Roger Waters – Alice Cooper Radio Show – October 2005
(Transcript thanks to Natalie Lyons)
AC: It’s been so long since we talked that you had time to write an opera.
RW: Yeah it has. You know, thank you for leaving me alone all those years.
AC: So for twenty years Roger said to me “Don’t call me, I need time to write an opera”.
RW: Exactly. You never even called for a game of golf.
AC: Did all this writing affect your golf game?
RW: I’m afraid it did, but I’ve clawed my way back to something reasonable this summer.
AC: Where do you live now?
RW: Sort of between England and Manhattan, but mainly in Manhattan.
AC: I gotta get you out to Arizona to play.
RW: That would be good. Funnily enough I was thinking about that. I was talking to a station in Phoenix yesterday, and I have fond memories of golf out there.
AC: What an interesting thing this opera is. It’s about the French Revolution, is that something you’ve always been interested in?
RW: I was mildly interested in it and knew something about it, but in fact the genesis of this project was a French couple called Etienne and Nadine Roda-Gil, who were friends of mine from Paris, they came and brought a manuscript that they’d created, which is a beautifully illustrated sort of 50 pages of libretto, which I was impressed with, and they asked me if I would set it to music, so it wasn’t my idea at all, it was somebody else’s.
AC: Oh I see, so it was from that.
RW: Yeah, I then went in to my studio at home with an engineer and, you know, just using a lin drum and an old E3 and a piano and a studio 24 track I made a two and a half hour demo of what I thought the piece might sound like. And we set off hot foot to Paris with that, and they played it to all kinds of people. It eventually found its way to Francois Mitterand, who liked it, by all accounts, and suggested it should become part of the bicentennial celebrations of the revolution in ’89. That in the end didn’t happen for all kinds of not very complex reasons, mainly French chauvinism, I think. I think it was more than they could bear, A) that I was English and B) that, you know, I was from a pop group.
AC: Just a little snobbery there?
RW: I don’t know, I mean I don’t want to put them down because the French actually are very kind of ecumenical about their attitudes to the arts. Unlike England you’re allowed to be in a pop group and also write novels or do other things, so it’s certainly not snobby in that way. And then, sadly, Nadine Roda-Gil who did all the illustrations for the piece, died quite suddenly of leukaemia, and so we did nothing for the next six years. And then I picked it up after that and started working on orchestrations and taking the thing more seriously. And then I recorded a little bit of it with an orchestra and a singer, and then I went to Sony with that, and Sony got interested and we did a deal. And then they prevailed on me to translate it in to English, which I did, and that took a long time. And bladdy bladdy bladdy bladdy blah, here we are, it’s in the shops.
AC: What… are you gonna take it to Broadway?
RW: No, at the moment there are no plans for a production. We’ll wait and see. The problem is that it’s so expensive to put these things on as a production. We are, however, doing two concert performances in Rome in November, November 17th and 18th, and that will be with the orchestra. It’s a big orchestra you know, it’s an 82-piece orchestra and fifty men and women in the chorus and a chorus of thirty kids and eight soloists.
AC: Well that sounds like a massive undertaking but, like something you could take around the world, it could go on forever.
RW: There are plans to come to the States in next spring, and we’re in negotiations with six different places to put on the same concert version that we will be doing in Rome in November. So I hope that those talks, you know, come to fruition and that we get to do that in the States.
AC: Well that’s great, it’s great. I just think that your name, Roger, should push it through, because there are just so many Pink Floyd fans out there.
RW: Well that would be very cool.
AC: So how was it doing the Live 8 thing with the guys?
RW: It was very cool, I have to say. Yeah, it was… A) The atmosphere on the day, it was very positive. It was, you know, lots of interesting sort of people knocking around on the side of the stage, Kofi Annan and Bill Gates, and just a bunch of different people. And Geldof was being his usual ebullient self, you know, and there was a great feeling.
AC: You know, I saw Nick in London, and Dave at the Cream show.
RW: Oh right, yeah. Yeah, I loved the Cream thing, that was fantastic. They’re doing it in New York.
AC: I was surprised that Jack, you know, he pretty much carried the show.
AC: The fact that he’s 65 and has arthritis and still can get the audience going is pretty amazing.
RW: I thought they were all absolutely great, you know. I’m not a big drum solo person but I thought… We were there on the Thursday night – apparently Friday was the great night but I think all the nights were pretty good but I thought Ginger’s drum solo was just fantastic.
AC: Well as soon as everybody saw that they said “Well maybe Pink Floyd will get back together”. Everyone’s putting bands together.
RW: Yeah, well that’s what happens. People have great imaginations, thank God.
AC: Alright, since we got Roger Waters on the show tonight, how could we not play Money?
