Classic Rock Bottom



1987 saw the founding of Porcupine Tree, actually starting as a joke between Wilson and a friend about a legendary lost '70s group. Elaborate discographies and other material were created à la Spinal Tap, while Wilson himself created a slew of music meant to be the band's lost recordings. In a humorous twist of fate, two tapes of this material ended up in the hands of other folks interested in hearing more from Wilson, who ended up collating the best tracks for Porcupine Tree's real debut album on Delerium Records, On the Sunday of Life, in 1992. 

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Latest Activity: Aug 8, 2016

Porcupine Tree are an English rock band started by musician Steven Wilson in 1987. The band initially started as what was essentially a solo project for Wilson, who created all of the band's music. However, by the mid 1990s, Wilson desired to work in a band environment, and brought on frequent collaborators Richard Barbieri on keyboardsColin Edwin on bass guitar and Chris Maitland on drums as permanent band members. With Wilson still in charge of guitar and lead vocals, this would be the lineup until 2001, when the band would recruit Gavin Harrison to replace Maitland on drums.

The band's sound started off with more of a psychedelic rock sound, comparable to progressive rock band Pink Floyd. Upon signing on to Kscope record label in the late 1990s, the band approached a more mainstream alternative rock sound. By the early 2000s, the band signed to a major record label and shifted their sound again, this time into a more progressive metal direction.

After the release and touring in support of their tenth studio album, The Incident, the band became inactive as Wilson began to focus on his solo career. While not formally broken up, they also have no particular reformation plans beyond "someday", with members all working on separate projects, and Wilson committing himself to his solo work through most of 2013.

History[edit source | editbeta]

Origins (1987–1990)[edit source | editbeta]

Porcupine Tree originated in 1987 as a collaborative hoax project by Steven Wilson and Malcolm Stocks. Partially inspired by the psychedelic/progressive bands of the 1970s, such as Pink Floyd, that had dominated the music scene during their youth, the two decided to form a fictional legendary rock band named The Porcupine Tree. The two fabricated a detailed back-story including information on alleged band members and album titles, as well as a "colourful" history which purportedly included events such as a meeting at a 1970s rock festival and several trips in and out of prison. As soon as he had put aside enough money to buy his own studio equipment, Wilson obliged this creation with several hours of music to provide "evidence" of its existence.[3] Although Stocks provided a few passages of treated vocals and experimental guitar playing, his role in the project was mostly offering occasional ideas, with the bulk of the material being written, recorded, played and sung by Wilson.

At this point, Porcupine Tree was little more than a joke and a private amusement, as Wilson was concentrating on his other project, No-Man, an endeavour with UK based singer and songwriter Tim Bowness. However, by 1989 he began to consider some of the Porcupine Tree music as potentially marketable. Wilson created an 80-minute-long cassette titled Tarquin's Seaweed Farm under the name of Porcupine Tree.[4] Still showing the spirit of his joke, Wilson included an 8-page inlay which further revealed the hoaxed Porcupine Tree backstory, including references to fictitious band members such as Sir Tarquin Underspoon and Timothy Tadpole-Jones.[5]

Wilson sent out copies of Tarquin's Seaweed Farm to several people he felt would be interested in the recordings. Nick Saloman, the cult UK guitarist better known as The Bevis Frond, had suggested that he send one to Richard Allen, a writer for the UK counter-cultural magazine Encyclopaedia Psychedelica and co-editor of the UK psychedelic garage rock magazine Freakbeat. Allen reviewed the tape in both magazines. Whilst he disliked some of the material he gave much of it a positive review. Several months later Allen invited Wilson to contribute a track to the double LP A Psychedelic Psauna that was being put together to launch the new Delerium label. Allen would also become the band's manager, press agent and promoter up until 2004, his role in marketing the band's image decreasing after The Sky Moves Sideways album. In the meantime Wilson had continued to work on new material. In 1990 he released The Love, Death & Mussolini E.P., issued in a very limited run of 10 copies.[3] The EP remains an extremely rare, collectible piece. It was composed of nine at-the-time-unreleased tracks, as a preview for the upcoming second album. Later in 1990, Wilson released a second full-length Porcupine Tree cassette called The Nostalgia Factory, which further expanded Porcupine Tree's underground fanbase, although at this point the band was still carrying on the charade of being 1970s rock legends. By this point, Porcupine Tree was entirely a solo project, with Stocks having amicably moved on to other activities.

