Innerviews, music without borders

No-Man
Disrupting structures
by Anil Prasad
Copyright © 2000 Anil Prasad. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution, No Derivatives license.

No-Man is an island. For nearly 15 years, the UK duo of vocalist Tim Bowness and multi-instrumentalist Steven Wilson has existed deep within its own shores, far from the contaminating tides of industry. Theirs is an uncompromising approach that connects the perimeters of rock and pop with a myriad of far-flung influences including neo-classical, jazz, dub and techno. And for that, they’ve achieved critical success, a loyal cult following and the peace of mind that accompanies art devoid of commercial instincts.

Bowness and Wilson are the first to point out that isolation is not the goal of No-Man. Rather, it’s the inevitable consequence of working outside of the market research-driven music business. Their immunity to its influence was built up during a dalliance with One Little Indian, the once-mighty Brit-pop indie that briefly took No-Man under its wing. The two escaped the label and its imposed directives with only a few light scars. But they were determined never to fall prey to such scenarios again.

No-Man has since released a series of wide-ranging discs via its own label Hidden Art, as well as select, more enlightened indies. Highlights include 1996’s chameleon-like Wild Opera—an album that lived up to its name via sweeping shifts in mood and genres—and 1998’s Carolina Skeletons, a more downbeat affair steeped in swirling textures and etched atmospheres. If there’s a constant in the material, it’s that it avoids rote, base lyrics and favors black humor, juxtaposition and irony—all wrapped up in depictions of fractured realities and fleeting existence.

The two also have several projects outside of No-Man’s scope. Bowness is a member of Darkroom and Samuel Smiles. The former is an adventurous exploration of beat culture, while the latter offers a more reflective ambient folk vibe. As for Wilson, he can be found within the prog-rock expanses of Porcupine Tree, the Krautrock leanings of The Incredible Expanding Mindfuck and the electronica realms of Bass Communion.

No-Man glanced to the past to realize its latest album Speak. The CD is a retooled version of a cassette-only release of late ‘80s material. They still deem it some of their best work to date and thought it worthy of excavation for larger-scale availability. Innerviews began its detailed look at No-Man’s core philosophies by examining the inspiration behind Speak’s re-release.

Why did you choose to rework Speak and release it as a new No-Man album?

TB: We'd always had an affection for that particular strand and era of our music and it was always our intention to someday revisit the material and release it officially.

SW: In many ways we feel that this material written during our first two or three years is closer in spirit to the music we are making now than the music we recorded in the intervening period. When we listened back to the tapes, the material did not seem to have dated. With a minimum of re-recording and remixing, we were able to fix the things that had not withstood the test of time so well. Since our work in progress was still a long way from completion, we felt that Speak made a good interim release, particularly as it had and has much in common with the new material.

Describe the original Speak and how you improved on it for the new CD.

TB: The original Speak comprised the best of the more atmospheric material from the earliest days of the band between '87 and '89. Simultaneously, we'd been writing much more brutal breakbeat-driven punk-jazz songs, but this particular set of songs exerted a far stronger emotional hold on us. Songs from the same era that were reworked and ended up on other albums include "Angel Gets Caught In The Beauty Trap" and "Days In The Trees." The main difference between the cassette release and the CD version is that I've re-recorded my original vocals. At the time, I was still very noticeably influenced by such vocalists as Scott Walker, David Bowie and David Sylvian. In retrospect, my style seemed more mannered and derivative than I feel it to be now. Other than the vocals, the overall mix has been improved and on two tracks where the original backing track had been damaged, the music was re-recorded from scratch in the style of the original versions.

What went through your minds when you went back and listened to No-Man's earlier incarnation?

SW: That the music was completely sincere and without any commercial agenda. The period following it between '90 and '93 was one in which we tried to play some of the games that the music industry requires you to play in order to achieve "success." This ended with the Flowermouth album which is when we effectively said "fuck it" to all of those games—which in any case had got us nowhere. We went back to making pure No-Man music. I don't wish this to give the impression that I am dismissing all of our work from that period, because some of it I do still rate, but some of it was certainly a compromise for us. The Speak-era tracks come from a period when myself and Tim were writing and recording for no other reason than because we felt inspired to do so.

