Radio Bogotá 2007.
(Transcript thanks to Natalie Lyons)
Roger Waters Interview
Alejandro: Such a pleasure to have you with us I mean this is unbelievable man. The two of us, Julio and me, my name’s Alejandro, we’ve been such big fans of you over the years. It’s great to have you on the line.
Roger: Thanks, Alejandro
Alejandro: Mr Waters, I would like to begin by, just because there are so many fans of you here in Colombia, and you are on your way to this country, basically by asking you what happened with Pink Floyd? When did it all end for you? When did you just say it was time to call it quits?
Roger: Well, Alejandro, this is a very, very old story.
Alejandro: Yep, I know it is, but you know…
Roger: I can’t go in to any details about that but I finally, I think, officially left the band in 1985. Which if we do our maths is 22 years, so it’s a long time ago. Though as you probably know we did get back together one day a couple of summers ago for Live 8 and played a few songs together, the four of us. And that was great. And who knows, that might even happen again in the future. We would never say never, but… What else can I tell you?
Alejandro: After the whole Live 8 thing…
Roger: I think it’s great…
Alejandro: …are you guys keeping in touch?
Roger: Well Nick Mason and I were always close friends when we were both in Pink Floyd, and after all the problems in the 80s we sort of… our friendship was lost. But we met each other again and rekindled it so that’s a very good thing. I was never very close with either David or Richard, so… Who knows? Who knows what might happen in the future, I have no idea.
Alejandro: Why did you choose to come with The Dark Side of the Moon to Colombia? Why not, I don’t know, The Pros and Cons of Hitch-Hiking and the old Roger Waters repertoire?
Roger: Well, sometime, like, two winters ago I thought of touring, you know doing a few gigs in Europe and I’d sort of decided not to, when Formula One, you know, the motor racing organisation in France, decided they wanted a gig at the same time as the Grand Prix. They called up different agencies, asked if Pink Floyd would play Dark Side of the Moon, and they got told, “No, they won’t”. And so they said, “Well what about Roger Waters, would he come and play Dark Side of the Moon?” And so they approached me and I was very surprised and I thought about it for a bit and I thought “Well why not?” I think it’s a great piece of music and I hadn’t played it since 1974. So I thought about it and I said, well, you know, “What are the numbers?” And they came up with a big number and I said, “Well, maybe we could.” And then, you know, my agent said, “You could do a couple of festivals, and you could do this”. So we decided to do half a dozen shows in Europe last summer and it very quickly turned into twenty two shows in Europe and twenty two shows in North America. And by the end of it I was really enjoying it. Dark Side of the Moon we do in the second half of the show and then we do some encores after that, and the first half of the show is a fairly a representative set of my work, with songs that go back as far as ’68 and some of my solo work up to the present, so that’s what we do, and since then I’ve been working on the show and the visuals and so on and so forth, and it’s just a very enjoyable set to do. And the people, you know, the audiences, so many of them know Dark Side of the Moon so well, and I think it’s a piece of work that has as much meaning for twenty-year-olds today as it did for twenty-year-olds forty years ago when it was written.
Alejandro: Even though most of the songwriting in Pink Floyd is yours, some of course is accompanied by Mr. Gilmour in some cases, but most of it is yours. Are there any legal issues when it comes to your playing Dark Side of the Moon or anything from the old Pink Floyd catalogue, or vice versa, are there any legal issues when it comes to David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Rick Wright playing those songs?
Roger: No, there are no legal issues. I think when we split up they exceeded, although we were going through very difficult times, that it was really my work. And so I don’t think you’ll ever hear them playing… I think they’re allowed… I think in the agreement they’re allowed to play Comfortably Numb and something else, I can’t remember what.
Alejandro: They do play Another Brick in the Wall as far as I know.
Roger: No they don’t. They don’t, they’ve never played it.
Alejandro: They do play it in Pulse.
Roger: Another Brick in the Wall Part Two?
Alejandro: Yes sir, they did, it’s actually in the DVD.
