Gilmour, Mason, Wright: The 30 year Technicolor Dream - MOJO Magazine, July 1995

Pink Floyd Interviews

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    THE 30 YEAR TECHNICOLOR DREAM
    By Phil Sutcliffe

    From the English music magazine MOJO, July 1995, pp. 64-80



    At first it was barely a string of fairy lights. Then it was something called an Azimuth Converter. And then a giant screen, a Spitfire, a large flying pig (with and without testicles), and a symbolically-loaded pile of bricks. And today, whole cities offer themselves as backdrops to the Pink Floyd extravaganza.

    In the exclusive MOJO interview, David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Rick Wright recall those "intimate moments that we share with a million people".



    The triumvirate that is Pink Floyd sits knee to knee in a corner of the lounge at a discreet private club patronized by Soho's media gentlefolk. Below, the murmurous street occasionally raises its voice, rattling a sash window. Within, the deco bespeaks that fusty English exclusivity lately rediscovered by the newer crowd. Gilmour, perhaps inevitably, occupies a faintly thronelike armchair from which he must needs incline his head to address Wright and Mason.

    Yet, together, they present an appealing picture, one every Pink Floyd admirer would surely enjoy and like to believe in. Three old friends in conversation, talking quietly, laughing temperately. The accents not posh, but modern BBC, the English that comes from nowhere at all, neither regionally nor socially. They're reminiscing. For a purpose, though: Mason has begun to write the story of the band and he wants to check some facts. Back in 1968, where was it that they first played as a five-piece -- Gilmour newly recruited and Syd Barrett gone interplanetary? Aston University, Gilmour asserts. Wright says he doesn't remember, shakes his head, and they all smile knowingly.

    They run over the legend of Barrett's sacking. On their way to a show, outlandish in a Bentley, turning into Syd's street in Holland Park, someone says it: "Er, do we really want to pick him up then?" Roger Waters is the one who answers, "Naaah!" So they didn't and Syd was gone (except for all the songs they wrote about him and still write about him). "That was it, nothing planned," says Gilmour. They all nod agreement re-rehearsed. That must have been how it was. It's the version that's in all the books.

    Of course, these three men, drifting with some grace into the bedenimed middle age of their generation, have convened for more than nostalgic chat. They're really not buddies. If they come together it's to take care of business. In this instance, they're talking it up on behalf of their new live album, P.U.L.S.E. The product of last year's The Division Bell Tour, which sold 5.3 million tickets in 77 cities and grossed around #100m from 110 shows, it's a double CD (triple vinyl coming up soon), proudly overdub-free, spiffily presented in state-of-the-art Q Sound, and bearing the first ever (official) full concert recording of The Dark Side Of The Moon. It should take them comfortably past the 150 million mark in worldwide album sales, which may be a comforting thought on a windy night.

    They chat together, then, but they can't do interviews together. It's been tried, it failed. An aide vouchsafes that the collective interview soon stumbles into an overpolite mire of mutual deference and reserve. So, a plan is evolved. Pink Floyd live being the theme of the day, in successive sessions Nick Mason will cover the '60s plus, Rick Wright the '70s (despite the jocularly raised eyebrows of his associates) and Gilmour the rest. It just might work.


    NICK MASON, Drums, born January 27, 1945, Birmingham.


    Mason is the only one who's been there on every gig since a yet to be carbon-dated night late in 1965 at the Countdown Club, Palace Gate, Knightsbridge, when -- having discarded such momentary monikers as Sigma 6, T-Set/Tea Set (the spelling is controversial), The Meggadeaths and The (sometimes Screaming or Architectural) Abdabs -- Pink Floyd first stepped up to lurch through a few 12-bar standards. He remains, in spite of it all (or possibly, has become because of it all) the Pink Floyd you'd love to have living next door -- providing, that is, he found somewhere else to park his fleet of vintage cars. Cherubic of cheek, a wattle of flesh bulging beneath his chin, the waistline of a non-jogger unashamed, he sports the air of a man on cruise-control, doing a briskly relaxed 70 up hill and down dale no matter what. When it's his turn to talk, a sharp glance at his guitar-playing colleague notes that the Gilmour phase of the interview overran into his schedule by 15 minutes or so. But then he lets the charm flow. Before he settles to it, someone asks him what he's doing for the rest of the day. "Talking. What else do I do?" His tone is of relish rather than complaint.


    Mojo: Why have you got a little red flashing light on your new album?

    Mason: Essentially, it's a device which we thought was entertaining. It's an idea of Storm Thorgerson's [Hipgnosis mastermind and regular Floyd visual imagineer] which related to Dark Side and the pulse, and it's a live album so the box is "alive". After that, in terms of seriously deep meanings, one might be struggling a bit.

    Mojo: Why a live LP, having done one of the previous tour too?

