"I still confront the expectations of my audience. I rarely give them what they want": Steven Wilson on the "privilege" of being able to do what the hell he likes

Steven Wilson
(Image credit: Hajo Mueller)

Steven Wilson has spoken about his desire to keep challenging expectations with his music, and confessed that when he attempted to toe the line, he felt "dirty".

In a new interview with NME, promoting his upcoming The Harmony Codex album, Wilson admits that he is "lucky and privileged" to have complete creative control over his music, and to have a fan-base who are willing to trust him as he follows his muse in new directions.

"I don’t underestimate how lucky and privileged I am to be able to do this, basically doing what the fuck I want," he says. "I don’t think many musicians can say that these days. I still confront the expectations of my audience. I rarely give them what they want or expect, yet somehow I take a lot of them with me. I’m grateful that it’s how my career has panned out."

Asked if he has ever tried to play the industry game, Wilson confesses, "I’ve tried, but I just can’t do it."

Giving a concrete example, he tells NME, "Early on in Porcupine Tree, we were signed to Atlantic in America. We were pressured to try to write a grunge radio anthem. I did it, but I felt so dirty. The audience saw through it too."

“It’s one thing to be able to do it, it’s another to convince your audience," he adds.

“I’m in the enviable position of having a fanbase who almost expect me to do the unexpected. If they feel I’m trying to make concessions to the music industry, they spot it a mile off and rightly pick me up on it.”

The Harmony Codex is released on September 29 via Virgin. The single, Economies Of Scale, is out now, and its video can be viewed below.

Wilson says: "My seventh album The Harmony Codex is a real trip, a beautiful and experimental 65-minute labyrinth of a record, with almost every one of its 10 tracks taking a different musical approach. I really hope you will all get to hear the album as intended - a continuous musical journey, or a piece of 'cinema for the ears'.

"Today you can listen to Economies Of Scale, a soulful song built around electronic rhythms and layered vocal harmonies. Then next week something completely different, the mostly instrumental 11-minute hybrid of progressive rock, spiritual jazz and electronica that is Impossible Tightrope. I couldn’t be prouder of this album and I think you are going to enjoy it too!"

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.