Tag: Porcupine Tree (Page 1 of 2)

A Short Conversation with RICHARD BARBIERI

Photo by Debi Zornes

Richard Barbieri releases a new album ‘Under A Spell’, but despite beginning his recorded career in 1978 with JAPAN, it is only his fourth full-length solo offering.

Preferring a collaborative format, when JAPAN disbanded after five albums, Barbieri continued working with his former band mates David Sylvian, Steve Jansen and Mick Karn. It was while he was in JBK with the latter two that he met Steven Wilson of NO-MAN and PORCUPINE TREE who recorded and performed live with the trio.

This led to Barbieri joining PORCUPINE TREE and playing on nine of their albums. During this period, Barbieri also recorded an album with Tim Bowness of NO-MAN and two albums with Steve Hogarth of MARILLION.

His most recent release was the five part ‘Variants’ EP series that comprised of unreleased tracks, new material, live versions including his JAPAN composition ‘The Experience Of Swimming’ and the aural curio ‘1979 Rehearsal Room’ which was based around an atmospheric cassette recording made in rehearsals for the band with which he made his name.

Inspired by strange dreams that Barbieri was having triggered by the anxiety and isolation caused by the pandemic, sombre atmospherics are very much the dominant template for ‘Under A Spell’, capturing dark textures, introspective moods and cerebral downtempo rhythms over its nine tracks.

The unsettling demeanour of ‘Serpentine’ is a particular case in point, inspired by a nightmare that Barbieri had and aurally illustrated by sinister piano, jazzy vibes, schizophrenic cries and the fretless bass of Percy Jones.

While there are no conventional vocals, previous collaborators Rylander Love and Steve Hogarth have their voices manipulated and treated by Barbieri as if they were another instrument, with the phrase “Wake up, wake up, come back alive…” making its eerie presence felt on the album closer ‘Lucid’.

Photo by Dave Van Hout

Richard Barbieri had a quick chat about the making of ‘Under A Spell’ and the upcoming ‘Quiet Life’ deluxe boxed set.

Had the “clearing of the vaults” for the ‘Variants’ series helped with focussing on a direction for ‘Under A Spell’?

Not really. The ‘Variants’ series of EPs was a way of staying creative without having the pressure of making a follow-up to ‘Planets & Persona’.

When I was finally ready to make another album, the Covid virus began to take hold in Italy and the UK. From that point on, I had to make a quite different album to the one I intended.

How does ‘Under A Spell’ differ from ‘Planets + Persona’ in terms of concept, sound design and additional musicians?

It’s more introspective and essentially a home recording, though it does feature a good amount of musical performances from the same group of musicians on my recent works.

Some performances were recorded remotely and some I derived from past recording sessions and used them again, but in different contexts. The concept and working process of ‘Planets…’ was outward looking and expansive in nature. ‘Under A Spell’ is informed by vivid dreams and a strange and surreal exterior atmosphere due to the first strict lockdown in the UK.

Photo by Carl Glover

With everything going on outside, had this affected your approach to ‘Under A Spell’?

Definitely. It also changed the compositional process because I focused even more on the atmospheric and textural elements. I let things evolve and tried to make it a very immersive listening experience.

Is there more use of software this time around or are your vintage synths still very much present?

I use a bit of everything. For the first time, I have a dedicated work room / studio so I have all my gear to hand. I used the usual old analogues (Roland System 700 Lab series, Prophet 5, MicroMoog, Yamaha CS-01) and some newer analogues like the Dreadbox Medusa and NYX. Also the Roland SE-02 mono synth. I used some Arturia software instruments, especially the CS80 emulation.

What is your favourite track on ‘Under A Spell’ and how did it come together?

Although it’s probably the hardest listen, I managed to completely achieve the atmosphere I wanted on the opening title track. It has a full complement of performances, some improvised and some heavily processed and mangled. The basis hinged around a jazzy vibraphone progression that I had wanted to use for a long time, combined with muted acoustic guitars and trumpets and whispering voices. I think it sets the scene very well.

Photo by Fin Costello

JAPAN’s ‘Quiet Life’ album gets the deluxe boxed set treatment in March 2021, how does it stand up for you 41 years on and how do you look back on your own contributions?

