Jim Ladd: Hello, I’m Jim Ladd. Welcome to Roger Waters: The Wall, live radio special, as we discuss the historic tour on which he is about to embark, for the 30th anniversary of The Wall. It will be by any measure, the most colossal event in the history of rockn’roll, and just to put this statement into perspective, let me give you a few facts before we begin. The stage, housed in the centre of the wall, will measure 90 feet long. The wall itself, 240 feet wide by 35 feet high, is so enormous it will cross from one side of an arena to the other. It will take 20, 18-wheel semi-tractor trailers just to haul the mammoth amount of equipment, which includes the largest PA ever taken on the road. A state-of-the-art quadrophonic sound system which will deliver the best surround sound ever heard in any concert hall in the world. It will also take a compliment of 100 crew members to bring the show to life. Twelve musicians to perform the music, and an additional 100 stage hands and riggers to construct the wall itself. But when everything is ready, when you’ve taken your seats and the house lights are dimmed, it will all come down to just one man: Roger Waters.
You are about to embark on what could arguably be called the most ambitious tour in the history of rockn’roll, and a stage production that can only be seen to be believed. I’m just interested, are you excited, are you anxious? Are you nervous at this point, or is it just focussing on the job?
Roger Waters: Yeah, I’m all of those things. Maybe more excited than nervous. You know, my experience has been that when you go to a good team of people around you and we start to work as a team, that most of the problems can be solved, and I’m sure we will solve them. The ambition that you were saying yesterday… a very ambitious project… the ambition is really simple, it’s just to try and move people a bit.
(In The Flesh?)
JL: Ok, let’s say that now you’ve had the rehearsals, all the bricks are gonna work, the projections are gonna work, and now it’s your very first night of this tour. You’re standing onstage, and you’re seconds away from going into In The Flesh, what is going through your mind standing on that stage at that moment?
RW: I think I’ll just be excited to see just how that first audience responds, and how we all do. It’s funny, even when it’s a work in progress, when somebody comes in to the editing suite where we work, and you show them something, you see it with fresh eyes. You know it’s funny, that thing of a third party coming in to the working space, and you see it through their eyes and you understand more about it. Well obviously when you suddenly see it through 16,000 new pairs of eyes, and ears, and hearts, I’m sure we’ll get a different experience, because they’re there. That will be a moment.
(In The Flesh? continues)
JL: All of the extraordinary effects that Roger will employ during the concert are really there for one reason: To enhance the message contained within the music of The Wall. The music will be the same, but the message has involved.
RW: Yeah, we’ve broadened the connotations, hopefully, in this show that we’re about to do.
JL: How so?
RW: Well, all the obvious things. There are lots of wars around in the world today, there’s war between the rich and the poor, between the first and second world, and between the new world and the old world, and there are wars that divide people because of their different religious affiliations or other ideological questions, and so we live in a world where we are separated one from another by these differences, not necessarily in good ways.
JL: This is broader, because in the first version it was about this character Pink, and the walls around this individual, and so that really is an expansion.
RW: It is, and it’s gonna be a bit of a trick to pull it off. When you try and take something that’s a personal narrative and universalise it in some way, we’re right in the middle of working on it right now, and it’s not easy but you start finding parallels in other people’s experiences. For instance, obviously a very large part of my story was the loss of my father when I was very young. Well sadly there are still lots of fathers going to war and there’s lots of families, particularly in North America, who’ve lost soldiers in the Middle East, in the wars that are going on there. But there are even more families who have lost fathers who are civilians, who just happened to be where they were living, in Iraq or Afghanistan or wherever it might be. Sadly, since the end of the Second World War, we’ve learnt a few things but we’ve not learnt how not to do that.
(Another Brick In The Wall pt. 1)
JL: I’m curious to know, in as gentle a way as I can say it, when you do Another Brick In The Wall Part 1, do you still think about your dad? Is that an issue that’s been resolved in your mind?
RW: Yeah, it’s an issue that’s been resolved in my mind. Though, I confess, I’m in my 60s now, I tear up less often than I did when I was a kid, or a teenager, or in my 20s. Nevertheless, I experience the loss of my father more in terms of empathetic reactions that I have to other people who are experiencing the same thing that I did when I was a little kid in the same way. So I think that my father stays with me in my reaction to the senseless loss that is engendered by the wars that we’re not quite sure really what they’re for. I mean I hear that song almost every day now because we’re working on visuals for the show right now. So when I hear that song I don’t actually think about me at all, or my father, I think about what’s going on now.
