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Home arrow Interviews arrow David Gilmour interviews arrow May 21st 2006 - Sueddeutsche, Germany
May 21st 2006 - Sueddeutsche, Germany Print E-mail

Translated for Brain Damage from German by Jens and Ulrike

Ex-Pink Floyd member David Gilmour about his success: “Very rich and very very unhappy”

Q: Mr. Gilmour, did you notice the autograph hunters waiting outside?

David Gilmour: Yes.

Q: There are a lot of young folks amongst them.

DG: There are a lot of young people on this tour anyway. Yes, well. But I don’t like giving any autographs.

Q: Why not?

DG: I just don’t like giving away my hand writing into the hands of foreigners.

Q: But it’s only your name. What is the reason that you don’t like it?

DG: Well, it´s my name after all. My handwriting. Maybe it’s a little like the Indians are viewing it, who don´t like to be photographed, because they felt robbed of their soul by it? Maybe it´s like that. I don´t want to hurt anyone. It means a lot to me, that the people are coming. But I just don´t like putting my name on unknown pieces of paper. Honestly, I don´t understand this kind of hype.

Q: Hype?

DG: The hype of my person.

Q: You are one of the most influential guitarists, that’s the way it is.

DG: Anyway, for those people knowing me I´d like to be only a musician. But people listening to my music are thinking: David Gilmour is so and so. But that´s not the way I am.

Q: What are you like then?

DG: I´m insulting and unjust. Not always, of course. But I have my dark sides too. As a natural born Brit I´m hiding behind a wall of irony. I´m tending to use a quite violent kind of sarcasm. That´s the way I´ve been brought up.

Q: Would you please define success for us?

DG: No, I’m simply unable to do so.

Q: As one of the most important members of Pink Floyd you have been part of one of the biggest successes in the entertainment industry, or have you?

DG: And also my new solo album is one of the best selling records in Europe and the USA. So far I´m speaking of the numbers of my success.

Q: Did you expect that?

DG: Yes, I expected it. I know, that it´s a great, very personal record. It´s avoiding any unnecessary effects, it has a flow. It would have been a very good record even if there would be sold only 10 of it. Let´s put it this way: believe it or not, recording this album with my friends had been more important than selling it.

Q: But you must be proud of the success of your CD and the rushing to your tour, or are you?

DG: Yes, of course I am. But I´m not counting my luck by the sales. I´m a happy man. Imagine, I turned 60 a few days ago. An unbelievable story of success.

Q: Why are you that happy?

DG: Also a carpenter can be happy, or can he?

Q: Well, you aren´t a carpenter. Is money bringing happiness?

DG: No! Money isn´t bringing happiness! I´ve met many famous people over the last decades, all of them have been enormous rich, and enormous unhappy too. Unhappy is even putting it mildly, given the depressing mood they have been in. Have these people been successful? No, they have not.

Q: Some of them had to learn how to be dealing with success?

DG: Some of them died early.

Q: I understand.

DG: That´s the way it is. And because of it I´m saying today: I am my own personal success story. And I´m alive. I have a wonderful wife. And I have 8 kids.

Q: 4 with your first wife, and 4 with your second.

DG: That´s the way it is.

Q: How is your second wife Polly dealing with your blunders we´ve been talking about earlier?

DG: That´s a very personal question.

Q: Polly Samson is a very acknowledged journalist and writer. Both of you are also writing lyrics together...

DG: ..yes, obviously our marriage is a creative one. She is capable of things I ain`t.

Q: Regarding what?

DG: Talking, writing. Dealing with language. I can handle my instrument, my voice that is. I´d think that I´m lacking the right words quite often. Maybe you´ve already realized that.

Q: Certainly that is not easy for your wife.

DG: She is calling me “somewhat nonverbal” in her nice moments, in lesser nice moments “autistic”.

Q: 8 kids maybe a success story too.

DG: That is my opinion too. However: 8 kids are really quite a lot. You understand what I mean?

Q: Regarding the noise?

DG: When some of the kids are bringing friends to our home indiscriminately, then it´s not only a lot. Then it´s too many.

Q: Are you serious?

DG: No.

Q: So no what?

DG: I really love all that. It´s the absolute luck.

Q: Imagining the life of the former great rocker Gilmour, is that the normal English country life?

DG: Absolutely! Bringing kids to shool, fetching them up from shool, bringing kids to kindergarden, fetching them up there. Painting with kids, hanging paintings in the kitchen.

Q: My kids wanted an electrical guitar.

DG: Fine. How old are they?

Q: Six and nine. A good idea?

DG: Yes, on the one side.

Q: And on the other?

DG: You should beware.