I’ve heard the remaster of the album and it sounds wonderful. It’s my favourite JAPAN album and that particular period represents the happiest time for me as a musician. My contributions became an integral part of the band sound for the first time really. I love the textural elements, the orchestrations and how the electronics blend with it all. It’s very much an album of that time but it stands up well and I think it has a beautiful organic quality. It’s a sophisticated work made by kids.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Richard Barbieri

‘Under A Spell’ is released on 26th February 2021 in CD, red or black vinyl and digital formats by Kscope, pre-order from https://burningshed.com/tag/Under%20A%20Spell

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Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
15th February 2021

STEVEN WILSON The Future Bites

The future has arrived, and its bloody fantastic.

Delayed it may have been but the wait is well worth it.

With the release of ‘The Future Bites’, his sixth solo album in just over a decade, Steven Wilson will hopefully and finally put to rest the calls to reform the dodo dead PORCUPINE TREE.

Not that I wouldn’t be front of the queue for such a reunion, I would… but the confines of that band project wouldn’t have furnished us with a release as compact, assured and ‘muscular’ as TFB.

Focused on the modern twin malaise of consumerism and identity, this album clocking in at around 41 minutes is no prog rock behemoth. In keeping with the overall concept, premiere of ‘Personal Shopper’ aside, every track does what it says on the tin and gets out of your face almost as quickly as it arrives.

Opening with the just over a minute long ‘Unself’ and segueing into complimentary cut ‘Self’, this will immediately confound expectations, and not just with the briefness of running time. A distant acoustic guitar accompanies a typically melancholy Wilson vocal which reminds us “all love is self…”

‘Self’ concentrates on one of the album’s key themes, the impact of influencers and the like via social media. At a time when the new norm are the twins of self-delusion and the self-absorption, this track asks what is left when all there is the ‘Self’? The answer is very little of value.

‘King Ghost’ is one of the tracks released as a single that has caused apoplexy in certain areas of the prog rock fan fraternity. A wonderful piece of modern electronica that pivots around a marvellous vocal performance from Wilson, the comments that accompanied the release at the tail end of last year actually play into another of the TFB’s key themes, consumerism and the entitlement that comes with that in the modern age. This is the standout track on the album, beautifully produced and played.

’12 Things I Forgot’ could easily have come off of the recent album of BLACKFIELD, one of Wilson’s numerous side projects. At first, it appears to be a simple pop song that wouldn’t be out of place over the end titles of a rom-com but the lyric is way more biting and, to this listener, seems to answer some of the critics that slated the album months before it was released.

Just as you think you have a handle on the album a curve ball arrives with ‘Eminent Sleaze’. This is the kind of thing 10CC would have put out back in the day, tongue-in-cheek with loads of knowing nods to other musical genres. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who listens to Wilson and longtime collaborator Tim Bowness’ wonderful ‘Album Years’ podcast. The breadth of their musical knowledge and influences are wide and this draws on many of those, as does the whole album.

‘Man Of The People’ is a straightforward track that has another excellent vocal performance from Wilson underpinning a mostly electronic backing. This highlights the overall lightness of production in the album; it has a wonderfully wide soundstage that really does reward repeat listening on headphones. Wilson and production partner David Kosten should be commended on refusing to go down the everything louder than everything else route, which worked for MOTÖRHEAD but not many other artists.

The album’s debut single ‘Personal Shopper’ caused another shockwave through the prog world… where are the guitar solos? The ‘real’ drumming? This is idiotic, though when you work with someone like Craig Blundell who is a human drum machine; it’s easy to see how they all got confused!

And is that Elton John?!?! Some of the naysayers are still wiping the tears away with the sleeve of their ‘Selling England By The Pound’ tour T-shirts. Having well-known shopaholic Elton read a shopping list is another nod to the humour that permeates this release. The biggest joke is on those that want another album full of ‘Raider II’s… this is the longest cut on the album.

‘Follower’ delivers the drums and guitars demanded by traditionalists, but it’s more garage punk than grandiose prog. There is even a guitar solo (although it’s not ‘Regret No9’) and some 70s style arrangement in the bridge, but think SPARKS rather than CAMEL.

