If you’ve ever wondered what makes Steven Wilson tick, then wonder no more. While not a sex, drugs and rock’ n’ roll, warts and all autobiography, Limited Edition Of One is a fascinating and frequently humorous insight into the mind of one of the 21st Century’s most prolific and eclectic musicians, producers and songwriters.
Steven Wilson with Mick Wall – Limited Edition Of One (Constable)
Release Date: Out Now
Words: Robert Adams
Wilson is probably best known as the frontman and songwriter of Progressive Rock masters Porcupine Tree, but that only scratches the surface of his vast musical resume.
The book starts in October 2010 at the Royal Albert Hall – 14th of October for those concerned with exact dates – where Porcupine Tree are about to perform the final show on their year-long tour in support of their The Incident album. This will be the last time that Porcupine Tree will perform live, although band members, record company, management and fans don’t know this yet.
If you think that touring the world in a rock band is a dream job, then read the start of this book, and you’ll find out it’s far from it.
We then go back to the young Steven Wilson’s upbringing – unashamedly middle class – and his subsequent relationship with music. I am of similar age to Steven Wilson, and I found that some of his musical memories were exactly the same as mine. We thought nothing of spending all day trawling through record stores looking for something interesting, the sea of 12-inch sleeves and vinyl just begging to be explored.
If Wilson’s first proper band, No Man, had taken off, his career would have been completely different. No Man was an experimental electronic band and even managed the accolade of getting single of the week in the NME, which was a big deal. No Man has carried on, although it’s more of a sporadic side-line these days.
Unfairly pigeonholed as a progressive rock artist, the only thing that’s progressive about Steven Wilson is the fact that the music he creates actually progresses. He has never made the same album twice and is always looking forward rather than looking back. In fact, he states that he was very apprehensive about restarting Porcupine Tree after such a long hiatus.
According to Wilson himself, the forthcoming Closure / Continuation album is the strongest album that Porcupine Tree has ever produced. As far as the album’s title goes, it can be seen as a continuation of Porcupine Tree, or the closure of the band. My money is on closure, as Richard Barbieri, Gavin Harrison and Wilson himself are all heavily involved in other projects.
He has a lot to say about the digital age we are now living in, from music streaming to social media. All of the points he makes on these subjects are bang on the money, from musicians being undervalued in the streaming age to fans actually believing they have an actual friendship with artists through social media platforms.
He states that he’s had death threats through social media – a rather irate Opeth fan blamed Wilson for his beloved band “losing their balls.”
Wilson loves a list. The book is full of them, from music, obviously, through to tv shows, films and even vegan meals. He says that’s the reason he gets a lot of things done by making lists and chalking them off as he goes.
What surprised me the most about the book was the fact that Steven Wilson is a really funny guy. My misconstrued perception of him was that of a rather aloof and humourless guy, and I couldn’t have been further from the truth. There are parts of the book that had me laughing out loud as I read it.
The sub-title of Limited Edition Of One is How To Succeed In The Music Industry Without Being Part Of The Mainstream. That subtitle alone tells you all you need to know about Steven Wilson’s career.
He has yet to have a number one chart position in the UK album charts, although both To The Bone and The Future Bites were perilously close, and it’s fair to say that he makes the music that pleases himself at any given time and doesn’t pander to any particular trends or fashion tastes.
It’s a small wonder and a thing of great optimism that he has been as successful as he has. He is very self-deprecating in regard to his skill as a musician. He says he does enough to get by and gives the more challenging parts to much more accomplished musicians to play for him.
Wilson freely admits that because of his burgeoning side career as a 5.1 and now Dolby Atmos remixer, the albums on which he’s been charged to sprinkle his surround sound magic have a direct effect on the music he himself records. He states that his remit for any remix he does is to improve it sonically rather than change the original recordings.
When asked by Mick Wall how he came about the book’s title, Limited Edition Of One, Wilson says that the title came from an exclusive special edition boxset of his The Future Bites album. This one of a kind boxset was auctioned off, with all proceeds going to the Music Venue Trust.
The title of the book suggests that Steven Wilson is a Limited Edition Of One, as is every human being, and he’s quick to point this out.
Not only do we get a very entertaining autobiography, we also get a short story from Wilson at the end of the book that more than proves he could forge yet another feather in his cap as a fiction writer.
Limited Edition Of One is a fascinating story of life inside the music business and success despite never being fashionable. It’s also very funny, and I can’t recommend it more highly to anyone with even a passing interest in music.
Truly magnificent work from Steven Wilson and Mick Wall.