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Home arrow Interviews arrow Roger Waters interviews arrow May 17th 2003 - Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Germany
May 17th 2003 - Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Germany Print E-mail

Translated from German, as best we can. Apologies if we've got the odd bit slightly wrong! If you can correct anything we've got wrong, please let us know. Thanks! Original article currently available here.

Roger Waters on 1967, by Alexander Gorkow

Sueddeutsche Zeitung: Mister Waters, on the occasion of the re-release of the classic Pink Floyd work "Dark Side Of The Moon" I would like to delve a few years further back into the past.

Roger Waters: Okay, to which year?

SZ: 1966, the year in which Pink Floyd signed their first record contract.

Roger Waters: That was 1967, not 1966.

SZ: Sorry.

Roger Waters: That's okay.

SZ: A view into the deep past then.

Roger Waters: Ask what you want. You ask, I answer. Those are the rules.

SZ: Rules, which you did not always follow. There were times when to journalists you were considered frightening.

Roger Waters: I did not frighten the journalists. I did not talk with them. That is the difference.

SZ: Why do you smile?

Roger Waters: I remember the "Wish You Were Here" tour in America, in the middle of the seventies, when the Pink Floyd hysteria was in full flow. We had the most expensive PR manager to be found in Los Angeles, at our disposal. This was to control who we spoke to, in order to achieve the best performances on stage. We said: "Hey, stop, Gary! Listen: you will not have to do much work with us, because no matter who calls, whether TV, radio or print, your answer will always be: No! Always: No! Okay?"

SZ: Did he take good heed of it?

Roger Waters: Naturally he took good heed of it. But he was well paid.

SZ: No bad job.

Roger Waters: Indeed.

SZ: Why didn't you and the others want to talk with journalists?

Roger Waters: We wanted our peace, so that we could concentrate on our work. It is easy to get distracted, especially if one is on tour. I never closed this Faustian pact with the media, because I did not want to belong to the media. And it is simply that that you belong to the media very fast, if you not very promptly say "No!" They simply consume you, eat you up, them make of you, what they want.

SZ: Particularly your behaviour was, naturally, interpreted as arrogance.

Roger Waters: Definately, but you must look at this as a calculation, what it costs but also what you get in return: I had already paid the price for some misinterpretations in the tabloid press, both personally, and my music. It meant I got peace. Altogether this lasted for 15 years, when Pink Floyd was such a successful band; that was no bad deal.

SZ: Do you doubt that the young Roger Waters was a complicated human?

Roger Waters: No, and admittedly this had less to do with other humans than with the problems themselves, which I had. I was not really what one could call easy going, rather the exact opposite of it. But what about 1967? Still we are talking about the seventies...

SZ: Okay! I saw recently in a biography of Syd Barrett a photo, in which you and the band are clad in very multicoloured clothing, in London, and looking jubilant. You had just signed the aforementioned record contract. 1967.

Roger Waters: Swinging, or...?

SZ: Yes, swinging, even if you probably meant that rather ironically.

Roger Waters: In 1967 I had a very romantic conception of the music industry. You know, I had studied five straight years of architecture, and wanted to leave my mark on the world. It was a fine thing to have a record contract in the bag. We were unbelievably lucky and excited.

SZ: If I think of the photo, and hearing your comments now: that sounds so innocent, so naive, childlike even.

Roger Waters: Yes, that was perhaps fairly naive. I was a hopeless romantic at that time, and I had already some very romantic years behind me. I see myself still sitting around 1959 with my guitar in Paris on the Seine and playing, very badly, some blues licks. But, whether good or not, it meant in the long run that the 15-year old Roger sat in Paris at the Seine, and played the Blues.

SZ: If we speak today of London in the year 1967, we speak of Swinging London; in the aforementioned photo one would suspect, you were working on everything to give that impression.

Roger Waters: I want to be honest with you, the merry photo from the past: it was not "Swinging" London! I mean, where was it?

SZ: I didn't see it, I was still very young at that time. But you would have to definately know it! They were young and very multicoloured days, which had Pink Floyd playing in the UFO club, the Beatles went past, crazy girls, everything was so cool.

Roger Waters: I never saw Swinging London.

SZ: Mmm...

Roger Waters: Look: there was a series of events, that gave rise to the anti-nuclear weapon movement, it gave calls for the legalization of cannabis, and as you said: events, in the UFO club, wherever. But you cannot be told that there everywhere the Swinging Sixties were in the streets. In the streets a narrow-minded society followed its usual business.

SZ: Myth formation?

Roger Waters: Yes, definitely. In review we are inclined to subordinate to a certain generation an irrefutable total life feeling. We forget then that also we were young people different to each other, each with their own desires, fears, problems and so on. I fear, this applies in very high measure also to me.

SZ: What is with the sexual revolution?

Roger Waters: Yes, there you addressed the topic exactly right! Excuse me while I laugh...

SZ: The fact that you are capable of a smile only shows that this was denied to you!

Roger Waters: Yes, thus, we can now laugh about sex: you are speaking here with a man, who in 1967 was full of guilty feelings, if he thought of sex! I was ashamed to death. Even harmless sexual experiences had an rather incestuous feeling for me.

SZ: That is very sad! Everyone rolled contently in bed...

Roger Waters:...No, no, my young friend, not everyone! Definately not! Not I!

SZ:...There was no AIDS, it must have been pure paradise nevertheless...