And with ‘Count of Unease’, we reach the end of what in places is a breathless 41 minutes. This has more than a passing nod to the likes of later TALK TALK and the Tim Bowness albums, with brass tones and a vocal that fades off as it arrived in ‘Unself’, in a wash of reverb and melancholy.

The usual Wilson special edition boxset (yes, the irony isn’t lost, no need to over egg it!) adds additional tracks including a wonderful cover of LONELY ROBOT’s ‘In Floral Green’ which originally appeared on the B Side of ‘Eminent Sleaze’. This repays LONELY ROBOT main man John Mitchell’s cover of PORCUPINE TREE’s ‘The Nostalgia Factory’… these should all be looked upon as extras, not as additions to the main album if that makes sense. Most listeners will only consume the core product…

In addition, mention should be made of ‘The Future Bites’ Sessions released on YouTube which has seen Wilson in the studio performing tracks from the album, a couple of earlier songs from his career and a quite wonderful cover of Taylor Swift’s ‘The Last Great American Dynasty’. A truly eclectic artist, it blurs the lines and keeps ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s own Chi Ming Lai happy at the same time! 😆

Steven Wilson has once again with ‘The Future Bites’, demonstrated why he is held in such high regard. An artist that has the bottle to plough his own furrow and do his own thing should be commended, especially when it is as well realised as ‘The Future Bites’.

In this instance an example of self-belief we can all get behind. An album that, even this early in 2021, will be vying for top spot in many people’s end of the year lists come December.


‘The Future Bites’ is released by SW Records / Caroline Records in limited deluxe boxset, CD, red or black vinyl LP, cassette, Blu-ray and digital formats, available from https://store.thefuturebites.com/

2021 UK tour dates include:

Cardiff St David’s Hall (8th September), Sheffield City Hall (9th September), Manchester O2 Apollo (11th September), Glasgow Concert Hall (12th September), Birmingham Symphony Hall (13th September), Portsmouth Guildhall (15th September) London Hammersmith Apollo (16th September), Nottingham Royal Concert Hall (17th September)

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Text by Ian Ferguson
30th January 2021

STEVEN WILSON King Ghost

“People” sang Jim Morrison, “Are Strange” and none more so than the dedicated music fan. This has been shown in the past couple of weeks with the backlash against Steven Wilson with the new single ‘King Ghost’.

This has been rumbling on for a while, in fact since ‘Permanating’ from 2017’s ‘To The Bone’, and has percolated via recent singles ‘Personal Shopper’ and ‘Eminent Sleaze’ to the fury unleashed in certain quarters against this latest release online. And the thing is, the pitchfork wielding mob who want to torch the new album ‘The Future Bites’ before it is released are wrong.

“Where are the guitars?” they moan… “It needs real drums” they cry through gnashing teeth… “Isn’t what I signed up for”, they wail as they wrap themselves in their ‘Tales of Topographic Oceans’ blanket. The answer to this and the pages and pages of other comments is, you haven’t been paying attention.

Despite being the leader of PORCUPINE TREE all these tears, Wilson has never hidden his love of pop music, this is made all the more clear in his excellent podcast ‘The Album Years’ which he hosts with NO-MAN band mate Tim Bowness. The pointers were there on his last release, especially with the aforementioned ‘Permanating’ and, more pertinently, the brooding electronica of ‘Song of I’.

‘King Ghost’ is a natural progression, something which a recognised progressive performer should always be looking to do. The track is the sound of the artist taking himself and by extension the listener in new directions. Wilson has stated it may be one of the best things he has ever done and I have to agree.

One comment on a recent YouTube post said “…it could never be as emotional as played by analog instruments” before suggesting adding a guitar solo or fretless bass. And here we have the crux of the issue taken by some listeners; the track is synthetic so must be lesser than a full band production.

Again these folk haven’t been listening. This is by a mile the best single of the year especially when married to the stunning Jess Cope video that accompanies the release.

I have been listening with interest and a fair bit of excitement, so can’t wait until the turn of the year to hear what the delayed full album has in store, with or without a full drum kit. The tasters we have had so far promise, it will be worth the wait.