    Mason: Someone said, "Why not just call it The Inevitable Live Album and be done with it?" One reason for it was that we did like Dark Side as an entity. It takes on a slightly different quality when it's played through as a continuous piece rather than recorded track by track in the studio. When we were recording it in 1972 I don't think we were conscious of the fact that the tempo remains so constant throughout. Live, you perhaps alter the dynamics a bit to get away with it. In the studio you go for the perfect take. The other reason for it was that, to forestall bootlegs, we should do our own version and make a better job of it.

    Mojo: Did anyone say to you, "You're milking it?"

    Mason: Yes, but I think we'll have to live with that. If you think it's milking it, don't buy it. It's for people who would like a souvenir of the show, who are interested in the nuances of Dark Side, who think it's got something to say.

    Mojo: Are these live albums a matter of a band wanting to erect monuments to itself?

    Mason: That's overstating it. But we're bitterly disappointed that we didn't make a proper record of Dark Side Of The Moon at Earls Court in '73 or The Wall show. "Monument" sounds too much. It's partly a reference, partly a milestone. Seeing where we've got to.

    Mojo: Looking at where you came from, it's quite a distance from the huge machine that is Pink Floyd on the road now back to the '60s: The Spontaneous Underground, UFO, Happenings.

    Mason: The thing that's hard to get to grips with now is the general view of the '60s combined with the specific view of this band. We weren't loyal supporters of the underground. Even then, we were occupied with being a band, going the route. The underground was a launch pad. Yes, there was UFO, but for every UFO there were 20 gigs up the motorway at the Top Rank Ballroom, Dunstable, or whatever. Essentially, the underground was a London event. By the time it moved out to the provinces it was much more a commercial enterprise, much more to do with the music than, perhaps, the intellectual aspirations. But for us, the buzz of being involved was enormously helpful. Timing is very important to any band.

    Mojo: You were dead lucky.

    Mason: Yeah. Enormously talented and good-looking too, of course.

    Mojo: Was it that Syd was the man of the times and the rest of you tagged along?

    Mason: I don't think even Syd was a man of the times. He didn't slot in with the intellectual likes of John Hopkins and Joe Boyd [UFO co-founders], Miles [International Times co-founder], Peter Jenner [Pink Floyd's co-manager], the London Free School people. Probably being middle-class we could talk our way through, make ourselves sound as though we were part of it.

    Mojo: Bullshitting.

    Mason: That's possibly the word I was searching for, Doctor. But Syd was a great figurehead. He was part of acid culture.

    Mojo: The rest of you really didn't do drugs?

    Mason: No. Well, possibly a tiny bit of dope smoking but certainly not tripping on the same scale as... as the management certainly were!

    Mojo: What do you make of this now? It's an advert for the Spontaneous Underground. It says that for 3/- you get "costume, mask, ethnic, space, Edwardian, Victorian, and hipness generally, face and body makeup certainly".

    Mason: Yeees. There were elements of the underground that we did tune into. The main one was mixed media. We may not have been into acid but we certainly understood the idea of a Happening. We supplied the music while people did creative dance, painted their faces, or bathed in the giant jelly. If it had been 30 years earlier Rick would have come out of the floor in front of the cinema screen playing the organ.

    Mojo: Some people recall the 14-Hour Technicolor Dream as a magical Pink Floyd moment of spiritual discovery. You were playing as the dawn came up over Alexandra Palace.

    Mason: The significance for me was we'd played a gig in Holland that same night and we didn't get to Alexandra Palace till three in the morning.

    Mojo: No epiphany then?

    Mason: No. More like, "Someone take me home now, please."

    Mojo: Apparently, when you played with Soft Machine, you got #2/10s a night more than them because you had your own light show.

    Mason: It was worth all of that. We couldn't afford a "lighting designer" then. At first our manager operated it, then it was the bloke who doubled as our truck driver.

    Mojo: Legend has it that at UFO, where you were the house band, The Beatles were regulars.

    Mason: The four lovable moptops, grooving about, sitting cross-legged on the floor, watching our every move. Uh, no, that's all complete crap. Paul McCartney did come down once (chortle). But, if you'd prefer, I am prepared to lie through my teeth and tell you that the place was absolutely crammed with celebrities, The Beatles loved the Floyd and we taught them everything they knew.

    Mojo: Did you think of yourselves as hippies?

    Mason: *Absolutely* not. I was a middle-class student until we turned professional and then the business of the day-to-day running of a band, it's a bit like running a corner shop. It's not a hippie exercise.

    Mojo: You were playing pop songs like See Emily Play and free-form freak-outs like Interstellar Overdrive in the same set. Did they fit? Did audiences understand?

    Mason: We thought they fitted, but audiences quite often turned hostile, about 20 to 30 minutes into the set. Sometimes it was expressed by the throwing of objects, sometimes by their leaving the facility. Therefore, the conclusion must be that either they didn't fit or the audience didn't understand. But we were not demoralized. It was very curious. If the public treated us like that now we'd retire hurt immediately.

    Mojo: What was your confidence based on then?