Roger Waters:...Yes, but sadly enough: not for me! If you immediately feel guilty with each sexual moving, in your life a sexual revolution is almost the ultimate horror. In a more objective view, a sexual revolution is not a horror, but a wonderful thing, that is clear to me now. At that time, though, I did not feel that. [pauses] Which is naturally unfortunate. I fear, I missed out on it.

SZ: Excuse me, if I now turn a little into a tabloid newspaper reporter...

Roger Waters:You are not really as bad as a tabloid newspaper reporter.

SZ: Why did you feel guilty? Did it have to do with the close connection to your mother?

Roger Waters: Not only to my mother; a house full of women, except for me there was no man, my father was in the war...

SZ:...the whole trauma, which you dramatized later for "The Wall"...

Roger Waters:...absolutely; I would like to make it clear now from our discussion none for being a Freudian meeting, but naturally I had a notorious feeling. I, because of the loss of my father, would have to take the role of my father, and keep everything in order. Then was there still the aforementioned society outside: for adults in England, sex was fundamentally an extraordinarily shameful and dirty thing, you understand? Over each sexual contact the terrible, terrible, destructive consequence of a possible pregnancy hung! Now you laugh, but...

SZ:...They laugh nevertheless...

Roger Waters:...yes, but I mean nevertheless, and earnestly: If you slept at that time with a woman, to who you did not give years before all yes-words, then that was nothing different than the premature and sad end of your life. Such relationships were banned. So far my remarks to the unencumbered sex lives in the year 1967, relate at least just to my unencumbered sex life.

SZ: Then you had your personal sexual release much later then, I guess...

Roger Waters:Yes, definitely! Possibly I have it even now only in my old age!

SZ: Now only?

Roger Waters: No, let's forget about that! But still I must clarify something: this whole very Kafkaesque misery rested in the late sixties, completely on the middle class. Middle class was pure horror. I think that in the working class, which was at that time really still another working class more unburdened than they are today, because they didn't give a fuck, you know, they had nothing to lose; but in the middle class prospered the puritanical misery of the Victorian age which prospered as if it was in a greenhouse.

SZ: Mister Waters, I myself listened again to "Dark Side Of The Moon" yesterday. As so many critics and reviewers of Pink Floyd have commented, the facts are indisputable: the record is now 30 years old and still sounds very modern.

Roger Waters: Which partly has to do with the late sixties.

SZ: Why?

Roger Waters: Because, so much must be clear despite my earlier remarks: the sixties were a time, in which some from us began to look at a few fundamental questions on life, death, society, if you want, in one sense. When we then went on tour at the beginning of the seventies and rehearsed the material, it was consequently clear that this would become a fundamental record, encapsulating in itself life and those essential questions. And these questions do not come from our heads alone, they will always be there.

SZ: The record itself today still sells; in America alone over 500,000 copies per year. That is unbelievable.

Roger Waters: Yes and no, because as I said: it raises many essential, fundamental questions, and we succeeded surely, by the mixture of, in the long run, very traditional Blues and jazz elements with all the assembled pieces that make a kind of soundtrack of life, which humans would associate with. And also there are some quite amusing sides brought to the music. Humour with Pink Floyd was always understated. Not by the fans, but by the critics, naturally.

SZ: You sing on the record laconically: "Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way". Do you see this phlegmatic, this quiet despair in your compatriots still?

Roger Waters: Which I diagnose in England, in a purely pragmatic way, and this pragmatism will at the end arrange us. From a pragmatic viewpoint today's various social achievements, which we had ourselves after the war for many years nurtured, are risked. Also from pragmatism Blair marched into this crazy war, for very cold, and practical, and material interests; nothing else.

SZ: Blair and also Bush appear to be very religious.

Roger Waters: That makes the thing even worse, but that isn't the crucial point. This so-called war was a big mistake. As we will still see...

SZ: Are you disappointed with Labour?

Roger Waters: There is no Labour Party any more. There are the original Tories, and the other Tories. The original Tories are called the Tories, the other Tories are called "New Labour". Whatever that means.

SZ: Mister Waters, nearly 20 years ago you departed from your old colleagues, followed by one of the bizarrest fights in the history of entertainment. You are in contact again with keyboardist Rick Wright and drummer Nick Mason. How is your relationship with subsequent band leader, guitarist David Gilmour?

Roger Waters: There is no relationship. We haven't talked to each other since 1985, except recently regarding a recording, during a strange telephone conference.

SZ: What role did David Gilmour have in Pink Floyd?

Roger Waters: A big one. As an example, he is an excellent guitarist.

SZ: Hmm, sorry, but why don't you meet with David Gilmour, sit together after all these years and have a beer...

Roger Waters: Why should I do that?

SZ: As an example, in the case of a Pink Floyd reunion, they would pay unbelievable money!

Roger Waters: Im not interested in that. At the moment I'm working on an opera and on a regular studio album. Why should I waste my time talking to David Gilmour?

SZ: Because...

Roger Waters: Do you know what?

SZ: What?

Roger Waters: I don’t like him.

SZ: You don’t like him.

Roger Waters: Exactly, I dont like him. Very simple. David and I were always very different, with very different views and thoughts. It was like that when he joined the band in 1968. And it never changed. There comes a time when you have to realize the truth. And the truth is: I dont like him. [He smiles]

SZ: Very simple.

Roger Waters: As I said. Very simple.

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