Friday, August 18, 2017
A little over a year ago, I was working on the sleeve notes for a Porcupine Tree vinyl box set when Steven Wilson, the leader of that band, casually asked me if I'd like to hear some of the songs he was writing for his fifth solo album.
I felt like an amateur stargazer who'd be invited to accompany an astronaut on a trip to the moon.
Over the course of many months, Steven sent me batches of demo recordings for my feedback—no exaggeration: his demos sound as polished and produced as many people's finished albums—and, later, various mixes of recorded versions. He asked for honest opinions on these nascent songs. I was surprised that he took some of my suggestions on board and tweaked some of the songs accordingly. It takes a degree of humility as an artist to be open to feedback. Who the hell am I to tell a songwriter, producer and mixer as accomplished as Steven Wilson what I think? I'm just a journalist who can't even play the fucking tambourine.
To the Bone was released today and I'm so excited for the world to hear it. I reckon it's a masterpiece. Even after a year, I get cravings to listen to the album, which is a testament to its durability. To the Bone has, unsurprisingly, received rave reviews from Mojo, Classic Rock, Planet Rock, and Q.
It was an honor to be entrusted to write the liner notes for the deluxe box set edition of To the Bone. Rather than just write a straight-up essay like my liner notes for the two Porcupine Tree box sets, SW encouraged me to instead write a journal from my own perspective. Steven's inspiration for that approach? Paul Gambaccini's diary-like sleeve notes to Godley and Creme's L.
Although I wrote 12,000 word sleeve notes, I still had reams of unused material from the many interviews I did with Steven about the album. I've compiled those leftovers into a two-part interview in which SW discusses each track of the album. Here's part 1 and part 2.