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Martin Popoff: "A huge proportion of metalheads love Pink Floyd" Print E-mail
Written by Ed Lopez-Reyes   
Tuesday, 09 July 2019
Martin Popoff released his book Pink Floyd: Album by Album on June 26th of last year. On the one year anniversary of the book's release, Brain Damage sat down to chat about his projects and about his experience writing and editing the book - which included interviews with Dream Theater's Jordan Rudess and Genesis' Steve Hackett. Popoff's most recent releases are Born Again!: Black Sabbath in the Eighties and Nineties, Judas Priest: Turbo ‘til Now, and Aces High: The Top 250 Heavy Metal Songs of the '80s. He shared his view on a number of issues confronting the music industry, on drumming, and on Pink Floyd's place in history. 
 
Pink Floyd Album by Album book cover
Brain Damage: Pink Floyd: Album by Album was released on this day, last year. How was that project different from previous ones, i.e., did you feel the Pink Floyd connoisseurs you interviewed were different from experts on other bands that you had interviewed for other projects? 
 
I wouldn’t say there was a difference. The same mix of celebrities, rock stars, super experts like yourself! But as you know, as more of a hard rock/old man heavy metal guy, it was fresh and fun for me to do something like this, especially to get re-educated again on the pre-Dark Side of the Moon albums, which I hadn’t paid much attention to in recent years.
 
BD: To what extent do you try to balance your own input on each album in a book like this, relative to the input from those you are interviewing? 
 
The fun part is I get to say my say completely in the fairly long and involved intros to each album. After that I’m perfectly happy leaving all the views up to everyone else. I might have leading questions that I ask over and over where I seem to be soliciting a certain response, and maybe because they are leading questions, they do steer the narrative, but other than that, for this style of book, it’s all about the views of the contributors after the introduction.
 
BD: Were there any particular surprises in the process of writing Pink Floyd: Album by Album?
 
Yeah, because actually your input, I learned quite a few cool little trivia bits about the last few albums. And again, I really got to digest and restructure and re-memorize all those old albums. It’s really quite a remarkable career, how completely crazy Pink Floyd were allowed to be leading up to Dark Side of the Moon.
 
BD: Did you ever entertain the idea of including the live albums (other than the live material on Ummagumma)?
 
No, with five books like this, I just thought talking about the live albums would be the most boring thing. To me, I’m famously not a live gig guy or a live album guy. In fact, once I’ve seen a band two or three times, I almost feel like I never need to see them again. Ha ha, this is actually true, and I’m barely exaggerating, really, but I have these conversations with like, Rush tribute bands, maybe some of the people who were actually in the Rush: Album by Album book, who invite me to their gig, and to let them down easy, but actually, I’m not kidding here, this is actually the truth, I tell them that if Rush themselves were playing the bar down the street like they were, I probably wouldn’t even go. Okay, the truth is, I would go to say that I was there, but I wouldn’t stay for the whole thing! I just don’t care. To me the important part is the writing of the song, and between the music and the lyrics, the lyrics are more important.
 
BD: You’re a prolific writer - what kind of care or attention do you put into a book after it’s released? Is it your focus only until the next release or do you find yourself promoting the book on anniversaries like this one (or on other occasions)?
 
No, I’m really not up on social media enough to be promoting books probably as well as the publishers would wish I would, but I feel I make up with it in being one of the big customers for my own books, buying them, signing them, and selling them mail order. In actual fact, the mail order of my own books, whether they’re self-published, or through a publisher, is the main part of my income every year. But no, basically, I’m onto the next thing. I’m pretty good with Facebook, I have Twitter, but I’m not very good with it, and I don’t even have a cell phone so I’m not doing Instagram.
  
Martin Popoff
BD: You worked for Xerox and co-owned a print brokering company for a brief time between your graduate studies and your first book: how did these experiences contribute to your development as an author and did they overlap with the publishing world in any way?
 
