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Page last updated at 15:29 GMT, Wednesday, 15 December 2010
Porcupine Tree raise funds for Cardiacs Tim Smith
Porcupine Tree: Steven Wilson, Colin Edwin, Gavin Harrison and Richard Barbieri
Porcupine Tree: Steven Wilson, Colin Edwin, Gavin Harrison and Richard Barbieri

Steven Wilson is the frontman of the successful British progressive rock band Porcupine Tree, who were formed in Hemel Hempstead in 1987.

He has just contributed a track to 'Leader of the Starry Skies', a tribute album covering the songs of Tim Smith, who has been in hospital for the past two and a half years following a devastating stroke.

Tim is the leader of the cult band Cardiacs and all proceeds from the record will go towards his care.

The BBC's Matt Precey spoke to Steven and discovered why Cardiacs are so important to him:

How did you get into the band?

I think anybody who likes Cardiacs, they tend to be quite evangelistic about them for obvious reasons . They're not a band you can be on the fence about. When you meet someone who likes them they do tend to be very evangelistic as I am now. I count myself as one of those people.

I left school and I went to work in a computer company. I was in my late teens. I made friends with a chap who was a huge Cardiacs fan and he gave me some cassettes because that's all they had out at that time - we're talking mid to late 80s here, I'm still very young - and I grew up really loving progressive rock. I wasn't very interested in punk music or hardcore music so I was initially sceptical but I did listen to the music and I was blown away because it had all the things I liked about the music I had grown up with, you know - great musicianship, complex compositions, very literate music, kind of semi-surreal lyrics. But it had this energy that I recognised from punk and hardcore music so it kind of was kind of like a bridge for me to that kind of music for the first time.

How would you describe Cardiacs music to someone who has never heard them before?

I think most people tend to come up with the same kind of description and they kind of call it pop prog/punk or punk progressive. There's also a very quintessentially English quality about the music that you can almost relate back to bands like Madness, that almost Music Hall tradition and that's kind of tied up in there too. It's a very bizarre combination that I think can only have come out of England. If you had to boil it down, it's a fusion of the energy of punk music with the complexity and musical sophistication of progressive rock.

Has Tim Smith and Cardiacs influenced your own music with your own band?

I'm sure he has. It's one of those things - it's kind of difficult to analyse your own music. I think there are many things over the years that have influenced me, some in a very tangible way and others in a more subtle way that is more difficult to spot. Let's just say that Cardiacs music is not the easiest to imitate. I did one of Tim's songs for this tribute album and it's one the hardest things I've ever had to do and I picked one of the easiest songs I could from his catalogue and I tell you, it was still a brain fry for me because I'm just not used to music that compositionally is so complex . So I think in a way it's easy to love the music but it's much harder to imitate and I think that's why perhaps the legacy of Cardiacs isn't as strong as it otherwise might be simply because it's very, very hard to imitate music of such sophistication and complexity. It's genius.

Tim Smith
For the last few years Tim Smith has been unable to leave hospital

Do you find it frustrating that Tim Smith's profile isn't that high in this country?

Totally. I think the people who tend to fall in love with Tim's work do tend to become very evangelistic about it because it is frustrating when you look at around and you see Cardiacs almost completely ignored, certainly by mainstream media, because they kind of span two worlds of music that aren't very easy bedfellows, you know. People who like progressive music tend to sneer at the idea of a kind of punk aesthetic and people who like alternative indie rock or punk rock tend to sneer at what they see as the pretentiousness and pomposity of progressive music. So here you have a musician and a songwriter who absolutely spans those two worlds. I think it's been very hard for him but I think he's one of those artists who will, like somebody like Frank Zappa, who will never be forgotten and people will still be discovering and listening to his music in fifty and a hundred years time and I think his legacy will live on much longer than many of the bands which have been more successful in his heyday.

I think genius is an overused word. When you hear people like Noel Gallagher being described as a 'genius' you know it's been overused and I think there are very few and far between people who are genuinely geniuses and I think Tim is up there, I really do. Someone who has created their own musical world and to have done it with such single minded dedication against all the odds, you have to really recognise him as a really unique one-off individual and we don't get too many of those in pop music. Unfortunately the way the pop music industry works these days it is very difficult for those kind of people to come through and prevail.




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