In the course of his 30-year musical career, the British songwriter, singer and multi-instrumentalist Steven Wilson has constantly developed and tried out new things. His problem: part of his audience meets him with growing incomprehension. Yet the versatile musician has always remained himself, even if instruments and sounds have changed again and again. In the eclipsed interview he explains why he has no desire to live up to expectations
In the YouTube comments on "Personal Shopper" and "King Ghost", the first samples from his sixth solo album "The Future Bites", there are comments à la "I'm missing Porcupine Tree", "just ambient noise with some vocals over it" or "not my cup of tea at all".outtakes For someone who invests as much time and heart and soul into his music as Steven Wilson, this is a resounding slap in the face. Obviously not all fans are willing to follow his musical paths unconditionally. Admittedly, this does not stop the go-getting musician from consistently continuing on his path - quite the contrary.
eclipsed: "The Future Bites" is a very pessimistic album title. Why did you choose it and how biting or dangerous is the future?
Steven Wilson: When I started working on it two years ago, I felt it was very easy to be cynical about the future: In the UK, we were going through this Brexit nonsense. And having spent a lot of time on the internet, I realised that people are getting more and more aggressive, argumentative and opinionated, that everything is getting blacker or whiter, but there's hardly any dialogue or compromise. It's almost as if human evolution has been halted by this technology called the internet - and the Trump administration has taken the aggressive and pessimistic to the extreme. It's hard to stay optimistic when you're bombarded with all this negativity. Which also has to do with the fact that we have major problems dealing with all this technology, that we don't understand what we're getting ourselves into - and we're paying the price. I read this in the explosive growth of online commerce and social media, which we don't know how it affects and shapes us as people. That's why "The Future Bites" - because it's not a positive development.
eclipsed: According to that, this album is a critique of society and consumption?
Wilson: Yes, although I can't exclude myself as far as people's behaviour is concerned: I also love shopping, especially when it comes to box sets and vinyl editions. At the same time, I'm also aware of how insidious the industry is, and that it's already gotten us to the point where we're enthusiastically acquiring things that we don't really need - for the simple reason that we're shopping addicts. We've developed an addiction that's actually completely insane. And the music industry is particularly cunning in this respect: it keeps presenting us with new deluxe editions of music that we have already bought at least three times - as the original LP, then as the CD version and as the deluxe edition with bonus disc. Finally, she kicks it up a notch with the big, expensive 5-CD box set with demos, live material, outtakes, the Blu-ray and the 5.1 mix. With that, she tempts us to buy the same thing all over again - even though most of it ends up unheard on the shelf.
eclipsed: Do you think your audience understands the subtle humor in songs like "Personal Shopper"?
Wilson: I actually feel like it's often unappreciated in my songs. It's definitely there - albeit in a very black form. But this time I put it on so over the top that really everyone should understand what I'm about. And even if people disagree, they should at least recognize my intention - that I'm holding a mirror up to society. I'm not explicitly criticizing, I'm more saying, "This is the world I see. Do you recognize yourselves in it?" And hopefully, with Elton John's appearance, that will become even more obvious. He is, after all, the world's most famous shopaholic, reciting this list of absurd luxury consumer items, which I find insanely funny. I have to be honest and say that anyone who doesn't think so is perhaps not part of my audience.