They overlap in one crucial way: I was comfortable with the laying out of documents, including long documents, and getting print quotes, and talking the language of print specifications. So the first book was self-published, and I felt completely comfortable with the process. Other than that, there was perhaps a little bit of that wanting to land yourself in a job that is more fun than your previous job, so figuring out how to get paid to be a music fan, because that’s essentially all I do, was a victory in itself. It’s never been a high-paying thing, but it’s been a pretty fun job. Art itself, for me, no question, is the next level up, and I dabble in that too. But that would be the next transition that would add some happiness, stop writing about other people’s art, and just do my own.
 
BD: How did you arrive at your career as an author? Did you write about music in college?
 
No, actually, the first thing I ever did was a self-published book of about 2000 heavy metal record reviews, called Riff Kills Man! 25 Years of Hard Rock & Heavy Metal, in 1993. And then that thing got republished through a publisher, greatly expanded, and then it was on from there. Actually, in 1994, very significantly, I joined Tim Henderson in his Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles magazine, and that’s where I started interviewing all these bands. Magazines still existed for a few years, so I got a few other gigs, and then website gigs. But yeah, the main point is, I wouldn’t have done 2000 interviews without getting involved in the print and web journalism side of heavy metal. So I wouldn’t have done 80+ books without having a ton of interviews.
 
BD: You played drums in a band called Torque: did you guys play original material, covers, or a combination? What happened with the band?
 
15235541_1054972484626060_1416351109517133343_o.jpg
No, it was just covers. We never got any farther than that. But yes, I was technically a professional, getting paid to be a drummer in a band, in bars around where I grew up, Trail, BC. What did we cover? Blue Oyster Cult, Budgie, Judas Priest, Quiet Riot, ZZ Top, Deep Purple, U2, The Clash, the Eagles, UFO, Angel City, Thin Lizzy, Max Webster. It was 1984: you can basically figure out the songs
 
BD: Does your background as a drummer frame your perspective on the bands you write about in any way?
 
Definitely. I wish I had more musical knowledge, like say some guitar or piano, theory, chords, keys, so when I do books like the Led Zeppelin or the Clash, I can just go all musicologist on them. But even when I did those books, I could speak pretty authoritatively on drumming issues. But yes, I could speak more authoritatively on guitar and keyboards if I had that. I’ve always owned a guitar and a bass, and could play a little bass, could whack around on bar chords on the guitar no problem, do some easy soloing, but never learned any proper chords.
 
BD: In your view, who are some underrated drummers out there? Some truly great drummers that just don’t get the attention they deserve for being great at what they do?
 
I can never answer a question like this, because there are virtuosos everywhere, and the more underrated they are, well, that by definition means I’ve never heard of them. It’s like asking you who are some of the coolest people you don’t know exist. The point is, the system doesn’t work perfectly. There are virtuosos everywhere. Not in bands at all, in tiny bands, in medium size bands, in huge bands, who just make YouTube videos, who just do drum instruction, I’m sure. And then there’s the whole nature of what is a great drummer? And then we have the big debate about technical skill versus their own sound.
 
And then we have the debate about who did something first, over who is been captured doing some really cool things on some great recordings. I mean, I’ve recently had to defend my crazy idea that Jason Bonham’s twice the drummer his dad was. That takes into account most of the above dynamics. It’s all pretty ludicrous. It can’t be done.
 
BD: What is your perception of Nick Mason’s drumming style?
 
I don’t think he has one. Or put it this way—I don’t know what it is. But, fun exercise, and this would have to be a drummer to do this, absolutely: if you played all the Pink Floyd albums back to back, and blocked out everything else, just listening for the drumming, there’s about a 40% chance you’d pick out a few things he does more than other drummers. Because that’s what style is, really. Whether it’s impressive enough or signature enough or done often enough to say that he has a style, I’m skeptical.
 
Obviously, the drumming on Pink Floyd records is slow and sparse. Not a style.
 
BD: You’ve written extensively about heavy metal - was it difficult branching out into research and writing about classic rock bands like Pink Floyd, i.e., bands that don’t quite get cast as fitting anywhere near that genre?
 
