Following a number of low-profile stints with local bands in Swindon, England, and Belfast, Wilson
began his solo career proper in 2002, taking on the name Duke Special -- "Duke" a particularly popular stage name for male vaudeville performers and "Special" a concession to the "glam" aspect of his character. His first two EPs, 2002's Lucky Me and 2004's My Villain Heart, were combined in 2005 into Adventures in Gramophone, his first full-length release, and a third EP, Your Vandal, followed later that year. Special shot from local hero to nationwide cult favorite following his performance on the fourth season of RTÉ television's Other Voices in 2006. His two-song set was deemed sufficiently impressive to be chosen above the likes of Rufus Wainwright
, Trashcan Sinatras
, and Bell X1
as the viewers' most requested performance during the end-of-series clip show.
Special released his second album, and his first album proper, Songs from the Deep Forest, in May 2006 as a set of six 7" singles on Izumi Records. The same month, he signed a recording contract with V2 Music
. A CD release of Songs from the Deep Forest followed in October, and a deluxe edition, including a ten-track live disc recorded with the Ulster Philharmonic Orchestra, was packaged for release in September 2007. The following year, Special issued his third studio album, I Never Thought This Day Would Come, and in 2010 he released Mother Courage & Her Children and the Steve Albini
-produced The Silent World of Hector Mann, the latter a set of songs inspired by the fictional silent film star Hector Mann from author Paul Auster's 2002 novel Book of Illusions, and the former a set of songs composed for a National Theatre production of Berthold Brecht's play of the same name. A suite of songs inspired by the work of photographers Paul Strand, Alfred Stieglitz, and Edward Steichen, Under the Dark Cloth, arrived in 2011, followed by Oh Pioneer (2012) and Look Out Machines! (2015). ~ Dave Donnelly, Rovi