Q: Why that?

DG: The electrial guitar is a dangerous instrument. It can entice you to be regarding yourself as irresistible. I´ve seen people being shattered who have been thinking that way of themselves. I´ve been extremely lucky, they have not.

Q: Are you saying, you only have been lucky? You must be kidding.

DG: There are a lot of guitarists technically out-classing me. Maybe you´ll find the one or the other in the London tube.

Q: But your style is one of a kind.

DG: That would be my guess too. And that might be more important for being successful than being a virtuoso. Those can be nerve wrecking, can they not?

Q: Due to their bragging?

DG: Maybe so. Then it´s more a presentation of speed etc. Terrible. I wouldn´t have been able to do so technically. However, I´ve been at the right time at the right place, in a strange band called Pink Floyd.

Q: Understand, so one should...

DG: One should confront kids with a broadband of possibilities. No pressure!

Q: This issue is really touching you?

DG: Yes. There are too many getting nuts in this circus. Living in a band, touring with it, that is surreal. And I got the impression, that this isn´t going to change. The younger bands are just imitating the old ones. And sometimes I´m thinking there must be a kinda cookbook for the aspiring rockstar. Drugs, girls, dreamy eyes, etc.

Q: Is this boring you?

DG: Please don´t misunderstand me. I´m not bored by all of these new and also partial good bands. But their attitude is unnerving. Then I´m sometimes thinking: Jesus! Ain´t that gonna change ever? The same old tricks? Nothing could be further from reality than this circus. But when reaching the limits, some are shattered.

Q: Where is your luck located?

DG: Today? In the family of course.

Q: In your mind, what is a young rock musician, maybe even one who is admiring you, thinking, when he is reading your plea for a family life?

DG: I have no idea at all, what this young musician might be thinking. Sometime, however, he might come to the conclusion that the old man had been right.

Q: Then there are young bands, who are reaching your ear?

DG: Of course there are. For example the Arctic Monkeys are a good band. Mike Skinner of the Streets is great. There is good stuff outa there.

Q: Pink Floyd had been one of the first bands playing in stadiums. You have not only been part of the circus, you invented it significantly.

DG: And I won´t be saying now: I´m regretting it. That would be a lie and untrue. It is rumoured that Pink Floyd would have been difficult, and would have been shattered by our magnitude. But the truth is: We had a lot of fun! We had it all, in abundance. However: I´m more lucky today.

Q: On stage there are 100.000 people stretching their hands to you. What is that like?

DG: Like a drug. Nothing else.

Q: Because…

DG: Well, what is happening, when the drug effects are fading? One is falling deeply. 100.000 applauding people are thrilling for the ego. A short while later you are sitting alone in a hotel room. Maybe you are seeing ghosts then in that silence, and maybe they are permitting you to be waving them kindly.

Q: On this tour you will be playing – with a few exceptions - in smaller venues, but very dignified ones.

DG: I´m enjoying that very much. I´m aware that we would have sold out even bigger venues. It´s possible, that we will be playing a few big, beautiful places. There are a lot of people, who didn´t get any tickets this time. But in a stadium I don´t want to play anymore.

Q: When we talked a few years ago, there had been unbelievable offers for a reunion of Pink Floyd. For a stadium tour.

DG: These offers are coming all the times. The sums are grotesque. Absolute absurd.

Q: You said then: I don´t have any inclination for that shit.

DG: Did I use these words?

Q: Yes.

DG: So so, Well. Now I can see the faces of the people sitting in the audience. And when we are misplaying and have to interrupt a song and are exchanging opinions on the stage, then nothing has to be reprogrammed 100 meters away.

Q: You have been misplaying on this tour?

DG: In the venue Olympia in Paris we even misplayed for several times. Pure chaos.

Q: You aren´t doing that intentionally, or do you?

DG: Not directly,

Q: But?

DG: It´s been proven to be working to wake up those people in the halls, who have fallen asleep and are snoring loudly during the slower pieces.

Q: You´ve been talking of the lucky carpenter. Please don´t tell me, that your wealth is tantalizing you?

DG: Sure. But it´s a lot of money. It´s much more than me, my wife or kids will ever be able to spend.

Q: Bad conscience?

DG: Yes.

Q: You can´t be serious.

DG: I am. There was a time when I have been troubled by that a lot. I´ve drawn my consequences of that.

Q: The homelessness charity Crisis for example is advertising with you as a prominent supporter. You are donating a lot of pounds.

DG: I´ve never asked for it to be published hugely. Nothing could be further from the truth. But Crisis asked for it, because they have been hoping for a copy cat effect – and their hope had been proven right. Without massive private donations the Common Ground project would never been realised.

