Steven Wilson: how I got Elton John on my new album

Steven Wilson
(Image credit: Turner Hall)

Steven Wilson has revealed how he persuaded Elton John to appear on upcoming album The Future Bites.

Speaking exclusively in the new issue of Prog, Wilson says he approached the veteran singer to appear on the album’s first single, Personal Shopper, after watching the Rocketman biopic.

“There’s a scene at the end where he’s talking about how he managed to kick all his addictions except one: shopping,” says Wilson. “I had this 10-minute satire of modern consumerism and I thought, ‘Who could be better to read this monologue of First World consumer items than him? He’s the most famous consumer on the planet.’”

After a mutual friend passed on the song to Elton, the singer called Wilson directly.

“I got a call saying, ‘Elton’s calling you in 10 minutes,” says Wilson. “I just freaked out. Sure enough, he called me and he said he loved it and he‘d do it.“

The song sees a deadpan Elton reeling off a list of expensive yet unnecessary items including “diamond cufflinks“, “volcanic ash soap” and “monogrammed luggage”.

Wilson: “He got completely into the whole thing. He took it so seriously. The only thing he wouldn’t read out was ‘cocaine’, for obvious reasons. And he wouldn’t say ‘mobile phone case’. He said, ‘I don’t have a fucking mobile phone.’”

Personal Shopper was the first single from Wilson’s upcoming sixth studio album, The Future Bites. The album was originally due to be released in June 2020 but has been pushed back until January 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was a pain, but I wanted to present it properly with all the high-concept stuff around it,” says Wilson. “But there’s been a silver lining, which is that I’ve been able to put a lot more time into recording extra material for the bonus edition. There are now an extra six songs to go on there, alternate mixes and longer versions of tracks that are on the main album, because the album itself is very concise.

“This is probably the least guitar-orientated record I’ve ever made. There are a lot more electronics on this album, but it’s not an electronic album as such. But where the last two or three records clearly had reference points in the past, this sounds like it could have only been made in 2019 or 2020.”

Wilson appears on the cover of the brand new issue of Prog, which celebrates his former band Porcupine Tree’s landmark 2002 album In Absentia. The issue is available in shops or online.

(Image credit: Future)
Dave Everley

Dave Everley has been writing about and occasionally humming along to music since the early 90s. During that time, he has been Deputy Editor on Kerrang! and Classic Rock, Associate Editor on Q magazine and staff writer/tea boy on Raw, not necessarily in that order. He has written for Metal Hammer, Louder, Prog, the Observer, Select, Mojo, the Evening Standard and the totally legendary Ultrakill. He is still waiting for Billy Gibbons to send him a bottle of hot sauce he was promised several years ago.