Roger: Well that’s very interesting you should say that, I’ll have to check on it. Anyway, whether they do or they don’t it’s all cool, there are no problems about any of that stuff.
Alejandro: What would you say is the big difference in conceptual terms between The Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall?
Roger: Well Dark Side of the Moon is a far more generally directed work, whereas The Wall is much more autobiographical and personal.
Alejandro: It’s much more personal. In this case Dark Side of the Moon was about somebody who was losing his mind or…?
Roger: No, Dark Side of the Moon is a more general piece. It describes more generally issues that people may have when they discover that they’re growing up and there is [can’t hear] on their lives like, I don’t know, organised religion and economics and so on and so forth. Whereas The Wall is an autobiographical work, really. Largely about my life but with, maybe drawn on a couple… it’s largely about Syd, but it’s really not much about anybody else. It’s a first person, you know, narrative.
Alejandro: Mr. Waters, I would like to know, how is that so long ago, so many years ago you decide to drop your career and get completely into music?
Roger: You mean when I was studying architecture?
Roger: Well we were offered a recording contract. And it had always been my dream to live, you know, that sort of life, as I imagined it might be, of being in a band and doing gigs. And I decided to give it a shot and so I left the college where I was studying architecture and turned pro February 1967 and that was the end of my career as an architect.
Alejandro: Mr. Waters, what is it you remember the most about Syd Barrett?
Roger: I think, you know, the years after we both went up to college in London, which would have been sixty… well I went up in ’62 and he arrived in ’64. So then those years when we were working together in Pink Floyd and when he was writing a lot and when we were very young, you know, students together in London, working with the band. He was extraordinarily creative. It was a great time for all of us. Though funnily enough, you having said that, I always remember before we left Cambridge, one night, very drunk, having a race with somebody, a friend of ours, owned a car. I remember we gave him a start. There was a famous roundabout outside Cambridge at the end of what was called the Hawkstone half-mile. It was about ten miles out of town. We gave this guy a big start and then Syd and I climbed on, I had an old Norton motorcycle at the time. And I drove the motorcycle with Syd on the pillion as fast as I could to this roundabout and back. And we got back and as we drove into the front drive of his mother’s house, just as he was getting off the back tyre went bang and there was a puncture, there’d been a big split in the rear tyre so it was only by a hair’s breadth that Pink Floyd ever existed at all ‘cos Syd and I could so easily have been killed together that night on that motorcycle doing that stupid childish thing. I don’t know why I told you that, it just popped in to my mind as a memory.
Alejandro: That’s a wonderful memory that you share with us and you’re sharing with our listeners, we appreciate it. I want to talk about Syd Barrett. What was it exactly that happened to Syd Barrett? I mean, was it drugs, was it a mental condition, was it a bit of both?
Roger: People still don’t… they’re just beginning really now to think that they may have discovered what Schizophrenia is and where it resides and to isolate the genes that cause it. But up until very recently Schizophrenia, which is what Syd suffered from, it’s a noun to describe [phone rings]… Laurie could you…? …specific symptoms and certainly Syd had a lot of those symptoms. You know, he had delusions, he heard voices, and so on. Now, it’s also true that, Schizophrenia, the symptoms are exacerbated by any kind of psychotropic drug, whether it be marijuana or LSD, and there’s no question that Syd took quite a lot of LSD. So I think the drugs were a contributing factor, I think, to his psychosis, but I don’t think they were the root cause or it. But I’m not an expert nor a neurologist so that’s just my view.
Alejandro: In the process of making albums such as The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, the soundtrack to More, The Dark Side of the Moon, was there a lot of drug consumption involved, were you guys into drugs a lot, do you think that it helped, I don’t know, the inspirational process, did that wake the muse up?