TB: Strangely, on listening afresh, we felt more of an affinity for the songs on Speak than we did for the songs on our first two official albums Lovesighs and Loveblows and Lovecries, and to a certain extent, Flowermouth too. The material was fairly spontaneously composed in the very early days of No-Man when we were an experimental studio duo finding our means of expression as we went along—much like the way we've been working since 1994 and the breakdown of our relationship with One Little Indian. I also think that in some ways we've come full circle again. As at the beginning of the band's history, we're now writing when and because we feel the need to, not because we're interested in satisfying someone else's view of the music and not to make money.

Flowermouth only came out in 1993. Why revisit it, too?

TB: Because, despite being the best-selling and most requested album we'd recorded, One Little Indian deleted it six months after its release when the original stock had been sold out. The same applies to Flame, the collaboration album I recorded with Richard Barbieri in 1994.

SW: Firstly, I always thought that though the performances were fine, many of the original mixes were inadequate and thin. The new mixes of tracks like "Things Change" and "Angel gets Caught in the Beauty Trap" have been made much warmer and more organic. This was achieved by removing some of the synthetic elements and with the benefit of a lot more experience in production and mixing. Secondly, along with Speak, it is the closest in spirit to our forthcoming record Returning Jesus.

Are more No-Man archival releases on the way?

TB: All that's left is the release of a combined double CD of our first two albums Lovesighs and Loveblows and Lovecries, along with some non-album singles and outtakes culled from the same period. "The Hidden Art Of Man Ray," an unreleased improvisation from 1988, will be released on the forthcoming Hidden Art label sampler. We have hours more material in the archives, but we tend to be perfectionist as regards what gets an official release, hence the CD-R-only nature of the Radio Sessions album.

I understand Returning Jesus represents your most ambitious work to date.

TB: It's probably the most unforced work we've done. It's far more intimate than the previous two releases Wild Opera and Dry Cleaning Ray. Yet in certain respects, such as the sophistication of production and arrangements, and the additional musicians, it echoes aspects of Flowermouth, though mostly, I'd say there's little comparison. It contains some of the most complex and some of the most basic music we've ever produced. We're still waiting to complete a couple of mixes and still waiting to see which—if any—company the new album will be released on or licensed by.

Returning Jesus is a phrase that either myself or a friend came up with over coffee some time ago. The lyric that developed, ambiguous as it is, may or may not be about a possibly deluded savior figure returning and being ignored by everyone. It's quite a skeletal song and spartan lyric that was produced at a fairly difficult time for me. In some ways it reminds me of the quiet desperation of the last few songs Nick Drake wrote like "Hanging On A Star" and "'Black Eyed Dog." It's not sarcastic or directly religous, although I would say that it's one of the few No-Man songs that can make me cry when I hear it.

The album will also feature "Carolina Skeletons" and a slightly reworked and remixed version of "Close Your Eyes" from 1998's Carolina Skeletons EP. The album features performances from Ian Carr, Steve Jansen, Colin Edwin of Porcupine Tree, David Kosten of Faultline and singer-songwriter Ben Christophers amongst others. I think No-Man go through phases of distinctively reflecting the current musical climate such as Lovesighs, Loveblows and Lovecries, Wild Opera and Dry Cleaning Ray, and phases of retreating into ourselves and trying to produce something we consider timeless and meaningful such as Carolina Skeletons and Flowermouth. The new album definitely fits into the latter category. Next time, it's disco!

Do you make a conscious effort to take a varied stylistic approach when writing or is it something that naturally emerges during the process?

TB: From the very beginning, we both had extremely eclectic tastes and interests, so it naturally emerged in the music. It was exciting for me to work with a musician who understood all the references I'd throw at him and seemed to have the ability to integrate them into the music without compromising our identity.

Your writing influences seem steeped in a lot more than just the musical.

TB: I've always read a great deal and been excited by literature, so I'm sure it's had something of an impact on the way I write lyrics. I'm quite drawn to writers such as Raymond Carver, Harold Pinter, Jean Rhys and Kurt Vonnegut—writers who manage to convey a wealth of emotions and ideas through the use of an economical, yet very distinctive vocabulary.

SW: Without wishing this to sound too glib, life is the most important inspiration a songwriter has. Music, literature, art, films etcetera are of course all inspiration too, but only in as much as they are reflections of someone else's life. It's better to be inspired by your own experiences I think. Art is a mirror after all—or is it a hammer?

Sardonic. Sarcastic. Cynical. No-Man lyrics can often be described with these words. Is that an accurate perception?