‘King Ghost’ is from the album ‘The Future Bites’ released by SW Records / Caroline Records on 29th January 2021 in limited edition deluxe boxset, CD, red or black vinyl LP, cassette, Blu-ray and digital formats, pre-order from https://store.thefuturebites.com/

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Text by Ian Ferguson
9th November 2020

NO-MAN Love You To Bits

More than a decade since their last release NO-MAN return to their more synthetic roots with the new album ‘Love You To Bits’.

The release harks back to earlier NO-MAN works such as ‘Loveblows & Lovecries’ and ‘Flowermouth’ and is bound to throw anyone more familiar with the later recorded output from Messrs Bowness and Wilson.

The mirrorball on the sleeve should give a clue to the content within, but this is not fluff piece but a work of real depth and substance.

That said, anyone who only know the band from their later output may need to triple check the credits to ensure this is the same team that brought us tracks like ‘Truenorth’. From the opening portentous drone to the 808 style percussion and arpeggios running counter to the main synthetic melody line, it’s clear this is a very different beast from the last album ‘Schoolyard Ghosts’.

One thing that has remained from that release is Tim Bowness’s melancholic vocal. Possessing one of the most distinctive voices in modern music. the delivery throughout the album is spot on. Though split into 5 sections each, ‘Love You To Bits’ and ‘Love You To Pieces’ could be viewed as 2 long form remixes which utilise differing instrumentation to add light and shade of tone to the music.

One thing that is clear is the influence of Bruno Ellingham who has been tasked with the final mix is writ large on this release. The same sparkle he gave the likes GOLDFRAPP is obvious with the separation around the instruments giving the overall pieces room to breathe.

The opening section of ‘Love You To Bits’ gets straight to the point, announcing itself as an electronic work with electronic percussion and the aforementioned vocal front and centre. Real drums explode in around halfway through and kick the piece up a gear. The first breakdown comes after the vocals exhort that they ‘Love You’ repeatedly and a short linking piece has Bowness harmonising with himself over the sequenced bass from the first section.

A funky guitar loop heralds a more down-the-line band performance which once again melds with the open sequence before part 4 goes on an extended instrumental break with effected guitar being underpinned by more live drums and that simple but earworm-y sequence. There by this time can be no mistaking this for anything else but a pop album, but one which rewards repeated listening as although simple on the surface there are layers of instrumentation that are pulled out with each play.

This is a Steven Wilson collaboration so a sonic surprise shouldn’t come as, well a surprise. Here it’s from of the closing section of ‘Love You To Bits’ which at the end, having revisited the themes and motifs of the previous section closes with a plaintiff brass section playing out like something from ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ than Studio 54

The journey is at this point only half complete as the second half of the album, ‘Love You To Pieces’ opens with Bowness showing again how his voice is more than capable of carrying a song with the simplest of instrumentation to somewhere it really has no right to go. He really does possess one of the most unique tones in modern music, up there with the likes of Paul Buchanan of THE BLUE NILE in its ability to wrench at the heart without you really knowing why.

The interplay between synthetic tones and more organic instrumentation gets swept away in the next section as a driving synth bass carries a vocoded vocal forward, building into a jazzy section of effected electric piano which should give comfort to anyone that has seen Steven Wilson live recently and the playing of Adam Holzman, for it is he…

Overall the second half of the album appears to more contemplative and this is no bad thing giving balance to the ‘dancier’ opening ‘Bits’ section. All too quick, for this listener at least, it’s over with the final part coming across as something you’d here in a piano bar at 3am.

“Time was we mattered…” sighs Bowness at the close of the track. On this showing, NO-MAN still do matter and in spades. This is no misguided sidestep, the band where making music like this 25 plus years ago. In fact the bones of the album stem from demos that old.

As known progressive artists, both Wilson and Bowness have taken their individual brands of modern music in numerous different directions. This is another example of that and one expected to be included in many top 20 lists at the end of the year. A recommended release.


