The musician talks to SDE about this high concept item
Steven Wilson has announced details of a unique special edition of his forthcoming sixth album The Future Bites.
What he is calling an ‘ULTRA DELUXE MUSIC PRODUCT ON OBSOLETE MEDIA’ is a special box set edition of the album which is a limited edition of one and has a price tag of £10,000 (with all proceeds going directly to the Music Venue Trust to help save grassroots gig venues in the UK).
The contents of this box set include everything in the already announced £75 limited edition deluxe box set plus some very special extras including a unique track, ‘The Tastemaker’ – never to be released anywhere else – Wilson’s Grammy medal and nomination certificate from 2011 (for Grace For Drowning – best surround sound mix).
The full list special contents (over and above the standard box) is listed below
- One sided seven-inch single with unique track ‘The Tastemaker’ – an edition of one, never to be released anywhere else
- Unique laptop bag used in ‘Eminent Sleaze’ video
- The Future Bites test pressing
- ‘Eminent Sleaze’ test pressing (with b-sides ‘Eyewitness’ / ‘In Floral Green’)
- ’12 Things I Forgot’ test pressing (with b-sides) ‘Move Like Fever’ / ‘King Ghost (Tangerine Dream Remix)’
- CDR of unreleased 2016 soundcheck performance of a cover version never otherwise performed live
- Steven Wilson’s Grammy nomination certificate and medal from 2011 for Grace For Drowning – best surround sound mix
- Printed materials used in the’Eminent Sleaze’ video
- Six laminated AAA passes for various tours between 2011-18
- Polaroids from The Future Bites cover shoot photo session
- Original drawing by Hajo Mueller of Steven Wilson
- Handwritten lyrics with corrections for various songs between 1996-2020
- Count of Unease
- Eminent Sleaze
- Veneno Para Las Hadas
- Personal Shopper
- The Raven that Refused to Sing
- Dark Matter
The ‘Ultra Deluxe Music Product On Obsolete Media’ includes Wilson’s Grammy medal
So just why has Steven Wilson created what he is calling “the ultimate aspirational product”? SDE caught up with the musician and songwriter and started by asking him why he had created the box set and what point he was trying to make by making it available:
Steven Wilson: So I think the point I’m trying to make is around the whole idea of exclusivity and elitism, in all sorts of fields, and particularly in music, which I’ve noticed has been going through the roof over the last couple of years. I know you get quite a lot of quite heated discussion on your website about that particular notion.
Obviously, this was conceived well over a year ago, long before any of this started happening with, you know, Paul McCartney [a reference to the McCartney III vinyl extravaganza] and all that stuff. But I think it was already something I could see happening. And, I mean, part of me really likes it because it’s one of those things where it becomes an analogy to the world of art and painting, where there’s one painting and only one person gets to own it.
But it’s obviously something that music never really kind of dallied with, until recently, this idea of the high concept, high design package made for only a very select, elite few and priced accordingly. And part of me also really dislikes it, so it’s kind of a little bit of a love/hate thing I’ve got going on with the whole world of the deluxe edition box sets.
But I think clearly some of them are absurd and one of the things that I really object to is that a lot of people now are saying, “Let’s do a box set for this album”, before even establishing whether they have the content to justify it. And they’re going ahead with these box sets, that are essentially just full of air, full of fluff. Nothing you would ever need, nothing you would ever want to listen to more than once. And I’m sure, you know, you have your own ideas who the culprits are, but the whole box set thing for me, clearly over the last two years, has gone into complete overdrive.
So with all of this in mind, there was this idea, this notion, to do the ultimate limited edition, ultra deluxe edition on obsolete media, limited edition of one. For it to be something fun; funny, hopefully. Hopefully people will see the joke. But also to put it genuinely on sale and make really unique and really special and somebody might want to buy it. You know what? If they do, all the money is going to charity. So for me, it’s like a win-win. If it doesn’t sell, it doesn’t matter, it’s still a concept piece, it’s kind of made the point. If it does sell, great, the money is going to a great cause.
SDE: And you’ve got some really interesting stuff in the box. There’s some things that are relatively traditional, such as lanyards and test pressings, but then you’ve got some quite special items. I’m amazed you’re giving away your Grammy medal and certificate. Is that about you thinking “I have to put something that’s important to me, something of me in this box set?”
SW: Yeah. And also part of me thinking, “What do I need this for?” You know, it’s a nomination medal, it’s been sitting in the drawer for the last ten years; I’ve never looked at it.
