Venue : Prince Charles Cinema, Leicester Square, London
Date : Thursday 2 September 2010
Date of writing this review : 4 September 2010
I almost missed this one ! It was the preview showing for Insurgentes, the film documentary from Lasse Hoile and Steven Wilson, and I bought a ticket online the moment it was announced, but forgot to put it in my gig diary. So I am thankful to Kscope for their emails, and for the reminder on the Wednesday evening that I already had plans for the Thursday. Roadworks delayed me but I was still able to get to the venue in good time to queue with a lot of familiar faces before being allowed to go in. As it happened, Ali had some spare tickets, so I sat nearer the front with her and her friend instead of sitting in my allocated seat.
I am not going to try to describe the film in detail as it runs through an ongoing period of time in Steven Wilson’s life as he finalises his solo album, Insurgentes, and so is very much a montage of different events within a timeline and difficult to describe – you need to see it for yourself, and if you are a fan of documentary filmmaking or Porcupine Tree or Steven Wilson or Lasse Hoile you will enjoy it – it certainly does not disappoint in any way, lived up to all my high expectations and is clearly a very well made, quality creation. What I will attempt to do is give a flavour of the film by highlighting some of the events within it, maybe simply by name of location.
It opens with a girl’s voice telling part of the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears before flicking to images of Steven Wilson within a car being driven through a city, and the feeling already is dark, disturbing, sinister – frankly, what you would expect from Lasse and Steven. We see Steven going through some of his childhood photos, Porcupine Tree preparing to go on stage at the PinkPop festival in Holland, then Cavendish School in Hemel Hempstead. Through all this the soundtrack is very much atmospheric, sometimes the natural background noises, sometimes parts of actual tracks from one of the many projects Steven has been involved with, and we see some shots of him performing with Pig in Mexico City. A tarot reading, a talkshow in Israel, No Man’s Land where he is playing around with bass chords on the piano and building up a track, strange images and concepts made real on film, his early history, Dungeness with Carl Glover, Xochimilco in Mexico, a signing session in Tokyo, on stage with Aviv Geffen in Haifa in Israel, an acoustic version of the Porcupine Tree song, Trains, with Steven on guitar and Daniel Salomon from Blackfield on keyboards, being played to what appears to be an audience of friends in a room in Israel. A wonderful scene, again in Israel, where he is talking to the camera and a woman comes over to just listen, then starts chatting with him, culminating in her asking, “what kind of music do you play ?” to which he instantly replies, “weird shit.” On the Melloboat with Karin and also Mikael Akerfeldt from Opeth, talking with Trevor Horn about the sound quality of an mp3, the band route through Paradox to Amber Dawn to Karma, John Wesley, Steven at Disneyworld wearing a Mickey Mouse ears hat, and the occasional stark insight into him as a person.
There are also various scenes within the film where Steven is (now quite famously) destroying iPods in different ways – smashing it with a hammer, shooting it with a shotgun, smashing it with a sledgehammer, driving over it, taking a blowtorch to it, leaving one burning up – and we see him being interviewed on Sky News.
There is applause at the end and I realise I am sitting next to Behrang, which was a very pleasant surprise to meet him at last. We move to a question and answer session with Steven Wilson. I will not reproduce his answers word for word, and while I think what I will show here is a fair reflection of what was said, please do not go away using anything here as a quote.
Unless my ears are deceiving me, the first question comes from Neil Matthars, bass player with Paradise9 – are there any plans to perform the solo stuff live ?
– Yes, the original plan had been to go play some gigs to promote it, but other things (Porcupine Tree) got in the way of that. When the second solo album is completed there will be enough of a repertoire to do it, and then it will just be a matter of putting a band together…
Is the internet the future of publicity ?
– You do not have to like the way the internet works to realise its potential. While Steven is beginning to open up to use of facebook and twitter he does not like the way it takes away some of the enigma. A classic example being Ozzy, who is now widely regarded as a cuddly buffoon, which can almost change the way you listen to the early Black Sabbath material. Steven still needs to reach people so it is time to embrace it, but he is not going to start talking about what he had for breakfast. It does lead to another problem because everyone has an opinion and suddenly everyone is a rock journalist, and he does tend to take the criticism personally and seriously.
What did you have for breakfast ? Where did the initiative come from for this project, did Lasse come to you ?
– It grew organically. I knew Lasse had always wanted to make a movie and I told him I was going on a road trip as part of making this album and said he should come with me and film it.
Dave (I believe, as Steven calls him that within his reply) from Classic Rock magazine asks, why do this right now ?
– It was just an idea to have some fun in the medium of film. I am passionate about music and enjoy talking about it, but I kept telling Lasse to cut out everything with me in it.
And I am pretty sure the next question was from Jeff Clark, as I know he was there, and it sounded like him – given your interest in the production side of music, how much longevity do you see in your performance career ?
– I will never stop making records. I have learnt to enjoy touring. If I have a gift, it is making an album sound like a musical journey. I could maybe stop touring, but not making records.
Why Mexico ?
– I had been there only once before we made the film and realised it was a place I knew nothing about. Something immediately appealed to me. The Island of Dolls is fucked-up, but no-one had been there. Also, the coffins chucked at the side of the road, presumably because they did not pay their rent, is utterly bizarre. As a country it is very different to going to America, it is very much darker and I connected with it more. It is a fascinating place and I have still only scratched the surface.
What can you do to stop downloading ?
– Try to raise the idea of what you are listening to in terms of quality, talking about packaging and audio resolution. Surround sound is the opposite extreme to mp3. Robert Fripp took one verse of Elephant Talk to be convinced.
Is vinyl or cd the better medium ?
– Vinyl has a better chance to survive than cd. There are many factors within the discussion of which is ‘better’. From the purely aesthetic you cannot beat a beautiful album with its packaging. The special cd editions which he has produced in the past are expensive to make but people buy them because they are buying a piece of art.
And the end of the session is greeted with warm applause from a very appreciative audience.
Steven now stayed for a signing session, so I had my ticket signed, and was also lucky enough to meet Carl Glover and had him sign it as well. And I was able to get Steven to sign my second Karma demo tape, which means I have them both signed now. We had a brief conversation during which I shamelessly mentioned the Tinyfish album launch gig on Friday 10th September at The Luminaire, London, and while unfortunately he will be in Greece that day, he did say he had heard their debut album and would check out The Big Red Spark once it is released.