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Fans dreamed of it, Porcupine Tree did it! The return of the English progressive rock giants has been confirmed with the release of "Closure/Continuation", their first album in twelve years, which Steven Wilson and Richard Barbieri came to present.
DARIALYS - 10.06.2022 -
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As we said in our review, Porcupine Tree releases with "Closure/Continuation" the album that everybody hoped for but nobody expected. And yet, after a twelve years break, the band is back, with an album more collective than ever. And by the way, frontman Steven Wilson didn't come all the way alone to present us this album, because he was accompanied by Richard Barbieri, the band's keyboardist. The reasons of this return, the absence of the iconic bassist Colin Edwin, the future of the project, we tell you everything in this article!

"Closure/Continuation" is your eleventh studio album. It comes out twelve years after your last album, "The Incident"...
Richard Barbieri (keyboards): And thirty years after the first one!

Steven Wilson (singer/guitarist): And it's also the tenth anniversary of our album with Storm Corrosion (Steven Wilson's project with Mikael Akerfeldt, from Opeth, editor's note). I released a lot of albums in May, I don't know why!

So, "Closure/Continuation" is released after twelve years of break. What led you to come back, and why now?

Richard Barbieri: Steven started working on new material with Gavin (Harrison, the drummer). Steven was playing bass. It was pretty obvious, to Gavin anyway, that it was for Porcupine Tree, even at the beginning of the process. There was no pressure, no real desire to do something concrete. It was just for the sake of playing music. As time went on, it became clear that it could make new material for Porcupine Tree, but it was still different. And then we were confined. Steven's tour was cancelled and that sped things up.


Precisely, the covid crisis caused a lot of pain and structural difficulties, but it also allowed the bands to find time for new projects. Without the covid, the confinements and the tour cancellations, would this new Porcupine Tree album have been released?

Steven: It would have been released at some point, but not necessarily now. After that, I don't care what the fans think at all. I don't mean that in an arrogant way. If we didn't find value in this album, we wouldn't have released it. We didn't release this album to please the fans. In fact, we didn't want to tell anybody that we were working on it, because we weren't sure we were going to release it. For that, we had to like it! Finally, we listened to it and we found it very good, good enough to make an album. But the expectation of the fans was not a factor to release this album. I'm aware that the fans are very excited to see us back, we are too. But that's not why we released this album.

Yet, Steven, when you were asked if Porcupine Tree would ever make a comeback, you remained evasive for a long time. And then a few years ago, you cut off all rumors by saying that there would be no reformation of Porcupine Tree, that this band was finished. Did you say that to accentuate the surprise of the fans? Or did you really think that after more than ten years of break, the band would not reform?

Steven: For a while, nothing was decided. It was possible that this album would not come out. And secondly, if you think about it, I think you can find the answer yourself. When I was interviewed, I had to promote my solo albums. So when I was asked, "When is Porcupine Tree going to make a comeback?", I moved on, I said, "There is no comeback", because I'm not here to talk about that. That was a lie, a pious lie!

So if I ask you when your next solo album is going to come out, you're going to lie and tell me it's not going to come out? (Laughs)

Steven: (Laughs) Actually, if we talk about my next solo album now, it's not really going to deviate the conversation, we'll go back to Porcupine Tree afterwards. But at the time, I thought there was a danger in talking about Porcupine Tree in an interview I was doing to promote one of my solo albums. Afterwards, I knew we were working on an album, that there were some good songs. But it was really at the lockdown that I said to myself, "We've got a really good foundation, let's finish the job".

During the promo of "The Future Bites", you told us that you were afraid of not being able to renew yourself. Is it the reason why you release a new album with Porcupine Tree? Is it because you were having trouble coming up with new ideas for your next solo album?

Steven : No, it's quite the opposite. I finished writing my next solo album.

And that's a lie again...

Steven: I'm not lying! (Laughs). And it's quite different. When you release a new album, there's always a need to bring something else to your catalog, and I know Richard agrees with that. There has to be a reason to release a new album, a purpose. If you put out the same thing you've done before, what's the point? But maybe you have evolved? You don't need to do something better, but something different. I don't think we would have released this new Porcupine Tree album if we didn't feel that there was something new in it. There's an evolution in the sound, there's a freshness, there's something unique about this album that none of our other albums have. If it had been "In Absentia part 5" or "The Incident part 2", I don't think we would have released it.