No, because what I lost in expertise, I made up in enthusiasm. I mean, I grew up with Pink Floyd. It’s not like it was a foreign thing to me. It’s just that I’ve never particularly written about them, which makes it super fun and fresh. Those books, the cool thing is, sure, I had to do some research, but not a whole hell of a lot. It was up to you guys, the guest speakers, to talk authoritatively. I just had to ask smart enough questions.
 
BD: How and to what extent do you think Pink Floyd impacted hard rock and heavy metal?
 
I don’t think they impacted hard rock and heavy metal at all, but I have to tell you, a huge proportion of metalheads love Pink Floyd, so I have no doubt that Pink Floyd shaped the personalities of hundreds and hundreds of heavy metal people who made records and did big live shows. So, sure, there’s an impact, but it’s rich and insidious, not so obvious. I’m sure Pink Floyd has at least subconsciously made metal bands record better, write conceptually, be epic, explore dynamics between quiet and loud, and just be better artists all around.
 
Martin Popoff with Rick Neilsen and Tom Petersson of Cheap Trick
BD: Music videos played a big role in shaping and elevating hard rock and heavy metal into the mainstream at one point. Was MTV a blessing or a curse for the music industry? What do you make of what MTV has become? What do you think about the way heavy metal bands release videos now, largely consisting of computer animation and lyrics?
 
Videos now will never have the magic of videos in the old days. There’s just too much competing for your entertainment eyeball. And of course when they’re done on the cheap, that just makes it even less so. I’ve no idea what MTV has become. I just know that it doesn’t do what it used to do in the ‘80s and ‘90s. I’m exactly like so many rock stars that I’ve interviewed when it comes to MTV. They talk about how they had to clamber to find a place to watch it, and they were just mesmerized. Me, I distinctly remember the way we saw it was standing outside in the freezing winter ice and snow in Nelson, BC, watching it when all the stores are closed on a TV and a showroom window. I was in second-year university, and swear to God, that was one of our evening pastimes. Go down and stand on the sidewalk and watch videos until you couldn’t feel your toes anymore. This was 1982, 1983.
 
BD: How do you feel the MTV era impacted bands like Pink Floyd?
 
They had some great videos, and I’m sure it helped the sales of Momentary Lapse of Reason and The Division Bell. Absolutely helped Yes and Genesis too. It was way more important for hard rock and heavy metal bands, new wave bands, almost anything besides the prog bands. It wasn’t that big a deal for the prog bands.
 
BD: Is the album dead and AOR dead? It seems bands are all much more focused; on releasing singles – hasn’t it become difficult for artists to develop full albums in this market?
 
Yeah, it’s pretty logical that we’re moving to a song-based format. I lament that, of course. I think there’s a critical mass and synergy when you get ten little works of art all together. There’s just more to talk about, more context. But if I had an open mind about it, it’s all been pretty arbitrary. We went from the 30-minute album (and that was a collection of singles, or unrelated things) to the 40-minute album to the 60- and 70-minute album, and now if albums are gone, who am I to complain?
 
BD: I was recently watching an old interview with Joe Lynn Turner where he talks about his sense that Deep Purple wasn’t as well received with an American singer - and that this impacted the band’s self-perception, which was the catalyst for that line-up’s short life. Despite our commonalities as a people within the Anglosphere, do you feel British, American, Canadian, Australian, etc. rock fans perceive rock music differently? Do they relate to it differently? What do you feel makes a rock band distinctly Canadian, American, British, etc.?
 
The only good thing for an English person about a properly “foreign” rock band, is that they often come up with some pretty wacky, cool sounding melodies and ideas that English bands wouldn’t think of. I’m thinking of how we thought Scorpions were geniuses in the old days, and weird cool things that you would hear Baron Rojo or Loudness do. But the singing is always a disaster. There’s no value to me whatsoever to hear a band sing in a foreign language, first off, and then there’s usually some sense of distraction, with the accent or with the bad grammar of a band, but not always, when they do attempt to sing in English. So that’s it, mostly a minefield of negatives when it comes to lyrics and singing, and occasionally some moments of magic when it comes to the music. Funny though, when it came to prog bands, I just had a very low acceptance level of any prog that wasn’t English based (PFM, Omega), other than Krautrock. I think, just in general, German bands are basically pretty cool. Plus, of course, they almost always try to sing in English anyway. I don’t think fans perceive bands differently, and I don’t even think there’s any commonality or differences to all the countries that speak English, when it comes to rock. In fact, most of the time the non-English speaking bands, are just copying, but a year too late, what the English bands are doing. Of course there are cool little regional things that go on, but they’re rarely that great.
 
