As the leader of, and brain-trust behind Porcupine Tree, Wilson has earned a reputation as modern progressive rock's leading light. Deservedly so, to be sure, but this in itself is apparently not enough to keep Wilson busy. He's a member of at least three other bands, has a successful solo career, and has become one of the most in-demand record producers, engineers, mix technicians and session musicians.
Let's grab a quick gander of Wilson's activity in 2012 alone.
The latest album from King Crimson mastermind Robert Fripp and his current musical partner, saxophonist Theo Travis, is known as “Follow,” and Wilson provided it with editing, mastering, mixing and post-production.
Guitarist Steve Hackett released “Genesis Revisited Vol. 2” last week, and Wilson played guitar and sang on the collection.
He and longtime friend, Opeth leader Mikael Arkerfeldt, comprise a band called Storm Corrosion, and Wilson produced, co-wrote, arranged, performed on and provided string arrangements for the duo's self-titled album.
Wilson also dropped his own “Grace for Drowning” solo masterpiece at the end of 2011, and spent a good portion of 2012 touring.
This dizzying flurry of activity didn't stop there, but rather included production credits for Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull's ambitious “Thick As A Brick II” album.
At the same time he was working on Anderson's 40-years-on sequel, Wilson was finishing up another ambitious and highly demanding project. “Thick As A Brick,” the original groundbreaking and, by this point, clearly timeless 1972 album from Jethro Tull, was granted a new stereo mix and a 5.1 surround sound mix by Wilson, at the personal behest of Anderson.
The original recording boasts a dense mix, a byproduct of even more dense arrangements from Anderson, who, as it turns out, was creating the masterpiece of his life's work with “TAAB.”
Wilson has an uncanny ability to repaint and touch up rock versions of the Sistine Chapel. He's earned the respect of some of the most notoriously curmudgeonly, detail-oriented artists in rock – guys like Anderson, for example, don't let any old fool with a Pro Tools rig near their masterworks.
Fripp, in fact, helped to get the whole Wilson-as-remastering-genius ball rolling when he handed him six seminal King Crimson albums to provide with new mixes.
Wilson was also commissioned to work his magic on a pair of Emerson Lake & Palmer classics – “Tarkus,” that band's finest hour, and “Emerson Lake & Palmer,” its debut.
Wilson isn't sitting still as 2012 nears its end. He's about to drop a double-disc known as “Octane Twisted,” an audio/visual document of Porcupine Tree in concert. (This is bound to be a mighty collection, which is not news to you if you happened to catch Porcupine Tree's earth-shaking show at the Town Ballroom a few years back.)
A visit to SWHQ.co.UK is something I highly recommend, by the way. Completely unsurprisingly, the site boasts a thoroughly modern, cutting-edge graphic design, an easily navigable overview of where Wilson's been and where he's going, and a slew of assorted other goodies.
One of these is a consistently updated playlist from Wilson, provided as both curio for the curious, and subtle nod toward cool, often obscure sounds from tour guide Wilson. The latest of these includes shout-outs to Howlround, Use of Ashes, Stockhausen, Vatican Shadow, Kreng, Bill Nelson (nice one, Mr. Wilson!), ELO, the Sleep of Reason, Tears for Fears and Aleksi Perala.
What has Wilson's more than obviously inspired work ethic taught us? Many things, certainly, but principal among them is the disabusing of the notion that one can only do so much in a given day. I'm guessing the guy doesn't sit around frittering the hours away watching television too often. I'm not even sure he takes a break to eat!
What's clear, above all else, is the suggestion that the modern- day musical wunderkind needs to diversify, to become knowledgeable in many areas – from composition to production – and most significantly, to always keep moving.
Steven Wilson is progressive rock's renaissance man
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