AC: We’re with Roger Waters of Pink Floyd on Nights With Alice Cooper. You know, we play tons of Pink Floyd on Nights with Alice Cooper and I always go back to A Saucerful of Secrets, Piper at the Gates of Dawn, I always liked the early psychedelia that was so amazing, you know, and really had an effect on the Alice Cooper band.
RW: Yeah, well, you know, Syd was an extraordinary writer, there’s no question.
AC: I hear different stories about Syd.
RW: Oh sure, yeah. He’s… He lives in Cambridge where, you know, most of us came from. And he lives in a house, sort of on his own, and you know, he gets by. I don’t think he’s particularly happy, you know, he’s schizophrenic, so he still has those problems.
AC: Well a lot of people attribute that to drugs, and back in ’68 we used to do the Cheetah Club with you guys.
AC: And at the time we felt we couldn’t possibly so burnt out on drugs so early in life.
RW: No, no.
AC: So we always thought there was something a little bit off.
RW: Well, I mean, the kind of set of symptoms that put together we describe as schizophrenia, which you know, some people have them all, and some hear voices, and some don’t, and some hallucinate, and some don’t, and some… we sort of know what that is, but whichever combination of those symptoms you develop, there is no question that hallucinogenic drugs can do nothing but exacerbate the condition, and I’m sure they helped Syd. I’m sure all the acid that Syd did helped him on his way. Which was very sad. But who knows, I’m not a neurologist so I couldn’t tell you whether the symptoms might not have occurred had he not been taking the drugs, I just don’t know. I suspect that they would have done.
AC: It must have been hard for the band, as tight as you guys were, just seeing him slip away. It was like that with our group. Glen Buxton, we just saw him just drift away.
RW: It actually happened very fast with Syd, I have to say. Right around the time of See Emily Play, which was you know, the second single. Right around the time of the second single, so this is back in, what, ’67. You know, he got very weird very quickly, and you’re talking about the Cheetah Club, that was so strange to remember those times, because he was completely gone by then.
AC: The Cheetah Club was one of the oddest things because it was early in our career and in yours, and Syd would get up there and hit one or two chords and just stop.
AC: We’d be like, “OK, is that all he’s gonna play”? I realised it wasn’t part of the show.
RW: Yeah. I think the first gig we played out there was actually at Winterland, and we were third on the bill to Big Brother and Richie Havens. And we went on, and Syd famously… we started the first tune, I can’t remember what it was, and Syd famously started strumming, you know, his bottom E string, and turning the machinehead down and lowering the tone of the string, and he turned the machinehead ‘til the string fell off the guitar. And then he did the A string, then the D, and then he did all of them. And when they were all hanging off of the guitar that was the end of his performance for the evening. And we played a lot of gigs, as you know, as a pretty small band.
AC: Well so much music came out of the Pink Floyd. We always looked at you as being, not mainstream like the Rolling Stones, it was more like really weird underground…
AC: …which we related to. Now when you see it, it’s like royalty. There’s a certain reverence, and I thing that refers back to your body of work, audiences of all ages really revere you guys.
RW: Yeah, well, you know, those kind of classic albums from the middle years, Dark Side of the Moon, Wish you Were Here, The Wall, whatever, Animals maybe, they do seem to have stood the test of time, and they do seem to have affected successive generations in a way… you know, in a good way.
AC: Ok, the whole Wizard of Oz thing, that’s one of those great urban legends.
RW: Yeah, that’s nonsense. Having worked on the odd movie and things over the years what I’ve discovered that is if you stick any image put up with any sound or any piece of music, makes a relationship of some kind. The human brain will invent connections between almost anything and almost anything else.
AC: Hey, we’re talking with Roger Waters of Pink Floyd on Nights with Alice Cooper. Hey, did you have fun working with Bob Ezrin?
RW: Yeah. Funny enough, I spoke to him the other day.
AC: He was a hard guy in the studio, wasn’t he?
RW: Yeah, when you could get him in the studio. [Laughs]
AC: Man, for us he was a slave driver.
RW: Yeah, no he wasn’t, he wasn’t that for me.
AC: But you know, he always beat the best out of me.
RW: In fact, you know, when we were going through our years of schism, he would describe me more as a slave driver. You know I was characterised as this awful sort of autocratic monster who drove everybody mad and wouldn’t let anybody write songs. But hopefully those days are over now, so we’ve stopped slinging mud backwards and forwards. But you know, in answer to your question, yeah it was good.
AC: That was the one and only Roger Waters talking about the release of his new three act opera about the French Revolution, and the madness of Syd Barrett and lots of other stuff. Boy, he’s over those Wizard of Oz rumours I guess. I was just checking out some Pink Floyd info and statistics show that one in every twenty people under the age of fifty in the United States owns a copy of Dark Side of the Moon. How crazy is that?