They're a progressive rock fan's dream team and the genre's greatest odd couple: Mikael Åkerfeldt, vocalist with Swedish prog-metal band Opeth, and multi-tasking Brit musician/producer Steven Wilson have released an album together under the name Storm Corrosion. Like Opeth's Wilson-produced 2011 album Heritage, the cinematic-sounding Storm Corrosion sees a further move into the left field for Åkerfeldt("I think it's a beautiful record," he says proudly). For the prolific Wilson, it’s the latest entry in a catalogue that includes solo records, countless band outings, most notably with Porcupine Tree, and his recent remastering production work for Jethro Tull, King Crimson and ELP. So what happens when a re-formed Scandinavian death metaller and an English Home Counties studio boffin get together? A fine romance, it seems.
Q&A: Storm Corrosion
Prog-rock, prog-metal and death metal make a strange hybrid - but Storm Corrosion make it work.
How did Storm Corrosion finally come about?
Mikael Åkerfeldt: We were hanging out at Steven’s house one evening and he asked if I wanted to hear his King Crimson SurroundSound mix [laughs]. So we went into his studio, suddenly I’m playing guitar, and by the end of the evening we had a song.
Steven Wilson: We’d had the idea of doing a record together even before I first worked with Opeth [in 2001], but we wanted to do it face to face. It’s more organic being in a room together. Mike came and stayed at my place six times over 1. months, and each time we came up with a song. There was no pressure on us to make the record. It was a case of see what happens.
What was an average working day like?
SW: We had a good routine. The day would often start with a trip to a record shop. Come back, play some records, have some wine, watch a movie, have dinner, more wine, maybe watch another movie, and then roll into the studio late evening pretty hammered.
MÅ: Steven keeps saying we drank all this wine, but I drank the wine, Steven didn’t. He had a big box of Maltesers in the studio.
The album mixes up old-school 70. progressive rock, folk, metal, ambient sounds, er, polyrhythmic Gregorian chants... Who came up with the oddest ideas?
MÅ: Steven was guiding it in a more twisted direction. I was trying to keep it nice, which is strange as I’m the one with a death metal past.
SW: The more ridiculous and outlandish the idea, the more we egged each other on. Nothing was out of bounds.
Did either of you tell the other that an idea was terrible?
MÅ: Fortunately I didn’t have to say it to Steven very often [laughs]. A lot of people say I have a big ego, but I can take criticism. If he had said: “That’s shit!” I’d have been likely to say: “You’re probably right.”
After talking about making an album together for so long, were you worried you wouldn’t actually be able to perform on the night?
SW: Yes, there was trepidation. We were scared that when we finally got together nothing would happen. So we took a softly-softly approach. That’s why we didn’t tell anyone – even the record company – that we were doing it until we’d almost finished it.
Mikael, have you played the album to the rest of Opeth?
MÅ: Yes. At a party when they were all drunk. They said they loved it, but I’ll believe them when they hear it sober.
Do you believe Steven actually likes death metal?
MÅ: _When he worked on [Opeth’s] _Blackwater Park album [2001. he said he did. But when I saw him a couple of months later he said: “Oh, I hate all that shit.” He’d also sold all his death metal records – probably the Opeth stuff as well.
When you’re working with Fripp, Ian Anderson or Greg Lake, do you ever feel like a nervous fan?
SW: Of course. But once someone trusts your creative decisions, that makes you relax. With Robert, after I’d worked on the first Crimson album [In The Court Of The Crimson King] he realised I genuinely loved the catalogue and could be trusted.
Does the busiest man in prog ever take a day off?
SW: Not really. I do a few hours in the studio every day. My idea of fun is music. When it comes to my personal life, all my friends are in the music business. Going record-shopping, going to the studio, making music... that’s my life, but I don’t consider it work. How can I complain? It’s a dream way to earn a living.
Mikael, have you ever told Steven to take a day off?
MÅ: I envy him, because for me, sometimes being in a band can be more about work than fun and creativity. Steven’s always got some new shit and new projects on the go. Every time I go and see him he plays me his new songs... and I never have anything to play him. I have other things happening. I have a family, he has a dog.
Is there such a thing as a prog groupie?
SW: They do exist – or rather, fanatical girl fans exist, but they are in a minority. But it’s a bigger minority than you think. At my shows I’ve been seeing more and more females in the last few years. I also think it depends on the band. Pink Floyd attract women... But when it comes to King Crimson or Van der Graaf Generator...
Will there be a second Storm Corrosion album?
MÅ: We should do another. But I don’t want it to become too much of a serious thing. We’re both already dying under the pressure of our respective bands.
SW: There were rumours for almost 1. years that we were going to make this record, so you could read the same thing into there being a second one. But we will get together and try.
Lastly, tell us something we don’t know about Steven Wilson?
MÅ: _He eats too much chocolate. _Way too much chocolate.