RW: Let me tell you this: I am reluctant to start couching this in terms of us and them. My position would be that there is no us and them. We are them and they are us. We speak the languages that we do by accident of birth. Some of us believe… attach to certain ideologies because of accidents of birth. Clearly you think differently if you were born in Tehran, or you may do, than if you were born in Oklahoma. So I don’t wanna get too involved in the whole us and them thing. Having said that, the beef is always about power, geography, and cash. Always. I actually think that religious ideology is used as a tool to develop the means for those ends. So it seems that it’s always the same story. What’s different now, maybe, this… it may be that because of facebook and Google and YOutube, and all the other machines for communicating with people, it just may be that we stand at the brink of having a chance to go “hold on, there’s something wrong with this picture”. And maybe we, the us and the them that are the same people, may at some point get the chance to approach a benevolent truth, that might be something like… we derive more pleasure from building than we do destroying. We get more pleasure from love than from hate. I know I do, because I’ve done my fair share of fussing and fighting, as John Lennon had it. It sort of brings you nothing but grief. Whereas, if you find it in your heart to help somebody to build a bridge or to see somebody else’s point of view, hey what a surprise, you suddenly feel better, about not just yourself but about everything. So… people might say that I’m a dreamer [laughter], to quote the great man, and maybe I am, but I sense suspicions of some of Lennon’s and Ghandi’s dreams beginning to have possibilities of coming true.
(Happiest Days of our Lives)
JL: We’re gonna come back to politics, but I wanna move on to Another Brick part 2. Did you ever get any feedback from the teacher that you may have used as the character in the song? Any of those teachers that taught you when you were a kid listen to this and get back to you on that?
RW: None of the ones that that figure was a kind of gestalt representation of. And clearly it was a wildly misunderstood song, I think a lot of people took it at its face value at the time, and I was roundly attacked in the British press
JL: Give me an example of the most outrageous misinterpretation of that song.
RW: Um… I’m trying to remember the journalist’s name. There was a guy who wrote a piece in the Sunday Times saying that it was obscene that I should be attacking education. So you just go… what is wrong with you? This is satire.
(Happiest Days of our Lives/ABITW pt 2)
RW: I couldn’t be more for education if I tried. My mother was a primary school teacher all her life. I think it’s the most valuable gift that we can give a child, the gift of knowledge and the gift of understanding. Or the gift that you encourage them to become something, you encourage their individuality, that you encourage their spirit, you encourage their independence. And that’s what education means, it means the drawing out of the essential worth that is in a child, that they can become the best adult that is possible, given who they are.
JL: In the midst of this show, with all the special effects that are going on, with the wall that’s being built and the films that are being projected, and the animation and the puppets, there comes a very quiet tune called Mother. And I was fascinated, I remember this very clearly, watching the original and watching you in 1990 in Berlin, that the song comes on and the audience is riveted to this song, and at the end it just brings the house down. Why do you think this song resonates so deeply with your audience?
RW: You know, the line that the audiences always respond to the most is “mother should I trust the government”. I think the audiences intuitively understand that the government is Big Mother. [laughter] There’s a strange connection between the domineering parent and the government. And as teenagers, if we’re healthy in any way, we rebel against our parents. We have to, it’s part of growing up. You have to be rebellious and you have to work out your own way to go in life, and the things that you wanna do. And I think there’s a sense that people understand absolutely that they have to rebel against the status quo, the powers that be, the way things were, their government.
(Mother [In The Flesh])
JL: I’m Jim Ladd. Tickets for Roger Waters The Wall live go on sale May 10th. For ticket sales and information go to Livenation.com or Roger Waters.com. We’ll be back with more of Roger Waters The Wall live after this.
JL: We’re back with Roger Waters and I have a very important question I’m going to ask you, and I want you to think about this because it gonna be one of the more serious questions of the interview. We’re gonna talk about Young Lust at the moment. Are you saying, if I’m hearing this right, that the wanton, meaningless sex with a string of women is a bad thing?
RW: I don’t think so.
JL: Well let’s hope not. [laughter] I wanna make sure I’m interpreting this song correctly. No? Because I’m thinking that the audience could interpret this song as a celebration of casual, meaningless wanton sex with a string of women.
RW: They can interpret it however they want Jim.
JL: I see.
RW: It’s a free occasion, these rock’n’roll concerts.
JL: I mean that’s the way I interpreted it. I followed that as a guide to my life.
