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Home arrow Interviews arrow David Gilmour interviews
February 1988 - Australian radio Print E-mail

Q: What were the circumstances surrounding you first joining Pink Floyd?

DG: Well, ah, Syd, my predecessor, had gone bonkers, and, um,....

Q: Would you explain that just a little bit more?

DG: Well he went mad. I mean I don't know why exactly. you know, people have made all sorts of um... bandied about all sorts of theories about why they think he went mad. I'm not at all as clear on it as a lot of people who don't know anything about it are. He was a very close friend of mine when I was about 14. And, he went mad. I mean, I... I watched him go mad, and saw it all the way through, and I produced two albums with him afterwards - solo albums, and I probably know him as well as anyone in this world knows him, but you know, one just doesn't know. I mean, people have said all the stuff about it being acid and all that sort of stuff which he certainly had done, but I mean, so had all sorts of other people who didn't go mad.

I mean who knows? I don't understand these things well enough to make hard and fast, you know, assertations as to exactly why he went mad, but go mad he did - there's no question about that. He still is, what you would call, what I would call... unable to communicate with, with people.

Q: He lives with his mum now, doesn't he?

DG: No - he did live with his mum, but his mum's now moved out on him 'cause she can't stand it.

Q: Have you seen him of late?

DG: No I haven't seen him. I've spoken to his family. I speak to his sister Rose, and his brother Alan once in a while to make certain that, you know, the financial aspects of him receiving royalties and stuff still go - still work all right.

Q: What were you doing musically prior to Pink Floyd?

DG: Well I had a band before that, which... I had had a band before that in England that were around for two or three years. They did very well in the Cambridge area. And then I formed a different band and went and lived in Spain and France for a year and a bit. A year and a half or something like that. And then I came back to England and was living in London, and was working - driving a van for a shop in London, and trying to get a new band situation together, when I wasn't working in the evenings and weekends and stuff.

Q: So were you there initially to help out, hoping that Syd might be able to keep going and then it was apparent that he couldn't?

DG: There was a rather forlorn hope that we might be able to get Syd to take a back - back role, you know, a back room role writing songs still, and taking part in some - on some sort of a level. Erm, but that was a kind of a forlorn hope as I say, it didn't last very long. I mean I don't think anyone ever thought it was going to last very long. They just basically asked me because I was probably the only other person they really knew fairly well that could sing and play guitar, and came from a reasonably similar background, so that we knew that we'd probably get on reasonably well and could communicate, and they knew what I could do - I mean I think the other person they had in mind was Jeff Beck, which [laughs] would have been slightly different.

Q: Again, you must have been under some sort of pressure when you joined Pink Floyd the first time because Syd just about did the lot - he wrote the songs, sang them, played guitar and was a bit of a star himself, wasn't he?

DG: He was, yeah.

Q: So, did you feel as though you had to fill a pretty big pair of shoes?

DG: Not really, no. I mean, at that moment in time the band was pretty rotten.

Q: Were they?

DG: Yeah. I mean, because of Syd's, you know, 'condition', they had, I don't - I never - the actual year of their time when they really took off and were big in the London clubs, um, and their first album coming out, I never saw them during that period cos I was living in France and Spain at the time so I'd, I'd seen them previous to that when they were like a local band doing Bo Diddly songs, and one or two original things, and then I saw them after that again, when they were definitely downhill and they weren't too good. So, I mean, I wasn't that impressed initially, when I actually joined.

Q: What's interesting is that the hits they had with Syd - Arnold Layne and See Emily Play - were fairly typical Top 40 type songs, yet when he left after the first album the band changed a bit because there were a lot more songs with longer instrumental breaks, and the material did change a bit. Was that part of your influence?

DG: No, it was - I think that was - I don't think I really exerted any particular influence on the band in the first album at least. It took quite a while for me to find my feet, and the band on stage was very much more like that previously with Syd. I mean they did lots of long meandering sort of things while Syd was in it, but recording-wise they were very under the influence of a record producer and a record company who wanted them to be the next Beatles or whatever. And Syd also was very good at writing short snappy pop songs, you know.

Q: The series of albums that you recorded, just after joining the band, all became fairly popular, particularly in the UK, and probably in Europe too, but, when Dark Side of the Moon came out of course you changed from being a highly respected band to an enormously successful band. Was there any inkling of how well that would do and can you, today, understand why it has been such a cult record - why it's still so popular?

DG: Um, let me see. The records previously that you're talking about like, Atom Heart Mother and Ummagumma for example, are not amongst my favourites.

Q: And Meddle...

