Porcupine Tree: "a lot of the excitement is because people don’t know if they’ll see us play again"

Porcupine Tree group shot
(Image credit: Alex Lake)

When Porcupine Tree withdrew back in 2010, the mood was low. Today, as they continue to tour Closure/Continuation – one of 2022’s most successful comebacks (No.2 in the UK album chart) – it couldn’t be more different.

It’s been a lot of fun,” Steven Wilson says, sitting in his hotel in Paris, reflecting on a year in which he has also published a book and completed his next solo album. “It’s such a different feeling to the way it ended. We get on really well. There isn’t that same pressure, because we have no commitment to doing anything beyond this. There’s a lightness that comes with just doing something for fun. Every show feels special.” 

Question marks still hover over Porcupine Tree’s future – although they have dates in Europe lined up for the summer, and a Manchester show booked for June – but for now let’s look at their past 12 months.


The anticipation for this reunion was huge. Have you received any interesting gifts or messages from fans? 

I’m a little bit insulated from all that stuff. I don’t go on social media, I don’t read comments. I haven’t done any after-show things on this tour, because if I get ill, or any of us get ill, then the whole tour gets cancelled. That would be an absolute disaster financially and otherwise. So we’ve been very careful. But I hear people are really enjoying it, and I see the smiles on the faces of the people in the front rows, so to me that’s all I need. 

Are you seeing Steven Wilson T-shirts in the audiences as well as Porcupine Tree ones? 

Half the front row in Poland a couple of nights ago were wearing my T-shirts, and Gavin [Harrison, drummer] has been out with Crimson so we’ve seen a lot of King Crimson shirts. I always say one of the best ways to understand where you fit in is to look at the T-shirts on people that come to your shows, and we’ve seen such an eclectic mixture. 

Obviously there’s people with very metal T-shirts, and even more extreme black metal, but then a lot of Radiohead, Nick Cave, Depeche Mode and Sigur Ros. That’s really gratifying to me, because those are all artists I think of as difficult to categorise. So that’s been really thrilling.

Closure/Continuation was a collaborative effort between you, Richard Barbieri and Gavin. Did the same spirit apply to plans for these shows? 

Very much so. The whole repertoire, the production, the look of it, everything. Right from the beginning, we were all firmly committed to the idea that we wanted to play all of the new record. That’s important to us. We want to present this as a tour based around a new record, not a trawl through the back catalogue for nostalgic reasons. So once we decided that we wanted to play the new material, it’s a question of what would sit comfortably alongside it. 

And also what material could we play that people weren’t expecting to hear. So we’re playing at least one song in the tour which we never played back in the day. That’s what’s really thrilling to the hard-core fan, who hasn’t just come along to hear the hits. We don’t have any hits anyway, so that doesn’t apply [laughs]. 

It’s the band’s first time headlining arenas. Has it given you the bug for playing shows on that scale? 

It’s wonderful to walk out on stage in front of seven or eight thousand people, and they’ve all come there just to see you. That’s an incredible, incredible feeling. But I’m under no delusion that part of that is because of the novelty of the band coming back after such a long time. I think a lot of the excitement has been because people don’t know if it’s the last chance they’ll have to see us play live as a band. But there’s not the same intimacy you have in small venues. I think this tour has been about making the event as spectacular and memorable as possible, but the subtleties are less easy to get hold of in that context. And subtleties are important to me. 

This year you also published your first book, Limited Edition Of One. How did you find the experience of publishing and promoting something so personal?

I understand how music proliferates, how people share, experience and discover music. With a book it’s less tangible. I’m not quite sure who read it. And with a book it might take someone months to get to the end and formulate an opinion. So the process of feedback is less tangible to me. I’m happy that it kind of stands apart from most rock memoirs. I think it was well written. I like to think it took some unexpected turns. But time will tell.

You’ve already just about completed your next solo album, The Harmony Codex

It’s a return to more conceptual music; it’s conceived as a 64-minute musical journey. And there’s nothing on there particularly pop- or radio-friendly, as with the last couple of records. But it’s keeping a lot of the musical vocabulary that I’ve been exploring these last few years – more electronic sounds. It is more ambitious. It’s a piece of storytelling. 

What new music by other artists impressed you this year? 

The Smile record [A Light For Attracting Attention]. I absolutely adore it. It’s a Radiohead album by any other standard, isn’t it? It’s a great record by Johnny [Greenwood] and Thom [Yorke]. Definitely my favourite record of the year.  

Polly Glass
Deputy Editor, Classic Rock

Polly is deputy editor at Classic Rock magazine, where she writes and commissions regular pieces and longer reads (including new band coverage), and has interviewed rock's biggest and newest names. She also contributes to Louder, Prog and Metal Hammer and talks about songs on the 20 Minute Club podcast. Elsewhere she's had work published in The Musician, delicious. magazine and others, and written biographies for various album campaigns. In a previous life as a women's magazine junior she interviewed Tracey Emin and Lily James – and wangled Rival Sons into the arts pages. In her spare time she writes fiction and cooks.