Jim Ladd Radio Show 2008.
(Transcript thanks to Natalie Lyons)
JL: How you doing everybody, I’m Jim Ladd, and welcome to five hours of free form rock’n’roll radio. It’s a very special evening here. My guest tonight is without question one of the greatest singer-songwriters in the history of rock’n’roll. He has taken us from the Dark Side Of The Moon to the heart of man’s animal nature, showed us the insanity behind the wall of stardom, and even given us a glimpse of how our species might be seen as amusing ourselves to death, from an extraterrestrial’s point of view. His observations of the human condition have sometimes been harsh, sometimes gentle, but it has always been called from an artist’s search for the truth. I’ve had the pleasure and the pressure of interviewing this man many times over the past twenty-eight years, at his home and on the road. But tonight, for the first time, he is coming to my arena, for this live, in-studio conversation, here at 95.5 KLOS. Ladies and gentlemen, you are about to meet… Mr. Roger Waters.
[In The Flesh Live]
JL: 95.5 KLOS. Roger Waters and a live version of In The Flesh. Title coming from that double live album. Well welcome to my world Roger!
RW: Thank you Jim.
JL: It’s wonderful to see you. You look really good. I hate to say that, but you just look, well you know, healthy and fit.
RW: That’s so kind of you, you’re looking pretty good yourself.
JL: Oh thank you.
RW: For your age.
RW: What are you, 37, 38 now?
JL: And so it begins! [Laughs] Yeah, 37, 38, we’re running with that. You are in town rehearsing for this three-day music festival at Coachella…
RW: I am.
JL: And it begins Friday, runs through Sunday. This Sunday, the 27th, you’re headlining of course, Sunday night. Why would we have it any other way? What drew you to this festival?
RW: What happened was, a friend of mine from Buenos Aires in Argentina, asked me to do a gig in BA for Child Poverty Action, a charity called Alas (?), which for those of you who don’t speak Spanish means “wings”. It’s about giving kids the chance to fulfil their potential by releasing them, to some extent at least, from the constraints of extreme poverty in Latin America. And that has been shown to be a great and important piece of work, by Eboue (?), this wonderful guy in Venezuela, who started the Venezuelan youth orchestra and programmes which have produced an extraordinary kind of generation of young musicians in Venezuela. Not least of all is this guy Dudamel who’s become a kind of world famous conductor. So anyway, they asked me to do that, and that was supposed to be on May the 7th. And I said “What, you want me to bring the band to Buenos Aires and do one gig?!” And I said, you know, “Do you know how many sweet wrappers you’re gonna have to gather to pay for that?” And they said “Yep, yep, that’s exactly what we wanna do”. And Mr. Mark, my manager, said “Well that’s strange that that should happen, because I’ve just had a call from Coachella asking you to do a gig in —– (Cinto?) the week before, sort of exactly a week before. So why don’t you do that, and then we’ll go down to BA and then do that gig. And so that’s… So I said “Yeah, that sounds like a good idea.”
JL: We just saw a couple of reports on that Venezuelan children’s orchestra and it is extraordinary. Their music programme there, they start them at a very early age, and they get them in to this thing, and now they’re playing like Carnegie Hall.
RW: They’re amazing. Their accomplishments are extraordinary. And they’ve done it by… It’s a bit different to that Japanese initiative of many years ago where they all got them to play by rote and they all learnt to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on the violin, and so it’s a bit more humane than that approach was, well a lot more humane. And if you… there’s a video, and it’s called “To Play And To Fight”, and I can’t remember what that is in Spanish, something like ——- (?) and it’s most extraordinary. If you ever get the chance to see that DVD it is incredibly moving.
JL: Very good. The set that you’ll be doing, is it going to be similar to the one at the Hollywood Bowl?
RW: It’s exactly the same.
JL: Note for note?
RW: Well not quite, I’ve rearranged the end of Beirut. We did that on Thursday. No, it’s Thursday today. We did that on Wednesday.
RW: I’ve got a local girl who’s actually joining us on stage, and she’s going to play in Leaving Beirut and also Comfortably Numb. A girl called Lili Haydn. Well she’s more of a woman, really than a girl. Incredible violin player and she’s got a beautiful voice and she’s very talented.
JL: Unfortunately I took my copy of Leaving Beirut home, so thank you Jim, for thinking ahead, but I did wanna ask you later on, so let me ask you now since you brought it up, at the Hollywood Bowl, when you played that, it was extraordinary. You had this black and white visual, kind of cartoon, I hate to use that word, but illustration, let’s say illustration.