Q: What kind of a project is it?

DG: Crisis is taking care of the reintegration of homeless people. Of homes. Of jobs. Without any private donations it wouldn´t work at all.

Q: So private donors are correcting the mistakes of the administration?

DG:´s never doing the right thing, you understand? Actually, our administration is screwing up here and there. But as a rich, blessed human being I shouldn´t attack the administration for not spending enough taxes for social projects. Other people are working much harder for their money – and I´m somewhat ashamed by that, when reading in the newspaper, how much or little they are earning. If you are as rich as I am, it´s not only due to hard work. It´s also due to a lot of unbelievable luck. There is nothing heroic about it.

Q: What are your kids saying when their daddy is donating so much money instead of giving it to them?

DG: Oh, it´s my money after all. Not the money of my kids. They won´t be harmed if they had to be earning their own money on their own.

Q: As such a rich man, is it possible to be a lefty with a good conscience?

DG: I´d like to put it this way: I´m simply not able to sing to the world from the perspective of an underdog. However, am I obliged to give up my convictions, which are in my heart since I´ve began thinking as a young guy? Have I to be a Tory now? There is still a socialistic heart beating in my chest. I simply can´t change that.

Q: Sounding like a conscience dilemma for someone with hippie ideals?

DG: Oh please! I don´t know yet what a hippie is like.

Q: Pink Floyd has been a band of Hippies. Or has it?

DG: Really? I´d rather say: We´ve been part of the darn establishment! We have been ambitioned. At some times even avant-garde. And against the establishment. But suddenly we were rich. From that second on we´ve been part of the establishment. That´s what coming along with the money. You can´t change that. Suddenly you have achieved. And it would be senseless denying that we wouldn´t have enjoyed the wealth with the one or other orgy.

Q: Mr. Gilmour, I simply have to ask you this question, because it´s of interest for a lot of fans.

DG: Live 8!

Q: Will be there nothing more than the one-time revitalisation of Pink Floyd for the 4 songs, we could enjoy in 2005 in London?

DG: (All of the sudden DG is yawning for a long long time. Then he is sneering below is tired eyes from one ear to the other. He is looking like a child, which had been naughty and is going with that to bed in a very complacent mood). Maybe we will be doing that once again, mmh, let´s say, when there is a special opportunity. That had been a nice thing, or what?

Q: Your intimate enemy, Roger Waters, and you – you didn´t scratch your skin off during the rehearsal?

DG: Oh no. Two civil seniors. I mean, after 20 years of silence we have been talking again. A social role model. But that´s no reason to be pretending as if the band would have any future.

Q: You´ve been saying in the magazine “Word”, the appearance had been like sex with your ex. Please!

DG: It´s been meant in the way that my musical future can´t be lying in the past, case and point. It´s not been referring to the evening in the Hyde Park. They have been interpreting freely, the fine gentlemen of the English Press.

Q: Were the 4 songs for the appearance chosen democratically?

DG: Somehow, yes.

Q: So?

DG: Roger wanted to begin with “The Flesh” from the “Wall” album and then to play “Another Brick in the Wall”, also from the Wall album.

Q: And then you would have sung "We don´t need any education”. Not the appropriate lyrics for that occasion?

DG: Of course not. So I said: We won´t begin with “In the Flesh”. And we won´t play the other song either, I don´t like them anyway.

Q: And?

DG: As you might have noticed, we didn´t play those 2 songs.

Q: No dispute?

DG: There had been a civil discussion, however…anyway.

Q: Which?

DG: This had been indicating what might be happening when we would try it together in bigger terms. That would make no sense. In Hyde Park Roger had been something like, well, a guest.

Q: Did both of you meet since then?

DG: We met once. As I´ve been entering the London restaurant "Wolseley“, there Roger was sitting. And together with Nick Mason.

Q: Surprise, Surprise.

DG: My thoughts.

Q: Just musing: The 30 year old superstar David Gilmour of 1976 would have been able to see the David Gilmour of the future, celebrating his 60s birthday in March of 2006 hugely in Notting Hill. What would you have been thinking then?

DG: What kinda question that is! Well. I believe he would have liked the guy. He would have been thinking: Anyway, that guy in the future, he is a cool dog.

Q: Fine. That´s all.

DG: He would have also seen the 8 kids, or not? He would have drawn the conclusion that the old man would have lived some kind of greed.

Q: I´d reckon yes.

DG: 8 kids! Well. That might have had made the David Gilmour of 1976 a bit nervous.

Our thanks to Jens and Ulrike, both of which (independently of each other!) very kindly translated this from German to English.

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