colin – The band, as a live entity, started in 1993, Steven having previously made the first two albums all on his own – although myself and keyboard player Richard Barbieri both guested on the second album “Up the Downstair”. We were lucky enough that very early on, a few territories really got into the band, so we were doing some quite big shows in places like Italy and Poland, whilst still playing tiny clubs in the UK and elsewhere, but the level of interest was always slowly growing everywhere, and this gave us the confidence to keep going where I think a lot of bands would have given up.
with the more psychedelic type music we were playing at the time, we had a lightshow (Fruit Salad Lights) that was very “trippy” and really fitted what we were doing musically. – colin
Before we start 2 questions which have puzzled me for a while. Firstly where do the samples from Voyage 34 come from, and on what format was this (TV documentary or recorded)?
They come from LSD propaganda vinyl albums that were issued in the late 60’s – some were pro-LSD (the one’s made by Timothy Leary) and others against (including the one that features the transparently contrived 34th bum trip of “Brian”). The cover to V34 is a pastiche of the cover to a Timothy Leary album called L.S.D. which some of the samples are taken from. These albums are very rare in original vinyl pressings, but I believe some have been reissued on CD – mainly the Leary ones.
Can you give us any info on its availability past or present?
The 4 phases were originally issued in Nov 92 (1+2 CD and vinyl) and Nov 93 (3+4 vinyl only) as long play singles and were deleted shortly afterwards. A slightly remixed version of Phase One appeared on a CD given away free with a Japanese cyber-lifestyle magazine (no really !) and later was included on Delerium’s Pick n Mix sampler CD. A remixed edit (without the voice samples) was included on a compilation CD called “The Phenomenology of Ambient” released on Crammed Discs in 1994.
The new CD compiles the original versions all 4 of phases in new, sonically improved mixes.
It’s a new recording. A lot of the elements will still be the same. It will have the same vocal performances and guitar parts, but it’s a complete overhaul of that record. The original version is being withdrawn permanently, so it’s almost replacing that record with a new version.
Do you like remix works based on your originals? I often feel remixes (in general) are so far removed from the original there is nothing left and can often be totally new creations.
I like the principle of remixes and reconstructions but like anything they can be very varied in quality. For example I love what Astralasia did with PT’s Voyage 34 but what Scanner did with No-Man’s Housewives Hooked on Heroin was not so good. Sometimes remix albums can destroy whatever was special about a track in the first place, sometimes enhance it and sometime improve on it !
The album originates from a single track, titled “Voyage 34”, which was to be part of the Porcupine Tree‘s second studio album, Up the Downstair. Originally a 30-minute track intended to be the second disc of a double album, Wilson eventually decided to release “Voyage 34” independently of the rest of the album. Instead, it was released in two parts, as singles, as “Voyage 34 (Phase 1)” and “Voyage 34 (Phase 2)” in 1992. In 1993, Voyage 34: Remixes was released, containing two remixes of the originals. “Voyage 34 (Phase 3)” was a remix by the British electronic music group Astralasia, while “Voyage 34 (Phase 4)” was a remix by Wilson himself, along with future band member Richard Barbieri. A voice sample of Dead Can Dance‘s song “As the Bell Rings the Maypole Spins” is repeated throughout all four tracks.
Voyage 34: The Complete Trip compiles all four “phases” onto one album.
Despite being mostly instrumental, Voyage 34 can be considered a concept album, where the LSD trip of a young man called Brian is told with spoken words. Musically it is a fusion of progressive rock, psychedelic rock and trance music.
During a 2002 interview before the release of In Absentia, Steven Wilson said the following in regards to the release of Voyage 34 after being asked why the band released a 30-minute single:
“It was an anti-single. It was a thirty minute single about drugs and it had no vocals in it. I thought that no one is going to play this. But it charted anyway. It was the ultimate ‘fuck you.’ We have released four minute singles since then. But for Porcupine Tree to release a single is like an oxymoron. It’s very difficult to take out a four minute chunk from an album and say ‘Here we are. This totally encapsulates everything Porcupine Tree are about.’ It’s never been satisfactory to me to release a single. If you know the group, you know that from one minute we go from extreme metal riffing to ambient texture, the next minute we’ll have a pop hook, the next minute we’ll have some avant garde sample. All of these things are part of the album. How do you take a chunk of that? To me it’s totally unrepresentative.”