DG: Meddle is amongst my favourites. Meddle, I mean, that, to me, is the start of the path forward for Pink Floyd really, and Dark Side of the Moon is the next, sort of, stage on from that where we actually really got it right, and we got the record right and we got the cover right and the whole package, you know, the whole thing was very good, you know, recording the songs, the lyrics, the idea.

The whole thing was a very powerful package, you know, we knew before we finished it that that it was definitely going to do a lot better than anything we'd done before. I mean we didn't think that it would do that well, but, um, we definitely knew that it would do considerably better than anything we'd done before.

Q: On reflection it's quite amazing to think that it's still charting isn't it? Fifteen years down the road.

DG: 'Tis a bit, yeah.

Q: I'm really interested to ask you about one that probably is one of the most interesting, for lots of different reasons, is Wish You Were Here. Firstly, why'd you use an outside singer - Roy Harper - to sing Have a Cigar?

DG: Well you have to understand the way things are - and were really at Abbey Road studios in London, because it's a big complex, which is owned by EMI records, who we were... we still are on, in Europe - England and Europe - and we were on for the world, up and through Dark Side of the Moon, and erm, whenever we were in there, there were two other recording studios in operation there at the time, and we would be in one room and there'd either be the Beatles or the Hollies or the Pretty Things or Roy Harper or any number of other people um, recording at the same time, and we would get to know all these people of course, and we'd sit, you know, down in the EMI canteen and we'd chat with these people and stuff, and we got to know Roy quite well. Roy was always hustling, saying, you know, "let me do something", "let me sing something", "let me write some words for you or something".

We were always saying "Fuck off Roy!", I mean - or, "No no Roy!", I mean... sorry, we are on radio. And, you know, he just obviously came in the room, I can't really remember - he obviously came in the room at a certain point when we were doing that song and said "Hey! let me sing that!" and we said "Oh, all right, off you go, here's the words" and, you know it wasn't a thought-out thing. We didn't think "Hey, we must get Roy Harper to sing this song". I mean it's just one of those things that happens on the day, at that moment in time, in the studio, erm, and boom - there it was. And we thought "Hey, that's OK". Well, I thought it was great. Roger didn't like it that much actually.

Q: Did anyone ever say to you "Which one's Pink?"

DG: Yep. Yeah. Yeah.

Q: Who said that?

DG: I can't remember. It did happen in the very early days; we were a real cult band in the very early days you know, in, touring America in '68, um, the record company hadn't got a clue who we were.

Q: The record company didn't know?

DG: No. They didn't know - we were put on some strange label called Tower Records which was um, one of the sort of EMI labels/Capitol records labels, in America, and, oh, they hadn't really got a clue, they, you know, they just dumped people onto various labels and said "Here, you take this lot and do 'em", and um, yeah, it's quite possible that um, like, say, it was probably one of the top EMI people in there, who we were wheeled in to meet, and they didn't know - they'd never heard of us.

Q: He probably thought that Jethro Tull was the lead singer of that band too.

DG: Yeah. It happens very commonly, I bet it's - I bet it's happened to Jethro Tull - "Which one's Jethro?" - I'm sure it has.

Q: Did you write Shine On You Crazy Diamond for Syd Barrett?

DG: Erm, yeah. That was written for Syd, yeah.

Q: That, I think, is, looking back on it, is one of your most soulful guitar pieces ever. I suppose there was a lot of your soul in that song, for a close friend?

DG: Yeah, I don't really know whether it would be strictly honest to say one sits around doing the instrumental passages really thinking about Syd, and thinking "Oh my God! I must be more soulful cos it's Syd". I mean, no, I don't really think that...

Q: But it can inadvertently turn out that way can't it?

DG: I guess, yeah.

Q: [Tiny segment missing] ...Because its hard to pick with you - you go through such a lot of changes from album to album. Any particular players that you really really got stuck into at the beginning?

DG: So many. I mean the... like you say, it's... I had a very very wide musical knowledge and I would learn things, you know. I mean, I would learn bits off West Side Story, written by Leonard Bernstein, and you know, he's not exactly a guitar player, but I mean, that's just as much an influence as someone else who's a great influence like Jeff Beck, or Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Howling Wolf, Lead Belly, twelve string acoustic, he's as much an influence as - you know, John Faye, Eric Darling, erm, you know, millions of 'em. You know, I mean, I just, I never really - Hank Marvin - all those people - you know.

Q: There was a bit of a shock after The Wall album had been and gone because there was no more Richard Wright. Why was that?