BD: You consider Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti the greatest record of all time, followed by Black Sabbath’s Sabotage... where does Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon fit and do you think there’s any other album in Pink Floyd’s catalog that is actually better than Dark Side of the Moon?
 
My favourite has always been Animals, followed by Wish You Were Here. I tell you, I’ve never thought of this before, but I’m saying it now, if Animals was a double, or even 45 minutes long, it would be way up my list of favourite albums. But I’ve never been able to shake this sense of being shortchanged, about it being too short an album. But sure, Animals is one of my top 100 favourite albums of all time. Problem is, there are a lot of albums in this world!
 
BD: What do you consider the greatest rock debut album of all time?
 
Interesting question, a few they come to mind, Montrose, Van Halen, Badlands, Holy Diver. I have this debate with people all the time. Sometimes the greatest is the second album, sometimes it’s in the middle, sometimes bands make a whole lotta crappy albums before they get good. I try to not fall into a rut and think a band’s best albums have to be at any point in the cycle.
 
BD: What do you think about these hologram tours - like the hologram Dio tour?
 
I think it’s great. Bring it on! I’ve no problem with it. I just hope it’s done better and better as time goes on. I mean this Dio one, I don’t know anything about it, but having other singers involved? That doesn’t really make a lot of sense to me.
 
BD: Are there too many tribute bands?
 
The market will bear whatever the market will bear. But sure, in saying that, when I see a tribute band, I do get a sense that there’s an incredible waste of talent there, that I want to hear originals from all these people. And I don’t even care if they’re somewhat in the style of the band they’re paying tribute to. In fact, I have this wacky idea that there’s a whole music segment that should start up that hasn’t been invented yet, where a bunch of really intense musicologist type virtuosos, engineers, producers, create Led Zeppelin’s album from 1974 or 1978, or the Pink Floyd album from 1978.
 
BD: Do you think this modern practice of so many iterations of the same band touring concurrently could be destructive to the integrity of a band’s history (more than one version of LA Guns, or Great White, or RATT, etc.)?
 
Yes, it’s stupid. The debate I find more fruitful, or where I have an opinion, is this idea that the lead singer, especially if he’s writing the lyrics, is almost always easily 50% of the band. Everybody else is replaceable. So the iteration that has the singer is by far the most valid to me, almost always.
 
BD: A band that was deeply influenced by Pink Floyd, Queensryche, endured one of these splits - at one point there were two line-ups using the name Queensryche. Now, it seems the current members of the band using the name Queensryche only include two members from the original line-up... what’s happening here and what do you make of this? If Geoff Tate were to reunite with Chris DeGarmo and Scott Rockenfield, would they have a more legitimate claim to the name? Where do you draw lines on this?
 
With the legalities aside, you don’t even have to bring Chris and Scott into the equation with Geoff, given the importance I put on lead singers. Right now, what Geoff is doing is more Queensryche than Queensryche, but just by the flesh and blood. But having said that, it’s because he’s making heavy progressive music right now. If he was out doing the stuff he was doing on his solo album, then no. And plus Geoff has Kelly Gray with him, so I mean, at this point they are a more legitimate lineup. But the legal side of it has wound its way through the system, and he’s not calling it Queensryche, and sure, real Queensryche is making more Queensryche-like music than Geoff, but not by as much compared to what I just said above. In fact, even if Geoff was making Queensryche music like all of those later albums he was on when they were being stylistically wacky, he would be less Queensryche-like. But no, sure, if we were back before the legal battle and he was calling the band that, and he had Kelly Gray, and Scott was no longer in the real Queensryche, and he was writing traditional Queensryche, his band would be more legitimately Queensryche.
 
BD: Are artists participating in too many music projects at once? Do you feel this impacts focus and originality? It’s hard to keep track these days, e.g., George Lynch is in so many bands it’s hard to count!
 