Wilson said of Voyage 34, in reflection, in 2012:
The whole point about “Voyage 34” was an exercise in genre. In that sense it stands apart from the rest of the catalogue…back in the early Nineties, there was an explosion in ambient music, a fusion of electronic music and techno music with the philosophy of people like Brian Eno and Tangerine Dream. I thought there was an interesting opportunity to do something that would bring progressive rock and psychedelia into that mixture. I wouldn’t say “Voyage 34” was a technical exercise, that makes it sound like a science project, but it was a one-off experiment in a particular genre in which I knew I wouldn’t be staying for very long. I was given a tape of a guy having a bad trip in the Sixties. It was an anti-LSD propaganda album and it was perfect to form a narrative around which I could form this long, hypnotic, trippy piece of music. And that was “Voyage 34”. Even at the time, I think that sort of music was already passing. Music that is too attached to a trend very soon starts to sound very dated. I was always interested in existing outside the bubble of whatever was hip, and that kind of music was very briefly hip. “Voyage 34” sits inside that bubble. I’m still very proud of it. It was a unique piece of music, but of all the catalogue, it’s one of the pieces which relates most closely to the era that it was created in.
In a 2012 interview, Richard Allen commented on marketing Porcupine Tree: “I did all
the press for [Delerium], particularly for Porcupine Tree. No other label was interested in this kind of music so it was a real uphill battle particularly for Porcupine Tree, a band that to start with was completely unknown, had no fan base, couldn’t perform live easily and played lengthy psychedelic guitar based progressive rock at a time when ambient trance and electronic, dance music were hip. We sold Porcupine Tree as an Ozric Tentacles type band which was a bit of a con as they were more progressive than psychedelic but it worked and they soon had a good fan base particularly in Italy.”
By late 1993 Porcupine Tree’s profile had grown to the extent that Steven Wilson
wanted to expand into live performances and work in a band environment. As a result,
Porcupine Tree became a live unit in December 1993 featuring Steven Wilson on lead
vocals/guitar, Colin Edwin on bass, Chris Maitland on drums and Richard Barbieri (of UK new
wave band Japan) on keyboards. All three new members of the group had worked with
Steven on various projects over the preceding years and were excellent musicians
sympathetic to the sound and direction of Porcupine Tree.
“Richard and I both had this wide-ranging love of classic rock music from the 1970s,”
Wilson says of expanding the line-up. “He loved Bowie and Roxy Music, whereas I came from
the progressive end, but we also crossed over in a big way. I’d grown up living around the
corner from Colin, who was a big fan of bands like Gong.”
“My job isn’t to do what most typical keyboard players in rock bands do, though of
course that’s part of it,” Barbieri explains. “I’m more into abstract sounds and electronics. At
the time, Porcupine Tree were playing trance-orientated stuff, almost in a contemporary club
style. That fascinated me.”
SW: “I knew Richard and Colin liked the kind of music I liked. Chris not so much, but I
knew that he was a great drummer, more than capable of playing the material and would
perhaps grow to like it.”
Alan sent the lyrics to me sometime around 1982 – 1985, before he started his record label. I was still at school but recording stuff on a home made 4 track and sending the odd cassette out to the wide world. One of the more peculiar cassettes I made received a favourable review in Sounds and Alan sent for a copy and liked it and began to correspond with me, sending me lyrics. At the time I couldn’t really do justice to the kind of psychedelic soundscapes that I think he imagined, which is why I pulled the lyrics out again when I started writing stuff like ‘Jupiter Island’ in the late eighties. They were just too perfect. I used up my stock of Alan’s lyrics about half way through ‘Up the Downstair’ and as far as I know Alan hasn’t written any since. – 1996
And lastly can you explain the reason for the missing 6 minutes from Voyage 34 (Phase 4).
Listen to the original version and the new version one after the other and tell me if you can honestly hear what has been edited out. I think you will find it very difficult, the reason being that the new version has not omitted any of the content, just compressed into a more compact form. As the original 12 inch was meant more for use in ambient clubs it could go on a bit without so much concern for making it so interesting to listen to. For the CD I have just tightened it up a bit as it did go on a bit.