Have Pink Floyd split up?
MOJO magazine, October 2001
This is a transcript (by Simon W.) of an interview with David Gilmour, from Mojo magazine, released on October 16th, 2001, in the UK.
“I can't see anything in the near future myself, I’ve been enjoying doing things on a different scale, downsizing a bit. I feel no need to do a big tour again-if ever, at my hugely advanced age.”
Surely, the subject's been raised while you’ve been working collectively in the new CD?
“The term working collectively is a loose one! There’s been the occasional phone call but no great brainstorming sessions to get us all together. All our stuff in conducted through our engineer James Guthrie, who coordinated Echoes from his place in Lake Tahoe”
So, no summit meeting with Roger then?
“No, Roger and I haven’t spoken or been in the same room since he left in 1987. It obviously feels odd, but I knew what Roger was like. When Roger cuts off from people, he cuts off from them”
Who wanted Echoes, the band or EMI?
We’ve been talking about doing a best of for years, and it seemed like the right time to come up with one. Yes, the record company were very keen on getting this out, but it was not a pressure we particularly wanted to resist”
Presumably, track selection has been a long and tortuous process?
“We’ve been arguing about it since May. Nick sent us a list right at the beginning, then he seemed to lose interest. Rick never seemed to want to get involved in it. It wandered along rather fitfully until recently, when I thought I'd better work out what we should be trying to do with it, whether we should try and represent every album or not, and on what basis we should be choosing songs. In the end we had to get everyone to vote on a list.”
But most of the songs seemed to have picked themselves?
“I agree. When I look at it, its bloody obvious really. Its amazing how long the process has been getting it sorted out.”
What were the main bones of contentions?
“I wanted Fat Old Sun on there but none of the others were having it. In fact the track listing is still not finalised. It comes down to what I say at this point. Roger had sort of given up on it. He gets very grumpy because he thinks I tell Nick and Rick what they’ve got to do and outvote him. You wouldn’t want his list I don’t think 6 tracks from The Final Cut is what people want! Having said that, among the songs that all 3 of us voted for was The Fletcher Memorial Home. It dates from one of the worst periods of my life. It was a nightmare working with Roger at that time, and I’m heavily disinclined to listen to The Final Cut or anything to do with it. But it’s a great song. We’d also had arguments about how many Syd tracks to put on. I’ve managed to get 5, but some people are still hustling to lose bike”
Did you feel intimidated when you were asked to replace Syd?
“Definitely, in the beginning. Anyone joining any band tries to make what they do try to fit in with what’s going on, and what fitted previously was Syd. But there was a large arrogant part of me that thought, I can make this much better. I wouldn’t have joined had I not thought that”
Was Syd ever seriously considered as a potential, stay-at-home brain Wilson figure?
“It wasn’t like it couldn’t have worked if we’d worked on it, but we quickly felt self-sufficient without him. Our popularity, which had gone in a distinct downward spiral, picked up again through 1968 and 1969, so it felt irrelevant to keep Syd.”
Did you seriously envisage him returning as a significant force?
“No, given the state of his mind during the period that I joined and afterwards, it would have been very hard to convince myself that he was going to ‘come right’ and turn back into a capable genius.”
When you joined, was Roger leading the band?
“I think he was trying to keep it all going. I don’t think Roger had any big ego about wanting to be the writer any more than anyone else. Later, maybe, but not at the beginning. And he certainly didn’t want to sing anything. He got me to sing just about everything."
The late 60’s were precarious for Pink Floyd. Did you know what you were doing?
“We didn’t know where we were going in terms of recording, but we were pretty good live. We were very good at jamming, but we couldn’t translate that onto record. Gradually, a direction revealed itself to us, a line that began with the Saucerful of Secrets track all the way to Echoes, via the long piece Atom Heart Mother. That was a good idea but it was dreadful. I listened to that album recently: God, it's shit, possibly our lowest point artistically. Atom Heart Mother sounds like we didn’t have any idea between us, but we became much more prolific after it”
Did late 60’s Floyd think of themselves as pop-faced Beethoven’s?
“No, it’s easy to think that our music came from that kind of attitude, but it was more experimental than that. It was a genuine attempt to find a new way forward, something beyond the dictate of the 3-minute pop song. Po-faced isn’t a word I’d use. It didn’t feel that joyless at the time.”
Today you seem to have been getting a lot of enjoyment as a hired hand for Paul McCartney, The Pretty Things and, in October with Robin Hitchcock?
“Its great, there’s no pressure. You just turn up with your guitar and amp, you plug in, and you don’t have to have a song or a thought in your head. But I would hate my life to be like that all the time. One's ego, one's desire to create, always returns”
So why has yours been rather dormant at the moment?
“I’ve put myself off the whole idea of creating much music. I’ve got 120 scratchy little bits that’s im loading into my new computerised recording system, but they’re just snippets. One has to sit down and start working to turn snippets into something, and I haven’t really done that yet. Instead I’ve been relaxing, enjoying family life and bringing up my children. I enjoyed playing that solo show as part of Robert Wyatt’s Meltdown and I’m hoping to do two or three nights at the Festival hall in January and a couple of nights in Paris. It’ll be more or less unplugged, with a lot of pink Floyd stuff.”
Surveying many memories of Pink Floyd peaks on Echoes must give you a profound sense of musical satisfaction?
“There are tons of little moments there, on Echoes, Wish You Were here, Shine On You Crazy Diamond, they all have elements of that. But you’re never entirely satisfied. I still sit and listen to songs and think, if only…”
Many thanks to Simon W. for this!