“Honestly, you could put the best musicians in the world together, and they would just have no chemistry,” he says. “You really have to find a group of musicians that actually gel together, and it takes time. It could take up to 25 shows for a group to really lock in and communicate properly as a unit.”
By the same token, he acknowledges their fleeting nature, given he works as a musician under his own name. “I’m no longer duty-bound to write for and play with the same musicians,” he continues. “That can be liberating – but it can also be problematic. It cuts both ways, you see. I’m not in a position to pay people a retainer so that they’re always around – I’m not Paul McCartney or anything like that. I can’t rely on musicians always being available to me. It comes with the territory, as they say.”
Wilson, for the uninitiated, first rose to prominence as the lead singer, guitarist and primary songwriter of Porcupine Tree, who achieved a cult status within England’s metal scene and upheld a solid reputation until their eventual dissolution in 2010. Although Wilson is constantly queried on whether or not he will make like the Blues Brothers and put the band back together, he makes it pretty clear that he’s much more comfortable doing things on his own terms.
“Porcupine Tree started off as a solo project, and it was whatever I wanted to do,” he explains. “As it gradually became more of a band, it became inevitably more of a democratic unit. I just felt like that wasn’t for me – truthfully, I’m a control freak and I have to be captain of the ship. That’s difficult for other people within the fold of a band, which lead me to conclude that Porcupine Tree was an experiment. By ending that experiment, I was able to go back to what I feel has always been my true calling; which is to be a solo artist.”
Wilson doesn’t sit idle between touring commitments. As well as beginning to prepare for his next solo album, he also recently put together an EP, entitled 41⁄2, which is intended to bridge the gap between albums by compiling some discarded songs from previous album sessions and allowing them to have a moment to be appreciated.
“I’m sure I’m not the only one that does this, but when I’m working towards a new record I tend to end up with a surplus of new material to work with,” says Wilson. “It’s not necessarily about picking the best material, it’s about picking what works best together – particularly when you’re doing as I do, making albums with a conceptual side to them. With all four of my solo records, there are always songs that I am still proud of that didn’t necessarily fit within the tracklisting and thus did not make the cut. With 41⁄2, I was able to put together a collection of what I called my ‘orphans’ – the songs that didn’t fit into the grand concept of my last few records, but songs I wanted to have their moment in the sun. I felt it was a good way to mop up, if you will, between the release of Hand. Cannot. Erase. and what will become my fifth album. I believe in this material just as much as I believe in the material on my major projects – the only difference is that they just weren’t able to fit in elsewhere.”
Hand. Cannot. Erase. is out now via Kscope. For more information visit tombowler.com.au.