TB: Sardonic and sarcastic on occasion perhaps, but cynical? Hopefully not. The perception is probably based on the fact that starting with a couple of songs on Wild Opera, I've had an interest in writing about victims of fame and victims of the pursuit of fame. Being involved in the industry at any level, you become acutely aware of the selfishness, ruthlessness and desperation that motivates musicians, artists and aspirant actors. Sometimes it's tragic and cruel. Sometimes it's hilarious.

To be honest, I've never really mapped out what any lyric should be about. I write continuously and what comes out can vary dramatically from the darkly humorous to the bleak and the romantic. Sometimes my approach is dictated by the music I'm writing to, but mostly it's dictated by an instinctive response to how I'm feeling at the time of writing. Sarcasm and humor can be useful to communicate otherwise painful and difficult ideas in a more digestible and accessible way, as in "Sweetside Silver Night" from Dry Cleaning Ray. The jokes hit first, the meaning comes later. The masters of this particular approach are probably Morrissey and Randy Newman. The lyrics to their early albums contain a wonderful blend of sarcasm, beauty and bleakness.

How have each of you evolved as musicians since No-Man's inception?

SW: I would consider that from a technical and artistic level my skills as a producer, performer and writer have improved immeasurably. Also, my tastes have naturally changed and broadened over the years. If they hadn't, I would probably have given up making music years ago, as to keep the output vital I find it essential to keep the input fresh.

TB: I think I've developed a much more natural and honest tone and approach to singing, and hopefully I've managed to find a voice that's my own as opposed to being an imitation of someone else. Technically, I'd say I'd become vocally less self-conscious and as a writer, compared with a decade-and-a-half ago, I now tend to work more instinctively with the subject and materials rather than deliberately stamping my identity or technique on a piece. I feel that if you're comfortable with your abilities and limitations, you submit to the nature of the piece you're working on. When I first started singing, my approach was much more selfish and aggressive and tended to overwhelm the material I sang on. It's a little known fact that my capacity to scream, howl and bellow is as great as my ability to murmur and croon. A career in heavy metal awaits. Something I've always felt is that you can significantly improve your musical and writing techniques by listening widely or evolving on a personal basis. To me, changing your attitude about music and the world is probably more important to artistic development than continual practice. One of the few qualities I'd say myself and Steven have in common is that we're both fantastically loyal while at the same time being ruthlessly fickle. By that, I mean that we both have absolute devotion to creating and listening to idealistic music, but we also seem to possess an ability to completely dismiss certain ideas and artists that we once cherished. Our mutual growth has been as much about shedding what we consider unnecessary as it has about loyalty to the ideals of the band.

Do you use any collaboration processes when writing No-Man material?

TB: Depending on what we're working on, it can vary greatly. During the Wild Opera sessions, we gave ourselves an hour in which to write, record and complete a piece of music. One of us would suggest a length for the piece and a mood and style, or select a sample as a starting point. Steven would then build up layers of instruments while I'd be writing melodies and lyrics. On other occasions, I've brought in a complete song that Steven has then rearranged or I've written lyrics and melodies to something he's already written and suggested production ideas for.

How would you characterize your personal relationship with one another?

SW: Well, we don't see each other as much as we used to. In the early days of No-Man, the band was pretty much all we had as professional working musicians. But as time went on and it became clear that the group was not going to get beyond cult status, we found the time and inclination to involve ourselves in many other projects. Also, Tim now lives a couple of hours away from my base in London. Still, neither of us have met any other musicians who have the eclecticism in their tastes that we both share and we can have serious discussions about anything from '50s jazz to cheesy '80s pop. These discussions and enthusiasms inevitably spill over into new ideas for songs. Our creative relationship has always been based on our interest in the whole history of popular music, from the sublime to the ridiculous.

What are the positives and negatives inherent in continuing such a long-established working relationship?

TB: The positives were there from day one, in the fact that we were never afraid to experiment musically in front of one another and that we never put restrictions on the type of music we should write together. We both have an ongoing enthusiasm for listening to and creating music and that's still the main glue that binds us. Because we're both involved in several other projects, I think we've always kept No-Man fresh and we've yet to see any negatives from our long-term involvement with the band.

SW: The positives are we know what we've done before and therefore how to avoid and better it. We can also be as rude as fuck to each other if we feel like it. For negatives, see the positives.

Are you content to keep No-Man operating at its current level? Or do you have aspirations for wider appeal and acclaim?

TB: I think the music deserves a wider audience and I'd like to see the new album garner more sales and acclaim than previous albums, but if it doesn't we'll still be making No-Man albums whenever we feel the need to make a No-Man album.