DG: Erm, well, basically cos, er, erm, he had been contributing fantastically well to what we were doing in the time and, him and Roger were not getting along at all well. Um, Roger basically pushed him out.

Q: Was that hard for you to take?

DG: Um, well at the time it was, I felt it was wrong, at the time, and I told Rick that I thought it was wrong, and I told Roger that I thought it was wrong, but erm, but I told Rick that he ought to stand up for himself a bit. But he didn't really stand up for himself fully and, um, there's not a lot one can do. And, I told Rick he would have my support if he wanted to, but, you know, these things are very very complicated, when you're in a band that's been going all those times.

Q: Now I guess the problems that were heading your way with Roger Waters came to a head during The Final Cut album, and from what I've read you weren't particularly pleased with some of the material - you thought it was a bit weak.

DG: Yeah. Yeah. I um, you know - Roger during The Wall album - we had - no, no making The Wall album was pretty good. We had a good time, um, we had Bob Ezrin with us who is a very tough person - pushy person - and, it was good having him there because I think, there would have been a lot of arguments. I think Roger was getting close to that point, but because Bob was there and could, give um, you know, and unbiased opinion on things, it helped a lot. It helped a lot towards making it a good record, because lots of stuff got thrown out. Lots of stuff was written during the making of it, was added to it - good stuff - um, and a vast amount of work was done. And we then went on into The Wall film, and that, actually, had as much to do with the difficulties as the Final Cut album, because, um, that was another difficult period really. Um, Roger doing things that he really shouldn't have done - and then, The Final Cut album, as I say, when he started bringing in songs that we had turned down for The Wall album that I just didn't think were good enough. I just didn't think it was basically a good enough song. I mean, one of them we tried two or three different ways, was kept trying it, it never seemed to get any more interesting, but it still got on there, you know.

Q: Did Roger decide to quit the band because The Final Cut didn't do all that well?

DG: No. No, I don't think so. Um, Roger spent the rest, the next year or two trying, saying, "I think we should call it quits, I think we should jack it in and say enough is enough, we've had a very good run.", and I said, "Well, fine - that's your opinion but it isn't my opinion - I've had a good run I know, but I still wanna have more of a good run" - being a greedy sort of chap. Um, and, and he said "well I think we should pack it in" and I said "well I don't think we should pack it in", and er, it went on like this for a couple of years. I think, and he kept saying "When are you gonna do something? What are you gonna do?" And I said "I dunno. When I'm good and ready, and when I feel confident about it I'll make a suggestion to the band", and, you know 'cause I knew Roger wasn't going to start making a suggestion about going in. And he sort of grumbled and groaned about it and, I think eventually to try and make me make a move he said "right, well I'm quitting then", and sent letters to EMI and CBS records saying "I've left the band" and stuff - December '85. Um, and we said "well, that's your decision if that's what you wanna do - so be it" you know, Sorry to lose you and all that, but.

Q: Were you hurt by the litigation, and the fighting over the name?

DG: I just thought it was stupid and unnecessary. Um, I always knew that we'd win it. I just couldn't see any point in it. I mean, it's er, I, th- there's no precedent, really, for someone person leaving a band and saying to the others "You can't carry on". There's no precedent for someone leaving an organization that they have spent the best part of 20 years building up, and telling the other people "you're not allowed to work any more". There's no judge in... I can't see any judge in the world saying "listen, you've spent 20 years of your life working, building this thing up, and now you're not allowed to any more, cos he doesn't wanna do it." I mean, it just doesn't make... It just doesn't have any logic in my brain whatsoever, and so I've always just maintained that and said "We'll do it the way we wanna do it", and Roger's not actually done anything that prevents us from doing anything. He did start these court actions which everyone is very well aware of, to try and do something but nothing has actually, has ever even started yet, I mean, and now it's over, so we've now, I think we've reached a fairly - not amicable but reasonable settlement, so...

Q: That's good to hear. I believe you recorded part of the new album on your houseboat. Is that true?

DG: Yeah.

Q: Was that a good environment musically for you? Like, is being on the water, helpful?

DG: Being on the water is very nice, it's... with the, the, I bought a houseboat, we built it, we turned it into a recording studio, erm, so - it works very well. It's a very pleasant place. We did all the basic stuff there, yeah.

Q: Did you deliberately not make the new album a concept album?

DG: Um no - we thought about concepts an awful lot and then I decided it wasn't worth worrying about. You know, I'd rather just make a good record and see... I thought well, maybe if near the end of it all, a concept - well, something that ties it all together - we can angle things a little bit, steer them a little bit, cos that's what's happened before on some occasions you know. Animals for example wasn't a concept album until it was nearly finished, you know. um, it just, just never really came up - never really quite fitted, and um, I didn't want to force it. So...