RW: Strip cartoon.
JL: Strip cartoon of the song. It’s a new song, or a relatively new song, and it was one of my favourite moments in the show. However, there were some negative reactions from some of the fans about it, because I think… let me just get my note here, because I think… Yeah here we go… It’s a true story about you as a young man travelling through the Middle East. This is based on an actual event. But some of your fans at the shows reacted angrily. Does it bother you that they seem to be missing the humanitarian message of the song.
RW: Well, you know, it is a pretty direct attack on George Bush and Karl Rove, and in fact all the neo-cons. I actually wrote the song, I know it’s five years ago, because I wrote it the day after the invasion of Iraq. Because I was so incensed by that action of your government and mine. And we started to perform it a few years ago in shows, and the reactions were, you know, quite negative in some places. People seemed to think that I was attacking American servicemen in some way.
JL: Yeah I couldn’t figure that out.
RW: Which I’m not, of course. My father was a soldier, which is quite well known. He died at Anzio in the Second World War. And also some people suggested that because I’m an Englishman it was inappropriate for me to criticise an American president. Which is one of the most ludicrous ideas I’ve ever heard. What, you’ve gotta be German to criticise Hitler? I mean it doesn’t make any sense at all. But as the years have gone by, and more and more people have come round to the view that the invasion of Iraq was a calamity of enormous proportions, people have come to embrace the song. Of course, even at the time, five years ago there were people, like-minded people who felt that it was a big mistake. But I have to say that we’ve slowly turned into the majority and I’m very thankful for that, because eyes needed opening to the foreign policy of this last, well this current administration.
JL: Does it give you satisfaction, as it does me, to see the ship of state turning in the direction that this war was wrong, and “Ship Of State” is not a bad analogy because it’s like trying to turn an ocean liner this public opinion thing, it took a long time to come around but it did.
RW: Well, I’m so happy to see Barrack Obama. I wish that he wasn’t still in the race, I wish that Hillary would accept defeat gracefully and let him get on with the job of beating McCain in November. And then, if that happens, we will see a real change across the heartland of America, and it will be a change for the greater good of the whole world, because we need the leadership of this country, the rest of the world does, at least to some extent, and Obama I think gives us the possibility that that could happen in the future.
JL: So you’re on record now for Barrack Obama?
RW: Absolutely. Ever since I first started reading articles and hearing what he had to say a few years ago. And having heard his story, and listened to everything and read everything very carefully, he seems to be genuinely very different than the rest of them. He seems to be speaking from his heart. Sometimes he may be a little careful, because all politicians have to be, but he seems, you know, less likely to be playing the same old tune on the same old trumpet, that the rest of them.
JL: I’ll tell you, something that gave me a lot of faith. My 87-year-old Republican father, World War II veteran, highly decorated soldier, never voted for a Democrat, I don’t even think he voted for FDR, voted for Barrack Obama. It just blew my mind when I heard, I’m so proud of him. So there is some hope.
RW: Yep, everybody’s gotta keep pushing, that’s all.
JL: Amen. Right, let me play this song, which, if I recall correctly, preceded Leaving Beirut in the show. It’s one of my favourite from your time with Pink Floyd, and it’s dedicated to your dad, and it’s Fletcher Memorial Home. Anything you’d like to say about it before I roll?
JL: Ok, this is from The Final Cut. You’re listening to Roger Waters on 95.5 KLOS Los Angeles.
[Fletcher Memorial Home]
JL: That was also an extraordinary moment in the show, and the visual of that, the representation of the home, it just looked like how the song sounds, with those dark, dank hallways.
RW: That was done by some young guys in New York, Sean Evans and Andy Rennison, who I worked with on all the visuals for the show and they did a great job, I have to say, I love it.
JL: It was pretty grim. OK, we’re gonna stop here for a minute, we’re gonna take a little break and we’ll be back here with Roger Waters on 95.5 KLOS, right after this.
JL: I’m Jim Ladd and we’re back here with Roger Waters, who is, and I’ll just do this once because it embarrasses him, but this is one of the people that I’ve met over 30 something years in broadcasting that I’ve actually become friends with. I don’t like to admit that in general public usually, but you’ve had the reputation of being someone who, you know, can be a bit demanding when it comes to your art. And I have always been a person who has had a similar reputation. So I can relate to that because when I’ve seen you work up close, it’s always been about “just get the job done”. It’s not about ego, it’s about “play the right note, sing on time”. But somehow people think that if you’re demanding for your art, it’s just wrong. Explain that, because I’ve found you to be kind of a warm and fuzzy guy.