‘Love You To Bits’ is released by Caroline International in CD, vinyl LP, cassette and digital formats

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Text by Ian Ferguson
25th November 2019

NO-MAN Interview

Lauded by Drowned in Sound as “probably the most underrated band of the last 25 years”, NO-MAN have had a career that has stylistically covered pop, art rock and TALK TALK flavoured balladeering.

This breadth of musical output should hardly come as a surprise given the group is made up of Tim Bowness and Prog powerhouse Steven Wilson whose work has included not only his own solo output but also PORCUPINE TREE, BLACKFIELD, STORM CORROSION with OPETH’s Mikael Akerfeldt and critically acclaimed 5.1 surround remixes for acts as diverse as KING CRIMSON, XTC, MARILLION and TEARS FOR FEARS

Now more than a decade since the ‘Schoolyard Ghosts’ album, NO-MAN have reconvened with a return to their electronic roots, ‘Love You To Bits’.

The cover of this release which features a disco mirrorball gives a clue to the content within, a fantastic mix of GOLDFRAPP, KRAFTWERK and ROBERT FRIPP which underpins a wonderful vocal performance from Tim Bowness who took time out to discuss the album.

‘Love You To Bits’ was one of the great ‘lost’ NO-MAN tracks, the demo being some 25 years old. Why is now the right time to finish and release it?

It was originally written at the same time as a track called ‘Lighthouse’ in 1994. Both songs were intended to be part of a follow-up to ‘Flowermouth’. At that stage, the tracks were very much in their infancy and though we had grand ideas for them, only the opening song sections existed. In another universe, the successor to ‘Flowermouth’ could have been more stylistically logical and just consisted of extended versions of those two tracks.

Due to the band getting dropped by its labels in the UK and US, publishing company and manager, we pursued the more aggressive ‘Wild Opera’ material. It suited our, by then bleak, mood better!

Over the years, we continued to work on ‘Love You To Bits’ and there were a number of versions which varied in length from 4 minutes to 12 minutes (some including significant contributions from saxophonist Theo Travis). The truth is that it didn’t seem right for anything we were working on. Post-‘Wild Opera’, the band’s sound became more organic and we’d abandoned using samples and beats, so ‘Love You To Bits’ seemed out of place for a very long time.

In October of last year, we decided that we were finally going to make the ‘Love You To Bits’ album we’d always wanted to. We knew from the beginning that we wanted to do an album length exploration of the piece and we also knew that it was going to deal with the different perspectives in a break-up. It was great to find time to make the dream a reality and truly dedicate ourselves to the project.

Does revisiting an older demo as the launch point of this project mean the album is a nostalgic look back or a taste of what’s to come?

Perhaps it’s both? A lot of the album was written over the last year and the vast majority of the recording was done this year. It was constantly being re-written and added to up to the point of completion in July of this year. As such, it feels fresh.

Listening to the earlier demos shows that it’s changed a lot since its inception. One 10 minute version from 2008 was surprisingly Industrial, while a much earlier version was considerably lighter in tone than it is now.

The sessions in October of last year were intense and exciting and I’d say that during that time we finally created a framework that seemed complete. I spent a fair bit of this year, writing new lyrics, re-writing old ones and re-recording the vocals. All the overdubs from the guest players were also recorded this year. One of my favourite sections – the brass band coda to ‘Love You To Bits’ – came about when I could hear a brass tone in the synths and suggested a far more elegiac ending that would more effortlessly merge into ‘Love You To Pieces’. Luckily, Steven really liked the idea so we pursued it. The whole process was surprisingly flexible.

‘Love You to Bits’ is a self-described return to your more synthpop roots, was there anything in particular that has lead you back down that path?

I think both of us, for different reasons, had been gravitating towards more dynamic and more electronic music in our solo projects of late.

In 2018, Steven released ‘To The Bone’ and I released an album by my pre-NO-MAN 1980s band PLENTY. Accidentally, we’d ended up in a similar creative place / space.

PLENTY was very much an electronic orientated Art Pop band that had aspects of THE BLUE NILE, IT’S IMMATERIAL and other bands of the era. Although we kept the electronic soundscapes intact, on the 2018 re-recordings I changed some of the words and vocal lines to suit my current style. It was a great fusion of the past and the present and I felt it was something of a wake-up call.