No, I don’t mind bands having all sorts of different projects. The more great music, the merrier. It’s the only way to make money as well. Plus it’s a way to be extra creative, and the creativity is way more important to me than the playing live, although really, that’s the actual model that is the only legitimate moneymaker.
 
BD: What bands do you consider the best live?
 
As I mentioned, I really don’t need to see too many live shows. It’s a waste of time. You’re standing, it’s past my regular drinking hour, the sound is bad and it’s too loud so you have to put in earplugs. If you drove, you can’t drink anyway. You gotta go home super late at night. It’s mostly negative’s for me! Having said that, of course, there are magic moments seeing live bands. But it always feels like a guilty pleasure. Entertain me! I feel guilty just being entertained. I like to do work. I like to do these books. The only kind of work that can come from a live show is reviewing the live show. Which I always found kind of stupid, and a snore. Sure, interesting things can happen in a live show, but there are so many logical things that have always bugged me that I don’t want to get into, like the band is having a bad night. What does that mean? How can the whole band have a bad night at the same time, or play bad at the same time? Or this band blew that band off the stage. There’s so much to unpack there. Who do I love live? Clutch is amazing live. I’ll tell you who’s great live, Fozzy! Just a nutty bundle of energy. In terms of heritage acts, I’m blown away about how vital Uriah Heep is live. But no, at most live shows, after two or three songs I’ve really gathered up about as much as I need to see and hear. I’m looking to get out of there.
 
BD: Are there any bands you like but we’d be surprised to learn you haven’t seen live yet?
 
Tons of bands I never saw live. Floyd, Grateful Dead, Queen, Thin Lizzy with Phil. But in terms of bands that have been around for a whole bunch of the years that I’ve been an adult that I haven’t seen live? Good question. Let me think for a moment. Well, any New Wave of British Heavy Metal band that never came over here. Kansas. They never seem to come to Canada. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Heart live. Never seen Genesis, never seen The Police. Never saw Nirvana.
 
BD: Do you worry that the use of tracks during concert performances is becoming too regular - too common? There was a campaign a few years ago “Live Means Live” but it doesn’t seem it gained any steam. Is it a necessary part of a good production or did the “Live Means Live” campaign have a point? Should there be a disclaimer on concert tickets that some parts of the performance are pre-recorded?
 
Yeah, that definitely bugs me. I do feel tricked by pre-recorded tapes, especially, of course, vocals. Do I feel strongly about it? No. I guess word gets out. Plus I don’t care about live shows very much. Sure, put a disclaimer. What even is a concert ticket anymore? In the old days, like six months ago, it was something you printed off your printer. Now it’s on your phone.
 
BD: Have you reconsidered your view on a band, an album, or a specific era in a band’s history after interviewing anyone for any of your books? Has an interview ever made you reconsider any of these things and given you a chance to listen to something you hadn’t been keen on with fresh ears?
 
Oh, for sure, all the time. In fact, in almost every case, talking to someone extensively about their art makes you go appreciate their art more, or go reconsider it more, or you certainly just know about it more. Me talking to a rock star about the record pretty much serves the same purpose in that specific respect as you or anybody reading one of my books. That’s why I love immersion box sets, of the type or example that Pink Floyd have done. All that extra context just makes you appreciate the art more. Always.
 
BD: You’ve probably met many of the musicians you grew up listening to and looking up to as artists: has meeting and getting to know some of them broken a “fourth wall”, so to speak? Does it change something in the dynamic or perception of those artists and the way your perceive their art? Is there any situation where you’ve felt the adage “never meet your heroes, because they’re sure to disappoint you” has been applicable and if so why?
 