    Mason: I suppose lust to succeed. We were rejuvenated every time we came back to London and got that fix of finding that there was an audience for us.

    Mojo: It sounds almost as if you felt you were carrying out an act of musical war on the provinces.

    Mason: That's right. (Wags finger at imaginary front row) One more word out of you and we play Interstellar Overdrive!

    Mojo: The International Times knocked one of your gigs because "there was no searching for the brain alpha rhythms by chopping the focus of the images". Might that have been a justified criticism?

    Mason: (Deadpan) I think it was. I remember that night and I never could quite put my finger on where we went wrong. Looking back, I blame the lighting man.

    Mojo: The Record Mirror said you were "excellent and extremely exciting", but "couldn't help thinking how dangerous this sort of free-form thing could be in the hands of not such good musicians".

    Mason: You *can* fool most of the people most of the time. I am fascinated by how often people thought we were accomplished musicians. We must have been quite convincing. It's funny to look back on, but it is also to do with the fact that if you find an interesting idea then the technique is not that important.

    Mojo: A Financial Times concert review said, "when you add in the irrepressible Pink Floyd and a free authentic daffodil to take home, your cup of experience overflows".

    Mason: Ah. Talking about the Queen Elizabeth Hall in 1967, says Leslie Welch the memory man. [It was on May 12, to be pedantic, the show called Games For May -- Ed] Very important show. It wasn't a Top Rank. It was the beginning of the concept that we ended up spending the next 20-odd years doing.

    Mojo: So you were moving into a new phase, but it was a few months after that when you did a big package tour with Hendrix, The Move, The Nice and several other bands.

    Mason: The only one we ever did. A 17-minute set limit which was terrific because we were pretty frazzled at the time, towards the end of the Syd Barrett period. What was great was that we actually met some other musicians. We'd led a pretty solitairy life as a band until then and suddenly we were hanging out with Hendrix. It was an opportunity to wallow in a bit of all-musos-together. I think it was the last big tour of that time. After that everyone wanted to go out on their own with just a support act.

    Mojo: At the end of Syd's time, Pink Floyd must have encountered the experience of being out of control in front of an audience.

    Mason: Yeah. I'm not someone who likes being out of control in any way. Not many people would like the sensation of being on a runaway bus with a drunk at the wheel. You're quite cross at the same time as being frightened. Then, after Syd, Dave was the difference between light and dark. He was absolutely into form and shape and he introduced that into the wilder numbers we'd created. We became far less difficult to enjoy, I think. And that made it more fun to play because you want to entertain, get some rapport going rather than antagonize. To annoy the audience beyond all reason is *not* my idea of a good night out.

    Mojo: Were the Hyde Park concerts of '68 and '70 very different affairs?

    Mason: The one in '68 was wonderful because it was much more a picnic in the park than a mini-Woodstock. A lovely day. It was important for us too because it reminded us of our, uh, roots -- whether spurious or not. They *were* our roots -- not personally, but as an enterprise. We were the house band.

    Mojo: And Hyde Park '70?

    Mason: By then we had begun real work, consolidating our position. It led on from there to our current global scorched-earth policy. Though I think we were underground until Dark Side Of The Moon put the nail in that coffin.

    Mojo: Looking at Dark Side Of The Moon and its place in the development of your art, if I may use that word...

    Mason: Oh, use it! Use it! I'd feel very self-conscious maintaining anything I'd done was art. But if pressed, and I'll take it that you *are* pressing me, I think things like Saucerful Of Secrets were naive art. I mean, 30 years later it would be difficult to do it very much better.

    Mojo: Was there any particular innovation in your stage show which you saw as a landmark? The circular screen, say?

    Mason: Before that: sensurround sound in 1967. The Azimuth Converter. Because of the way it involved the audience, gathered them in. The other important development would be when we started creating our own films in '73. Before Dark Side we had run light shows, slides and so on, but we'd had ****-all to do with them. Once we started using film and linking it to the music, then it was our input. Basically we did a lot of drawings almost like critical paths, graphs of what was needed at different points in the music -- the aftermath of our architectural training at Regent Street Polytechnic where Roger, Rick and I met. We could see almost immediately where the rather dead periods were going to be in terms of what was happening on the stage.

    Mojo: What was the feeling for you playing *inside* that show? It was so different for the audience, spending a good part of the evening watching films and other effects while the band played on in the shadows.

    Mason: We were early MTV really. You can't even sense what it looks like to the audience. The film is just a fuzzy image behind you. What you're doing is looking for clicks, looking for timing. In a funny way it's like being backstage. That's at the technical level. Having said that, you are interacting with the audience and with your comrades or colleagues. And hopefully getting off on it. I mean, that's the big buzz. But in terms of the technical business, you're much more a stage manager than a performer, you're not enjoying the overall effect of it because you're too busy making it work.

    Mojo: Was Dark Side Of The Moon an emotional piece of music to play?