Returning to the older material challenged me in terms of my voice and my vocal expression. I hope I managed to sing with a level of control I didn’t have in the 1980s, while shaking up my current approach with a more dramatic influence from my own past. The excitement of making the PLENTY album directly fed into my 2019 solo album ‘Flowers At The Scene’. Steven co-produced the album with me and PLENTY’s Brian Hulse and also mixed it and it was while we were making ‘Flowers At The Scene’ that we decided to properly pursue ‘Love You To Bits’.

Are you wary of existing fans of both the band’s more recent works and your respective solo output being unhappy with a possibly lighter tone from a ‘pop’ album?

To a degree, yes. I’ve genuinely got no idea how people are going to react to the album. And at this stage of my music making, that’s a good thing!

It is NO-MAN’s most direct album and does have a strong Pop element, but it’s also one of our most experimental and ambitious releases. The album evolves in several ways that I don’t think would be anticipated by its beginning.

Both the music and lyrics on the album are working a great deal with contrasts: light / darkness; energy / blissful release; brutality / beauty; simplicity / complexity etc. The latter contrast highlights the fact that as an album contains some of the band’s most simple work, yet as a whole it’s perhaps NO-MAN’s most compositionally sophisticated album.

As a band you have entrusted mixing this release to Bruno Ellingham, the first time you’ve gone externally. Any particular reason for this decision?

After we finished the album, Steven did several mixes. He felt that ‘Love You To Pieces’ was very nearly complete, but that ‘Love You To Bits’ was notably short of where it should be (mainly because some of the rhythm elements and guitar processing betrayed too much of the song’s mid-1990s roots). I agreed, though the dated processing bothered me less than it did Steven.

It was looking like the album could be abandoned due to Steven starting work on his forthcoming solo album, so I suggested we bring in another mixer to fully complete what was there. Steven agreed it was a good idea.

Bruno was at the top of my list of potential mixers. His experience of working with MASSIVE ATTACK, UNKLE, BEN WATT and GOLDFRAPP seemed ideal for what we wanted and although Bruno made his name with Dance and Indie music, he actually comes from a Classical background and is an accomplished violinist. As he also shared a love of the likes of TALK TALK, THE BLUE NILE, NICK DRAKE, PINK FLOYD, GRACE JONES and TANGERINE DREAM, he felt like a very good fit.

Bruno pulled together the programmed rhythms and real drums more effectively than Steven had done and gave some of the album a greater sense of groove, space and power.

It was subtle and he didn’t overwhelm what we’d given him, but his involvement has meant that this is perhaps the best sounding NO-MAN album ever.

You are working with Carl Glover on the art for this release. How does your relationship with him work when pulling the cover concepts together?

It varies. Sometimes – on albums such as ‘Flowermouth’, ‘Returning Jesus’ and ‘Dry Cleaning Ray’ – as I do with the artwork on my solo albums, I have a very clear idea of what I want and Carl realises the idea better than I ever could. At other times, Carl comes up with ideas of his own based on his interpretation of the music. ‘Love You To Bit’s – like two of my favourite Carl covers, ‘Together We’re Stranger’ and ‘Plenty’s It Could Be Home’ – is Carl’s visual interpretation of the music. As with ‘Together We’re Stranger’, I think he’s got it right. Glamour and glitter are pitched against grim reality and that’s a fairly accurate summation of the contents.

The advances in recording technology have been significant in past decade, has this changed how you and Steven approached the writing and recording of the album?

I guess so. We’ve always kept up with technological advances in studio recording and since we started ‘Love You To Bits’, Steven’s studio mastery has grown immeasurably and I’ve created a home studio set-up that enables me to produce results of an acceptable quality.

In terms of the way we work, ‘Love You To Bits’ has been one of the most hands-on and collaborative albums in the band’s history. As with ‘Wild Opera’ and the band’s very earliest experiments in the 1980s, we spent time in the studio together and traded ideas in real time. The likes of ‘Schoolyard Ghosts’ and ‘Together We’re Stranger’ were produced quite remotely with me bringing in compositions and recordings to Steven, and Steven sending me backing tracks to write to. Of course, we NO-MAN-ised the results in both cases, but outside of us writing the song ‘Wherever There Is Light’ together in real time in 2008, ‘Love You To Bits’ marked a return to a more traditional NO-MAN way of putting music together.