You've been releasing solo albums for over ten years. What has that experience taught you, now that you're back with Porcupine Tree?

Richard: They are two different things. This album with Porcupine Tree is a collective effort.

Steven: Now we write together. If I write a song alone, it will probably end up on a solo album. If I write a song with Richard or Gavin, it will be for Porcupine Tree. That's a real change. Because in the past, if I had written a whole bunch of songs by myself, they would have ended up on a new Porcupine Tree album. But now, why would I do that? It's a big change for us. Porcupine Tree has never been so much a group effort. If we were to release a new Porcupine Tree album, I wanted it to be more of a band effort. Having my solo career on the side, I am more relaxed, there is less need to control the collective work.

Yes, you used to define yourself as a control freak.

Steven: I still am, but now I have my solo project! But even though I'm a control freak, I've always loved collaboration. But since Porcupine Tree started historically as a solo project, I never managed to let go of that philosophy completely. That's not the case anymore.

But that didn't stop you two from exploring solo careers outside of Porcupine Tree.

Steven: Of course!

Richard: Yes, for many reasons. One of the reasons Porcupine Tree stopped was because Steven wanted to experiment with certain styles of music, other genres.

And sing with women!

Richard: I've done a lot of songs with women singers too, by the way. I think there's a perimeter in which we work all three to build Porcupine Tree. But there's a lot of other things we like, outside of that perimeter. That's natural. The main reason we stopped was because we weren't making any progress. With "The Incident", we worked a lot, we toured a lot... We should have stopped after "Fear Of A Blank Planet", but we didn't. With "The Incident", we were supposed to progress, but we stayed at the same level.

And with this new album, do you think that you have evolved?

Steven : Yes. I think there are a lot of criteria that explain why we feel that way. The fact that we wrote this album collaboratively, the fact that I play bass on this album, the fact that we made this album in total secrecy, so there was no pressure, there was no deadline.


It's the second time you talk about pressure in this interview. Was there any on the previous albums?

Steven: The biggest pressure we had was us putting it on ourselves. Every time an album came out, I was like "I have to do something different". The pressure comes from within.

Richard: And then when you sign a contract, you have to make albums. You've been given a sum of money, you have to do something with it. That's part of the business.

The fans were looking forward to this album, as we said. However, some people see this reformation as an opportunistic answer to this expectation. What do you think about it?

Steven: They couldn't be more wrong! I'm aware of that expectation, but I'm not someone who wants to know what people are expecting and give it to them. My perverse side makes me offer the opposite of what people expect from me. And if a part of me didn't want to release this album earlier, it's because I knew that some people would see it as an act of capitulation to the public's expectations. But this album is fresh, it's good, it doesn't sound like an album that we wrote to give the fans what they wanted to hear. It's the album we wanted to release.

Richard: And it's been 13 years since the last album! (Laughs). It's not like we rushed to put something out right away.

You said that you played the role of bass player in the studio to record this new album, but you just announced recently that you would tour with Randy McStine and Nate Navarro. Can we know why Colin Edwin is not part of this reformation?

Steven: You ask a lot of questions related to the fans, and I understand that it interests you. Fans tend to have a very romantic view of the life of a band, but the reality is often different. Colin is a very good musician, but from my point of view, the creative core of the band was the three of us, since "In Absentia". Gavin is interested in rhythms, polyrhythms, Richard is interested in ambience and sound design, and I am interested in composition. That was the core of the band.

Does it mean that you will remain the bass player of Porcupine Tree in the studio?

Steven: I have no idea! That's the beauty of the situation. And that's reflected in the name of the album, "Closure/Continuation". We don't know what will happen. Will it be our last album? We don't know. I suspect it will, but... I like playing bass. Gavin didn't say to me, "Why don't you do the bass yourself, so we don't need Colin? It wasn't that, it was more like, "Oh, a bass! Let's jam!". We developed 'Harridan' and 'Chimera's Wreck' like that. So I thought, "Ok, I guess I'm the bass player on this album! It wasn't something that was planned for a long time.

Richard: We're proactive. We kept in touch. Colin was not proactive in the same sense.

Steven: The last time I talked to him was in 2010.

