In a recent interview with Time Out New York, Porcupine Tree frontman Steven Wilson discussed the band's recent stop at New York City's Radio City Music Hall as well as the new documentary film Insurgentes of which he is the main subject. But the in depth feature didn't stop there. Wilson also touched upon his philosophy when it comes to his approach to his music, the way he digests other music, as well as the main driving force that he finds is lost among many of today's music fans: curiosity. Read an excerpt of the discussion below, and go right here for the full Q&A.

Time Out New York: Every now and then you hear about a progressive-rock resurgence, most recently when Emerson, Lake and Palmer headlined England’s High Voltage Festival. Is this convenient media jargon, or is there truth to the notion?
Steven Wilson: I don’t think it’s ever really gone away, but there certainly is now a reembracing of ambitious, album-orientated rock music. That, for me, ultimately is what progressive music is. Into that, you can throw anything: Flaming Lips, Radiohead, Muse, Massive Attack. For me, these are all artists very much in the tradition of the original wave of so-called progressive bands. Let’s not forget that none of those bands ever referred to themselves as progressive bands at the time; they were simply bands that had come out of the climate that the Beatles and the Beach Boys created with albums like Sgt. Pepper and Pet Sounds, for ambitious music not necessarily conforming to the three-minute pop-song format.

Bands like Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, ELP, Genesis, they had very little in common with each other except for that. They were trying to do something more conceptual, more ambitious with the album, and perhaps putting more focus—not all of them, I don’t think Pink Floyd were, but some of them putting more focus on musicianship, perhaps, than ’60s pop bands had. But even that, I think, is a moot point, because a band like Floyd weren’t great musicians, and yet arguably were the most progressive of all of those bands.

You used to read stories about Roger Waters supposedly thanking David Gilmour for recording the bass parts that won Waters some big poll as “best bass player.”
They weren’t great musicians, but many people think of them as the kind of quintessential progressive rock band, in the sense that their music has proved to be much more timeless than most of the other progressive bands, mainly because there wasn’t that emphasis on musicianship. It was purely an allegiance to doing something more creative with the album, the idea of the album as a musical continuum, a musical journey. Has that ever gone away completely? Certainly it had some dark ages in grunge and all those things. But I think that idea of the album as a musical journey as always been around, and it’s probably more popular than ever before now—or not ever before, but since that original wave—because music has been liberated from commercial radio and MTV.

Liberated is an interesting choice of words.
What is most responsible for confining popular music to the three-minute pop song over the last 25 years is those two things. If you take those two things out of the loop, there’s no need anymore to conform to the three-minute pop-song format, and I think that’s one of the reasons why you’ve had a resurgence in music that doesn’t necessarily think about commercial popular-music formats. The other reason is it’s now possible to make music for a much smaller market and still survive on that by selling directly to fans through the Internet. So people don’t have to think so much in commercial-radio terms in the way that perhaps they did in the ’80s, certainly, which is when I started. You had to focus on getting things on the radio, because you weren’t going to make a career otherwise. That’s not true anymore. I think in that sense, a band like Rush from the ’70s is the great model, a band that have just toured and made consistently quality albums, never really had big hit singles, never been fashionable, never been on MTV, and yet are bigger than ever. So I think they’re really the model for what’s going on right now.

Yet working outside of the commercial mainstream, Porcupine Tree is playing Radio City Music Hall this week. How did you achieve that kind of success without much obvious music-industry support?
One thing I realized very early on when I started making music as Porcupine Tree—which was in the early to mid-’90s, and I was just doing it as a solo thing at the time, doing it really for myself because I didn’t think anyone else wanted to listen to it—is that there is always an audience out there for music with integrity, music that doesn’t necessarily play by the commercial mainstream rules. In fact, some people are put off by what they perceive to be courting the mainstream. I consider myself one of those people. When I was growing up, I was always looking for the most willfully uncommercial music: Whether it was Captain Beefheart or Frank Zappa or King Crimson, that’s what attracted me. And if I felt for a moment that one of those artists was beginning to try and court the mainstream, that was the beginning of the end for my relationship with that band.

This is where we come back to Rush as being a great example. Floyd is another, Led Zeppelin…both bands that never really released singles throughout their heyday. And I think Porcupine Tree is definitely in that tradition of a band that have kept faith with the fan base by never scaring them off with this idea that we might go for the almighty dollar. So it’s been very organic, it’s been very slow, but it has been always on an upward trajectory; for 20 years now it’s kept going up, and there aren’t many artists that can say that. It’s been a very slow curve, but nevertheless it’s always gone in the right direction.



Read more: http://www3.timeoutny.com/newyork/thevolume/2010/09/interview-steven-wilson-of-porcupine-tree/#ixzz10wDxuHYd