One of the UK’s most intriguing rock acts, Porcupine Tree, have enjoyed one of their most successful years since their inception in 1987. Now signed to Roadrunner Records announced September 2006, the band released ‘Fear Of A Blank Planet’ in April 2007. The record saw them adjust their sound once again, moving away from the individual song structures, returning to longer compositions.

On this shift in focus, drummer Gavin Harrison told us during the April tour: “’Deadwing’ did feel very much like a collection of songs and although ‘Deadwing’ had a concept, which was loosely based on a film script, the songs felt like they were songs we could change around. Before ‘Deadwing’ came out we did change it; some songs came off, some went on and we changed the order a little bit because it felt like a set list. This one was pretty much written in stone right from day one, it all had a certain flow to it emotionally and the tempos, the way it all worked together and flowed as one piece. I suppose in a very old fashioned way I'd like people to think as the whole thing as one piece. Previous albums have been more collections of songs that you could fit around each other until it felt like an album.”

Porcupine Tree sought the assistance of Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson and King Crimson's Robert Fripp, who both make guest appearances on their latest album.

On the collaborations Gavin told us: “Robert Fripp had been touring with us as a support act since 2005, we've actually done a lot of gigs with Robert, about 40 or 50 and he was very supportive of us and we obviously like King Crimson and the things that Robert does so it was very easy to ask him. I heard that Neil Pert, the drummer with RUSH, was saying very nice things about me and the band and after about three interviews with him name checking me I decided to get in touch with him and invited him to the show in Los Angeles. He said he couldn't come to the show but he'd take me for lunch and we had a really nice time. Steve got in touch with Alex Lifeson, he'd heard that Alex liked Porcupine Tree as well and they developed a bit of an online relationship, I don't think they've actually met in real life! Steve just asked him to play a solo.”

The ‘Fear Of A Blank Planet’ album is reviewed here, with the tour where that interview was conducted is here.

Click here for the rest of the interview, where we were also able to gain confirmation of the band’s appearance at Download later in the summer.

For some Download seemed a logical place for Porcupine Tree to play. Not only are they now under the wing of Roadrunner, but tours with Opeth and Dream Theater have brought them to the attention of the metal paternity. There is a strong metal influence in their sound, but for others they’re still very much a progressive rock band, so their reception was to be an interesting one. As
this review shows fans and band need not have been concerned.

Download wasn’t the only gig of some significance for Porcupine Tree in 2007, with the band heading to Mexico as part of the second leg of their world tour.

When we spoke to bass player Colin Edwin ahead of their recent London date, he told us: “we were expecting it to be kind of difficult, really chaotic since it's got a real reputation, but it was actually completely the opposite. It went really well. The people were really nice, the theatre was great and the facilities were good too. It was about a 3,000 capacity venue and we sold it out. The people are really passionate so it was a great audience. It's a difficult place to tour logistically and it's very expensive to do. You can only get things over there by freight, but it was a very good experience. They don't buy records so much, it's more bootlegs over there and obviously they go to concerts. We couldn't take merchandise with us, but they'd made all this stuff, t-shirts, and cigarette lighters. We did buy some ourselves, so they made money out of us in more ways than one!”

On the success of ‘Fear Of A Blank Planet’ he said: “It's been really positive, when it first came out we had a lot of interest and there's a real feeling that people are listening. We tried very hard to write a focused record, with a flow to it, there was no fat, just the lean record.”

Unsurprisingly when we asked Gavin Harrison if chart success was important to him we got this reply: “Couldn't care less.”

He did expand on it by adding “I think it's good for the profile, I mean the first time people might get to hear of you is when they pick up a billboard type magazine and they think 'Porcupine Tree, never heard of them but they're new in this week at so & so' and they might get curious enough to go & check it out. Same with the press, they see it in a magazine so they might go to the site and listen to a track; I mean how do you attract brand new people? If it's not from word of mouth then seeing us in a magazine or on the web or in the charts is a great help, personally from my point of view it doesn't make a difference at all.”

The second half of the year saw Porcupine Tree release the EP ‘Nil Recurring’, which featured tracks not included on ‘Fear Of A Blank Planet’. They toured the UK again, we saw them in London.

Click here for the full interview with Colin Edwin from that tour. As well as playing live, he talks about his side projects and the plans for reissuing ‘Lightbulb Sun’ early in 2008.

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