Richard: If Colin had been writing stuff for the band and submitting it to us and calling us up and saying, "Listen to this," things might have been different.


The track 'Herd Culling' starts with a riff that could remind of 'The Sound Of Muzak', and it's probably the most progressive metal track on the album. However, you never really wanted to accept this label that people put on you. With time, has your opinion on the matter changed?

Steven: We come from progressive rock and art rock, or concept rock. Of course, I understand that. But there's so much in Porcupine Tree that has nothing to do with that genre. I think you can just define us as "Porcupine Tree", because we created this universe, and nobody else sounds like us. You're right, there are metal riffs on this album, but there are five thousand other things ! There's progressive rock, progressive metal, classic rock, jazz, funk, but we're not going to say that we're a jazz or funk band because we have some passages inspired by those styles in our music ! Traditionally, progressive rock mixes a lot of other styles, and the fact that we mix genres makes it possible to label us as such. But at this point, I think we are nothing more than Porcupine Tree.

You like to make concept albums with Porcupine Tree. Is it one this time, and if so, what is it about?

Steven: The reason this album took so long to come out is because the topics I wanted to talk about in my lyrics have evolved a lot over the years. That's a big difference from our previous albums where I was obsessed with coming up with ideas for lyrics, looking for ideas in books, movies, etc. So to answer your question, it's not a concept album this time.

Is it easier to compose an album in this state of mind?

Steven: No, it was more complicated. When I have a very strong theme with a direction, I find it easier to write. 'Herd Culling' is the last song written on this album, and I had no idea what I was going to write about. We were in the middle of the covid, I thought, "I'm not going to talk about the covid! Everybody's doing it, let's try to do something else. Inspiration can take time to come. I like to say it's like going to a wall every day, and you're head-butting the bricks. At the end of the day, you look at the wall, and there's nothing, not a single chip. You go home, and the next day, you do it again, and at the end of the day, there is a tiny crack! For me, writing is like that. I find it very hard, but it's the greatest reward when you finally get something done. It's incredible.

Steven, on this album, your vocals are perfect. It's far from the filters applied to your voice on the first Porcupine Tree albums that were used. What do you think about the evolution of your voice over the years?

Steven: It's interesting. I would say it's easier for people to judge that evolution, because for me it's pretty hard. I'm glad you said that, and I'm more confident than I was before.

Richard : You have improved with time, especially on stage !

Steven: I think doing solo albums and tours has helped. Also, I've been listening to a lot of different singers in the last ten years.

You've worked with female singers too, as we were saying. In one of our previous interviews, you were asked about the impact of these kinds of collaborations on your vocal approach, and you didn't really know how to answer that question.

Steven: You have to take advantage of what nature has given you. I would have loved to have the voice of Marvin Gaye, James Blake or Jeff Buckley! I do my best. But for sure, singing with Ninet for example (Ninet Tayeb, who sang on several Steven Wilson songs, ed.), it's so inspiring. She's a phenomenal singer!

Also, you used to have a pretty critical view on social networks in the past. But lately, you seem to have opened up and revealed a bit more of your intimacy. Has this changed anything in your approach to music or maybe in your lyric writing?

Steven: I don't know, but if you're a professional musician today, you can't ignore social media. It's where you communicate with your audience. Let's just say I do the minimum. I haven't been on Facebook in ten years, I'm not on Twitter, I post one photo a month on Instagram. But I wrote a book recently where I talked quite a bit about my personal life for the very first time. For years, people knew nothing about me!

Richard: Including us!

No kidding?

Richard: It's true!

Steven: I'm not even sure I know myself.

Richard: It was weird, because sometimes we'd be in the studio, and Steven, you'd go to the sound engineer that we didn't know and tell him things that we didn't even know!

Steven: Really? (Laughs).

And how did you live this relationship? Does that mean that Porcupine Tree really occupied all your attention, even beyond maybe the friendly relationship?

Richard: Probably! Outside of the band, we don't see each other very much. We spend so much time on the road together! When the tour ends, we go back to our lives, our friends... With my first band, we were together all the time. We didn't have any friends outside the band! Here it's different. I think Steven has never confided in us anything about his private life! Maybe he talks more with Gavin about these things?