Q: I felt as though some of the earlier Pink Floyd albums had very strong lyrics but not always the music to sustain the strong lyric. I don't think that applies on the new record. We're you conscious of having a better balance this time, with better constructed songs?

DG: Well, this has been my beef for years, I mean always, has been one of my, you know, beefs about what we do is that the balance has to be maintained. I've said it hundreds of times, ad nauseam I've said it but, um, you know, it's er, yes, the balance between, between the words and the music I think is a very important thing and that's what I think we lost very much on The Final Cut.

Q: ...but you've got that back on the new album?

DG: I hope so, yeah. That's what we... that's what I work towards, anyway. That's what I attempt to do.

Q: There's a more positive theme, too, to some of the songs on the new record. On The Turning Away for instance has a very positive theme. Who helped you with the lyrics on that?

DG: Anthony Moore. A guy, a friend of mine from England. He, ah, he co-wrote three of the songs with me - Learning to Fly, Turning Away, and The Dogs of War. Learning to Fly and On the Turning Away were his basic concepts, he, they were his original idea, but, er, they got changed around an awful lot - millions of rewrites, and basically the last verses of those things were completely steered to change it into a more positive thing, and I wrote the last verses of them.

Q: Is it sheer coincidence that Learning to Fly may apply to the fact that you are actually learning to fly?

DG: No, it's no coincidence at all. That's what it comes from. It comes because he was, um, we'd have him down at the boat every day. I mean I said the only way this is gonna work, if we're gonna write anything together is, it's gonna be a low, a low success rate, so we need a lot of stuff, you know, and I said, you know, if you write twenty songs and we only use one, you know, you get to use the others yourself anyway, so, um, so I said I'd like you to actually be there and work, and I paid him as well as giving him a percentage on the songs obviously for, for writing. I was actually paying him wages to come and sit at the boat and work everyday, write, four or five days a week, and so, there would be days when he'd arrive down at the boat and start working and say "well, where's Dave?" and they'd say "oh, he's gone flying this morning" and he'd go "oh shit!", you know, "why's he keep doing that?", you know. And so, one of these mornings, while he was sitting there frustrated because I wasn't around cos I'd gone flying he came up with that idea.

Q: Have you got your own plane?

DG: Yeah. Myself and Nick share one - a single engined thing.

Q: Obviously you find it very enjoyable, very relaxing.

DG: Yeah, fabulous fun.

Q: That's great. You mentioned Dogs of War. On your solo album of four years ago you wrote a song called Cruise, which was your fear of a nuclear confrontation.

DG: Mmm.

Q: Do you still occasionally ponder on things like that? Is Dogs of War again another thought you might of had about the possibility something like that occurring?

DG: Um, yeah. I mean I think about those things all the time, you know, there are two on that solo album, Out of the Blue and Cruise are both about that sort thing from slightly different angles. Dogs of War is more, you know, it's more about... it's really mostly about, I should think, political mercenaries really. You know, the Oliver Norths of this world and stuff like that I think is what it came out of mostly.

Q: There's a great bluesy feel on the instrumental part that, that's a really enjoyable passage for me, because it sees you going back to, I suppose, to your roots and having Hammond organ in there was great, 'cause Hammond organ isn't used that much these days is it?

DG: No, no. But we, ah, I think it's still one of the great instruments, the Hammond organ.

Q: There's another song that, um, people are interested to know about because it was written with Phil Manzanera. Why would you wanna write a song with Phil?

DG: Well, Phil's a friend of mine.

Q: One Slip - the one abut the sexual encounter.

DG: Mmm. Well, Phil's a friend of mine and we wrote the music for that together, he actually wrote more of the music than I did on that one, and these things come up, you know, you sit around at people's houses and you play with 'em and sometimes, you know, with people who are friends of yours, and you come up with something you wanna use it.

Q: That would be an enjoyable part I guess, to having friends like Anthony Moore and Phil Manzanera who are songwriters and who can get involved in the musical side with you as well - then all of a sudden something happens and you can write a song about it. That must be just a nice feeling.

DG: Yeah, yeah it is.

Q: Particularly if they are friends.

DG: You know there's no, um, people have said that to, you have to be careful about diluting what is Pink Floyd and what isn't, but, all that stuff, you know, who gives a shit really? But, it still has to go through my own personal vetting system - my own taste judges what eventually gets on the record so, doesn't really matter.

