Steven Wilson reveals the stories behind his album To the Bone - track by track and interview

Throughout his three-decade career, Steven Wilson has remained a resolutely independent artist. This has made him probably the most successful British artist you’ve never heard of.

Now he is back, after a two-year break, with his fifth album, To the Bone.

The follow-up to 2015’s Hand. Cannot. Erase. , To the Bone is a snapshot of the disconcerting times we live in.

Fusing driving futurist rock, spectral electronics, hyperspace ambience and squalling guitars, it is also Wilson way of giving a nod to the songs he listened to growing up.

"My fifth record is in many ways inspired by the hugely ambitious progressive pop records that I loved in my youth," explains Wilson.

"I grew up listening to a lot of very smart pop records by artists like Kate Bush, Talk Talk, Peter Gabriel, Prince, Depeche Mode, Tears for Fears, The The.

"It struck me that there aren't too many albums made like that these days: quite accessible on the surface, but if you choose to engage with them on a deeper level, you can find layers in the production, musicianship and some thoughtful lyrics. I wanted to try to create a modern equivalent."

Steven Wilson - Credit: Camila Jurado
Steven Wilson Credit: Camila Jurado

For this album, the former Porcupine Tree founder, who is an astute observer of contemporary life, decided to explore how the essence of truth has become an increasingly slippery slope.

"Most of the songs on the album are about 'truth' being something that can be twisted and filtered to mean whatever you want it to mean, whether you’re a politician, a terrorist or just trying to convince yourself that a relationship is working when it isn’t," explains the songwriter-producer.

"Lyrically, the album’s 11 tracks veer from the paranoid chaos of the current era in which truth can apparently be a flexible notion, observations of the everyday lives of refugees, terrorists and religious fundamentalists, and a welcome shot of some of the most joyous wide-eyed escapism I’ve created in my career so far."

"It's not strictly autobiographical. Mainly, I like to tell stories."

Steven Wilson
Steven Wilson

This is evident in Song of I, which may appear to be a love song, but it isn't.

It is about sexual and emotional obsession, as well as the "refusal to let go of something that clearly isn't bringing any happiness".

Wilson brought in Swiss jazz-pop singer Sophie Hunger to duet on the track because she had a "sexy-sinister" quality to her vocals.

It is this tone that makes the song one of the darker, moodier tracks on the album.

"I think most people can relate to the feeling of love spilling over into obsession," says Wilson.

"I also wanted a glacial coldness in the vocals and music to hint at the destructive side of love."

Steven Wilson - Credit: Hajo Mueller
Steven Wilson Credit: Hajo Mueller

To add to this, Wilson wanted something striking to the music video.

"I happened across some amazing images and film of the performance artist Maya Petrovna [who appears in the video] and asked her if she would be interested in working on it," he says.

"I thought it could work well to illustrate the song as some form of highly stylised drama, maybe somewhere between choreography and soap opera."

In January 2018, Wilson will go on a global tour that includes 25 US concerts and a return to the Royal Albert Hall in London. For more information, click here.

To the Bone is released August 18 via Caroline International.