The Delerium years (1991–1997)[edit source | editbeta]

On the Sunday of Life...[edit source | editbeta]

Along with the A Psychedelic Psauna compilation, which featured the Porcupine Tree track "Linton Samuel Dawson", the newly formed Delerium label, formed by Freakbeat editors Richard Allen and Ivor Trueman offered to reissue the cassettes Tarquin's Seaweed Farm and The Nostalgia Factory. Two hundred copies of each cassette were sold through Freakbeat Magazine's mail order, The Freak Emporium, and soon Porcupine Tree became known as a mysterious new act amongst the then UK underground psychedelic music scene.

Shortly thereafter, Delerium invited Wilson to sign with as one of the label's founder artists. The first release after this would be a double vinyl album and single CD compiling the best material from his two cassettes, was released in mid-1991 as On the Sunday of Life a title that was chosen from a long list of possible nonsense titles compiled by Richard Allen. The rest of the music from the initial tapes was released on the limited edition, compilation album Yellow Hedgerow Dreamscape.[3]

In 1992, Delerium released On the Sunday of Life as an edition of 1,000 copies, complete with a deluxe gatefold sleeve. The album sold very well, particularly in Italy, and it was briefly repressed on vinyl and has remained in print on CD ever since its release. The album featured future concert favourite and frequent encore song "Radioactive Toy". By 2000, On the Sunday of Life... had accumulated sales of more than 20,000 copies.[4]

Up the Downstair[edit source | editbeta]

In the midst of Porcupine Tree's rising success, Wilson's other band, No-Man, had been getting excellent UK press, which led to the band being signed to One Little Indian Records, Hit & Run publishing in the UK and Epic 440/Sony in the US. No-Man's success gave Wilson the opportunity to leave his regular job and devote his time solely to music.

In May 1993 the second Porcupine Tree album, Up the Downstair, was released, another prospective double album that was finally slimmed down to a single record. "Voyage 34" was actually going to take up the second disc, but it was last decided to be released alone as a single. The album was highly praised, Melody Maker describing it as "a psychedelic masterpiece... one of the albums of the year."[6] The album continued the fusion of electronic music and rock and also featured guest appearances from two future Porcupine Tree members, Richard Barbieri, of 1980s art rock band Japan, and Colin Edwin.

In November 1993, Voyage 34 was reissued alongside an additional 12-inch remix by Astralasia. The album managed to enter the NME indie chart for six weeks and became an underground chill-out classic, even without radio play.[4]

The Sky Moves Sideways[edit source | editbeta]

The profile of Porcupine Tree had now grown to the extent that Wilson wanted to expand into live performances. Thus, in December 1993, Porcupine Tree became a live unit featuring Steven Wilson on lead vocals/guitar, Colin Edwin on bass guitar, Chris Maitland on drums and Richard Barbieri on keyboards.[7]

All three new members of the group had worked with Wilson on various projects over the preceding years, especially Barbieri and Maitland, who had been part of No-Man's touring band, The new line up's first live album, Spiral Circus album, contained recordings from their first three performances, including aBBC Radio One session for Mark Radcliffe, an early champion of the group.

Porcupine Tree’s next album would not emerge until early 1995, but was preceded by the Moonloop EP, the last two tracks of which were recorded during the album sessions and were the first to feature the new band. Released in 1995, the band's third studio album, The Sky Moves Sideways became a success among progressive rock fans and Porcupine Tree were hailed as the Pink Floyd of the 1990s. Wilson would later lament this, stating, "I can't help that. It's true that during the period of The Sky Moves Sideways, I had done a little too much of it in the sense of satisfying, in a way, the fans of Pink Floyd who were listening to us because that group doesn't make albums any more. Moreover, I regret it."[3]

The Sky Moves Sideways was an expansive soundscape of melody and ambient rock experimentation, but would prove to be a transitional work with half recorded before the formation of the band and half recorded after. Most of the album was taken up with the 35-minute title track, which at one point Steven had intended to be long enough to occupy the whole album. An alternate version of the track, containing some of the excised music, was included on the 2004 remastered version of the album. It also entered the NMEMelody Maker and Music Week charts.[4]Together with the Moonloop EP, this album was the first Porcupine Tree music issued in America in the autumn of 1995, and attracted favourable press on both sides of the Atlantic. The band supported the album with numerous concerts throughout the year at major music venues in the UK, the Netherlands, Italy and Greece.