SDE: It hasn’t been on your mantelpiece then? [laughs].
SW: No, no, it hasn’t, no. So I’m thinking to myself, you know, this might mean something quite a lot more to somebody that’s had my music and is a fan of me, this is probably going to mean a lot more to them, in a way, than it does to me. And by the way, I’ve got three more of those things…
SDE: Oh okay. So it’s not quite…
SW: …the sacrifice, no. I have four Grammy nominations But you know what? It’s still something really special and really unique. I mean, I looked on eBay at other people selling their Grammy nomination medals for thousands and thousands of pounds.
I did ask myself, “How can I make this really something that people, the person that buys it, would really treasure?” So it includes a seven-inch single in a limited edition of one with a song that will never appear anywhere else. And it’s quite a good song, I’ve got to say, I’m quite proud of it, but it didn’t fit anywhere else so I’ve put it on this seven-inch.
If the person that buys it wants to share it on YouTube, that’s entirely their choice. If they want to keep it to themselves, like somebody that buys a beautiful painting, decides they just want to have it on their wall and nobody else can see it, that’s entirely their choice. So to me, again, this is where the analogy with, you know, with a painting comes back into play. Having something that you can choose, if you like, to share with the rest of the world or you can just keep it to yourself.
SDE: Was this track recorded during the sessions for the album?
SW: It was, it’s called ‘The Taste Maker’ and it was part of The Future Bites concept but I didn’t quite finish it during the sessions, but I finished it off especially for this box set.
SDE: Who do you think is going to buy this box set? A rich Steven Wilson fan, effectively?
SW: Yeah, I guess so. I mean I know I do have a few fans for whom money is no object. So there are people that do buy stuff for hundreds, I mean not thousands, but certainly people have bought stuff for hundreds of pounds in the past from my rarities website, which by the way, all the money again goes to charity for the those things. So I figure maybe one of those people might want to buy this.
And you know what, like I said, if they don’t, if nobody buys this, it doesn’t matter; it’s more of a kind of, you know, a conceptual statement, in a way. I think it’s really funny, but obviously it has got a particularly, you know, it is a serious message. I think the whole notion of box sets and exclusivity has gone slightly berserk.
I think the problem is a lot of people now, a lot of fans, it’s all about ticking boxes, it’s not about collecting the music or listening to the music, it’s about ticking boxes. Unfortunately, that’s something that I think our gender, our generation really, goes for. Middle-aged men really go for that kind of box ticking thing.
SDE: But do you think things are getting a bit out of control? In recent weeks especially, we’ve had Kylie with something like 11 versions of her album and Paul McCartney has offered, I think, 13 or 14 global versions of his McCartney III record. It’s all going a bit over the top isn’t it?
SW: It is, but you know, I don’t know who exactly is coming to these decisions; I doubt it’s Kylie, I doubt it’s Sir Paul McCartney; it’s the people around them. I mean, I often see people saying “Oh, I love the way Robert Fripp did the King Crimson box set”. Robert had nothing to do with the box set, it’s all Declan, it’s Declan Colgan [of Panegyric Recordings]. And I’m sure it’s the same with some Jethro Tull box sets; it’s not Ian Anderson, it’s Tim Chacksfield. So it’s probably not Paul and it’s probably not Kylie. I mean, I don’t know for sure, but I suspect it’s the people around them that are encouraging them to make the most of the possibilities, because there’s no question there are collectors out there that will go and collect the whole set.
SDE: Well that’s the thing. Given that the word ‘fan’ is obviously short for ‘fanatic’, is it naive to think that record labels should have any kind of social responsibility towards people who have an insatiable appetite and just will buy anything and everything. In your song ‘Personal Shopper’ you have the line “buy and buy until it makes you sick”. I sometimes have to stop and ask myself “Am I actually enjoying this? Is this giving me any pleasure?”
SW: Hmm. Yeah… There are good ways to do it and there are bad ways to do it, obviously. My deluxe box set is £75, it comes with so much exclusive content, exclusive songs, the Atmos mix, 5.1 mix, etc. What Sir Paul has done with his release is deeply cynical, deeply cynical, and I think there’s a difference between the deluxe box set, where you are really thinking about giving value for money, giving content that justifies the price tag. And there is the other thing where you’re simply manipulating the fact that there are completists. And, like I said, there is a lot of people out there now that are putting box sets together, where there really isn’t the concept to justify them. There are people putting out deluxe editions or multi-formats where there really isn’t anything to justify that.