RW: Well I’m not sure where that comes from really. I think it probably comes from the Pink Floyd days, you know when there were certain disagreements between those of us who were in the band together for twenty years and some of that got blown out of all proportion. The musicians I work with now, most of them I’ve worked with for you know, ten, fifteen, twenty years, and they understand the way that I work, and you know, we’re a little bit “Animal Farm”. We’re all in it together but some animals are more equal than others. And people generally accept that I carry the can if it goes wrong, and so it’s ok for me to make the decisions. Though I have to say, I encourage everyone that I work with to throw in ideas, and they do, I mean they do all the time. And often they’re very good ideas because I work with very creative people. But to work in the field of music or any of the other arts with people who are not demanding would be deeply irritating to me
JL: Yeah, and why do it? I mean, this is you, this is the soul of you, these are your songs, and why not surround yourself with people who get that? You shouldn’t have to explain that to anyone. Speaking of people who don’t get it, how is Andy Fairweather-Low?
RW: He’s very well. Unfortunately he’s not with me for these few gigs, because they got thrown in sort of at the last minute, and he’s in Europe promoting an album that he’s got coming out. I think he’s re-recorded a bunch of songs from his very long career, going right back to Amen Corner, and I’ve heard a lot of it and it’s very, very good. And we miss him, but that’s what he’s doing, he’s out on the road promoting his own stuff at the moment.
JL: Good. One of the albums that I found to be obviously missing from the line-up, when you play this gig of yours, because you play songs from every single solo album, every single Pink Floyd album… except one.
RW: Yeah, I know what’s coming. [Sings KAOS Morse Code intro.]
JL: Why is that? What is that about?
RW: I don’t know, it just escaped this time. I’m sure we’ll come back to it. Whether it’s to do Sunset Strip or The Powers That Be or… I mean there’s a lot of songs on that record that I really like. And people often say to me “The KAOS show was like the best thing I ever saw”, and they really enjoyed that stuff we did together all those years ago.
JL: Well that was probably because of my part in it.
RW: I think it was. It was the exploding lightbulb.
JL: That was a lot of fun, and eye-opening for me, and for you it was at the moment that you had split with the band, and so emotionally it was rather wrenching for you, but I enjoyed it, even though I was the only American amongst all of you English, and took a lot of crap.
RW: Don’t ever call Andy Fairweather-Low English!
JL: That’s right, oh excuse me, that’s right, he’s from Wales, ladies and gentlemen.
RW: [Welsh accent] A Welshman, yes. It was actually the second album I toured after I left the band. I toured Pros And Cons before KAOS, in 85.
JL: That’s true, that’s true.
RW: But yeah, it was still pretty close to the schism.
JL: Roger Waters on 95.5 KLOS, and by the way, thank you for writing this song about radio.
RW: You’re welcome.
JL: And we’re talking to Roger Waters tonight, in Radio KAOS in Los Angeles. And that was a lot of fun, I gotta tell you, that was a lot of fun for me, and to get to see what you guys do up close, and the care that you took with it each and every night.
RW: Yeah. You know, there’s another song about radio that I wrote, and I think I can remember it, it’s very short, just the first verse, which I’ve never released, and it goes: “Like an ember, glowing in the dark, I had almost grown cold, frozen like a soldier, standing by the flagpoles, like a player they all said was too old. I had been tempted to hand in my key, but I am not alone, I feel you are with me, I will not be a packet of crap on MTV. I am a man. I will not be a number. Get back to Radio.”
JL: Oh my GOD! [Laugher] You have got to finish that song, please! Get this man a guitar right now, finish it!
RW: I knew you’d like that.
JL: Oh I love that! And we’ve got that, that’s great. I’m gonna be playing that, that little voice clip will show up now and again on this show. Wow, that was good. Your concerts, whether it be with Floyd, or the Radio KAOS show, or certainly this last one, I’m sorry but other than perhaps The Wall, I always like the last concerts you do the best. And that’s the way it should be, because you’re always progressing and we’re always getting better at what we do. And this last show, this one that you’re doing now, is the best one I’ve seen. And I want you to do me a favour, because it’s an exquisite combination of music, visuals, special effects, it takes the audience on a theatrical journey. Walk us through the process of how you put something like that together.