RW: I know that.
JL: How are you going to portray the groupie in the show?
RW: I’m not going to tell you.
JL: You’re not going to tell me?
JL: It’s not someone I know is it?
RW: No, I can’t really go into describing snippets and bits and pieces of the show.
JL: Well that’ll make the interview easy, thankyou.
(One of my Turns)
JL: One of my Turns, in the original, because now I have to think of the broader interpretation of it… in the original this is where we start to get a glimpse of Pink’s dark side. He’s starting to have a moment here. Did you ever go through a moment like this?
JL: You did?
JL: I mean I think we all have to one degree or another, but this is a pretty spectacular moment.
RW: Yeah I had some pretty dark and desperate moments. Some of the story, a lot of the story, relates directly to what was going on in my life. When the first wife left over the phone I was devastated, and I just sort of bounced off the walls for quite some time.
(One of my Turns [Is There Anybody Out There])
JL: Another Brick in the Wall part 3… Pink now rejects all the things that gave him comfort. The drugs, the hugs, whatever… he don’t need it now. And he finds himself unprotected and alone. This could be a liberating experience, but it’s not for him and I want you to explain it.
RW: I can’t remember all that crap, Jim, that was 30 years ago!
JL: Jesus Christ man, go back in those old synapses, try to re-fire them.
RW: [Mumbles lyrics to ABITWpt3] Yeah, well, ok, he’s isolated. Just become… isolated. [laughter] That’s all, I mean, it’s self-explanatory, isn’t it?
JL: Can you tell us anything about how we’re gonna see that in the concert?
RW: Yeah some films, some generated in 3D. I don’t mean let’s put spectacles on, Avatar 3D, I mean 3D software. Generated stuff of smashing glass and things like that.
JL: I cannot emphasise enough what a mammoth undertaking it is to bring The Wall to life on stage. Not only to play this incredible music, but to create all of the films, the animation, and the special effects that you’ll see during the show. I asked Roger how he approached this daunting task.
RW: It’s a process where we don’t throw everything at the wall and see what sticks, but we throw a lot of stuff at the wall, and then it’s a question of editing and you think, well that doesn’t really work, and so, working with the team I’m working with, it’s a very organic process. And hopefully by the time we get on stage on September the 15th we will have come through that process to somewhere where it’s coherent and whole. I think the most difficult bit of this particular jigsaw is to integrate some of these universal things with the individual narrative that is inherent in the original album. I wanna make some much broader political and hopefully humanitarian statements, without being preachy or whatever, within the context of the theatre of the piece. And to append that in a way that is beautiful rather than ugly, with the narrative that people know and that was there 30 years ago. That’s the hard bit, that’s the trick. But that’s what makes it really interesting for me.
JL: That brings us to the mid-point in the show: Goodbye Cruel World. I want you to explain to someone who’s never seen this before what the relationship of the band to the audience is, from the original piece, and then expand that to what you’re thinking about now.
RW: Well, for someone who’s never seen it, the way the show works is that we go on at the beginning and there’s little bits of the wall at the side of the stage, and during the first half of the show, which lasts fifty minutes or an hour or something, while we’re playing the wall gets built until at the end of the first half it’s complete and the band are still playing behind this 35 foot wall. And so when we start the second half we come on and we start playing and you can’t see us. You can see that this light’s going on and off and that’s the theatre of it.
JL: Let’s not skip over that because someone might not quite understand… you are literally building, brick by brick through the first half until Goodbye Cruel World, a wall, that at the end of the first half literally, physically, separates the band from the audience. Correct?
JL: So how will that now relate in this broader issue?
RW: Well hopefully we will have made one or two broader points in the first half so that when people see that they’re separated from the band they see that it’s not just about them the audience being separated from the performance, it’s also about separation between East and West, rich and poor, powerful and weak, Christian and Muslim… whatever you want it to be. Or that you might sense that the separations that you might feel, from things that might be important to you, are symbolically represented by this wall that’s separating you from the band that are playing the music.
(Goodbye Cruel World [Is There Anybody Out THere])
JL: Roger Waters The Wall live will continue right after this.
JL: Hi, I’m Jim Ladd with Roger Waters. At this point in the show, the audience is completely cut off from the band, which is now playing behind the wall. This brings us to Hey You, a tune that any artist who is trying to reach an audience can relate to.