Signify[edit source | editbeta]

Partly unsatisfied with the half band/half solo nature of The Sky Moves Sideways, Porcupine Tree promptly got down to the task of recording the first proper band record. Wilson admitted he was always "in love with the idea of the rock band" because "bands have a kind of glamour, and appeal, and a romance about them the solo projects just don't have."[8] The band worked sporadically over the next year on developing a tighter and more ambitious rock sound.

Steven Wilson at the Strawberry Fair, Cambridge, 1997.

After the release of the first real Porcupine Tree single, "Waiting", which entered all UK indie charts and the UK National chart attracting airplay all over Europe, Signify was released in September 1996. The album was a mixture of instrumental tracks and more song-oriented tunes, blending numerous rock and avant-garde styles, such as krautrock.[9] Wilson expressed satisfaction in the direction of the album, stating "...tracks like "Every Home Is Wired" and "Dark Matter" totally transcend both genre and comparison. Finally, I think we are making a completely original and 1990s form of music, but which still has its root in progressive music."[10] The musicians received writing credits for some tracks, most notably for "Intermediate Jesus," which evolved from a jam session later released as Metanoia at the end of 1998.[11] A large amount of major European media interest accompanied the album's release.

In March 1997, they played three nights in Rome to an audience that surpassed 5,000 people. All three dates were recorded for use in the 1997 live album Coma Divine – Recorded Live in Rome that was released as a goodbye to Delerium Records, which felt it could no longer offer the kind of resources the band needed in order to continue to build its profile worldwide.[12] In late 1997 Porcupine Tree's first three albums were remastered and reissued. Signify also saw a release in the US on Miles Copeland's Ark 21 label.

The Snapper years (1998–2001)[edit source | editbeta]

Stupid Dream[edit source | editbeta]

Wilson, Barbieri, Edwin, and Maitland spent all of 1998 recording their fifth studio album, a release that reflected the band's move towards a more song-oriented writing. Wilson acknowledged this time he was "much more interested in songwriting as an art form, as opposed to soundscape development" and commented he took influence from The Beach BoysPet SoundsTodd RundgrenCrosby, Stills, Nash & Young and "anything with really good ensemble singing." He also indicated that he was "interested in the idea of the pop song as a kind of experimental symphony."[3]

The band recorded the album without a label, but signed with Snapper/K-Scope before releasing Stupid Dream, in March 1999. The album was supported by a tour of the United Kingdom, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, France, Poland, and the United States. The three singles taken from the album, "Piano Lessons", "Stranger by the Minute" and "Pure Narcotic", all achieved mainstream exposure in the US and in Europe and placed well in the UK independent charts and on radio station playlists. Although the album was a departure from their earlier sound, it brought the band new-found popularity and went on to become the band's best-selling and most acclaimed release up to that time.

Lightbulb Sun[edit source | editbeta]

Completed for February 2000, with string arrangements provided by Dave Gregory of XTC, Porcupine Tree's sixth studio album Lightbulb Sun built on the mix of songwriting, soundscaping, and rock dynamics of Stupid Dream. The album was released in May 2000, preceded by the single "Four Chords That Made a Million." A sold out show at the Scala in London began a short run of UK shows, that were followed later in the year by European festival dates and a major tour supporting Dream Theater.[13] The band continued touring through the end of 2000 and start of 2001, including their first major tour of Germany. A special double CD edition of the Lightbulb Sun album was issued in Israel and Germany.

In May, the band released a compilation b-side album called Recordings, with featured nine tracks from the Stupid Dream and Lightbulb Sun sessions that had been left off both albums. In May 2001, Porcupine Tree did three consecutive dates as a support band to Marillion, in France, Germany and The Netherlands respectively.[14] In June, the band played a short US tour, starting with an appearance in NEARfest ofPennsylvania, and culminating in a sold out show at the Bottom Line in New York City. Shortly afterwards, the band announced that they had signed a new international record deal with Lava/Atlantic Records.

