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Home arrow Interviews arrow Roger Waters interviews arrow May 16th 2003 - Der Spiegel, Germany
May 16th 2003 - Der Spiegel, Germany Print E-mail

Der Spiegel: Mr Waters, "The Dark Side of the Moon", which has now been revamped in 5.1 Surround sound, is still considered one of the most successful British records of all time. And even today, 30 years after its first release, it keeps selling some 8000 copies a week - in the US alone. Are you amazed at this success?

Roger Waters: Well, this record has probably become one of those classics that gets rediscovered again and again by younger generations. It is a very emotional piece of work about questions of human identity; those things never lose relevance. Bob Geldof called me recently to tell me how much he appreciates my work, even though he hated Pink Floyd for quite a while.

Der Spiegel: Why do you think this?

Roger Waters: We once asked him if he wanted to take part in the film of "The Wall". His manager at that time told him about it during a taxi ride. But Geldof started moaning: "Pink Floyd? That's the worst crap I can imagine!" Unfortunately, the taxi driver was my brother. He quietly listened to all of it and told me. We nearly died laughing!

Der Spiegel: Your favourite topic is angst. Are you an anxious type?

Roger Waters: No, but Kafka's view of the world has always been fascinating to me. "The Wall" is about the fear of being exposed, "The Dark Side of the Moon" about the anxiety of the individual to lose oneself in apathy.

Der Spiegel: For a long time you were the driving force behind Pink Floyd - until you parted from the band on bad terms some 20 years ago. What happened?

Roger Waters: It was just like most relationships: our lives grew apart. I wrote a lot of Pink Floyd's songs. And I very distinctly remember how, back when "The Dark Side of the Moon" was released, Rick Wright said in an interview that we didn't really care about our lyrics. I just thought, "well, maybe you don't, but I do". Another problem was that I was becoming an increasingly political person and I wanted to put some of that into our music. But Dave Gilmour wasn't at all excited about that. He is convinced that you shouldn't combine pop and politics.

Der Spiegel: British rock magazine "Mojo" once called you a "rock and roll despot", probably because you are known for not compromising your ideas and their realization. Can't pop bands work on a democratic basis?

Roger Waters: There always has to be one person setting the scene and leading the way, for the others. But that doesn't make the contribution of everybody else less important. I was the chief writer in Pink Floyd for a long time, but without the others the band wouldn't have worked. But don't let us fool ourselves: in the end, great art is always made by individuals.

Der Spiegel: Pink Floyd is a name known by millions. But the fact that Roger Waters was the driving force for a long time is only known to relatively few specialists. How frustrating was the experience of being distinctly less successful as a solo artist without Pink Floyd?

Roger Waters: The discovery that parting from the band also meant leaving behind the majority of the audience I was used to, was definately a rather surprising and hurtful one. But since then, I have made myself comfortable with it.

Der Spiegel: You are one of the most successful pop musicians of all time - but does anybody recognise you in the supermarket?

Roger Waters: Rarely. That's one of the good things about keeping one's anonymity as part of a band. I always prefered showing up as inconspicuously as possible. Not quite like Prince, who first sends seven bodyguards into a store before he enters it. Later on, he complains that he was constantly being stared at.

Der Spiegel: What do you as an old socialist think about the fraternity between the Labour government and the Bush administration?

Roger Waters: The power and force with which American materialism is turning English habits inside out is pretty shocking to me. I even wrote a song about how the traditional English bulldog has turned into Uncle Sam's poodle. All that political deceiving in the last couple of months reminded me of Madonna's records: much ado about nothing! I was more encouraged when I saw how Germany, France and Russia stood their ground. This whole craziness shocked me but also inspired some new songs.

Der Spiegel: If you are planning on releasing them in the US as well, you might be facing a boycott just like the Dixie Chicks who attacked George Bush...

Roger Waters: In the US there's hardly anything that could shock me at the moment. Things like Clear Channel are really frightening. They operate more than 1,200 radio stations in the US and are also active in corporate manegement. Christina Aguilera's manager told me she'd been called by Clear Channel and asked to play a concert for them. She refused. Consequently she was given to understand that her next single would not make it into their rotation if she didn't change her mind. This kind of misuse of power scares me.

Der Spiegel: You are turning 60 next year. Are you still going to blare out lines like "We don't need no education"?

Roger Waters: What should keep me from doing it?

Adapted from an excellent translation by Andre from the Echoes mailing list. Thanks Andre!

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