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Tim Willis (Madcap author) - September 23rd 2002 - with Brain Damage Print E-mail
 

Tim WillisOur thanks to Tim Willis (left), author of new book, "Madcap" about the life and works of Roger Keith Barrett, for sparing the time to kindly answer some questions posed by Brain Damage.

The book is due to be published in October 2002, following exclusive extracts appearing in The Observer (UK Sunday newspaper) on October 6th.


Madcap book"Madcap" - why that title?
Well - it was an immediately recognisable name to any Barrett fan; but also, as Gilmour said when he chose the full album title, he wanted him to come across as a "jester" not a lunatic.

What does the book cover? Does it focus on the early Floyd years/the handful of solo Syd years, or does it look at his whole life in context?
The whole life.

What does your book offer that the others already published, don't? (I'm thinking of, for example, Lost In The Woods, or Crazy Diamond)
The former is a very confusingly written book, and makes some understandable errors (proabably because the Barrett chronology is so hard to get a handle on); the latter contains a lot of terrible mistakes. I haven't turned my book into an attack on theirs, tho'; I've just left out myths and straightened out the rest. And added a lot, too.

What is it about Syd/Roger that made you want to explore his life in detail?
I'm interested in cults per se; and I'm interested in rock music from that era; and I think that Barrett was a genius!

And his music - are you a fan? Any favourites?
I am indeed. It's hard to name a favourite. But, for some reason, I really like No Man's Land.

I understand you contacted Roger Waters and David Gilmour in connection with the book - what help did they give? Did you know either of them prior to working on this project?
I'm a good friend of DG, who was incredibly helpful: he spent hours talking and helping me check things. And of course, his friendship meant that other of Barrett's mates were willing to talk.

I wrote to Roger Waters, who was also unbelievably helpful, taking time out of his world tour for a face-to-face interview, for a long telephone call, and for a few e-mails.

There are great Waters and Gilmour scoops in the book - which you can see in three weeks time!

Did you contact Nick Mason for any information? He's often described as the band's archivist - did he offer any help?
I tried but he didn't reply; I guess he's working up his own book!

Did you get a feel for how they view the whole Syd/Roger story, and the enduring interest in it after all these years?
I think DG, RW and I are all agreed that Barrett was a genius - hence the enduring interest. I think I was probably able to bring them up to date and to give them some reassuring news. I mean, there's a tendency to view this story as a tragedy. I'm not so sure that it doesn't have a happy ending.

The rest of the band have always been very protective towards Roger - how did you convince them your intentions were honourable?
I must have a nice smile...

Who else did you speak to during the course of researching the book? Anyone out of the ordinary (in other words, anyone who has rarely spoken out about Syd/Roger in the past)?
All the girlfriends, Jock and Sue, 'Bob' Close, among others.

Who was most helpful?
1st prize DG; second prize Libby Gausden, third prize Lindsay Corner. (Special prize to RW, too.)

I understand you managed to meet Roger - presumably with the help of his sister Rosemary? How did it go?
I did meet him, but not with Roe's help. Well, it was short but - for me - incredibly sweet. (Sorry, sorry - but you'll have to wait for the book.)

Why do you think he agreed to this? Do you think he is able to cope better now with reminders of his past?
Part one: see above! Part two: Whatever mental state you're in, it must be a pain in the arse to have strangers bugging you about stuff you did 30 years ago; I think he copes better with the whole of life than he did at his nadir.

Recently we've seen the signed frontispiece of the Mick Rock book, and the BBC documentary - did he make mention of either of these?
I have info on both these - but see above!

Did you worry that he might be affected adversely by you meeting with him, to talk about his past?
Of course. And if it had turned out badly, I don't think I would ever have been able to forgive myself.

Did you feel it necessary to meet him to get an insight into the man?
Yes - and a sight of him. Obviously, if you're going to write a book about somebody, you want to get as close as you can, so you can form your own impressions.

Any news on his interest in art? He was working on a book on the history of art...
Yes, but see etc...

Are there any new lyrics, pictures, or anything?
Yes and yes, plus writings, letters, sketches and more!

Are there any stories/legends/myths that you've been able to prove as fiction?
Yes. But as I say, I've mainly done it by ommission. Having yes-he-did-no-he-didn't arguments in a book might bore people who are new to Barrett.

Was there anything you had to remove due to space restrictions? Did you run the book past anyone for their approval prior to printing?
No. It was always planned a short book. No one had veto on the book, but I did a hell of lot of checking before printing.

How long did the project take? What took the most time?
Hard to measure, because over the years I've absorbed a lot of info from DG. But I would say, recently, about three or four months all together.

What's next for you? Any more books in mind?
Yes. But it would be bad luck to talk about it yet.

How has your view of Syd/Roger changed since you started this project?
I was always impressed by him as an artist, but I'm even more impressed by him as a great human being now.

 
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