The Lava years (2002–2005)[edit source | editbeta]

In Absentia[edit source | editbeta]

In February 2002, Porcupine Tree's first and only line-up change occurred when drummer Chris Maitland departed after eight years with the band. The band welcomed drummer and longtime acquaintance Gavin Harrison as his replacement. In March 2002 a box set of the band's early work was released, Stars Die: The Delerium Years 1991-1997, and the band commenced recording their first major label album, drawing from a pool of 30 new songs written by Wilson in the previous two years. Recording sessions took place at Avatar Studios in New York[15] and London, with veteran audio engineer Paul Northfield and string arranger Dave Gregory also playing major roles in the making of the record. The album was mixed in Los Angeles in May with Tim Palmer.

The resulting album, In Absentia, was released by Lava Records in September 2002. The band also released a 5.1 surround sound version of the album, mixed by Grammy Award winning producer Elliot Scheiner. The surround sound version of the album won the award for best 5.1 mix at the 2004 Surround Sound Music awards in Los Angeles.[16]

To promote the album the band undertook four tours of Europe and North America, including one with acclaimed Swedish metal band Opeth. On tour, the new line up of the band was further augmented by additional touring vocalist/guitarist John Wesley. During these tours the visual element of the band's performance was taken to new heights with the involvement of filmmaker and photographer Lasse Hoile, who had created the cover art for In Absentia and now went on to create a dark and surreal visual to Porcupine Tree's music. The long promotional campaign for In Absentia ended on 30 November 2003, as the band played a homecoming show to a sold out London Astoria.[14]

During 2003 Porcupine Tree set up their own label, Transmission, with an online store hosted by Burning Shed record label. The first release on the Transmission label was a studio session recorded for XM Radio, Washington, D.C., followed in 2004 by a recording from Polish radio in 2001. The band used the label to issue supplemental content, such as EPs, demos, and live recordings. Additionally, a reissue/remaster campaign also began in 2003, with many of the early albums expanded to double CDs. These reissues included re-recorded/remixed double CD versions of the Up the DownstairThe Sky Moves Sideways and Signify albums, and the reissue of Stupid Dream and Lightbulb Sun, both comprising a CD with a new stereo mix of the album plus a DVD-Audio with a 5.1 surround mix.

Deadwing[edit source | editbeta]

In early 2004, the band embarked on the recording sessions for their next record, Deadwing, their second for Lava/Atlantic. The album takes its inspiration from a film script written by Wilson with his filmmaker friend Mike Bennion. The album sessions completed in November 2004, and Deadwingwas released in Europe and the US during the spring of 2005 as both a stereo and 5.1 surround sound album, preceded by the release of two singles, "Shallow" in the US and "Lazarus" in Europe. The album benefited from guest appearances by Adrian Belew from King Crimson and Opeth's Mikael Åkerfeldt and was a commercial success, due in part to "Shallow" receiving airplay, peaking at number 26 in the Billboard's Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks.[17] Additionally, "Lazarus" entered the German singles Top 100 at number 91.[18] The song "Shallow" was also featured in the soundtrack for the film Four Brothers.[19]

The album won the Surround Music Awards for "Best Made-For-Surround Title" the same year of its release[20] and was voted number two album of 2005 in Sound & Vision, the most widely distributed US magazine in the field of home electronics and entertainment.[21] Porcupine Tree released Deadwing in Japan on 22 March 2006, the first album by the band to be released in that country.

The tour to promote the album commenced in the UK at the end of March and continued throughout the year. Mike Bennion created a Myspace page dedicated to the prospective Deadwing film, in which he posted the first fifteen pages of the script and included a trailer.[22] However, whilst the scripts are finished, the project is still on hiatus due to lack of budget.[23]

The Roadrunner years (2006–2010)[edit source | editbeta]

Fear of a Blank Planet[edit source | editbeta]

Porcupine Tree announced in August 2006, the band had signed with Roadrunner Records UK."[24] Prior to their first release on Roadrunner, the band released their first live concert DVD, Arriving Somewhere..., on 10 October 2006. It was accompanied by a brief tour in which the group performed 50 minutes of new material from the forthcoming studio album for the first half of the shows. Supporting acts included Swedish band Paatos in Europe and ProjeKCt Six in the United States.[14]