The success of your online label and store Burning Shed has been gratifying from my view point as a fan of a number of the acts you work with that wouldn’t possibly have an outlet for their releases otherwise. What do you look for in an artist when deciding to work with them?

Burning Shed started off as a label that focused on releasing obscure music cost-effectively (utilising on-demand CDRs). Very quickly, the sales dictated us producing proper CDs and soon after that taking over the NO-MAN and then the PORCUPINE TREE stores.

Everything evolved unexpectedly and grew through word of mouth. Some of the artists we deal with I actively pursued as a fan (sometimes for several years), some of the artists I already knew and had worked with, and some artists approached us due to the people we were already dealing with.

The good thing about the success of Burning Shed is that it’s meant that I’ve become even more bloody minded and idealistic concerning my own music. I only ever release what I believe in and what I believe deserves to be heard in the wider world.

As for what I look for, it varies and is difficult to define.

You’ve worked with a number of musicians that readers of ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK will know such as Richard Barbieri and Brian Eno. Did these collaborations have a starting point of you being a fan of their respective outputs?

In almost all cases, yes. I’ve been extremely lucky in being able to work with a large number of musicians who were amongst my teenage heroes, ROBERT FRIPP, PHIL MANZANERA, KEVIN GODLEY, ANDY PARTRIDGE, PETER HAMMILL, IAN ANDERSON, JANSEN BARBIERI & KARN and others.

That said, the important thing is that I feel they’re able to bring something to the songs they work on and that the songs they’re working on can bring out interesting qualities in their playing. There’s no point in people collaborating for the sake of collaborating (or just for the sake of adding a star name to a recording).

You were born in Cheshire between Liverpool and Manchester. Did this geography influence you musically?

I think it probably did! There’s a particular melancholy in my music that may well be a result of my Northern English background.

Although my upbringing was relatively middle class and suburban, it was still tough. That was partly down to difficulties in my own dysfunctional family, and partly because of the harshness of the environment as a whole. It was a wonderful place to be in terms of having easy access to great cities such as Liverpool, Manchester and Chester, but when I was at school there was no encouragement regarding creative endeavours and absolutely no nurturing. Family and school colleagues alike considered the idea of wanting to make music to be a case of having ‘ideas above your station’.

The positives were that both Liverpool and Manchester had very active music scenes and truly supportive music media. Radio DJs – particularly Mark Radcliffe and Roger Eagle – and newspapers (especially Mick Middles at the Manchester Evening News) were fantastically helpful to many aspiring artists, including me. For that, I remain grateful.

The Bush Hall gig in 2008 is in my personal top 10 shows. Are there any plans for live shows to support this release?

Thank you. After such a long absence from performance, it was an emotional occasion for all of us!

We have discussed the idea of playing live. If it happens, it’ll be early in 2020 and it’ll be quite different from how we last played. I imagine it to be a more radical combination of acoustic and electronic elements. It would also be interesting to see a return to us utilising backing tracks in the way we did when we first started.

NO-MAN has been an interesting and varied musical journey, what have been the highlights for you?

As it’s been so enjoyable to make, ‘Love You To Bits’ is a definite highlight. Outside of that, I still have a strong attachment to all our studio albums, but ‘Flowermouth’ and ‘Together We’re Stranger’ particularly stand out for me.

Playing in Poland in 2012 was also a great experience and in some ways, as strange as it may sound, talking to fans after the gig was the first time I realised that I’d had something of a career.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Tim Bowness

Special thanks to Abi Skrypec at Caroline International

‘Love You To Bits’ is released by Caroline International on 22nd November 2019 in CD, vinyl LP, cassette and digital formats

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https://twitter.com/nomanofficial

https://www.instagram.com/nomanhq/

https://timbowness.co.uk/

http://stevenwilsonhq.com/


Text and Interview by Ian Ferguson
16th November 2019

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