Only very occasionally has it broken a fourth wall, in terms of… well, the worst kind of breaking of the fourth wall is people that bug you to the point where you want to avoid them, or people that want to be your friend. And you’re like, I’ve got two or three times as many friends as I need already. But I’ve almost never had the “never meet your heroes” thing. It almost always turns out great meeting your heroes, or talking to them, or hearing what their art is about. Occasionally people can be in a grumpy mood, and it might clog your perception. A few times also I’ve written negative or reviews of someone, and they got mad at me, so every time I listen to their records, I remember how they were mad at me and I can’t listen to their records anymore. And then right after I’ve written a book, and it could last a long time or forever, there are certain bands I can’t listen to anymore because I burnt out on them writing the book or just the very fact of writing the book makes listening to those bands feel like I’m at work or something. It’s an interesting question. If you talk to some artists long enough, do they become too much like normal people, that you can’t look at their art as epically and seriously as you did before? That might actually have happened the odd time.
 
BD: We know politics are as polarized as ever – even though some claim they’ve technically always been this way, there’s something truly visceral about how intense the polarization is: do you feel some musicians get carried away with sharing their political views? Should there be more room for diverse views in the music industry?
 
First of all, almost nobody in music expresses their political views. And then the only ones we remember are those who are right-wingers, like Ted Nugent. And maybe I guess Jon Schaffer from Iced Earth got himself quite a reputation there for a little while. But there’s an interesting parsing I’d like to make, or a point I’d like to make about your question. I made a vow with myself that the only time I would ever talk politics is when I have something to say that is completely unique that I haven’t heard before. Because I’m a political junkie. I listen to hundreds of hours of American politics. So I have these, like seven or eight things that I thought that I feel like nobody else has thought or ever said, and those are the only thoughts I can ever think about ever bringing up in a political discussion. The reason I tell you this, is because if I was to imagine some interview with a musician, where he goes on, and rails about Trump I can guarantee you, it’s gonna be incredibly boring, the definition of boring in this case being something we’ve heard a million times before. Because think about it: this is a conversation. With a musician. It’s not a written and considered thing, first of all, and it’s not a professional pundit or politician—it’s a musician. My point is, almost any time I’ve ever interviewed a musician, and it’s gone into political waters, I’m just desperately looking for a way to get out of it and go somewhere else, because it’s wasted minutes. It’s just incredibly dull.
 
BD: Since you feel strongly Black Sabbath has produced one of the most important rock albums ever, do you have any specific views on the band’s life after Ozzy Osbourne? How did you feel about the Dio era? Is the Tony Martin era unfairly glossed over?
 
To me, sadly, when I think about it, the Tony Martin era is just a watered-down version of the Dio era. I love, love, love, one album, and that’s The Eternal Idol, and as I’ve said recently, the only reason that album is different from any of the other ones is that for some bizarre, coincidental reason, all the good songs are on that record. Weird idea I know, but it’s almost like everything across all those albums is interchangeable, but it just so happens that the top ten songs are on that record. Now, the Dio era, I’ve also made this point many times, and it’s this: the band in the Ozzy era was pure art, and what they did in the Dio era was really, really good heavy metal. The unpredictability, the artistry, the lack of being in any kind of a box, was gone. As great as Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules are, it’s craft, not art.
 
BD: Do you feel production quality has waned in the music industry? Are people settling for less, doing what is necessary to deliver the goods through streaming services but not really packaging the recorded work for people who want higher fidelity?
 
Complicated question. You want perfection. But when every record is perfect, we all complain! I’ve often said that Dark Side of the Moon is the BC/AD moment. After that, a record could never sound better, just different. At that point, a point of perfection, you could now make artistic choices, be deliberate about what you want to hear, but you no longer had the excuse that there were limitations. Flash forward almost 50 years, and you can do whatever you want. Being able to do whatever you want means that none of the outcomes will ever be particularly impressive—it was just not that hard to get there. And so we have 100 times as many albums coming out all the time and they are all 100 times more perfect than anything you could get in 1972, and so we’re just disoriented.
 
BD: The Sunset Boulevard era of hard rock and heavy metal was a particularly important one - spawning bands like Van Halen, Motley Crue, and Guns n’ Roses - but are there any bands from that era and place that you feel fell through the cracks and never got the exposure and following they deserved?
 