RW: Oh my God… Um… You know, it comes from little germs of ideas, so you’ve seen the shows so you will know that the thread that runs through it is, strangely enough, a guy, maybe he’s me or somebody, and it’s in the very early 60s, and he’s in his room, and he’s smoking and drinking too much, and he’s listening to the radio. And that listening to the radio is his connection with the whole world of ideas that is out there in ether land. And that is the hook on which we hang the whole show, and the visual of the show. And really then it’s just a question of deciding on a visual language, and in this case the visual language was this big, sort of 60ft by 30ft LED screen. And after that it’s just, you know, a question of illustrating some of the ideas that are in some of the songs, and trying to string the whole thing together so that it feels like you’re involved in some kind of narrative that you can associate with.
JL: Now the pacing of the show though. You’ll go from, for example, a moment of the show that I think stood out for me, even though it might fall upon, I can’t remember the song, but a real big rock’n’roll production, and then you’ll come down with just you and the acoustic guitar and do Mother. And the way that you juxtapose those songs, so it’s not just always being this onslaught, you give these moments where you kind of take a breath. Is that well thought out? I mean, I know it’s well thought out, but do those moments sort of happen in your mind like “ok now we need to put Mother in here” or do you see that from beginning to end when you sit down to write it?
RW: No, not right off the back. Normally there are a few drafts of these sorts of things, and it might not be until rehearsals that I decide “Nah, that song doesn’t really work there, how about if we put it there”, and so I’m constantly juggling with things and moving things about. But it’s always been part and parcel of my technique, whether it’s been making records or in producing shows, to work with a dynamic, so that the thing doesn’t get boring.
JL: Yes, well, the one things you can say about your shows Roger, they’re seldom boring!
RW: Yeah, good.
JL: I understand this might be the last run of performing Dark Side Of The Moon in its entirety, is that correct?
RW: Yeah, I think so. We’ve done it… we did it like a hundred and fifty times in the previous kind of eighteen months, last year. And I thought we were done with it, but we’re doing eleven shows in this little bit, and yeah, that’ll probably be it. You know, who knows. One might pull it out of the mothballs for a special occasion somewhere or the other. But I think enough is enough, and if I go out on the road again, make a big effort, do a lot of shows, it will probably be something different, something else.
JL: Right, and is that an enjoyable moment? Because I thought it was a great idea to do the first half of the show a combination of music and this storyline, and then boom, here you go.
RW: Well you know, it wasn’t my idea to do Dark Side Of The Moon, it was the idea of the Formula One Association in France, who said [French accent] “Oh we have a Grand Prix, why don’t we get ze Pink Floyds to do ze Dark Side Of La Lune”. [Laughter] And so they called up and they said [French accent again] “Will ze Pink Floyds do…” and everybody went, F-off, you know, are you kidding? You must be crazy. [French accent again] “Well what about Roger Waters then? Would he do it? Maybe he could bring Nick Mason?” [Laughter] And so they called me up and asked me, what do you think, and I went “Wow, what a weird idea”. But then I thought enough, I went “Well how much are they offering?” As one does.
JL: [Laughing] As one does, yeah.
RW: And it was quite a few French Francs as I recall.
RW: Yeah, and I thought, well, why not? I mean I always really loved the piece, I always thought Dark Side was a great piece, and I thought that it’s a bit of a challenge, because apart from everything else, it would mean creating a visual show to go with the music, which has always been mildly taboo with Dark Side, because one always feels, well, you know, everybody has their own sense of imagery that goes with it. So to actually create a set of images would be a bold thing to do. But we did it and it was good.
JL: Certainly worked. You’re listening to Roger Waters on 95.5 KLOS.
[Speak To Me/Breathe]
RW: I wasn’t actually really listening. I dunno, who was singing? Probably Jon…
JL: Jon Carin. I’ve always marvelled, and as the years go by, at the view of life that that album gives us and at the young age that you wrote it at. It seems that, particularly the song Time, it should have been written by someone certainly much older than you were when you wrote that.
RW: I was 29.
JL: Well, that’s ancient of course.
RW: I think I was 29.
JL: Yeah, well, it is Dark Side Of The Moon, and it will be with us forever. We’ll stop here for a moment, and when we come back we’re gonna begin an entire hour of commercial-free rock’n’roll, so we won’t be bothered by these things.
JL: You’re listening to KLOS HD1 Los Angeles. Roger, it has been said that you do not suffer fools lightly, and that has been reflected in your songwriting, especially when it comes to our political leaders. Tell us where your political ethic comes from.
RW: My mother.
JL: Ok, thank you for expanding on that.
RW: Not at all, I’m happy to illuminate that for you.