SDE: You’ve been doing deluxe sets for your solo albums right from the beginning. I get the feeling that’s quite an important part of the creative, expressive process for you. But as you say, quite often it feels like marketing departments cobbling these things together and just coming up with a price.
SW: Yeah. And also, the sort of completism thing where they’re just throwing everything into it. But I mean that King Crimson box set, that Declan [Colgan]’s just put together, the 1969 one [The Complete 1969 Recordings]. I know there are people out there that love that and he knows there are people out there that love that. And he’s done it with love and he’s done it for a good price and it’s full of content…but honestly, most of the stuff in that box set was never intended to be heard. I mean, why do you need to hear 47 takes of ‘I Talk to the Wind’? And I think that’s unfortunately where the box ticking thing comes in, fans just look at these things and they say “Well there’s this tape out there, why isn’t that included in the box set?” Because it’s not very good!
The answer to your question Paul, I think the reason why if my box sets are giving more value and hopefully being a bit more, you know, substantial is because I’m also someone that buys those kind of things, so I kind of understand what I want from a kind of deluxe edition box set. I mean, I want the Sign O’ the Times type of box set, you know, which I guess, is a real exception, isn’t it, to the rule. I don’t really want a King Crimson box set where I hear a bunch of cleaned up, you know, audience bootlegs and five discs of sessions…I don’t want that.
SDE: Do you think artists should try and get a bit more involved rather than keeping at arm’s length and letting labels just put stuff together? Do you think there’s an argument for the artist to actually take a bit more responsibility for what ends up out in the marketplace?
SW: I think so. It depends on the artist, you know, there are a lot of artists out there that probably don’t really understand the appeal of these things. I mean Robert [Fripp], bless him, he doesn’t really understand why people want this stuff, but he just said to Declan, “Look, if you think these people want this, you put together what you think they want”. Obviously there are plenty of examples where artists do get involved and deluxe editions are worse for it, shall we say.
I saw your Elvis Costello unboxing video which seems like something he’s been quite involved in; I mean I might be wrong…
SDE: Yeah, he seems quite passionate about it, but in every interview I’ve read, he’s been very defensive about the fact that it’s not on CD, which is kind of slightly bizarre…
SW: Yeah. It does depend on the artists, some artist probably would make a deluxe edition worse, some artists would probably make a deluxe edition better. I mean Prince is a great example. If Prince was still alive, that Sign O’ The Times box set would have been more like the Purple Rain one, you know. Brick wall mastered and with a lot of great stuff, not included. Because he’s no longer with us, bless him, you know, somebody else has taken over and I think Michael Howe has done a tremendous job.
SDE: The age old complaint with limited editions – which, arguably, is a term that has lost its meaning anyway – is that people don’t get a ‘fair chance’ to try and get hold of something. So a good example is the recent limited ‘333’ version of McCartney III from Third Man Records, which if you just happen to not be looking at Twitter for 10 minutes, you’ve missed it – the opportunity is gone. And things then end up on eBay, because of that. What would you think if your limited-edition-of-one box set ends up on eBay? If someone buys it, they try and sell it for £20,000, or whatever, would you be bothered?
SW: Not really, because actually that aspect of it, I kind of think is fun and I like that. Going back to the world of art and painting, you know, a Francis Bacon painting that sold for a thousand pounds while he was still alive is now listed on Sotheby’s at ten million. I mean, that appreciation of value for something really special and really precious, I think that’s part of it and that’s kind of fun. You will see that on eBay anyway with any vinyl. The value of the ‘60s vinyl editions has gone up over the years tremendously.
SDE: Some people might charge you with having your cake and eating it too, in terms of, you know, your whole ironic marketing messages around the new album. At the end of the day, you have still got the deluxe box set and you’ve got the limited edition coloured vinyl and all the rest of it. How would you respond to that charge?
SW: Well absolutely, and that’s why the joke is supposed to be inclusive, not exclusive, I want people to laugh with me, not feel like I’m sort of laughing at them. And of course if you listen to the middle of ‘Personal Shopper’, that list of shopping items, that Elton reads in the middle, I mean 180g vinyl reissues, deluxe edition box sets, this is my world, this is what I, you know, this is what I love, you know. And so it’s supposed to be funny, it’s supposed to be funny. I mean I love consuming like everyone, I buy deluxe edition box sets and 180 gram vinyl reissues, you know, like a lot of my fans do. So I want people to kind of feel like they’re included in the joke, not excluded, not I’m having a joke at their expense. So it is a very knowing nod to that.