    Mason: In a way we didn't play it enough the first time 'round. We only did the whole thing for a year. I found it more powerfully emotional on the last tour. Perhaps because we've got better at running the show. Now it reminds me of our history, the way we were then, all of that.

    Mojo: It transformed your career commercially.

    Mason: We reached a new plateau. And immediately suffered for it through not knowing what to do next. Probably, the band disagreements which never existed before started then.

    Mojo: The shows got bigger, the venues got bigger. What's your perspective on the Spinal Tap versus Art question in regard to crashing Spitfires onstage, giant inflatable pigs and so on?

    Mason: I very rarely regretted any staging that we've tried. Only when it didn't work. Like the giant pyramid. (splutters) We had it in America for about five shows in the mid-'70s. It was okay in winds of up to about 25 miles an hour. When it got up to 40 it exploded. A disaster. But it's inevitable that some things prove to be not feasible. However, as to whether they're art or, uh...

    Mojo: Bollocks?

    Mason: Yes. I'm not worried about that. I mean, I do know that there is no way a big inflatable pig can be mentioned in the same breath as Van Gogh's yellow chair. I wish to make that quite clear. (chortle) I'm worried about whether it enhances the show. Does it focus people's attention on the music and the event onstage? I think, in stadiums, the more the merrier, the sound surrounding you, fireworks, anything that stops them playing frisbee at the back is a good thing.

    Mojo: The whole show is about attracting people's attention then?

    Mason: Maybe it's a way of going (claps his hands together). "Oi! Over here! This is a special occasion." That feels right to me. Though I know there's always this conundrum about how film can devalue music because it doesn't allow people's imagination full freedom. The classic example is The Sorcerer's Apprentice where you can't hear that music without seeing those bloody silly brooms carrying their buckets. I don't have an answer.

    Mojo: Do you have any view on how the audience respond to your music?

    Mason: Oh. I want them to be moved by it, to come away saying, "That was the best evening of my life". It's curious now because, although there are new songs, the fact of the matter is that to some extent we are dealing in nostalgia, so, in a way, it becomes more powerful. We were talking yesterday about how the Italian audience reacted to Wish You Were Here, singing along. It was a wonderful sound, they knew all the words. Without wishing to sound too philosophical about it, that is the nature of pop music, it's love songs, it's particular girls, Cheryl or Laura or whatever, they're intimate moments that we share with... a million people. There is something special about these big gigs. You're all there because you feel something for the band. You're like-minded people.

    Mojo: You like the "sharing" idea, but onstage you've always traded in anonymity, removing yourselves from view.

    Mason: Originally, it was down to a basic shyness in us, which we then realized had enabled us to create a powerful formula. I'd like to think it's self-effacing, but I fear it's cowardice.


    RICK WRIGHT, Keyboards, born July 28, 1945, London.


    Wright was a founding member of Pink Floyd, but missing from the end of The Wall tour in 1981 until the post-Waters recording of A Momentary Lapse Of Reason six years later. Don't ask him about dates, though, because he's the one with the bad memory. It's a band in-joke that even strangers are invited to share. He laughs about it himself, as a troubled creasing of the brow and the phrase, "You'd better check with Nick on that one" become the punctuation and refrain of his replies. Stick-slim, he wears a set of interesting facial wrinkles and hollows that suggest a boxer drained down to the last ounce to make the weight. But, aside from absent-minded professorial moments when straining after a zephyr of recollection forever just out of reach, this is Rick Wright in the pink (so to speak).

    Mojo: Are you game to do the '70s?

    Wright: The '70s? Mm, yes, why not? The later the better, I think. (laughs)

    Mojo: There's an old quote from Nick about the transition period when Dave Gilmour was establishing himself in the band. He said, "And for the next 12 years, it was Dave's desire to make music versus Roger's desire to make a show"...

    Wright: I think there's a lot of truth in that. I was with Dave. He was much more of a straight blues guitarist than Syd, of course. And very good. That changed the direction. Although he did try to reproduce Syd's style live -- in fact, it was a lot of fun playing Astronomy Domine on this last tour because Dave was trying to play it the way Syd would have done.

    Mojo: Did it work?

    Wright: It worked. I loved doing it. But back then... I think Roger would freely admit now he wasn't the world's greatest bass player. He was much more interested in the grand plan if you like. He did have vision and, right from the beginning when we just had strobes and oil lights, all of us were pushing for that. From the earliest days, when we used oil slides projected onto the band which hid us, we were always faceless musicians, and that idea developed and developed. But, yes, mainly because of Roger each tour we did the show got bigger.

    Mojo: Around 1970 Pink Floyd was waving goodbye to all the hippiness, the freedom and the freak-outs.

    Wright: I think so. I'd say the transition was between Ummagumma and Atom Heart Mother. Like a lot of bands, we got interested in the concept album. At the time I thought we were making the most incredible music in the world, but looking back it wasn't so good. Now we have become a lot more professional and we don't take risks like we used to. For me, one day I'd like to go full circle. However, back then we formulated a sound and we stuck to it, because of the way Nick, me and Dave play together.

