Porcupine Tree

Interview date

Novembre 2009




Interview Gavin Harrison

Hello Gavin, thanks for taking the time to respond to the webzine auxportesdumetal.com. It's your third time in Lyon, do you remember being here before and the places you visit?

No I'm very bad at remembering, but I think we played at the other room. You know, after so many places you can't remember them. Even last week when we played Milan, or Madrid, I have troubles remembering what the venue looked like.

Let's talk about the Incident 2009 Tour, you did do a pretty long leg in the USA, how did this go?

It was actually a shorter tour than we initially thought because we were told that the recession had hit America very hard and if we played outside the major markets like Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and San Francisco we would have a lot of trouble, but surprisingly, nearly every show sold out. So it was more people than we ever played to. We only planed 3 weeks, actually 2 weeks and then we went to Canada and did a couple of shows there too. It was probably the most receptive show we did in America. We had a few opening bands, like Big Elf, King's X, and this fantastic guy called That 1 Guy, he plays a very strange pipe, with a double bass string on it, and he sings and he has all sort of electronics devices, he is incredible, check him out if you have a chance.

Back to Europe, I noticed that some countries like Italy and Germany get a lot of dates while others like France only get 2? Is this for commercial reasons?

No, we always played Paris in the past, but when we played outside of Paris it's always been low attendance. This was 4 or 5 years ago. And normally we don't have so much say in exactly where we play. The agent presents us with a plan. He has all the numbers, and all the figures and he knows where we played last time and how many people came last time and I think he has been very shy at booking French dates outside of Paris. So Lyon is probably a little test...

I think this evening is sold-out

Is it? Great, that's fantastic. But you know a few years ago, maybe on the Deadwing Tour, when we went outside of Paris, we really had to struggle. Now I don't know why we are doing so many dates in Germany, I think 10 shows, much more than before, with great attendance, obviously the German promoters feel that they can sell those gigs. It's not really in relation with sells of records, but more with past performance and how the promoters feel the band is doing in the market, it's kind of a mystical guess. Add to this the availability of venues, the logic of the bus routing, the day of the week, and even other concerts happening in the same city. It's a very complicated formula to build a successful tour. A lot of work.

I have never seen you live yet, but some folks say you sound harder live than on albums.

More aggressive? Oh yes, it's going to be a lot louder [lol]. To hear the band play, let say, "Strip the soul", which has some heavy sections, it sounds louder in a venue, it's really in your face. It's louder than what they listen to at home [lol].

What about for this tour?

Tonight we will play the first disc of The Incident, which is very dynamic, there are lots of quiet sections, some heavy bits and then we'll have a 10mn break and the second half we'll play a lot of different songs from the past albums. We change which ones, every night.

Few questions about the latest album The Incident, can you tell us a bit more about the theme of this concept album?

The story is about different things that have happened around the world and that people call an "incident". Like someone died in a car crash, there is a story about a religious cult, in Texas where everybody was made to commit suicide, all true stories. It's like a film, with a beginning and an end. There is only a loose connection between the stories.

The tone of Porcupine Tree is always something between sadness and hope, between darkness and light. Is this a group thing or more Steven's state of mind?

We all like dynamic music, we like dark heavy things, and they are much more powerful when you put them next to soft, quiet, ambient kind of things. It's a contrast thing. When you have a soft ambient song and then some heavy metal stuff then it's very powerful. If you have heavy metal from the beginning of the concert to the end, it's powerful for the first minutes but then it loses its power because it's continuous. We like the contrasts.

How did you write the music for this album?

Last year we went to a studio for 2 weeks and we wrote together. It's a band writing situation. The last section of the Incident and most of second disc is from the band. A large part of the Incident was Steven's writing. Sometimes we write together, sometimes we arrange together. Sometimes Steven writes on his own, sometimes it's myself and Steven, Richard and Steven or Colin and Steven. There is various kind of combinations.

All of you have parallel projects, how do you decide what is a Porcupine Tree song and what is not?

I don't write a song and ask myself where to put it. I usually write a song for a particular project. When we go and write together we don't bring complete songs but just ideas, riffs, chord sequences, and rhythms, and we bring them to writing sessions. If it's one of mine then I would play it to the other guys and if they like it then we will work on it all day. For instance Bonny The Cat started with my idea. I had this rhythm and a bass line, I had some chords, I think they changed the chords, we changed the bass line but we started off with an idea. Another song like Black Dahlia was something Richard had already written. It depends, we need to feel some kind of inspiration with what we hear. By the time we get in studio we have normally worked together at home on separate ideas. We all have studios at home.

From your long list of projects I have picked a few, for example you played with Iggy Pop in 1986, how did this happened?

A friend of mine told me he was auditioning drummers in London. So I called the guitarist who was auditioning and asked if I could come along. He told me which 2 songs they were going to rehearse and I bought the records and learn the song. After 9 or 12 weeks of touring, the tour stopped and I did something else then they asked me if I could come again to tour, they were opening for the Pretenders, but I could not make those dates so they took another drummer. Jobs come and go like that, you know.

You worked also on the Blackfield project, how different is this from Porcupine Tree, as Steven is there too?

I didn't do any writing for Blackfield. What happened is that for the first Blackfield album, I played on 2 songs, and on the second Blackfield album there is a song called Christenings, which was going to be a Porcupine Tree song, but myself, Colin, and Richard and Steven felt it was not the right song for Porcupine Tree so he said do you mind if I use this song in Blackfield and we said yes. And I told him that he could reuse my drum track, which we had already recorded. Which he did.

You also worked on OSI latest album "Blood", how did you end up replacing Mike Portnoy in this project?

The project is really the one of Jim Matheos and Kevin Moore. Jim emailed me and asked me if I would play on the record. And I said yes. And it's funny because I have never met with Jim or Kevin. I have never even spoke to them on the phone. It was all on email. They sent me the songs, I recorded the drums at home and sent them the drum tracks. It was strange but I really like the album actually. I don't think they asked Mike to play on this record, that's all.

Any work in the plan with Robert Fripp?

Well I played in King Crimson last year, and I think Steven has done a 5.1 remix of some King Crimson albums. But yes, I hope that there will be more work with Robert Fripp later next year. In which form I don't know. If it's King Crimson, or if it's one of the project that he likes to do outside of King Crimson, I don't know. And Robert was making support for Porcupine Tree about 4 weeks ago, in the early part of this European tour. We are in touch with Robert all the time. He is a very nice and interesting guy. I hope I can do more collaborative work with him.

Thanks for your time Gavin and have a great concert

Thanks to you, bye.