An hour before soundcheck on a Friday afternoon, Steven Wilson sits in his dressing room at New York City's Best Buy Theater and waxes ecstatic about his live band. "They're absolutely remarkable," he says. "I sit on stage some nights just listening to them play. They give me such freedom. When I fell in love with being a musician, it was more about being an auteur or a director, someone with a vision. I’m finally at that place, 20 years into my career.”
Wilson gave himself a leg up preparing for this, his second solo excursion, in that the same band that performed live tracks in their entirety for his most recent album, The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories), is playing those songs on tour.
"Doing it that way has been a tremendous advantage," he notes. "Everybody came into the situation having already played the music, so there was no big learning curve. It's been really exciting seeing the material move forward."
Originally, drummer Marco Minnemann, who performed with bassist Nick Beggs, guitarist Guthrie Govan, keyboardist Adam Holzman and flutist/saxophonist Theo Travis on the European leg of the tour, was set to turn over his sticks to Chad Wackerman for the US run and segue into Joe Satriani rehearsals. However, after two dates, in Tampa and Atlanta, Wackerman received pressing news of a personal nature and had to return home.
"Marco is back with us for a little while," Wilson explains. "He isn’t starting with Satriani until the beginning of May, so he’s covering for just a bit. By the time we get to the West Coast, Chad will be back."
Wilson is performing the new disc in full, but he's breaking up the sequence with selections from his first two solo albums, 2008's Insurgentes and 2011's Grace For Drowning. "I didn't want to do the whole 'we're-gonna-play-you-the new album' thing," he says. "As a fan, one of the lovely things about going to a show is when you don’t know what’s coming next. I love the thrill of the surprise, so for this show, we do the whole album, but we break it up. It works better that way.”
On the following pages, Wilson discusses the songs from The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories) and offers his thoughts on how they're transitioning from the studio to a live context. And in the video below, he shows off and talks about his main stage guitar, his trusty Paul Reed Smith Custom 22.