    Mojo: And that formulation was taking place in the early '70s?

    Wright: Yes. The big influence when we formed the band was Syd's writing, but I'd also put a word in for my keyboards and Nick's drumming -- he was fanatical about Ginger Baker and his style was nothing like today's heavy kick drum and tight snare, it was all very free and rolling, much more jazz influenced. We did get better as musicians. If we hadn't gone through our experimental phase we wouldn't be here today, though. I'm so glad we did it.

    Mojo: At that stage, building up to Dark Side Of The Moon, was Pink Floyd starting to get walled off as an artistic entity very separate from its fans?

    Wright: Pink Floyd is bigger than the three of us and it was bigger than the four of us. Back in the '70s people came to hear the music and see the show, not to see Dave or me as personalities jumping around onstage. Even in UFO days they came for the experience, the lights plus the music. We were happy not to be in the limelight. But, I mean, today we could put a show on, pretend we were there and not be and probably no one would know.

    Mojo: What was your experience of playing Dark Side Of The Moon live?

    Wright: Now it's comfortable, then it was a bit scary. We'd have lots of problems with cue-tracks to keep in synch with the film. We were one of the first bands to do that, click-tracks they call them now. It was a massive headache because the equipment was pretty unreliable. The film would snap or the projector would break down or the click would suddenly come blasting out of the PA in the middle of the piece because someone had turned the wrong knob. There was a lot of missing cues and trying to get back in time, whereas today with everything digital it works like clockwork.

    Mojo: The technology problems must have created a lot of strain onstage. Were you all pals together still?

    Wright: We were snappy sometimes. Not like it became later, though. I mean I had a personality clash with Roger ever since we met in Regent Street Polytech. The two of us didn't really get on. Being the kind of person he is, Roger would try to... rile you, if you like, try to make you crack. Definitely mental things going on between us and big political disagreements. Him being an armchair socialist. Not that I was right-wing at all. After Dark Side Of The Moon we had a bit of money and I bought a house in the country -- I had two young children. Roger sat down and said to me, "I can't believe you've done this, you've sold out, I think it's disgusting." Six months later he went and bought a much bigger house in the country. I said, "Remember what you said?" He said, "Ah yes, but that's because my wife wanted it, not me." Absolute bullshit. I found him rather hypocritical. That's what angered me about him.

    Mojo: Did that conflict come out onstage?

    Wright: Never. The only time I'd get angry with Roger onstage was when he'd be playing out of tune; we'd be in D and he was still banging away in E because he couldn't hear it. I had to tune his bass onstage, you know. In those days there were no strobe tuners, so after every number he'd stick the head of his bass guitar over my keyboards and I'd tune it up for him.

    Mojo: Did you ever feel the show was a distraction from the music?

    Wright: Not at all. I sometimes felt we were taking on more than we could handle, but that was all. Glad we did it. I was never against it. Oh, except one time, and then I was proved wrong. That was following Roger's Toronto incident where somebody in the front row was screaming and shouting and it drove Roger crazy and he spat at him. He came to us afterwards and said he wanted to start the set with us playing as normal, then build a wall across in front of us. I completely disagreed. I said I couldn't believe it would work, people would hate it. Which I think was part of the idea, he wanted people to hate it. I have to say it only worked in the end because the wall became not just a wall to block off the audience, it was a very exciting part of the show with all the projections, holes appearing in it, the hotel room scene and the wall tumbling down. Then, it was brilliant.

    Mojo: Was that Toronto incident the start of the phase when your relationship with Roger went critical?

    Wright: Animals - for me it started to come to a head then. Roger was changing, he really did believe that he was the leader of the band, really did believe that it was only because of him that the band was still going. And, obviously, when he started developing his ego trips, the person he would have his conflicts with would be me. Plus I was going through... my personal life wasn't that happy, my marriage was breaking up. Recording Animals he started rejecting what I came up with. But it was partly my fault, I can see that now, because I didn't push my material. Or I was too lazy to write anything. I suppose he thought, what was the point of having this man in the band? In fact, that was the time I was threatening to leave too; I remember flying off, saying I didn't want any more of it. On the Animals tour that was, and Steve O'Rourke [Pink Floyd's manager, then and now] said, "You can't, you mustn't."

    But, when we were recording The Wall, it all came down to Roger's bluff or threat where, because he'd written the material and he had the right to say the album couldn't be recorded or released, he said, "If you don't leave the band then we won't release an album." Which was serious because we were nearly bankrupt at the time [investment managers Norton Warburg having misspent millions on their behalf]. I think Dave and Nick felt really bad about all this, but because of their terrible financial predicament his bluff worked. I said, "OK, I'm leaving." However, I was angry and upset about it and I said I wanted full royalties on the album and I wanted to carry on playing live.