JL: Ok, if I were to ask you to expand on that…
RW: Well, my mother came from a very sort of middle-class family, she was brought up in Golders Green in London and they had servants and they went to private school and so on and so forth, and then when she left school she decided to become a schoolteacher, and then she went to do her teacher training practice in Bradford, which is a town in North Yorkshire in the North of England, and in the winter of 1936 or whenever it was, she was struck by the fact that a number of children in her class were walking to school through the snow with no shoes on. And she suddenly from this rather cloistered life that she’d led, you know in London, where my grandfather was, well he was a professional soldier and then a successful businessman, she realised the depths of the inequalities in the social and economic order extant in pre-war Britain, and decided that she had to do something about it. And it was a short step from there to joining the Communist party and so on and so forth. And so our house was always filled with political meetings, and I was always very much encouraged by my mother to question everything, but particularly authority, and particularly errant authority in terms of government.
JL: Well she must have been really thrilled about how you turned out, because you certainly followed that advice. And you… I know you’re a big fan of the current president of the United States. You’re just a big fan of George aren’t you?
RW: Well, you know, I’m not sure what… I don’t think there’s anything left to say about GW except good riddance!
JL: By the way, you’ll be happy to know, there are 269 days, 47 hours and fifty seconds left exactly of his reign. And we’re all counting the days.
RW: Well yes, we are. Let’s hope he doesn’t blow us all up in those 200-odd days.
JL: I’m gonna ask you a quick question, again relating to your kind of social beliefs, in the fact that you do put your money and your words where your mouth is. You actually follow through on this stuff, and I think a great example of that was the Live 8 concert, that one-time reunion of Pink Floyd with David Gilmour, and the fact that you two rose above whatever differences you had, and they were many and deep, but you did it for a greater good. You made a phone-call, he picked up the phone, let’s say that, as well, and it also reinforced the meaning found in songs like Us And Them. I think that it meant a lot to people who believe in the message of your songs, knowing the story with, you know, the split up, that when the cause and the time came to do something important, you two and actually the four of you, rose to the occasion.
RW: It was a great day. I have very fond memories of that day. To hear those four musical voices there in harmony, even if it was just for that twenty minutes, or however long we played for, was, I found, very moving. And I’m very glad that we did it, and it was really the least that we could do. And a lot of people snipe and sniff at Geldof and Bono and the other kind of rock luminaries who try and change the world for the better. And it’s very easy to be cynical about these things, but I don’t, I take my hat off to all of them, and Sting as well, and all the work they’ve done to try and raise awareness, whether it’s for the rainforest or extreme poverty in Africa or whatever, so I take my hat off to them, and what we did was a small thing but very worthwhile.
JL: But it did reinforce that you mean what you mean when you say it. And also, before I play Us And Them, you raise an interesting point. You think that people would be sniping at Bono or Geldof or Sting or you, or if John Lennon were still alive he would be doing this, if he were sitting by the pool at the Beverly Wiltshire sipping Margaritas, and not doing anything. Why is it that people, who could definitely just be whiling away their time on a beach somewhere decide to get involved, and it doesn’t look like a lot of fun to me when Bono was trudging through some village in Africa, that don’t look too glamorous to me. Why is it that people do that?
RW: I honestly don’t… I’m not sure what the motivation is. I have absolutely no answer to that. I just have no idea, I don’t get it. There are people who hold the view that only politicians or journalists should be allowed to express opinions about anything, and that musicians should only talk about the moon and June and I love you and you know, let’s rock, and maybe a little bit about sex and drugs, that sort of stuff. They say that we shouldn’t really think about anything else, that it should be dismissible and kind of candyfloss. And maybe a little bit kind of Street Fighting Man and kind of appearing to be rebellious but without ever engaging in anything real. And obviously that’s a view that I don’t share. I think all barriers between all disciplines should be blurred and merged and all walls between people in attepts at communications should be torn down as often as possible and that we should be prepared to listen to anybody who has a voice and a passionate concern who’s prepared to express it.
JL: Excellent. You’re listening to an interview with Roger Waters on KLOS.
[Us And Them]
JL: … Songs about humanity and the things that divide us and unite us, with Us And Them from Dark Side Of The Moon. My guest tonight, Roger Waters. Roger, you once told me that songwriting, good songwriting, should reflect one’s true feelings, and do you think that’s why your music strikes such a personal chord with people, because you seem to tap into a general zeitgeist of the human condition, through your own experience?
RW: Well I think it’s certainly true that people recognise that I mean what I think, and for better or worse, these are my raw, real feelings, there’s nothing manufactured about it, if that means anything
JL: Well that brings me to a song that’s about as raw and real as it gets, and I’m talking about the song One Of My Turns from The Wall. How much of that song was you, at the time, and how much was that written from the point of view of this mythical Pink character?
