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October 1st 2002 - Toronto Sun Print E-mail

Ex-Pink Floyd guitarist enjoys semi-retirement, says music a 'hobby'

He's helped create some of the most ambitious ventures in rock history with Pink Floyd. These days David Gilmour is deeply under way on a new project: Semi-retirement.

"I view it as another phase in my career, but I also view music as a hobby," the articulate and genial Gilmour, 56, says over the phone from his home in rural Britain recently.

"I'm downsizing. I love making music, but I'm not going to be chasing record sales or anything very much."

With Pink Floyd on ice indefinitely, the guitarist has been devoting his time to family - he has eight children, aged six months, five, seven, 12, 16, 21, 22, and 26 - and casual music-making. He's sworn off extensive touring and any Floyd-scale undertakings.

That said, there is a commercial basis for our conversation. Gilmour is set to release David Gilmour In Concert Oct. 22, a DVD and VHS concert film captured at a series of low-key but critically-acclaimed performances he did at London's Royal Festival Hall last year.

The antithesis of a Floyd production, the concerts were based around gentle rethinks of classic material (Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Wish You Were Here, Comfortably Numb) as well as more obscure selections, new material and cover tunes. The presentation was acoustic-based and featured strings, sax and a gospel choir.

Tastefully done and humble in tone, it's a late-entry change of gears for a man whose persona has been submerged, along with his bandmates, in a larger entity since the late '60s.

"I just want to enjoy the freedom that I get from not doing it within Pink Floyd," Gilmour says. "I don't have to compromise, I don't have to use the same lineup more than once if I don't want to. I'm afraid it's a very selfish thing where I'm just doing things for my own pleasure and hoping that a few people will enjoy it too."

Gilmour's Festival Hall dates stemmed from a spur-of-the-moment invite to play Britain's esteemed Meltdown Festival, which was being curated by British cult-rock luminary Robert Wyatt. Gilmour muses that he was panic-stricken as to what to do with the stage time after agreeing to the gig.

"I had three months to prepare from when Robert asked me to do Meltdown," he says. "It may sound like a long time, but it's not. I spent a lot of nervous time in my home studio trying out songs. I'd started with the Pink Floyd songs because they're my safety net. I just went through the backs of albums and chose songs I thought would work. Most of them were quite easy. Songs like Wish You Were Here and Fat Old Sun are fairly acoustic songs anyway. Some things, for example A Great Day For Freedom from our last album, worked better in this setting than they did originally.

"Exposing the parts a bit more, opening it all up that way, gives it a different sort of intimacy and a different feeling."

'SLOWLY DOES IT'

The resulting shows - the Meltdown appearance which led to three more dates early this year - include guest appearances from Wyatt, Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright and Bob Geldof.

Gilmour laughs as he admits that he had to keep the arrangements in check, lest they take on Floydian proportions again.

"I had a string bass and a cello, but there were moments where I thought, 'Hmm, maybe I'll get 20 strings in...,'" he says. "But, slowly does it. I'll see how I feel in a year or so - the next time I do some shows."

 
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