    I liked playing live. I was quite prepared to swallow my pride to go out and play with Dave and Nick. And, strangely enough, there wasn't any animosity onstage. I think it's the nature of my character. I accept what's happened and make the best of it. Maybe it's one of my faults too. My therapist might tell you that, you know. (laughs) Don't just go along with it, fight back! Well, the good thing about playing The Wall tour was I made money and the others lost, ha-ha.

    Mojo: Really?

    Wright: I was on a wage. The Wall cost a fortune to put on and I wasn't involved in the risk.

    Mojo: Was it an enjoyable experience, playing The Wall live?

    Wright: Amazing. I loved the idea of the other band appearing inmasks and not being us. You go to see a show, you think, "Oh there's Pink Floyd onstage, there's Dave, there's Rick, there's Roger." Then a curtain opens and there's another Pink Floyd behind them. I think it was a very good concept once he had decided to make the wall a feature of the show rather than just a statement to the audience, "**** you, I don't want to know about you." On the other hand, it wasn't much fun to play because we were hidden half the time. While you were playing, you had lots of roadies running around, putting things up, taking things down. Very impersonal.

    Mojo: What do you make of Pink Floyd's relationship with concert audiences?

    Wright: I like it. I always try to make contact with people in the front row. It's nice to see people with big grins on their faces. I look at them and if I see a person looking miserable it affects me.


    DAVE GILMOUR, Guitar/vocals, born March 6, 1947, Cambridge.


    The story of Pink Floyd's survival and renaissance since Roger Waters's departure would seem to express, above all, the juggernaut willpower of Dave Gilmour. He was chiefly responsible for pulling Pink Floyd back together to record and tour A Momentary Lapse of Reason. He defended the group name against their former leader's strenuous attempts to kill off the band both legally and via a media onslaught of moralistic denunciation. He, along with Mason, invested (at least) hundreds of thousands of his own money to relaunch the band as a concert phenomenon in the style to which their followers had become accustomed. Lately, not the least of his contributions has been to involve his second wife, former Jonathan Cape {publishing house} publicist and Sunday Times journalist Polly Samson, in writing lyrics. Suddenly, in the band's late middle age, Pink Floyd's songs have acquired appreciably greater clarity of expression, and perhaps a more personal, emotional openness to offset the earlier paeans to separation, alienation, madness and all-round awfulness. Now – this only days after the birth of his first child with Ms. Samson, admittedly – quite often he does look like the cat who got the cream. Smooth of aspect, his expression in repose sleek, the signs of wear largely deferred by that degree of overweight which can prove cosmetic at a certain age. Always of monolithic build, impressively tall and broad, he now has a solid dome of belly. He can carry it off, as they say. But if this suggests a degree of complacency, his interview manner qualifies that impression.

    Initially, he fences like a diplomat, parrying, feinting, retreating. In his lap, his hands constantly knot and tangle. Frequently, he offers set answers to questions which are not quite the ones that have been asked, as if he thinks he has nothing to hide, yet, at the same time, that if he gave anything away it might all go horribly wrong. Eventually there's a sense of getting somewhere. When an aide looks in to say it's time to stop, he says carry on, finish this, perhaps hoping that even if no startling revelations emerge, at least something substantial might be set down.

    Mojo: How does The Wall's symbolism reflect on Pink Floyd's relationship with its fans?

    Gilmour: The meaning of it was Roger's story. He was the one who strongly felt that wall between himself and our audience. I have never entirely gone along with that. Obviously, one knows one is in a pop group and the audience are down there listening. But hopefully you are sharing a lot of the emotions as you go along and I don't really... I was doing my best to help Roger fulfill his vision.

    Mojo: Although it was Roger's idea, it asked basic questions for all of you, didn't it?

    Gilmour: Absolutely. "Are you truly relating to your audience?"

    Mojo: What was your answer?

    Gilmour: I think I relate to the audience a lot more than Roger thinks he does. That's the accurate way to put it.

    Mojo: Your show says you are these little anonymous people in the midst of all this hugeness. How do you experience that relationship?

    Gilmour: I obviously experience it as part of the band that's performing. But I sense an empathy.

    Mojo: Can you see them?

    Gilmour: Oh yes, you can see the first 50 rows or so. But you're concentrating on what you're doing. Your eyes wander across people, but you're not really seeing them.

    Mojo: When it came to putting a live show back together after a break of six years and without Roger, what did you miss from his input, and what did you find you'd got that you didn't know you had before?

    Gilmour: Roger was a person of great drive and authority. It's always nice to have someone like that around. You just had to pick it up as best you could. We decided on more or less a greatest hits approach rather than a conceptual show. From then on it was a matter of designing the show around a broader concept.

    Mojo: But did you find a shortfall on the visual imagination side with Roger gone?

    Gilmour: You just have to pick a team. For months, even before we finished the album, we were talking with experts, many of whom we'd worked with before, about visual ideas. Not wanting to break entirely with tradition, we retained the circular screen, but with new film for the Momentary Lapse Of Reason songs. We rehearsed the show for about a month in Toronto and it was a nightmare. It needed half a dozen of me to juggle everything.