The band announced the next album’s title would be Fear of a Blank Planet in January 2007 and the album was released on 16 April 2007.[25] The album charted in almost all European countries,[26] peaking at number 59 on the Billboard 200.[27] A 92-date tour for 2007 took the band to countries they had never performed in, such as Finland and Mexico. The tour included appearances in multiple music festivals such as the Voodoo Experience in New Orleans, the German twin-festivals, Hurricane[28] and Southside,[29] and the Download Festival of Donington Park.[30] The band performed their first ever shows in Australia in 2008.

The lyrics of the album deal with some common behaviour tendencies concerning society, especially youth, in the beginning of the 21st century such asbipolar disorderattention deficit disorderdrug abuse, alienation[31] and depravation caused by mass media.[23] The concept of the album was inspired byBret Easton Ellis novel Lunar Park[32] and the title alludes to Public Enemy's album, Fear of a Black Planet, both sharing the particularity of reflecting notorious conflicts affecting society in the world at some time. Wilson notes that whilst race relationship was the main issue among young people when Public Enemy's album was released, it was replaced in the 21st century by a general superficiality, boredom, and introversion.[33] The album features contributions from Rush's Alex Lifeson and King Crimson's Robert Fripp.

Wilson: "My fear is that the current generation of kids who're being born into this information revolution, growing up with the Internet, cell phones, iPods, this download culture, 'American Idol,' reality TV, prescription drugs, PlayStations—all of these things kind of distract people from what's important about life, which is to develop a sense of curiosity about what's out there."[34]

Richard Barbieri during a Porcupine Tree performance inKraków, Poland, in 2007

On 5 November 2007, Fear of a Blank Planet won the "Album of the Year" award for the 2007 Classic Rock magazine awards.[35] In December 2007, it was nominated for aGrammy Award for "Best Surround Sound Album" though Love by The Beatles won the award.[36] The album was voted "Best Album of 2007" by readers of the Dutch Progressive Rock Page.[37]

A new EP called Nil Recurring was released on 17 September 2007, featuring four unreleased tracks from the Fear of a Blank Planet sessions and including another contribution from Robert Fripp. The second leg of the tour started on 3 October 2007, now promoting new music from the EP. Nil Recurring entered the UK Top 30 Independent Label Albums at number 8.[38] The EP was reissued in 18 February 2008 through Peaceville Records.[39]

A recording from an 4 October 2007 in-store, mostly acoustic, performance at Park Avenue CDs in Orlando, Florida was released on 18 February 2008 on CD under the name ofWe Lost The Skyline.[40] The title is a reference to the lyrics of "The Sky Moves Sideways (Phase One)," which was the opening song on the live set. The album was released on vinyl of 21 March 2008.[41] While intended to be a full-band show, the lack of space in the store only allowed the two guitarists, Wilson and John Wesley, to play.

The Incident[edit source | editbeta]

The band played a short European tour in October 2008 to shoot their second live concert film, Anesthetize. The filming took place on 15 and 16 October in the Netherlands at the 013 Tilburg venue.[42] During one of these shows, Wilson mentioned that Porcupine Tree had started work on material for their next album, with an eye toward a release in 2009.[43] The live concert film on DVD and Blu-Ray were released on 20 May 2010.

The band started recording their tenth studio album—The Incident—in February 2009. This was confirmed by the band, stating "Writing for the next PT studio record is well underway, with the band recently spending two weeks scheduled in the English countryside working on new tracks. Recording of these pieces and a new 35-minute SW song cycle were due to start in February..."[44] Months later, Wilson commented the 35-minute song kept evolving and now it has become a 55-minute song, occupying the entire disc.

