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  • Laurence Stevenson wrote on December 25, 2012 report

    'There are absolutely limitations'?
    Only in Steven Wilson's mind. Which is fair enough. This particular group no longer inspires him. However, this does not make them 'limited' to the rest of the world. When Wilson moves on from jazz to, perhaps, orchestral music, will this make Adam Holzman any more or less 'limited' than Richard Barbieri? I don't think so. There is no shame at being really good at what you do. If your specialization makes you less useful to someone else's vision, that's not a limitation.

  • John Kelman wrote on December 25, 2012 report

    Hey Laurence,

    Let me try to clarify. What he means by limitations is that, barring Harrison, the other members of PT would neither be interested in nor really capable of executing the music Steven is currently writing for his solo efforts, in particular the forthcoming record. He was very clear to not present this as a negative, in my interview; he was clear to identify that, while PT began as a solo project, it ultimately became a band with a collective identity, and that such collective identities - as good as they are and, in the case of PT, has been - they can also be inherently limiting, for a number of reasons - and not just technical ones, though that's really the case here.

    As for your suggestion of would moving to orchestral music make Holzman more "limited" than Barbieri? The answer would, I'm afraid - and with no disrespect intended to Barbieri - be: no, it would not. Holzman's a more sophisticated and broad-reaching player inherently as a result of his training. Does that make him "better" or more "creative" than Barbieri? Absolutely not necessarily, since "better" is a subjective term, for the most part, and creativity is not by any means necessarily measured in technical terms...though, as I am sure you'd agree, under certain circumstances is can be.

    What it does mean is that Holzman has the technical knowledge/skills to play things that Barbieri cannot. And no, there's no shame in being good at what you do. But if your technical knowledge as a musician is more limited, it does mean you are inherently more limited in what you'll be able to do. To use a very simple example: someone who can read music can do gigs that someone who can't well cannot. That's a limitation. There are always exceptions, of course - Adrian Belew, who cannot read music, playing in Zappa's band, where for the most part, being able to read was a prerequisite. But Zappa wanted Belew in his band, and so on the weekends, before rehearsals began (Monday-Friday, just like a day gig!), Belew would spend his time at Zappa's home, where he'd learn the material by ear. But exceptions are, indeed, just that: exceptions.

    We're not talking creative limitations here, Laurence, and my sense, from talking with Steven, was neither was he. But, and he was very careful to bundle himself in with the rest of PT (Harrison excepted), he was referring to technical limitations.

    There's no doubt that Marco, Adam, Theo and Nick are technically more accomplished players, meaning they can realize the music Steven is currently writing in ways that PT's guys cannot.

    But let me repeat Steven's words, from the interview, as I believe they're important:

    "When you have a band that's been together as long as Porcupine Tree, there are all sorts of internal politics, and I simply wouldn't want to be performing something with them if I didn't think they were enjoying it," Wilson continues. "By definition, that then becomes the band sound, and although that is limiting, I use the word in the sense that it can also be positive. Porcupine Tree has a very distinct sound which people instantly recognize, and that sound comes from what we can all agree to play. Another way of putting it might be to say, if you took an artist like Frank Zappa, can you imagine a catalog that eclectic being made ever by the same group of musicians? That sort of democracy is just not possible. Only a solo artist could create such an eclectic catalog. In many respects, he's been my role model—to be able to be in a situation where I can surprise people with my next move. I think that's the difference. I mean, this [his solo group] is a band, but it's not a band [laughs]; and this time I'm going to keep it that way."

    Steven actually had me adjust the original content of the interview where he discussed PT, to make sure that he was not disrespecting the guys he's been playing with (and, for the most part, clearly, very happily) for some years. The "absolute" in "absolute limitations" was my word, not his, and my use of it was in reference to the fact that, being broader musicians both in training and experience, Theo, Marco, Adam and Nick (I can't speak for the new guitarist, Guthrie Govan, as I am unfamiliar with him) are capable of executing things that the majority of PT's players cannot.

    That doesn't make them capable of being more creative (or less). And as for your comment about being "limited to the rest of the world," I am not sure what you are getting at. Steven is not slamming PT and its players. He's just (a) not interested, at this point in time, in continuing to make the kind of music PT does; and (b) the music he is interested in making at the moment is, indeed, beyond the capabilities of PT....not to mention it's just not the kind of music he feels they'd want to play - and I suspect he'd know this better than you or I. And so even if they could play it, not being what they'd want to play makes it just as well they don't as it is that Steven isn't going to write and record a new PT album at a time when it doesn't interest him.

    A long babble, but I wanted to try and clarify what the intended use of the term "limitation" means, in this case. Just because Robert Johnson was severely limited, technically, didn't mean he didn't make some powerful, gut-wrenching music. But had he been invited to sit in with Benny Goodman in the place of Charlie Christian, I think it's fair to say his limitations would have revealed themselves pretty quickly, no?


  • Laurence Stevenson wrote on December 26, 2012 report

    John, Thank you for the extensive clarification. I must confess to feeling just a little put out on behalf of the PT guys but I believe you have done here what you set out to do. You clarified the situation in a way that I entirely agree with. PT is what it is (and excellent at that) but the example of Zappa is very apposite. New circumstances for new inspiration with no disrespect for what has been previously achieved.
    Now stop working so hard:-). Have a great Xmas/New Year!
    Thanks again for going above and beyond what might be required.

  • John Kelman wrote on December 26, 2012 report

    It was my pleasure Laurence, as I'd not want anyone thinking that Steven holds anything but the greatest respect for his mates in PT. If my review suggested otherwise, I'm glad to have clarified it.