    Mojo: And the visual side isn't even something you're particularly interested in.

    Gilmour: I am! I was quite ready to pick up that mantle.

    Mojo: There's a story about the band agreeing to pay Roger Waters $800 a night to use the inflatable pig. Is that right?

    Gilmour: We agreed to pay him to clear us in regard to any rights he may or may not have had in various effects including the pig and odd bits of animation by Gerald Scarfe. Roger had gone 'round these people buying these rights and placing them with a company he owned. However, we never agreed that he owned the rights. Pink Floyd, all of us, had commissioned those pieces of work and paid for them. In order to save ourselves a huge amount of extra aggravation and lawsuit possibilities we agreed to pay him a fee for any right... that he may or may not have had. I did not and do not believe he had a leg to stand on, and on the tour we've just done no such money was paid to him.

    Mojo: The further yarn about the pig's balls, is that truth or extemporization?

    Gilmour: Someone did suggest that if we altered the design of the pig then Roger couldn't claim it. A pig's a pig, for Christ's sake. How do you alter its design? You add testicles. Well, it was amusing for us.

    Mojo: Is it also right that you can't do The Wall under this agreement?

    Gilmour: No, I think we can. We certainly couldn't do a film of it as Roger has the synchronization license rights, like every writer of every song. But then we wouldn't do it without Roger, that would be ludicrous. On the other hand we're about to release The Dark Side Of The Moon on video which we couldn't have done without Roger's permission. Obviously a financial deal has been struck.

    Mojo: What about the extraordinary venues you played on the comeback tour, Versailles and Venice? Was that to make a big splash?

    Gilmour: No, it's not a publicity thing. It's because we thought it would be lovely, beautiful. Us, on the day, we'd have a grand occasion. Versailles was gorgeous. Thoroughly enjoyed playing that. Same with Venice. It was lovely. I was nervous. Playing live to 100 million people. It gets to you at times. And the fact that the city council made so much stupid adverse publicity out of it, none of which was true.

    Mojo: You didn't damage the place with the volume of sound?

    Gilmour: Ludicrous -- a PA sitting a quarter of a mile out in a lake is going to damage buildings that have been there for 700 years? Give me a break! As we finished, the council's own firework display started and the volume was ten times anything we put out. Mega explosions. If anything caused a problem it was that. Bass frequencies from a huge stack on land could maybe shake things up a bit, but we were on water and water is a very effective insulator.

    Mojo: Do you get municipalities chasing you as if you were the Olympics, saying, "Come and play our city?"

    Gilmour: Yeah. Not just municipalities. France invited us. We'd had lunch with Jack Lang, then Minister of Culture, and he asked us to play more or less anywhere we liked. That's when we chose Versailles.

    Mojo: Where would you most like to play?

    Gilmour: What we've tried to do on this last tour and the one before is the Pyramids. We'd love to play there. But the Egyptian government is not particularly interested, and more recently there's been a lot of fundamentalist terrorism in that area.

    Mojo: The Grateful Dead got there first [in 1978].

    Gilmour: You can't worry about whether other bands have done it before. It's about lots of people coming away thinking they will never forget it, it'll be a joyous memory for the rest of their lives.

    Mojo: On the musical level, how did the reintegration of the three of you go? You've been quoted as saying that the Momentary Lapse Of Reason tour "brought Rick and Nick back to being functioning musicians. In my view they had been destroyed by Roger."

    Gilmour: I stand by that. It was a gradual rebuilding that started the moment we went out. You might be correct in assuming that, right at the beginning, our second keyboard player and our percussion player were fairly essential in keeping us all going. But within the first month, Nick and Rick took over their proper parts. In fact, having a second keyboard player to take some of the burden off Rick's back has enabled him to become much freer and better in his playing on our old standards. His Hammond playing and his piano playing have been just beautiful.

    Mojo: Recalling Pink Floyd's origins in the '60s, and its survival into the era of Thatcher and Reagan, with the band itself becoming a huge industrial machine, do you think it has become part of what's been called the "Greed Tour" syndrome?

    Gilmour: I see no reason to apologize for wanting to make music and earn money. That's what we do. We always were intent on achieving success and everything that goes with it. I personally think that our music is suited to larger venues. I've never been a supporter of Reagan or of Thatcher. But I'm not so left-leaning or socialist that I think I'm not allowed to earn money. Particularly before the 1987 post-Roger tour, we had been through a lot of financial troubles and we did want to earn some money. Myself and Nick had to dig very deeply into our resources to put it on. All sorts of reasons and emotions drove us into doing it the way we did. We did want it to be world-conquering. We wanted to leave no one in any doubts that we meant business and we intended to carry on with our chosen careers. I don't think there's anyone who cuts less corners than us or spends more of the potential profits on making it as good as we could possibly get it. Our earnings are large, but I bet you our profit margins are smaller than anyone else's.