Roger: There were few years when we smoked a fair bit of dope, but nothing more than that. I mean in my case, certainly, that was only because, and I’m talking about maybe 1970… I don’t know maybe’70, part of ’73, ’74, ’75, those kind of years. But that was because I was trying to give up smoking cigarettes, so one of the ways I did that was by rolling joints with hash in them and tobacco but it wasn’t kind of an addiction to the hash, it was an addiction to the tobacco. So I convinced myself that I’d given up smoking cigarettes by only smoking joints. I was quite high at this time, for those few years, which I regret, because I think marijuana really, I don’t think it’s very dangerous, personally, but it certainly doesn’t help in the creative process, in my view, when I had it, it just kind of fogs you up and slows everything down. I think it, you know, marijuana is much better for being an audience than for being a performer.
Alejandro: Was this…
Roger: Or creative.
Alejandro: Excuse me, please, keep talking.
Roger: No, I mean, I wouldn’t recommend the taking of any drug if the person wants to be creative. It’ll by and large just fog you up and slow you down.
Alejandro: Ok, so back in those years, I would like to know, did the image of Pink Floyd, The Wall, The Dark Side of the Moon, you know, the image, the photographs, were the drugs an influence on the image of Pink Floyd, how was it that you took, you know, a huge part of the image of Pink Floyd and decided to take it that way?
Roger: Well what are you talking about specifically?
Alejandro: Specifically, we just want to talk about the image of Pink Floyd…
Roger: What do you mean, the image?
Alejandro: We’re talking about the visuals, the art, the albums…
Roger: What visuals?
Alejandro: We’re speaking about the covers, we’re speaking about the photographs…
Roger: Which covers?
Alejandro: The photograph, the cover of Dark Side of the Moon, for example.
Roger: You would need to ask Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell about that, they’re the guys that designed the cover.
Alejandro: But the relationship with Storm Thorgerson, was there a relationship, a close link between you and him in order to get those ideas on the cover or was it just the concept…
Roger: No, for Dark Side of the Moon… I mean, I knew Storm very well, he came… in fact he came when he was ten-years-old he came and live in our house with my mother and my brother and myself for a year in Cambridge when his family were moving to Cambridge and his parents hadn’t arrived yet, so he’s a very old friend. But he and Po came up with half a dozen, or maybe more, maybe eight designs for a record sleeve for Dark Side of the Moon, and we put them on the floor of the studio, at Abbey Road EMI Studios in London, and they said, “Well, what do you think?” and we all went, “That one”. So it was as simple as that, there’s nothing mysterious about it, it just looked good.
Roger: You could go, obviously, there’s a lot in the work they did later, in fact they did all the covers then up until Animals, which they didn’t do, but they did all the covers then. And they’re obviously great devotees of the surrealist movement in general, and Rene Magritte in particular, all that seeing through things. And they were very in to conceptual ideas for the covers. So that’s where a lot of that stuff, the cover for Wish You Were Here and so on, it comes from that.
Alejandro: Fans of Pink Floyd all around the world have always had this whole concept of ‘the package’, the entire package, and not only the musical side, but also the whole visuals, especially because of The Wall with Alan Parker, and the hammers, and you were having a lot to do with that concept in particular.
Roger: Well I had a lot more to do with that, yeah. Because I worked with Gerry Scarfe, so by this time Hipgnosis were out of the picture, well, from Animals onwards, nobody else really had anything to do with Animals or The Final Cut, or The Wall, or obviously any of my solo work.
Alejandro: In 1973 when you guys previously, I mean the year before, when you guys were working on The Dark Side of the Moon, was there an intention to make such a great record, I mean musically speaking and lyrically speaking, were you thinking about making that impact at that time or did it just pop out?
Roger: Everybody’s always thinking of that, you know, anybody who’s in a band anywhere in the world is always thinking they’re gonna do something important, or I assume they are. People are always trying to do good work, and it’s always a struggle. That was always our intention, yeah. In the early 70s we were struggling a bit to find a direction. After Syd went crazy and we lost our, kind of, main creative input in terms of writing we were… it was a struggle to find a direction.