RW: Well One Of My Turns is actually… it’s a construct, because the theatrical scene of being in a hotel room with a groupie and having this explosion of feeling is not something that I ever remember happening to me. However, I remember the silent freeway as if it was yesterday, since Seattle, in Seattle in Washington state. It was in a hotel room somewhere, and there was literally a ramp, a freeway, going right past the window. And that’s from like 1975, when I was having matrimonial problems, so I remember that time quite well, and so that’s where the depth of the feeling in the song comes from, from that feeling of loss and despair that those of us who are unlucky enough to have found ourselves in relationships that have gone wrong, I guess that anyone who’s been in one recognises that in that song.
JL: Amen brother.
[One Of My Turns]
JL: That is a… Whew! Where did you come up with that one, do you remember?
RW: No, of course not. It’s 30 years ago, maybe isn’t it? No it’s… 30 years ago.
JL: I wanna mention Ken Cranes who are kind enough to bring you this hour without commercial interruption, and what a perfect night it is to not have any commercials. Roger Waters is here, and I just wanna thank Ken Cranes so much. We don’t have to stop for any commercials until Roger leaves. This is partly his request and I feel responsible to do it. (?) Are you working on a new studio album?
RW: Yeah, intermittently. I’ve got a bunch of songs, and when I get some time something will develop. I’ve just come back from Brazil where we had a performance of Ca Ira, which is my opera about the French Revolution, and that took up a lot of time and travel and effort, and I don’t know, we’ll see.
JL: Can you give us an idea of the concept?
JL: Ok, I’ll rephrase the question. Would you give us an idea of the concept?
RW: I would if I could, but I can’t so I won’t. I mean, nah I can’t really talk about that. I mean, I’ve got a lot of songs, and it might be that it’s two albums. It might be one political album and one album that’s about love. So… or they might be connected, I just don’t know. I’ve been spending quite a lot of time as well editing some movie that we shot of the tour last summer, and that’s beginning to look quite interesting. I’ve been in the editing suite working on that. When I get back into Logic and working on the album, YOU will be the first to know.
JL: You heard that here ladies and gentlemen, you heard that here. A little while ago you sent me an extraordinary document called Burning The Future: Coal in America.
JL: And I sat and I watched this thing, and I thought at first, because I had a lot going on in my life, and there were a lot of bees in the room, you know what I mean, when a bee comes in, you’re like distracted, what’s going on here. Crap, now I’ve gotta sit down and watch this thing Roger’s sent me, cause it’s important to him. I was instantly taken into this world. I thought it was an extraordinary work, and I wanna recommend it. It’s called Burning The Future: Coal in America. And the gentlemen… it’s a film by David Novack. How did you become aware of this film?
RW: Well I got to know David when we put Ca Ira on in Rome as a concert version a few years back. David and another guy called Brian… Besterman… I can’t remember, I have to apologise to Brian… produced some sound effects for that performance, and we got to know each other pretty well, we worked in the studio for a number of weeks. And then David, a year or so ago, said “I’m making this documentary”. And he just kept me informed about it all the time, although I was dashing around. And finally when he finished it I looked at it, and it’s quite chilling viewing.
JL: It really is.
RW: Particularly as the coal industry is spending absolute fortunes trying to produce this snowjob that talks about “clean coal”. “Oh it’s ok that we’re burning coal because it’s clean coal.” Well it’s absolute nonsense. Burning coal produces huge, huge amounts of carbon dioxide. And also they’re poisoning great swathes of the Appalachians in West Virginia, making human life almost untenable there. I nearly said to David, when he was going, and I’m happy to say his film has been well received, this documentary. I think it might be going to Cannes, as a documentary entry in the Cannes Film Festival. But why he didn’t use John Prine’s song on it I will never know. What is it, “take me back to Muhlenberg County, down by the green river, where paradise lay”.
JL: It’s an extraordinary thing, and it shows this thing about where they actually remove the tops of mountains just because it’s cheaper to get at the coal, and by doing so they have cut by a third the number of coal miners, so they put coal miners out of jobs. And they have absolutely ruined forever this pristine wooded landscape. They said in the film that it’s the most diverse forest on the planet, second to a rainforest, is right there in West Virginia. It looks like Eden. And then they move the camera to this place where they removed the top of the mountain, and it literally looks like Dante’s seventh level of hell. So anyway, I wanna recommend the film, it’s called Burning The Future: Coal in America. And it’s a fascinating piece. I know you’ve have to get out of here, but there are a couple of things I gotta go, and I’ve held you over longer than you expected, and I don’t apologise for that.