RW: The reason that I designed this show in the first place all those years ago was because I had become somewhat disaffected by doing gigs in football stadiums in front of large numbers of people who I felt were not really engaged in the same thing that I was engaged in. And for one reason or another, whether it was to do with them or me I’ll never know, but I did become disaffected from it all. And that’s why around that time I thought of building a wall to express the feelings of alienation that I felt from the audience. So the guys that go to stadium gigs, and I’m sure that they exist, and they go because it’s the thing to do and they stagger around and break bottles and they shout and scream, that’s sort of the mindless element that you get in any large group of people, who are annoying to all of us.
(Hey You/Is There Anybody Out There)
JL: Ok, Nobody Home… I remember this moment vividly from the first show, are you still going to be using that room, the TV? Explain that a little bit.
RW: Yeah, well, it’s just that we have a hotel room, built in false perspective, that flips out from a particular section in the wall, and I sing this song Nobody Home, sitting in a chair. So it’s a little bit of sort of straight theatre, but I really liked that in the original show so we will be doing that again.
JL: Do you ever consider being an actor?
RW: Umm… yes.
JL: Because you deliver that part with some authority.
RW: Yeah, apart from when I was a student when I used to act in productions when I was in college, which I enjoyed but I was so scared all the time that it was a very difficult thing for me to do. And I think by and large people in bands who go and try to become actors largely come unstuck. I think acting’s a really hard thing to do.
(Nobody Home [Is There Anybody Out There])
JL: In the song Bring The Boys Back Home, Roger again returns to the subject of war.
RW: There is something, if you’re not involved I think, enormously seductive about fighter aircrafts and machines guns, and bombs going off. There’s something sort of seductive about it. And that’s a serious problem, and I think nothing is done to defuse that. It’s almost kind of glorified. And we never get shown really what happens. But what actually happens to people when they get hit by a 50 calibre bullet is just beyond anything that you can imagine. I see some of it because we’ve got researchers going out and we’re being sent photographs from the Middle East. We’ve got a whole bunch of photographs arrived a couple of days ago from a US servicewoman who was a medic in Iraq for two tours of duty, and you can’t believe what actually happens, and what actually happens to human bodies when they get hit by ordnance. I think to actually be seriously wounded by an IED or something is just beyond our comprehension what that must feel like. And I’m not just talking about soldiers I’m talking about all the civilians as well.
(Bring The Boys Back Home [Is There Anybody Out There])
JL: And this brings us to one of the most iconic songs on the album, which is Comfortably Numb. I know that this song is based on something that actually happened to you. Why don’t you explain that.
RW: We were in Philadelphia years before, doing a gig in The Spectrum, I think there. And I had a terrible stomach bug of some kind and I had awful stomach pains and I didn’t think I was going to be able to go on. So I got the quack from the hotel, and he came up to the room and he said “oh we can sort that out, I’ll just give you this shot. And I have no idea what it was like …. And I had to do the whole gig like that, I could hardly move. It was the weirdest feeling. And that was a sort of kick-off for writing that song.
JL: The next song, The Show Must Go On, using the kind of Beach Boys… Did you actually use some of the Beach Boys on that?
RW: Bruce Johnson sang on the album, but he was the only one.
(The Show Must Go On)
JL: It’s an old showbiz axiom, but is there ever a point where no, I’m sorry, the show does not need to go on? Or are you driven with the kind of “come on troops, we’ve gotta get out there and do this”?
RW: I’ve never had to cancel a show through illness, but obviously shows do get cancelled because people get sick. I’ve performed when I was really ill, but adrenaline is an incredible drug. You can be like “oh I can’t do this” and then you get onstage and the adrenal glands start pumping this stuff out, and it can keep you going for a couple of hours.
JL: We’ll stop here for a moment, but when we return I’ll ask Roger about what may be one of the most objectionable songs ever sung to an audience. And one of my favourites. That and more when Roger Waters The Wall live returns.
JL: I’m Jim Ladd, and we’re back now as we continue our conversation with Roger Waters.
(In The Flesh)
JL: Ok, In The Flesh, I think this song – I’m just gonna say the word – is pure genius. It is pure Roger Waters. However, this could also be one of the most objectionable songs that has ever been sung to an audience.
JL: I mean, it’s horrific, what you’re singing to the audience, and the audience just loves it.
RW: Well, you know, people understand that it’s satire, and that it’s tongue in cheek, and that I’m not homophobic or racist or bigoted, and most of them are people that know the work quite well, so they understand what it is, and they enjoy it for what it is.