SW: Of course, nearly every musician would like their music to reach a wider audience and we are no exception. This has nothing to do with wanting to make money or be a star, but is simply because we believe what we do is special, accessible and unique and deserves to reach more people. Having said that, we made very few concessions to reach that goal and for us the buzz is still in making the records to please ourselves. More patient and business-minded musicians than us would have bided their time, schmoozed with all the right people and written the kind of songs that would have been more likely to fit the fashion at any given time. But we can't be bothered with all that—none of that has anything to do with music or creativity. Our lack of interest in playing these kind of games has left us with a situation where No-Man operates very much as a labor of love for both of us. Perhaps that is what makes it special.

What are the biggest challenges No-Man faces in getting its music heard?

TB: When the band first started, we had a great deal of positive press in the UK and were almost fashionable. As a result of not quite fitting in with grunge, indie-dance and the newly emerging Brit Pop, we slipped between the commercial cracks and failed to do much other than occasionally dent the UK indie top 20. Nothing bores the British media more than a once feted failure that didn't live up to commercial expectations. We're neither old enough to be respected veterans nor new enough to be appreciated objectively.

SW: We never fitted comfortably into any genre or pigeonhole and still don't.

Describe the genesis of No-Man.

TB: I was in several bands of variable quality located in my native North West of England. The best of which, Plenty and Always The Stranger, came to Steven's attention via reviews in fanzines and he subsequently approached me to contribute a track to a compilation album he was preparing at the time. I suggested a musical collaboration as well and traveled South to meet him. Within four hours of shaking hands we'd written two pieces of music that were quite different to anything we'd done before and effectively mapped out the blueprint of No-Man.

Tim, Samuel Smiles represents a more pensive and reflective side of your musical psyche than No-Man. Elaborate on why you pursued that direction.

TB: The more introspective nature of the Smiles material has always been a part of my musical make-up and my work with No-Man, it's just that because of the tastes and styles of the particular combination of musicians in Samuel Smiles, it more often than not instinctively comes out in a thoughtful, restrained way. Having said that, live, the band have been stretching out musically and sometimes in a surprisingly abrasive manner. Because of the nature of the musical material, the Smiles lyrics have generally tended towards the more domestic or bleakly romantic, but if you listen to certain lyrics on the early No-Man albums such as "Housekeeping," "Things Change" and "Animal Ghost," you'll find it's always been a part of my style. In general, in keeping with the music, my lyrics for Darkroom and Tony Harn have tended towards the sarcastic, topical and experimental—in much the same way as my lyrics for No-Man's Wild Opera and Dry Cleaning Ray did.

The forthcoming Samuel Smiles follow-up is a tribute to Nick Drake. Given the renewed interest in his work, this could be seen as a very trendy decision. Discuss the motivation for this project.

TB: I've admired Drake's work since the early-'80s when I heard some of his songs on a couple of old Island sampler LP's. It has an unforced beauty and melancholy that in many ways I aspire to in my own work. No-Man covered "Pink Moon" in 1989 and subsequently did a version of "Road" for the Brittle Days compilation in 1991. As for the new project, it was something we wanted to do as a band and something we wanted to do in our own distinctive way. Too many cover versions are pale reflections or dance brutalizations of the original songs—hello Madonna! Like the jazz artists of the '30s, '40s and '50s did, we just wanted to personalize a very special set of songs. If anything, the trend factor almost put us off doing the project.

Steven, No-Man is largely a studio entity compared to Porcupine Tree. Does a lack or abundance of live performance alter your psyche when approaching a project for either group?

SW: No, not really. I would certainly never allow my creativity in the studio to be limited by concerns for how and if a piece could be performed live. The reality is more banal. If I sit down to write a piece with Tim then it is a No-Man track and if not then it will usually be assigned to one of my three other projects depending on the style. But I suppose there are certain characteristics that do tend to earmark a piece as more likely to wind up on a No-Man record. The fundamental difference is that I see No-Man as being a project that is able to incorporate contemporary musical forms and technology with no boundaries in song form, timbre, rhythm or whatever, whereas Porcupine Tree is a rock band in the classic sense, attempting to make something fresh from established, but timeless—or Tim-less—forms.

Tim, you once said you're interested in collaborating with the likes of Eberhard Weber and Terje Rypdal. Discuss how you envision working with artists like these who are largely removed from pop and rock structures.