RW: Not in your nature.
JL: Not in my nature to apologise, that’s true. You’ve been living here in America for a long time now, what is it about this country that appeals to you?
RW: I’m reminded of Ray Lamontagne’s song Trouble, you know that track?
JL: Yes I do.
RW: It’s a great album. Anyway, the chorus is [sings] “And I’ve been saved by a woman”, and I have to say, I’ve been attracted to Manhattan in the first place by my lovely Laurie. But I always thought I’d dislike Manhattan. But having been there for like… I’ve been there for seven years pretty well now, and I’ve really grown to love it. There’s something about the work ethic that really appeals to me. People are enthusiastic about what their doing, certainly within the context of the industry that I work in, which is really kind of refreshing. And also, North Americans are very happy, if you’re successful, and they congratulate you, and they’re happy about it. In Great Britain, I’m sad to say, by and large, the feeling is that if you have any success of any kind, people want to slap you down, you know? And that gets irritating after, you know, fifty or sixty years.
JL: That is an odd thing because the English… We in America we always think of the English as being so polite, but that is true, they do what you’re saying, they slap you down?
RW: Well, you know, it is a society that is far more riven by class barriers. I mean, America for all its faults, and they are myriad, and I wouldn’t want to minimise the negative aspects. Nevertheless, it is a meritocracy and there is some truth in the idea that everybody has a chance to make their way, and to shine if they so choose. And that’s a very good thing. There’s a lot about America that I really like. And there also is, and hopefully it will find a resurgence some of it, a good-heartedness, the helping the neighbour thing, which was always legendary in all stories of the frontier. You know, the doctor who comes round because he “knew your pa”. But there was and there is a good heartedness that provides a solid core to an enormous amount of American belief. Which has been, to some extent in the last 30 years, well since the Second World War maybe, been subverted by an overenthusiastic attachment to commercialism. But nevertheless I believe that that heartbeat of goodness, you know, of purity, in the American population, is still throbbing away underneath it all there. Maybe this is one of the things that might be important about Barrack Obama, that he might be able to lead the rest of us back towards feeling that throb of concern for each other that has been erroded over the years by the Paul Wolfowitzes and Karl Roves of this world.
JL: Boy, and I’ll tell you that’s one of the things that has brought me into is camp is I wanna feel that one more time before I check out. I wanna feel that there’s hope, I wanna feel that there’s love, some compassion, and that we care about our neighbours. I wanna really feel that one more time. Because you and I lived through a time period called the sixties where we saw a glimpse of what Eden was like, during the Summer Of Love. There was a moment where all of those things that you hear about hippidom was true, and then it kinda went away, and it got commercialised and all that. But as you say, it’s still there within us, and not just Americans, but it is part of the American ethic. That brings me to this song from Amused To Death, that was written… This came out in the eighties did it not? The nineties?
RW: 1992, Jim.
JL: 1992, yes.
RW: You will find that your memory starts to fail, that you will remember less and less as you get older.
JL: Thankyou Tom. I’m sorry, Roger. Thankyou. [Laughter] 1992. Anyway, in 1992 you put out this song called Bravery Of Being Out Of Range. And this is, I mean, talk about prophetic tune. I want you to cast this song in the light of what’s going on today.
RW: Yeah, well, sadly it’s a pretty accurate description of the sad entrenchment of your armed forces in Iraq. The reference in the song was to the appalling bombing of the marine barracks in Beirut in Lebanon, back whenever. For your young men to be dying in a conflict that really was… This is a personal view, you know I don’t want to be standing on a soapbox making political speeches… But that was wholly unnecessary and certainly has nothing to do with freedom or democracy or any of those things, and is extremely sad and it is true that the decisions, the political decisions that are taken that put our and your young men in harms way are made by people who will never see the wrong end of a bayonet, and neither will any of their kids or any of their relatives.
JL: If you haven’t got your tickets for the Coachella festival, I swear to God, that song right there is worth the price of admission. That one and Fletcher Memorial Home and look, if you saw Roger at the Hollywood Bowl I don’t have to explain any of this to you, but if you didn’t, you are missing something that is really unexplainable. You have to go, you have to put your ass in the seat, you have to shut up, and just let this music take you away because it’s a journey that you go on. Couple of things before you get out of here. When you look at the myriad of problems facing the world today. War, which you just wrote about there, and today we’ve got rising gas prices, a brand new story about looming food shortages, they’re starting to ration rice, wait for it, in America. In America we’re rationing rice. Global warming. I’ve given a lot of thought to this, and I swear, everything I’ve just mentioned, right down to the traffic jams on the freeways, to me can be traced to one root cause. Overpopulation. And I never hear anybody say anything in this country other than “Oooh, the family. Let’s have more kids.” What do you think about that?
