Steven Wilson discussed his new pop-oriented album “To the Bone,” sharing a story about a fan who flew a long way just to personally tell him how much he disliked the record.
It all started with discussion about the “Permanating” single, with Steven telling Jonathan Clarke (as transcribed by Ultimate-Guitar.com): “‘Permanating’ has been a little bit controversial with my fanbase; not because it’s relatively straightforward for me, but because it’s incredibly joyous. And people associate my music very much with melancholia and some darker sides of life.
“I totally understand that, but I also have always had in my musical DNA a love of great joyful pop music. I grew up in a house where my mom and dad listened to ABBA, the Bee Gees, ‘Saturday Night Fever’ soundtrack… In a way, I’ve always found that music as magical as the more kind of intellectual, conceptual rock music; but for whatever reason, as a musician I’ve always tended towards the latter.
“So the more joyous kind of pop side hasn’t come out so much. But for whatever reason, this time it did. And I was so proud of this song that I couldn’t wait to release it into the world, partly because I knew it was gonna upset some of my hardcore fans.
“And if I can pretentiously refer to myself as an artist – part of the deal of being an artist is that you confront the expectations of your audience. You don’t simply cater for them, you constantly confront them.
“So you expect to lose some fans along the way. Listen, I expected to lose some fans. I expect to lose fans with every album, because I’m always changing – that’s part of the deal.”
Jonathan Clarke: Wasn’t there this Spanish fan journalist that took a trip just to tell you that he didn’t like the album or something?
Steven Wilson: “Yes. In a way it’s flattering, because it shows how passionate people have become about me and my music and my career. And he was so affronted, particularly by the song ‘Permanating.’
“He wrote for a magazine called Metal Hammer, which maybe gives you a clue about where his musical inclinations were. He flew to London as part of a sort of press junket I was doing to basically tell me how much he hated the record, how much his girlfriend hated the record, how much his friend hated the record…
“And in a way, as I say, it’s kind of flattering, because he obviously cared deeply. He cared enough about me and my catalog to want to fly all the way to tell me I done something wrong in his view.
“Now, of course, to me that was a really good sign. Because if you’re not upsetting people… And listen, I don’t go out of my way to upset some of my fans, but like I say – it’s part of the deal. If you’re upsetting your fans you know you’re changing, you know you’re doing something different.”
Jonathan Clarke: I have a funny feeling that the next time you play his hometown, he’s gonna be at your concert.
Steven Wilson: “Well, he will be. And you know what? I reckon probably the album has grown on him by now. Because one thing I’m finding is that a lot of people who were the most resistant to song like ‘Permanating’... That song, every single night when I play that song gets the most incredible reaction.
“And it’s amazing to see these guys with the Pink Floyd and King Crimson t-shirts sort of sitting there looking grumpy when I’m talking, ‘We’re gonna do ‘Permanating.’‘ But by the end of the song, they’re all up and dancing.”