Yes, my favourites from the early days are Black n’ Blue and Kick Axe. But the best stuff came at the point when it was essentially all over, and here you had Collision, Badlands, and my go-to that is almost comical at this point, because everybody knows I rail on about how great they are, is Love/Hate. They fell through the cracks because the crack became a chasm. That kind of music was over, replaced by grunge. Wasted in America makes Appetite for Destruction look like Rocks compared to Aerosmith. But then again, one of those came out in 1992 and the other one came out in 1987. One of them is Jason Bonham, and one of them is John Bonham, so we’re back at that argument.
 
BD: In your writing efforts, have you ever tried to contact musicians that have chosen a more private life in order to get their perspective on their own history, of other bands, or the general music of the era, etc.? Folks like Vito Bratta, etc.? What has the response been like, if so?
 
Sure, like any journalist, it’s always more fun when you get someone who’s done very few interviews, and you get their perspective. It’s that whole idea of getting a scoop, as it were. It’s funny, I have this relationship with Martin Birch [Deep Purple, Iron Maiden, Fleetwood Mac, Whitesnake, etc. engineer and producer]. Over the years, I email him, and he gets back to me in a couple of hours, very polite, might even say a few noteworthy little tidbits. I don’t push, but I have asked a couple times over the years, do an interview with me! And the depressing thing is, one time he did call back, but I was at the other end of my office and I didn’t hear the phone. This is where my relationship with Martin Birch stands today.
 
BD: The Queen bio-pic was a hit and now there’s the Elton John one. Apparently there’s a Boy George one too. These are largely autobiographical ... is the popularity of these autobiographical films a sign that people don’t want a “warts and all” history of these artists?
 
Hey, I work at Banger Films, and I realize the agonizing limitations of trying to prioritize what you want to say in 90 minutes. It’s actually one of the big stresses the entire time. Which is why I like books. And in fact, which is why I like self-publishing books, because I’m at the point know where I’ve told the story of a band in two books a few times, and in the case of Thin Lizzy, three books. I’m that geeky nerdy fan that wants to put everything in, and even still, over the course of two books, I’m really leaving tons of stuff out and am bummed about it. I think it was Geddy Lee who said once, “Mixing is the death of hope.” And then there’s the ol’ “Art is never finished; it’s just abandoned.” My burning question about the Queen movie, which I thought was absolutely beautifully and excellently done, was really, why do you have to get the historical facts so wrong, so deliberately? And even when it doesn’t matter. The first big lie, or one I noticed, was the playing of “Fat Bottoms Girls” in 1975 or something. Forget the massive story, or massive fudge, that Freddie knew he had AIDS when he played Live Aid; that kind of stuff is sort of excusable in the quest for story arc. But why just screw things up when they are such easy fixes? I know—it’s the audacity of being Queen!
 
BD: What would you predict is next for Pink Floyd and its surviving members?
 
Who knows? I’m not in the know. All I can say is David can still play guitar and Roger can still sing, so they can keep doing what they’re doing. And also, that last Roger Waters album shook me to my fiber. I love it more than any solo album from anybody in the band and any Pink Floyd album. It’s my favourite album by anybody of the last 20 years, probably. Honestly, I love it so much, I wish Roger would just become a theatre act playing nothing but his solo material. No Floyd.
 
BD: What is your next project?
 
A trilogy of Rush books, one on the ‘70s, one on the ‘80s and one on the rest of the career to the end. A Maiden book, possibly a Queensryche book. I have literally 15 book ideas. But I’m getting to the point in my life where every one of those seems to be a dodge from doing something more courageous and interesting, which is art. So I’m sneaking in lots of art, although it’s really 50% art, 50% a medium/media search, the trying out of materials all over again. It’s crazy; I love art so much that I could almost see myself manically working in about five different media cycling around and around chaotically until the much deserved heart attack catches up with me.

Popoff's most recent releases are Born Again!: Black Sabbath in the Eighties and Nineties, Judas Priest: Turbo ‘til Now, and Aces High: The Top 250 Heavy Metal Songs of the '80s. For more information about Popoff's 83 books, including Pink Floyd Album by Album, visit www.martinpopoff.com. All photographs courtesy of www.martinpopoff.com
 
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Last Updated ( Tuesday, 09 July 2019 )
 
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