.”
By Jordan Eyre