(In The Flesh [In The Flesh] continued)
JL: Run Like Hell… I have to quote this one line: “Coz if they catch her in the back seat trying to pick her locks, they’re gonna send you back to mother in a cardboard box”. That is such a great description of the sort of fumbling, teenage sex that goes on in the back of a car, but in this case it’s dangerous.
RW: Do you know what it makes me think of?
RW: When I hear it now it makes me think of Saudi Arabia, where they do send you back to mother in a cardboard box if you’re caught in the back seat of a car, and you’re not married. They stone you to death and behead you and all that stuff, certainly the woman. And these are our allies. Why aren’t we invading Saudi Arabia and telling them that they shouldn’t be treating women badly?
JL: That is a damn good question, and I keep waiting for someone in power to ask that.
RW: What is the difference between the Saudi royal family and the Taliban? They both treat women in exactly the same way. And we know why, obviously, because we’re in very close ties with them, and we sell them lots of planes, and we buy lots of oil, and it’s a very nice, neat, cosy, symbiotic relationship, and it works very well economically, and it suits us all down to the ground. OK, that’s fine, but don’t try to tell me that any foreign policy is based on the rights of women, because it just isn’t, it’s nothing to do with that. Foreign policy is all about power, geography, and cash! That’s what it’s all about. It has nothing to do with democracy, it has nothing to do with women’s rights, it has nothing to do with human rights, it has nothing to do with freedom, it has to do with cash and geography. It’s sort of plain as the nose on your face.
(Run Like Hell [Is There Anybody Out There])
JL: One aspect of Roger Waters’ personality that has always endeared me to this brilliant man is his deep love of humanity. He’s a person who, while professing that he doesn’t believe in God, displays what might be described as the very essence of Christian values in the way that he looks at the world. I asked him where this deep feeling for the human condition comes from.
RW: My mother. I read Bertrand Russell when I was younger. Some of the works of literature that we’ve talked about before. There’s so much humanity in a lot of great literature. Other kinds of science fiction stuff… [HG] Wells. And, fundamentally of course, around the feelings of loss around my father when I was a very small child. And my extreme frustration at that has, with my mother’s influence as well, led me to the belief that… You know, my mother used to say to me when I was young “You know, not all Germans are bad”. Well, it’s a bit like after the Second World War in England, after those fuckers were dropping bombs on us for three or four years, that was an interesting position to take, so she was obviously very strong intellectually and emotionally, and her husband had been killed, so I think that had a profound effect on me, seeing her humanity come out. She didn’t believe in God either, but she believed in goodness. So what we need to be doing is to explain to ourselves and remind ourselves constantly is that there is no “them”, there is no us or them, we’re all the same people. We all have, on our side, people who will, with a thug mentality, people who couldn’t be happier than to be given a stick and told to go and hit somebody over the head with it. But we just as many of people who have a propensity for people with that kind of behaviour as they do. There’s no difference between us and them. Imagine how different it is when you’ve been told that they are the them. They’re the gooks, they are the enemy. They’re the ones who believe differently, they’re the ones who killed everybody on 9/11, they’re the enemy. It’s very easy then to bring out thug mentality in people, when you’ve dehumanised a whole other group of people by identifying them as the enemy.
(Waiting for the Worms)
JL: We’ll be back with the conclusion of Roger Waters The Wall live right after this.
JL: We’re back now with the conclusion of our conversation with Roger Waters. One of the most dramatic moments in The Wall comes at the end of the show, when Pink has to endure The Trial. As in the original show, The Trial will be depicted visually by the brilliant animation of Gerald Scarfe.
RW: We’re doing a re-edit of the animation that we used in the original show and used in the movie. When we did it originally we had three 35 mil projectors, and we projected three separate academy frames, four by three frames, across I think about 80 feet of wall, or maybe 90 feet of wall, and then the rest of the wall had nothing on it. In this production we’re projecting across 230 feet. We’re projecting across the whole thing, across the whole width of the wall, because technology has moved on to a point where that is now possible. So we’re re-cutting all the stuff to fit that format. And it looks fantastic, it looks really beautiful.
JL: Thirty years ago when you and I did our first interview, it was for this very album. You answered every question I asked. I took you song by song through this album, and you were very generous and you answered everything I asked you, except for one. You told me that you would not comment on the last song on the album, Outside the Wall. So let me ask you now.
JL: Pretty much what I got thirty years ago. Roger Waters, thank you very, very much.
RW: Thank you.
(Outside the Wall)