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Steven Wilson still surprised by Raven success

“Wilfully uncommercial” album is best-selling of his career - but he was determined not to repeat formula with Hand. Cannot. Erase.

Steven Wilson continues to be surprised about the sales success of 2013 solo album The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories) – especially since he set out to be “wilfully uncommercial” with the work.

But he was determined to avoid following the format with follow-up Hand. Cannot. Erase. which was released this week.

Wilson tells AllAboutJazz.com: “The Raven had absolutely nothing on it that was even remotely acceptable to the mainstream, and yet it’s the most successful album of my whole career.

“What that tells me is, the more self-indulgent I am, the more likely the album is to appeal. It almost gives me license to keep doing my thing. Not that I’m capable of doing anything else – but it’s nice that it can have appeal beyond the hardcore fans.”

He reports that The Raven continues to sell, unlike previous outings which have “tailed off” after release. But he didn’t feel pressure to make Hand. Cannot. Erase. into a kind of sequel.

“One of the things that inspires me is kind of negative-positive in a way – the need not to repeat myself,” he says. “I think people would look at the last record and suggest the obvious thing to do would be The Raven Part II.

“But the whole idea is anathema to me. I think I have an inbuilt aversion to repeating myself. That’s a strong impulse.”

He adds: “The story itself informed the musical palette and style. If you look at The Raven – based on this idea of classical ghost stories – that suggested to me a more vintage, almost old-fashioned sound.

Hand. Cannot. Erase. is absolutely set in the 21st century, and so I'm thinking about a completely different palette: electronic sounds, almost industrial sounds.”

Wilson last week described the concept that inspired the album as a “gift” because of the songwriting options it presented. 

He's the cover star of the latest edition of Prog, which is on sale now. Wilson tours the UK later this month:

Mar 12: Cambridge Corn Exchange

Mar 13: Cardiff St David’s Hall

Mar 14: Manchester Bridgewater Hall

Mar 16: Edinburgh Queens Hall

Mar 17: London Troxy

Mar 18: Wolverhampton Civic Hall

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