TB: I've always felt that evolution or progression is about finding new ways of expressing the traditional, or putting together unexpected combinations. The most creative pop or jazz music has always grown by taking inspiration from outside itself. That can either be through utilizing a breakthrough in technology or through absorbing ideas from other genres. Third stream jazz, hip-hop, progressive rock, ambient dance—all these musics have borrowed ideas from outside their tradition in order to advance it. I think both pop and jazz could benefit from combining their resources much as they did in the late '60s and early '70s. I originally made the comment about Weber and Rypdal in the early '90s and some of what I envisaged has happened in the projects of Bill Laswell, Graham Haynes or the drum'n'bass experiments of Derek Bailey. Personally, I'd like to use someone like Weber to get inside and tear apart the structures of my music. I've always been attracted to the tension that comes from structure being disrupted by improvisation or structure being imposed upon improvisation.

Tim, you pay quite a bit of attention to the British music press. Assess its current health and value.

TB: The UK music media has changed a great deal since I was a teenager and even since the early days of No-Man. It was once dominated by three weeklies: Sounds, Melody Maker and New Musical Express. It also had a fairly eclectic overview ranging from folk to jazz to rock and politics with journalists who knew and cared for their subjects. It's now degenerated into a myriad number of niche publications either written by people who are using their position of music journalist as a fast-track career path to the major daily newspapers or people who have a range of interests dictated by the magazine they write for. One journalist told me that he couldn't submit a No-Man review to his magazine because although he liked BMWs, he was writing for a Lada magazine. Another typically British problem is its obsession with the new and fashionable. On certain levels it's essential, because we need a fresh influx of talent. On another level, it's lethal and has led to many bands receiving undue attention before they've actually had a chance to develop a sound or an audience. It's quite significant that many alternative bands of the '60s, '70s and '80s are still around in some form or other, while chart-topping alternative favorites from the '90s such as Shed Seven and The Bluetones already seem to have had their day.

Steven, you claim not to read any of your own press. Why?

SW: Of what possible interest could it be to me? Frank Zappa said that "talking about music is like dancing about architecture."

How does your perspective differ Tim?

TB: I've always felt artists should be aware of what's going on around them musically, whether they choose to ignore it or not. The music media still provides the best access to new developments in pop culture. Personally speaking, I'm also constantly searching for kindred spirits in the media who might be interested in writing about No-Man.

Tim, you have a career outside of your musicianly pursuits in that you do PR for the likes of Bill Nelson, Tangerine Dream and others. What insight have those activities given you about the business?

TB: I've done music PR occasionally out of financial necessity or to help people out. Basically, you're constantly locked into finding words for something that either doesn't need or deserve them. In general, it's just confirmed my more negative views of the industry. If you don't have money behind you, you have limited exposure and support.

What are your overriding concerns about the current state of the music business?

TB: The current culture of company mergers, globalization and the pursuit of quick profit to please the shareholders rather than intelligent measures to secure a stable future are, in the long-term, going to have crippling effects on art and music, as well as the everyday lives of many people. Because of the unlimited nature of major label marketing, spending and the superior deals they can offer shops, it's becoming increasingly difficult to sell more left-field independently-released CDs into the all-important record shop chains such as Virgin, Tower and HMV. Major companies are making extreme profits from the constant repackaging of back catalogue and the investment in controllable pop acts, and as a consequence, there's little investment in long-term creative talent.

What role has the Internet played in defusing any of those concerns?

TB: Little. Understandably, most people search for what they already know, or what they're currently hearing a lot about, on the Internet. External awareness and good marketing and publicity are still essential in order to build a reputation. And that mostly requires the sort of money that only major companies have at their disposal.

Let’s play devil’s advocate for a moment. As a self-proclaimed business, why should the music industry have a commitment to anything but the bottom line?

SW: This is a difficult question and demonstrates the paradox between being creative and having to sell yourself to make continued creativity viable. As I said, myself and Tim long ago decided to forsake commercial aspirations for artistic reasons and there are always musicians and labels who choose this route and ironically sometimes find it is their route to commercial success. I suppose the answer to your question lies in what you consider the "music business." Labels like Sony, EMI, Virgin etcetera are of course only interested in making money. But the same cannot be said of Warp, Creation or 4AD who were all set up and run by music enthusiasts. I find very little of musical worth comes from these major labels for whom the bottom line is the overriding concern. Funny that!