Steven: It's funny because when I was writing this book, there were things that I told about myself that I never realized! At first I thought it was going to be really boring. But then I started writing. I talked about my childhood and thought about my mother's brother who starved himself to death. Of course, that's where "Hand. Cannot. Erase" comes from! This woman who is found dead in her apartment and her body is found after two years! That's when I realize and think, "Of course! This is part of my story! It's not that I didn't know, but I had never made the connection.

This story has influenced you in an unconscious way.

Steven: Yes, my godmother hanged herself, my cousin had a sex change... I had some special events in my personal life. I started writing all this stuff down. I got married three years ago and my wife is the exact opposite of my previous partner. She was a Japanese woman. They are very reserved people. My wife is Israeli, she is totally different...

We were talking about your voice. You already talked about your lack of confidence in your voice. Maybe your marriage helped you to find some confidence in that area?

Steve: Probably. I'm sure it did! That's a factor. But I've also developed my voice a lot with my solo career over the last ten years. I was the frontman for Porcupine Tree before, but when I started my solo career, I was really "the frontman"! I even put down my guitar on some songs to dedicate myself entirely to singing!

Richard: If there's one thing I don't like about some fans, it's the ones who say "Porcupine Tree was Steven Wilson". But to me, even if it was Steven's songs and even if he was in control, it sounded like Porcupine Tree! There is a reason for that, there are other people in the band! But this is never accepted by the fans or the journalists!

You said that your way of approaching the writing was different according to whether you were working for yourself or Porcupine Tree. However, some of the songs on the new album "Closure/Continuation" could have been on one of your solo albums.

Steven: Let me guess, you are talking about 'Walk The Plank'?

Ah, not really! More like 'Of The New Day' or 'Dignity'.

Steven: 'Of The New Day' is the only song I wrote by myself. 'Dignity' on the other hand...

Richard: ...really has the Porcupine Tree feel to it.

Steven: Richard basically wrote it.

Richard: It has a nostalgic feel to it. It has an old Porcupine Tree feel to it.

Steven: The structure, the musical journey, the intro, the mood... It's all Porcupine Tree. After that, the lines are blurred, of course.

Automatically, because Steven, you are the frontman. But you are totally right! Finally, your album is called "Closure/Continuation". We can wonder if this album will be your swan song or not. What will determine that? The reception of the album by the public? The tour, maybe?

Richard: No, we don't know actually. I think for it to continue, we need to have no pressure and no expectations.

Steven: For me, I need to feel the need to have something new to say. There has to be a sense of evolution. On this album, there's a song where there's no guitar. It's just me and Richard on keyboards and Gavin. That's something we could experiment with more in the future! An album without guitar! The fans would hate it... From a purely creative point of view, it could be a way for us to renew ourselves.

Thank you very much!

Steven: My pleasure...

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(9) COMMENT(S)  
Perso je n’hésite pas à dépenser 70 balles pour voir un de mes groupes préférés, d’autant plus pour ce qui risque d’être leur dernière tournée.
Ensuite je pense qu'il faut arrêter de se plaindre: si on va voir un artiste populaire, ça sera nécessairement dans une grande salle et donc ça va coûter bon bon, sinon il faut soutenir les artistes plus confidentiels et fréquenter de moins grande envergure... Parfois il y a peu d'intérêt à aller voir des artistes populaires, qui n'ont plus rien à dire (comme Steven)... Ceci étant mon point de vue évidemment.
Effectivement certaines places sont assez chères, mais il ne faut pas oublier que monter un spectacle est une entreprise qui coûte de l'argent. Par ailleurs le tarif de location des places est exorbitant (notamment à Paris). Alors oui, il faut trouver un juste milieux, mais 67 balles ne me semble pas très cher pour un concert d'un artiste comme Steven, surtout si c'est dans dans une grande salle.
67 € ? C'est peu ou prou le tarif pour les groupes de cette importance aujourd'hui quand tu vas dans une salle type Zenith ou Arena. A comparer aux 150 pour Pet' Gab', ou encore 220 € récemment pour Sting ici à Poitiers.
Pour voir Porcupine Tree en concert vers chez moi il faudrait débourser entre 67 et 90 euros.... Mais de qui se moque t on?
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PORCUPINE TREE: Closure / Continuation (2022)

Twelve years after "The Incident", Porcupine Tree releases the album that everybody hoped for but nobody expected.
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