On 12 June 2009, details were revealed on the Porcupine Tree website, "the record is set to be released via Roadrunner Records worldwide on 21 September, as a double CD. The centre-piece is the title track, which takes up the whole of the first disc. The 55-minute work is described as a slightly surreal song cycle about beginnings and endings and the sense that ‘after this, things will never be the same again.’ The self-produced album is completed by four standalone compositions that developed out of band writing sessions last December – Flicker, Bonnie The Cat, Black Dahlia, and Remember Me Lover feature on a separate EP length disc to stress their independence from the song cycle."[45]

The band also released another live album, Atlanta, in June 2010. The performance was actually recorded during the tour of Fear of a Blank Planet at the Roxy theatre, Atlanta, on 29 October 2007. It was released via online distribution only, with all the sale proceeds were donated to Mick Karn for his treatment against cancer.[46]

Hiatus and future plans (2011–present)[edit source | editbeta]

After finishing the touring cycle for The Incident in 2010, Wilson would spend the rest of the year, and 2011, recording and releasing his second solo album, Grace for Drowning, and Blackfield's third albumWelcome to my DNA. Initially, the band had mentioned the possibility of working on new music in 2012, with Wilson mentioning "early 2012",[47] and Harrison guessing they would start work in 2012 and release music in 2013.[48] However, this soon changed, with Wilson announcing that he would continue to focus his future on his solo career. This new focus included a second leg of touring in support of Grace for Drowning, in the first half of 2012, recording a third solo album in the second half of the year with his touring band,[49] releasing it in early 2013,[50] and then touring in support of the third solo album for "much of the year" – throughout 2013.[51]

With pushing potential Porcupine Tree activity to at least beyond 2013, Wilson still says the band "haven’t split up and with no intentions of splitting up",[52] but also says he has no specific plans for a new album either.[53] While he said that he still "want(s) to get Porcupine Tree back together at some point", he conceded that he isn't sure what direction he wants to take the band, only that he is "tired of metal music"[54] and that one member of the band does not like jazz, so it won't go into the direction of his solo project either.[52]

In June 2012, Wilson re-emphasised his continued focus on his solo career, with his answer to the question " (there) a danger that Porcupine Tree might fall by the wayside?" being "The honest answer is I don’t know. The solo career for me now is probably the most important. I think about it more than anything else, I’m more focused on it than anything else, I enjoy it more than anything else..."[54]

Despite the band's inactivity, Kscope released a 2 disc live album titled Octane Twisted in November 2012, containing a live recording of The Incident in its entirety, from material recorded at 2010 concerts at the Riviera Theater, Chicago, and the Royal Albert Hall.[55]

In May 2013, Wilson re-iterated his stance, stating that its "...not to say the band has broken up or anything like that. It’s always conceivable that we could get back together in a year or five years, or 10 years. I really can’t say – there are no plans at the moment."[56]

Band members[edit source | editbeta]

Current members
Touring members
  • John Wesley – guitar, backing vocals (2002–present)
Former members

Discography[edit source | editbeta]

Studio albums

Discussion Forum

Concert review Copenhagen 2015.


Started by Niels (Mod) Sep 18, 2015.

Comment Wall


You need to be a member of PORCUPINE TREE to add comments!

Comment by Niels (Mod) on August 8, 2016 at 4:13am

Oh, it was my mistake. He's making an americana-album, inspired by Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Comment by RJhog (Admin) on August 7, 2016 at 9:14am

Electronic?  Eeeesh...

Comment by Scott on August 7, 2016 at 7:29am

That's cool!!  His new album will probably be my #1 album of 2017.  In fact I'm penciling it in right now...

Comment by Niels (Mod) on August 5, 2016 at 4:21am

I participated in a Facebook Live Q&A session with Steven Wilson last night. It was by pure coinsidence, but it was pretty interesting. I asked him a couple of questions (as did 5,000 other fans), and he did answer one of them ("Will there be a super-deluxe version of your next studio-album in 2017" - to which he replied yes, because he thinks it's important to make a "full package" (CD's, "booklet", show, films) every time he makes new music. I also asked if he could see himself work together with Neal Morse, but he didn't reply on that one. He did reply to another similar question (not mine), though: Who would he work together with: Roger Waer or Gilmour, to which he replied, none, since neither of them was at their creative peak. Therefore he loved to work with Mikael Åkerfeldt, since he was in his creative peak). He said, that the next album would be electronic ("a rock-album, but electronic), which I personally think sounds very interesting. He had never even heard of Devin Townsend :-)(not my question). XTC is his favorite band of all time, and Prince is the musician he respect the most of all.


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