The Art Of Listening

“Anything that we sit down in, we’re good at.” This is Steven Wilson, 5.1 mixmaster nonpareil, discussing two of the gold medals that Great Britain won in the Summer Olympics — one in cycling, the other in rowing. If there were Olympic medals given for achievement in surround-sound mixing, then Wilson would own more golden hardware than Michael Phelps has collected a dozen times over.

Wilson takes about as much time off as I do — which is to say practically none — and besides Get All You Deserve, the stunning Blu-ray that captures a magical night in Mexico City during his recent pioneering live-quad solo tour, he’s managed to complete more multichannel mixes for other artists, only some of which we’re allowed to chronicle here. (When we’re given the green light, we’ll share the 5.1 news here on our Web site.)

S+V: How do you feel about the work you did on Thick as a Brick 2, the concept album sequel from Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson?

Wilson: That was a lot of fun to work on — to, in a way, bridge the gap between the first generation of progressive musicians and my generation of progressive musicians by working on a new album from one of the guys who basically created the blueprint in the first place. I think it was relatively surprising how well it was received, and I think quite deservedly so because it’s quite a credible comeback by one of the originals. And there aren’t enough people from that era who are still doing that. He’s one of the few, really.

S+V: There’s a nice transition between the two albums because the original Brick has that whistling effect at the end that the sequel essentially starts up with.

Wilson: There are some nice nods to the original, yes. I mean, it is different and has a different flavor to it. And of course I’d already remixed the original Brick prior to working on the sequel, so I was kind of already psychologically immersed in the world of that record. It was a very logical thing to move straight on and work on the sequel.

S+V: I talked to Ian recently, and he was quite pleased with your work. We bandied about the idea of you doing other Tull albums in surround. Have you guys discussed further mixes at this point?

Wilson: Well, he knows I would love to do A Passion Play. It’s one of those albums that’s been unfairly neglected, from my perspective. In a way, it’s like when I did Lizard for King Crimson; the commonality here is that Robert [Fripp] had neglected Lizard, and I think Ian has neglected A Passion Play. They both neglected those items in their back catalog. And I think Lizard has been redeemed in Robert’s eyes, and I would love to do the same with A Passion Play. I’d love to convince Ian, because he doesn’t believe that it’s a great piece of work. [chuckles]

It’ll be harder going than Thick as a Brick, but the ones that turn out to be harder going are the ones that turn out to be my favorites.

I would also love to do Benefit, another Tull album that could do with a remix. But it’s really not up to me and Ian at the end of the day; it’s up to EMI.

S+V: Another high-profile catalog you’re tackling is Emerson, Lake and Palmer. So far you’ve done Emerson, Lake and Palmer (1970) and Tarkus (1971). What can you say about those mixes?