But you know, again I like to think that I do these things, without that kind of cynicism that a lot of us have seen in a lot of the box sets. My box set is £75, which is pretty reasonable for what you get I would think.
SDE: The proceeds of your £10,000 box set are going to charity, the Music Venue Trust. The situation right now is pretty dire, isn’t it, for small venues?
SW: It’s absolutely pretty dire for all venues. Some of them, I know are getting grants and help but I spent about 10 to 15 years playing the smaller venue circuit. It would be such a shame to see – and I think probably the final death knell in, you know, the creativity coming from the world of traditional rock music. For years, I’ve been saying, you know, where are the great new underground rock bands and this will be the final nail in the coffin, I think, for that circuit.
SDE: And what about your touring plans for the next year. How are things looking for you at the moment?
SW: Well, the touring most probably moved to next September and October. So it’s basically a case of ‘watch this space’. I like to think by next September we will be able to go back and see shows. I know some people have got tours booked for February and March next year; I can’t see it myself.
But, realistically, I also think it’s going to take years for complete confidence to return and for the concert scene to recover completely. So it’s been a pretty severe blow, no question.
SDE: And what about the world of putting out an album. You’re going to be releasing this album out without being able to tour it, initially anyway. How are you going to promote it and help it along the way without playing live?
SW: Well, it’s not only not playing, I can’t do any TV appearances, I can’t do any record store signings and a lot of the things I would traditionally do around the release of the album, I can’t do. The one thing I would say is that it’s a pretty level playing field, everyone has the same problem, same issues. I’m putting a lot more time and money into creating great video material and making some great videos and we’ve got a couple more that I made that are coming out before the album is released.
But it’s certainly been depressing because when we put the album back originally, I think everyone thought “Ah there’s no way the pandemic will still be going on next January”.
SDE: Indeed. You could have probably just kept to the original date; it wouldn’t have made that much of a difference, in the end.
SW: I know. With the benefit of hindsight, but nobody knew, nobody knew what was going to happen. I think everyone realistically thought by now it would definitely be over, so. But I’m not going to hold onto it anymore, obviously, you know, there comes a point where, you know, I’ll start to lose my own enthusiasm for it if I don’t put it out there!
SDE: How are you going to sell the £10,000 box set? Are you going to just put it on the website and then see what happens?
SW: Yes. We created a whole sort of The Future Bites construct website, it’s going to be one of the items that will go on sale there. There will be a countdown, I think there’s going to be a countdown to it going on sale. The price tag is deliberately ludicrous, I mean, that’s part of it in a way, that’s part of the conceit, part of the concept. Like the high-concept designer companies, taking a t-shirt that’s worth a pound, putting their logo on it and selling for 300 dollars, you know.
I suspect somebody out there has, a collector of mine where money is no object, will probably pick it up. But that’s not why we did it of course, we did it as kind of a bit of fun but with a serious message as well. I don’t know, what do you think your readers are going to make of it? Is it going to be a massive negative energy directed at me or do you think they get the joke or what?
SDE: I think if you were selling a thousand of them at £750, then there might be some negative vibes. But the very fact there is only one, I think people will get the idea. Of course, if there’s 50 people that are willing to pay £10,000 for it, you’ll have 49 people that are annoyed that it sells in a millisecond – if that happens.
SW: But that is, that’s the world of art isn’t it? Only one person can own a painting. That’s what it all comes back to that analogy to me, the world of, you know, the art world, the single painting that sells for a premium to one collector and nobody complains about that do they?
Steven Wilson’s ‘ULTRA DELUXE MUSIC PRODUCT ON OBSOLETE MEDIA’ version of The Future Bites goes on sale on his website at 9am on Black Friday (27th November).
The other, more affordable, versions are listed below.
Steven Wilson official store The Future Bites pre-orders:
- Pre-order the limited DELUXE BOX SET of The Future Bites
- Pre-order the limited RED VINYL gatefold edition of The Future Bites
- Pre-order the BLU-RAY edition of The Future Bites
- Pre-order the CD edition of The Future Bites
- Pre-order the cassette TAPE edition of The Future Bites
Compare prices and pre-order
The Future Bites - vinyl LP
Compare prices and pre-order
The Future Bites - blu-ray
Compare prices and pre-order
The Future Bites - CD edition
3. KING GHOST
4. 12 THINGS I FORGOT
5. EMINENT SLEAZE
6. PERSONAL SHOPPER
7. MAN OF THE PEOPLE
9. COUNT OF UNEASE