    Mojo: What's your view of tour sponsorship?

    Gilmour: We took sponsorship by Volkswagen for the first time on this last tour. I confess to not having thought it through entirely and I was uncomfortable with it. Meeting and greeting Volkswagen people. I was not a popular chappy with Volkswagen. I don't want them to be able to say they have a connection with Pink Floyd, that they're part of our success. We will not do it again. I didn't like it, and any money I made from it went to charity. We should remain proudly independent, that's my view, and we will in the future.

    Mojo: Why did you allow Great Gig In The Sky to be used in a Nurofen ad?

    Gilmour: Rick wrote that music. He remade it for them. It's down to the writer. If my name had been on that track too it wouldn't have happened. I wouldn't do it. But that's Rick's business. I didn't approve of it, but I have no control over it.

    Mojo: On a slightly more abstruse aspect of Pink Floyd and money, is it true that you were paid in timber for your gigs in Moscow?

    Gilmour: I don't think so. When we played there in 1989, the Russian government did provide us with a huge transporter plane to take our equipment from Athens, and they gave us hotel rooms and suchlike. But they could only offer us a small fee in dollars, so there was discussion of them paying in caviar and so on. We were joking! We lost money, that's all. We paid for the event. We thought if we were going to play in Russia, we would rather do it properly. We steamed in, the full mega-show for a week. But no payment in timber. Other shows, like Venice, we lost money. You see, when we planned the tour we knew we were going to lose money on certain shows. Venice, Moscow, they're just part of the books. It would be easy to dump the ones that make a loss, but we don't want to do that. Tie it all in. Let's do the gig. Not everything is done for profit. I'm sorry to sound self-justifying about this, but we do take a certain amount of flak in this area.

    Mojo: Amid all the big deals and the grand effects, when it comes down to just you, singing, playing guitar, what are you putting into it, what are you getting out of it?

    Gilmour: I'm putting my life's blood into it. But Pink Floyd is not only me. I am bound by other people's desires and choices and politics and needs. The whole thing is a constant compromise of ideals and art all the way through. These days I have more say than anyone else because it's a sort of meritocratic organization, if you like, and I'm the one who produces most -- songs, music, direction. I'm the person to whom that position has fallen. Not through choice.

    Mojo: OK, we know you're a team player. But can you characterize this "life's blood" input any further? Or are you the middle-class Englishman not wanting to talk about these things?

    Gilmour: I don't know what you want me to tell you... it's not that I don't want to talk about it. Maybe I'm not that verbal. My best form of expression is playing the guitar and singing.

    Mojo: Back to onstage, then, the melting pot...

    Gilmour: Well, you say so. The process in the recording studio is just as important. Or more. That is a very... frustrating and satisfying process at different times. When you get something and it sounds just how you heard it in your head and you think, "That's going to get across to people." There are moments when something happens quickly and wonderfully. High Hopes on the last record. I wrote it very quickly, the words with my now wife Polly. I went into the studio on my own and demoed the whole thing, played everything. Did it in a day. Came out of the studio at the end of the day {quiet whisper} feeling ****ing fantastic. That moment. That joy, the pride at having got to that point was absolute magic. And the obverse is when you just can't... but I'm not going to name tracks.

    Mojo: Then look at High Hopes in the live setting. You've described the intimacy of creating it, but then you take it into a setting that's anything but intimate, maybe 50,000 people in a stadium."

    Gilmour: I *am* aiming at intimacy believe it or not. How that gets across... we've got the best PA system in the world, we've got wrap-around sound, but no it's not a club, the audience isn't seeing me up close like you are now. It's not that kind of intimacy, I know. I'm not terribly attracted to the idea of tiny venues. I find them more frightening than huge venues. My ideal is to mix them up to quite a degree, 10,000-seaters and 100,000-seaters. On this last tour, for some reason, perhaps me not listening because of concentration on the record, it seemed that we played pretty much exclusively outdoor stadiums. I didn't like it. Playing in the small intimate atmosphere of Earls Court was a great way to close it.

    Mojo: You're talking about Earls Court as if it were The Marquee.

    Gilmour: For us it was, and it was terrific.

    Mojo: Playing High Hopes at Earls Court, a song of unusual intimacy in that it was written with your wife to be, where were you when you were playing it?

    Gilmour: I'm in a cocoon. Entirely locked in a cocoon. If you do it the best way you can for yourself then it will get across to other people. But I'm not aiming it at one person in that audience. I'm not thinking about the audience at all when I'm singing it. I'm doing it entirely in my own head. Most of the time I shut my eyes and concentrate on speaking the words so that they mean what they're supposed to. It's very easy when you're on tour for months to be singing and not meaning every word, every syllable. With songs like that -- no, when I'm singing Roger's words too -- it seems to me that it's vitally important that I do sing every syllable with meaning. You've got to believe it.


    Original Source: Mark Brown
    Formatted and adapted by All Pink Floyd Fan Network.
     

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