RW: I don’t feel really qualified to speak on global population. I remember like thirty years ago people saying “Oh we’re going to be dead in thirty years time because of the rate at which we’re multiplying, we’ll be about eight feet deep.” And it doesn’t seem to have happened. It may well be that population isn’t the biggest problem, the biggest problem is the way that our greed prevents us from addressing the problems that we need to address and solve. Thank God, you know, for people like Al Gore for helping to bring global warming to our attention and warning us that the planet may be uninhabitable for our great-grandchildren or even our grandchildren, if we don’t actually do something about it. And if we don’t stop burning coal and you know, doing other things, but the only way that we can achieve this stuff is through politics. And politics, at the root of everything, depends upon the rule of law.
RW: And the most dangerous thing that has happened since the Second World War is, and this is particularly true of this current administration is that they’ve decided that law is not as important as some of us maybe thought it was. They’re no longer interested in Habeus Corpus. They have now decided that it’s ok for people to not have access to the law. I’m a great believer in the law, and I believe it’s the fundamental underpinning of any society, and without it, and without adhering to it, we will never be able to… what are the words? I’m searching for words now. You know, join together with one another, in order to jointly solve the problems.
JL: We have to have a common… Like a… what do they call it in science? A baseline.
RW: There’s a baseline, and it starts with politics and society and the laws the govern the society.
RW: And in this country it starts with the fundamental truths that are espoused in your constitution, and the Declaration of Independence. And unfortunately those things are being undermined by greed.
JL: Amen. I’m gonna ask you this last questions. It’s rather personal. I have a friend of mine who escaped from Poland when it was still under Communist rule. And she told me a story once that it was your album The Wall that not only helped her to learn English when she was a kid, but it instilled this thought in her that there was something more than what she was being told. And it gave her the emphasis and the courage to get out of Poland at a young age, come to the US, and started a whole new life. I’m not saying just The Wall, but rock’n’roll, and your album in particular. I’ve met cab drivers from Russia, who before the wall came down, said that it was The Beatles that made them want to get out. And when we saw the Berlin Wall tumble, it wasn’t because it was our bulldozers pushing it over, or bombing it in to rubble, it was the East Germans pushing it down towards the West. How does it make you feel when you hear stories like that about the impact your music has had in that profound way, not just “oh I kissed my girlfriend for the first…” you know, “I really love you”. But that’s a pretty profound story.
RW: Well, truly that’s very edifying, I’m very happy if any of my work has been useful to people in making progress in any way in their lives, in the same way that I’ve made progress in my life by listening to other people who’ve made music. You brought John Lennon up half an hour ago. You know, his work, particularly the solo work he did after The Beatles, had a profound, profound effect on me, as did many other people’s work. So if some of my work has affected people’s lives and has given them the courage to stand up for what they believe in and search their hearts and find out what their personal truth is and then live it as strongly as they can, then I’m content. Which reminds me, that before I leave here tonight, I told you in a private moment when we were off the air, Dirt Farmer, Levon Helm’s new album. Go and listen to it!
RW: It is the best thing I’ve heard in twenty years. It is so good. And as we know, any musician that you speak to will tell you that Music From Big Pink changed the whole face of the recording industry in very, very profound ways. And Levon is still there, he’s in great voice and he’s made a wonderful, wonderful record.
JL: Dirt Farmer. We’ll take a look at it. OK, so the last question is, aside from working with me, what is the proudest moment of your career?
RW: Well luckily I’m not burdened with the sin of pride.
JL: Ah. But it’s a heavy thing to carry around with us. Some of us… what other choice do I have?
RW: Gluttony I would own up to. Lust.
JL: But the sin of pride, no. Ok.
RW: Envy, obviously.
JL: I see. Great seeing you. Thankyou.
RW: Hey, thankyou very much.
JL: Ok. I know you don’t do this often, so we appreciate it. And thanks to Ken Cranes for giving me this last hour with Roger without commercials and we really appreciate their patronage. Roger Waters, ladies and gentlemen, on 95.5 KLOS. Go see him in Coachella. You will not forget it, it’s a life changing experience.