One of the most eclectic and prolific artists in rock music, Steven Wilson has been writing, recording, and producing music continuously since the age of 10. A native of Hemel Hempstead in England, Wilson was first exposed to music at the age of eight, when he started hearing his father listening to Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon,” and his mother to Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby,” two albums that were pivotal in the development of his musical direction. His father, an electrical engineer, built him a multi-track tape machine, and he began to experiment with overdubbing and developing a repertoire of production techniques.
Early demo tapes started to emerge in the mid 80’s while Steven was still at school, and at the end of the decade he created the two projects which gained him entry to the professional music world: Porcupine Tree and No Man. Porcupine Tree, which explored psychedlia, progressive music, and his love of ambitious seventies music, was initially an imaginary “band” which, in reality, Steven overdubbed all the instruments himself. This even extended to early demo tapes coming with a fictional written history of the band, and biographical info about the fictitious performers.
Around the same time, Steven formed No-Man, his long-term collaboration with singer Tim Bowness. Influenced by everything from ambient music to hip-hop, their early singles and albums were a mixture of dance beats and lush orchestrations. Signing to One Little Indian in the UK, and Epic in the US in 1990, they received tremendous accolades from the music press, with Singles Of The Week in Melody Maker, Sounds and Hot Press.
Meanwhile, things progressed with Porcupine Tree, whose increasing popularity was fast outpacing the imaginary pretext of an actual group. The second full-length album, Up the Downstair was released in 1993 and was praised by Melody Maker as “a psychedelic masterpiece… one of the albums of the year.” This was the first album to include keyboardist Richard Barbieri and bassist Colin Edwin. Towards the end of the year, Porcupine Tree became a real band for the first time with the inclusion of Chris Maitland on drums, and began to tour. Further albums throughout the late nineties, and extensive touring resulted in a string of indie chart placings and critical acclaim, many fans hailing them as the Pink Floyd of the nineties.
In 2001 Porcupine Tree was signed to US label Lava Records, under the auspices of Atlantic Records. Now with the support of a major label, and featuring new drummer Gavin Harrison, In Absentia saw the light of day in 2002, featuring a heavier sound than all the group’s previous works. It charted in many European countries and remains one of the top-selling Porcupine Tree albums. It was also their first album to be released in 5.1 Surround Sound,, and won the “Best Made-For-Surround Title” award for the Surround Music Awards 2004. Its 2005 follow-up, Deadwing was inspired by a film script written by Steven and film-maker Mike Bennion, and became the first Porcupine Tree album to chart the Billboard 200, entering at #132. The album won “Album of the Year” at the Classic Rock magazine awards, and its surround version received the “Best Made-For-Surround Title” once again. In 2006, Porcupine Tree released their first live DVD, titled Arriving Somewhere . The following year the band released Fear of a Blank Planet, its most successful selling album to date, receiving the most favorable reviews of the band’s career. It entered the Billboard 200 at #59, and charted in almost all European countries, peaking at #31 in the UK. It was nominated for a US Grammy, and won several polls as the best album of the year. 2007 ended with the band playing their first arena shows, and their status as arguably the biggest “underground” band in the world was cemented.
Steven has become known for the high standard of his production and is a sought-after mixer and producer. Artists he has worked with in this capacity include the Norwegian artist Anja Garbarek, Yoko Ono, and Swedish progressive-metal band Opeth for whom he produced three albums. More recently Wilson has become known for his 5.1 Surround Sound mixes – the 2007 Porcupine Tree album Fear of a Blank Planet and their 2009 followup The Incident were nominated for Grammys in the “Best Mix For Surround Sound” category. Fear of a Blank Planet was also voted by Sound And Vision, the second best 5.1 recording of all time. Steven is now working on several other surround sound projects, including remixing the King Crimson back catalogue. Other projects include Blackfield, a collaboration with Israeli megastar Aviv Geffen which has now produced three acclaimed albums, and Steven’s drone / ambient / experimental outlet Bass Communion.
In 2003 Wilson quietly started to release music under his own name for the first time, in the form of a series of two track CD singles on his own label Headphone Dust, each one featuring a cover version and an original SW song. The choice and treatment of the cover versions was unpredictable, with the first five featuring songs by Alanis Morissette, Abba, The Cure, Momus, and Prince. Stylistically these cover versions allowed Wilson to expand his musical pallete into everything from electronica, noise music, and stripped down acoustic balladry. This led to his decision to record his first solo album of original music.
Between January and August of 2008, Steven began recording material that would comprise Insurgentes. Comprising 10 new tracks that range from ballads and anthems to all-out industrial noise assaults, the dark, cinematic, and richly textured disc represents two years’ worth of creative output and numerous recording sessions worldwide in studios from Mexico City to Japan to Israel. The whole process was visually documented by film-maker Lasse Hoile, and 2010 film Insurgentes features footage of the recording sessions, surreal sequences, and interviews with Wilson and many other musicians about what it means to be a musician in the age of iPods and download culture.
Now Wilson has set yet another benchmark for both musical composition and audio fidelitiy with his new album, Grace For Drowning, the second album released under his own name. Allowing his creative muse full license, Wilson has crafted 83 minutes of music that reflect his artistic sensibilities more fully than anything he’s released before. Pop, industrial, electronica, drone, jazz, and prog merge seamlessly in everything from 4-minute ballads to long-form pieces rich with improvisation and time changes.
Moreover, Grace For Drowning cements Wilson’s position at the forefront of audio engineering, as it is the first-ever rock album released primarily in Blu-ray video format. The standard edition of the album comes in 5.1 surround sound with accompanying video content for each song, including music videos by Lasse Hoile and interactive features that bring fans right into the studio with Wilson during the recording process. It will also be available as a deluxe edition that comes packaged with 3 CDs and a 120-page book of artwork and notes, a 180-gram vinyl edition, and a standard CD edition.