TB: They should realize that most of the cornerstones of their back catalog empires wouldn't have got signed in today's climate. Many artists such as Bowie, Floyd, Eno and Reed took years of trial and error to develop large and loyal audiences. If companies have any real desire for their own long-term security, they ought to be signing and developing artists with potentially long futures and potentially large back catalogs to exploit. There's only so many times you can sell the same Miles Davis album to the same people and there's only so many formats you can foist on the public before they get bored. Ultimately, it's the artists' appeal that makes the label. Richard Branson wouldn't have climbed so far, so quickly if it hadn't have been for the phenomenal success of Tubular Bells.

SW: I would say that someone who creates art to someone else's order or specification is a contradiction in terms—moreso than the execution of "the idea is the art." It is often said of some piece of music or a painting that "anyone could do that." I believe that this is to miss the point completely. Not everyone has the vision, bravery, arrogance—call it what you will—to make something that is not a copy of something else.

What keeps you sane in the current music industry climate?

TB: The belief that music for me is an ongoing catharsis and source of advancement. And the fact that I enjoy singing and writing and seeing where it'll take me next.

Much has been made of the fact that today, practically anyone can record a CD within the confines of their own home. I've spoken to several artists who claim this may not necessarily be a good thing in that it has created a glut of poorly performed and produced works that should never have seen release in the first place.

TB: I think they're right, but it's complicated. Many of the creators of those works believe themselves to be gifted and believe that they have as much right to an audience as anyone else. It becomes a highly subjective area. Who knows? Some of those artists may continue to develop and eventually emerge as something special. Inspiration is found in the strangest places and the most unlikely people. Look at an artist like David Sylvian. If everyone had dismissed him on the basis of his early, more derivative work, he may never have been able to evolve into the artist behind the excellent Secrets Of The Beehive. The same with Underworld. Their first two albums were awful jazz-funk workouts. In the late '80s, it was impossible to imagine that they'd turn out three of the '90's most important releases.

SW: I think this point could be overstated. Certainly, proportionately there is no more or less bad music available than there was before the advent of home recording. There is just more of everything. I see no connection between the quality of albums and the circumstances in which they were recorded. There are plenty of great albums that were recorded at home for next to nothing and similarly there are plenty of bad albums recorded in big studios with name producers. At the risk of stating the obvious, it is the creativity of the artist that is important and cheaper technology has undoubtedly led to many more maverick songwriters and musicians finding an outlet for what they do. I don't see how that can be anything but positive.

In January 1987, Frank Zappa told Option: "The business is not interested in developing artists. They realize that the people are not listening. They're dancing, or they're driving or something else. Radio is consumed like wallpaper is consumed. Stations are formatted to provide a certain texture and ambience that will be consumed by people who view themselves in a certain way. Are you a yuppie? Well, you're going to listen to a certain texture because that reinforces the viewpoint you want to project to other people of who and what you are. It's the same thing as what you leave on your coffee table for people to discover when they come to your apartment." What do you make of Zappa's description of the value of music in society today?

SW: It's certainly true of most people's attitude to music. These days in the UK, you can even buy CDs in supermarkets while you shop for your vegetables. I think that is no coincidence. People really do view music as just another lifestyle product or fashion statement. I don't believe this is the fault of the business, rather it seems to be a fact that most people go through life never really delving beneath the surface of what is marketed to them or what they are told to like—the same music, the same films, the same books, the same holiday destinations. It doesn't take a great deal of effort and rebellion in your soul to look beyond that, but still they choose to be happy with the mainstream. It's human nature I guess. As Zappa points out, the radio stations simply respond to the fact that people don't really seem to care what they listen to. However, Zappa and groups like No-Man and Porcupine Tree are largely appealing to the few who really do care about music and will go beyond the marketing to find the music that really touches them. I'm pretty happy about that.

TB: I think Zappa's comments perfectly encapsulate the state of the industry in the mid-'80s and unfortunately, right now. In between, we did have a period of idealism and creativity, primarily spearheaded by dance artists such as Tricky, Bjork, Massive Attack, Underworld, Goldie and Portishead and the retro-rock idealism of Radiohead and Nirvana. Even if I didn't like some artist's work, there was no denying that there was a genuine commitment to the music. In the late '80s, a new wave of indie and dance labels emerged—including One Little Indian—that were built on something other than greed. Most of them are now in crisis, have been bought out by majors or have simply ceased to exist. The time is ripe for a new age of emotional and creative commitment to music. If it doesn't happen, as they say in Buffy, "these are the end of days."