Q: Did you enjoy doing all the singing this time?

DG: Yeah. It's fine, I mean most of the records, like Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here I sang most of, um, most of the stuff on, on those records and...

Q: So you've always taken your singing fairly seriously?

DG: Yeah. I mean I was the lead singer of the group officially, until Roger started saying he was and always had been, but, if you look through all those songs - Money, Us and Them, all the stuff about Time, Dark Side of the Moon - I sang all those songs.

Q: How did he develop the mantle of being the band leader? Was it because he was a fairly aggressive sort of character?

DG: Yeah, he just wanted to be. He would say "I think you should say that I'm the leader". We'd say "oh come on, who gives a shit? It's a band, you know?"

Q: You, again, use a layered sound to make records and I often thought that four track recordings came about when you were first recording. Have you sort of grown with the studios? like when there was extra facilities available did you always use those to enhance the new record?

DG: Well, we always did use them, yeah. I mean, in the early days it was the biggest frustration there was, the recording facilities. The four track recording system used to mean that we'd put down the the drums, the bass, the guitar, and organ all on one mono track, you know, and then we'd add some bits on another track, we'd do vocals on another track, and, it was really frustrating, you know, to try and... the idea of having more and more tracks. What it does is that it means you don't... you can be your own producer. You can't be your own producer very effectively if...[another missing segment]

Q: You appeared in Bryan Ferry's band on Live Aid, and I admired the fact that you didn't make a fuss about being there. I mean I watched it, and there you were with your sleeves rolled up playing the guitar, and that was the true spirit of being involved in something like that. Was it an experience for you?

DG: It was wonderful, wonderful feeling. It was a great day, I mean, to be at Wembley on that particular day was a really fabulous experience, um, I had a really good day. I mean, taking part in something like that is a fantastic experience, you know. I don't have the sort of ego, I mean, I literally don't have the sort of ego that demands that I be announced or something like that, you know, I play, you know, apart from you know, I do this as a career as well, um, but I'd be doing it anyway if I was doing it, if I had another job I'd still be playing music if I could, and to have the privilege of being allowed to get on a show like that is a wonderful thing - I don't care about all the other shit.

Q: Were you surprised at the overwhelming response to the current tour? You hadn't toured for a while - the last album didn't do all that well. How'd you feel?

DG: I thought we would sell quite a lot of tickets. I thought we would do fairly well, but um, the actual - I didn't, no, I didn't think it would do as well as it has done. I mean I didn't know that it would do this well, but it's doing extremely well.

Q: There's a real mystique about Pink Floyd. There'll be people at the concert on the nights you're performing in Melbourne whose older brothers and sisters have passed on the word about Pink Floyd - there'll be people there that weren't born when you replaced Syd Barrett in the band, yet they all seem as fervent about the band as each other. They seem to trust Pink Floyd - people I know would buy the record without even having listened to it. I guess you're aware of that and is that part of the reason why you do everything possible to satisfy that sort of fan?

DG: We do everything within our power to do things as well as we can and to make the show as good as we can because that's what I think you should do - not specifically to please any particular fan or live up to - that's just the right thing to do. I don't like cutting corners and stuff, you know, um, there's an awful lot of bullshit around in this business - there's an awful lot of people saying that they can't afford to do this and they lose a fortune touring and stuff. If they do, I don't understand it because this show is as expensive as any show that's ever been done by anyone I should think, and we're making a profit, so you don't need to feel over-sympathetic towards us.

We've brought the entire show down here to Australia. Now this is, you're getting exactly the same show here as we've done in America and stuff and most people don't, you know, they bring half the show down here cos they don't want to, you know, pay the freight charges and all that stuff - which is expensive but I mean, we're not - I mean I don't, I don't know exactly, this particular leg - Australia, New Zealand, and Japan - it probably won't make much profit, but um, it will make a profit, and we'll have done it properly, and we like to do things properly, and anything within our power that we can do to make it, you know, right, we will do. We don't like to cut corners obviously. Things are very expensive and it's very easy to misdirect your money, and put an awful lot of money into something that isn't what I would call cost effective.

Not to put other people down, but David Bowie's Glass Spider business set - you know, that glass spider thing on the top seemed like a fantastic waste of money, you know, 'cause that was quite an expensive show - it was just not, not good value for money. And I put, er, a great deal of emphasis when we're putting this stuff together on value for money - cheap tricks and value for money.

Q: Look, thanks for your time, this evening. Thanks for the wonderful music. I hope you and the rest of the troupe continue to enjoy your stay in Australia.

DG: Thank you.

 
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