Alejandro: When Syd goes through this breakdown, how did you decide you would move on without him, how do you gather…
Roger: Everybody starts trying to write, that’s all that happens. Bands live and die by whether they have someone, or more than one person who can write. Writing is the fundamental cornerstone of any music. It has to be written, and if you haven’t got somebody in the band who can write it’s gonna be a very short-lived enterprise. So we had to find out whether we did. And we did, and so it became a long-lived enterprise.
Alejandro: What was it like to be back with this line-up of Pink Floyd in Hyde Park, in 2005 at Live 8?
Roger: I felt it was very moving. I thought it was great that we did that. And so did the audience I think, so many people have spoken to me about it, how good it was to see that line-up together again.
Alejandro: We spoke to Sir Bob Geldof a couple of weeks ago, and asked him about your getting together for this special event, and how he managed to convince you and persuade you to do this, and he said, “With great difficulty”. Was it really that difficult to get you guys together?
Roger: It was hard until he asked me, and then it was easy.
Alejandro: Why was it so hard, why were you guys so angry at each other?
Roger: Well because he asked Dave and Dave said no. On several occasions.
Alejandro: Why was there such a big difference between you and David Gilmour?
Roger: Well because I was the only person who could have got Dave to do it.
Alejandro: Mr. Waters, what was it like to be onstage in that huge concert Pink Floyd did in Potzdamer Platz in the 90s, 1990 I think. What was it like being onstage?
Roger: It was very energising and terrifying at the same time. It was quite extraordinary, I mean, I’ve never seen that many people all in one place, and probably never will again. Yeah, I think we had 320,000 people, they did a head count. And it was extraordinary, they came from all over the world, and they all gathered there in one place, very symbolically. And it was an extraordinary experience.
Alejandro: Going back to 2005, there was a lot of speculation about your getting on to the stage with the other members of Pink Floyd and record labels coming up to you and proposing large sums of money for a new record contract, a new record deal.
Alejandro: Did it happen?
Alejandro: For this year, 2007, and for the Columbia show, what’s the show gonna be like, I mean, how big is it gonna be? What are we to expect?
Roger: Well, it’s very coherent, it’s… not to give too much away… it’s kind of a narrative about a kid listening to a radio in his bedroom, which is an experience which we can all share, maybe not now, now everybody’s got iPods, but certainly many generations, the radio would be your friend, because that’s where ideas come from, that’s where the music you attach to came from. And so to describe the show visually we have an LED screen, which is very bright, and very beautiful I think. I’m not sure what size it’ll be in Columbia, I think probably the one we’re using the size is 50 foot by 25 foot, it might be bigger, I don’t even know what size gig we’re doing there. And that is sitting there when the audience comes in and I use the screen, that simple device of the screen, and very simple lighting a lot, through the whole show. Through the first half and through Dark Side of the Moon and through the encores. Now I believe in South America we have a new, what we call a ‘gag’, a theatrical event which will not have been seen before. We won’t have finished building it until the gigs in Mexico. And that, I will use that in Dark Side of the Moon. And that should be quite spectacular I think.
Alejandro: You’re gonna be using that?
Roger: And you know, we have our old friend the pig and a few other bits and pieces that will be used, and we use some pyro. I don’t know… you’ll have to come and see. I think it’s a very coherent show.
Alejandro: And all the images that Pink Floyd used, during, I don’t know, 1994 on, from the Division Bell album promotion, all those images, all those things, are they gonna be included?
Roger: [Laughs] You must be joking.
Alejandro: It is just that we have never had such a big show.
Roger: I hate all that stuff.
Alejandro: You do?
Roger: I think that stuff is crap. Anyway…
Roger: Why would I use any of that?
Alejandro: I don’t know…
Roger: What a weird question to ask.
Alejandro: I know, it’s a very weird question, but we don’t know really how big this show is gonna be and there’s a lot of expectation round it. We know that obviously none of that was your work, in 1994, but we just basically wanted to know…
Roger: They made it very big but it’s not coherent. It wasn’t about anything, because they never really understood what any of it was about anyway.