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Steven Wilson: "I think the guitar will always have a place, but it needs to adapt"

One of the great things about Steven Wilson, aside from his musical output, is he pulls no punches during interviews; he's honest, forthright and articulate in an era where musicians can be wary of what they say in case it damages their career prospects. Wilson is an established and successful artist with a fiercely independent spirit – as divisive new album The Future Bites proves. And his views on guitar in a recent interview are especially interesting… and sure to inspire some contradictory viewpoints.

"I found that every time I picked up the guitar and tried to write with it, which is what I've usually done for many years, I was kind of boring myself a little bit," says Wilson about the genesis of the album's direction in an excellent interview with Face Culture you can watch above.

"I couldn't play anything that excited me; it felt like everything had been done. And I think part of the problem is that almost everything I think has been done with the guitar."

"It seems to me now the sound of the guitar is the sound of the second half of the 20th century, in the way that jazz music was the sound of the first half of the 20th century, and was kind of wiped out by rock 'n' roll in the second half of the 20th century."

Wilson believes his own evolving relationship with the guitar is part of wider changes in music. "I think it was because it's pretty much fundamental to my career and my musical sound," he explains. "My music is guitar-based, so to acknowledge that to myself was difficult, and it took me a while.

"But I think the main thing was realising that I wasn't alone in feeling that. I was starting to talk with - I still do interviews with a lot of metal magazines, I've had a very loyal following from metal parts of the media; Rock Hard, and Metal Hammer, and Kerrang, and they've always been very great champions of my work.

"And I'll be doing interviews with them, and I'd be talking about guitar music, and I began to feel like even they - the people that wrote about this music, were struggling to find interesting new music from the world of rock and guitar-based music.

"And that gave me the confidence to think, 'You know what? I think the time is right to try and make a record maybe that reflects more of the world that I live in, a record that feels like it draws much more from the world, the electronic world that we all live in these days.'

Steven Wilson

(Image credit: Future)

"And there's no doubt in my mind that we do live in an electronic world - all the sound around us all day long, from our laptops, our phones, even our doorbell, it's all electronic sound. And that's the world we live in now and I think there's a sense that the guitar now almost belongs to the past.

"I still love it, I still love the guitar, but it seems to me now the sound of the guitar is the sound of the second half of the 20th century, in the way that jazz music was the sound of the first half of the 20th century, and was kind of wiped out by rock 'n' roll in the second half of the 20th century.

"I think it's fair to say that the sound of the 21st century, at least so far, has been an electronic world."

And that isn't to say Wilson has jettisoned guitar, it's audibly part of The Future Bites but the balance is difference compared to the days of Porcupine Tree's In Absentia and Deadwing.

" I just think there is nothing more to say with the classic rock vocabulary"

"I still use the guitar," reiterates Wilson, "there are still guitars on this record but even the guitar on this record is used with more of an electronic sensibility, almost more of a sound design element. There are no classic rock guitar solos, there are no classic rock riffs.

"And part of the reason is that I think that vocabulary is absolutely exhausted. I just think there is nothing more to say with the classic rock vocabulary. So the answer question is - yes, I think the guitar will always have a place, but it needs to adapt.

"I don't think it will be the centre anymore of contemporary mainstream music. There's no doubt in my mind that electronic music has now become - urban music is all about electronic sound, and modern pop music is all about electronic sound.

"In a way, the part of me that grew up in the '80s, the part of me that fell in love with Led Zeppelin, and Black Sabbath, and Pink Floyd, and The Cure, and all these bands when I was a kid, part of me is sad about that.

"But part of me also acknowledges to myself that one of the beautiful things about music is that it continues to evolve."

The Future Bites is out now. For more info head to stevenwilsonhq