Porcupine Tree at 279, Hard Rock Café (279 Yonge), tonight (Thursday, November 14). $10. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
you might not have heard of Porcupine Tree. That's OK. They haven't heard of you either. But now, 15 years after Londoner Steven Wilson first started the project in 1987, it's time for North America to get acquainted with this experimental, electronic, neo-prog rock pop gem via their first American release on Lava.
What took so long? After all, Porcupine Tree has always enjoyed relative cool status in Europe.
Wilson (vocals, guitar, keyboards) explains the over-a-decade-long delay on the phone from Baltimore.
"We just couldn't get any interest in America until two or three years ago, when someone started a fan site and we began to build a following through the Internet. We came to play a few shows in America (cities include Boston and New York), and they sold out.
"Then record companies got wind that there was this British band that had sold a quarter of a million records in Europe and had that sort of Radiohead/Tool sound. Obviously, we're hoping to change things now with Lava."
The new disc, In Absentia, has been called Porcupine Tree's most accessible to date. Well, duh. People can actually get their hands on it.
But of course, that's not what's meant by accessible. And while I can see that Wilson and Co. have commercialized a bit of late, I'd say that today's musical climate is more open to something like this -- complex, all over the board, at times heavy, at others mellow and thoughtful rock.
So who caught up with whom?
"It's a combination of both. As far as the songwriting and experimenting, we're getting our balance better than we've ever had it before. But the climate in the music industry has changed, with a move toward more sophistication. I think people are fed up with nu metal bands being the representation of rock. So the timing of the record was right."
Porcupine Tree began as a bit of a lark. Wilson had been playing around with early 80s prog groups Altamont and Karma. In 87 he started No Man, another project that's done quite well, with Tim Bowness.
Porcupine Tree -- though now a full-fledged band featuring Richard Barbieri (formerly of Japan) on synthesizer, Colin Edwin on bass and Gavin Harrison on drums -- was started by Wilson on his own as a lost fictional 70s band complete with phony history and discographies.
Material recorded as the band's "long-lost" recordings got some attention, and Porcupine Tree became a reality. So when you think about it, it's just a joke that got out of hand.
"If you ask any musician, any band or any artist, "How do you feel about where you are now relative to where you started?' I think most people will say they started out just as a bit of fun."
Yeah, but they didn't give themselves fictional histories and stuff.
"Oh, right. That's the difference, isn't it? I wanted to give people something to talk or write about. I didn't think one geek in his bedroom overdubbing all the instruments was a very interesting story."
Oh, I dunno. It depends on how you tell firstname.lastname@example.org