Subject: An interview from the WYWH Song Book
Date: Sat, 9 Oct 1993 20:15:55 +0200
From: Jouni Smed
This interview is taken from the Wish You Were Here Song Book. The Shine On
book used only parts from this interview, but this is the complete one.
A Rambling Conversation with Roger Waters
concerning All this and that
Interviewed by Nick Sedgewick
N.S. Here's good one to start with, Roger! Why was it two years before the
Floyd made an album after Dark Side of the Moon?
R.W. ... that's a very good question, I'm very glad you asked me that one...
N.S. Take your time... don't worry...
R.W. Without looking at diaries its very difficult. I'm trying to remember
whatever went on... I'm not being funny, I honestly can't remember why. It was
1973 when Dark Side of the Moon came out wasn't it? January 1973, and we're
now in Oct. '75, so in January '75 we began recording 'Wish You Were Here'...
N.S. I remember I went to E.M.I. studios in the winter of '74, and the band
were recording stuff with bottles and rubber bands... the period I'm talking
about is the before your French tour in June '74.
R.W. Ah! Right, yeah. Answer starts here... (great intake of breath)... Well,
Nick... there was an abortive attempt to make an album not using any musical
instruments. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it didn't come
together. Probably because we needed to stop for a bit.
R.W. Oh, just tired and bored...
N.S. Go on... to get off the road? ... have some breathing space?
R.W. Yeah. But I don't think it was as conscious as that really. I think it
was that when Dark Side of the Moon was so successful, it was the end. It was
the end of the road. We'd reached the point we'd all been aiming for ever
since we were teenagers and there was really nothing more to do in terms of
N.S. A matter of money?
R.W. Yes. Money and adulation... well, those kinds of sales are every Rock'n
roll band's dream. Some bands pretend they're not, of course. Recently I was
reading an article, or an interview, by one of the guys who's in Genesis, now
that Peter Gabriel's left, and he mentioned P.F. in it. There was a whole
bunch of stuff about how if you're listening to a Genesis album you really
have to sit down and LISTEN, its not just wallpaper, not just high class musak
like P.F. or 'Tubular Bells', and I thought, Yeah, I remember all that years
ago when nobody was buying what we were doing. We were all heavily into the
notion that it was good music, good with a capital G, and of course people
weren't buying it because people don't buy good music. I may be quite wrong
but my theory is that if Genesis ever start selling large quantities of albums
now that Peter Gabriel their Syd Barrett if you like, has left, the young man
who gave this interview will realise he's reached some kind of end in terms of
whatever he was striving for and all that stuff about good music is a load of
****ing bollocks. That's my feeling anyway. And 'Wish You Were Here' came
about by us going on in spite of the fact we'd finished.
N.S. What finally prompted a move back into the studio?
R.W. A feeling of boredom, I think really. You've got to do something. When
you've been used to working very hard for years and years, and reached the
point you were working towards there's still a need to go on because you
realise that where you've got to isn't what you thought it was...
N.S. Was there some period during your apparent lay off when you all thought
the band would come together almost 'of itself', and produce something?
R.W. It's so long ago... it's hard to remember, but I think there was that
feeling... that somebody would eventually come up with something, an idea. The
interesting thing is that when we finally did do an album the album (Wish You
Were Here) is actually about not coming up with anything, because the album is
about none of us really being *there*, or being *there* only marginally. About
our non-preence in the situation we had clung to through habit, and are still
clinging to through habit -- being P.F. Though its moving into a sligtly
different are again because I definitely think that at the beginning of 'Wish
You Were Here' recording sessions most of us didn't wish we were there at all,
we wished we were somewhere else. I wasn't happy being there because I got the
feeling we weren't *together*, the band wasn't at all together.
N.S. Stage by stage, how did the album happen?
R.W. We did some rehearsals in a rehearsal studio in Kings Cross, and started
playing together and writing in the way we'd written a lot of things before.
In the same way that 'Echoes' was written. 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond' was
written in exactly the same way, with odd little musical ideas coming out of
various people. The first one, the main phrase, came from Dave, the first loud
guitar phrase you can hear on the album was the starting point and we worked
from there until we had the various parts of 'Shine On' finished.
N.S. At the time the band was writing it, was the song for a tour or an album?
R.W. I'm glad you asked that,'cos you've reminded me that in fact we were
about to do a British Tour (Oct - Dec '74) and had to have some new material.
So we were getting some things together for that.
N.S. There were a couple of other songs...
R.W. Yeah. 'Raving and Drooling' and 'You've Gotta Be Crazy'. 'Raving and
Drooling' was something I'd written at home. Dave came up with a nice chord
sequence, I wrote some words, and we carried on from there with 'You Gotta Be
N.S. It was then decided that these three songs would also be the basis for
the forthcoming album?
R.W. Yes, that was the idea for a long time... while we did that tour.
N.S. When did the plans change?
R.W. When we got into the studio. January '75. We started recording and it got
very laborious and tortured, and everybody seemed to be very bored by the
whole thing. We pressed on regardless of the general ennui for a few weeks and
then things came to a bit of a head. I felt that the only way I could retain
interest in the project was to try to make the album relate to what was going
on there and then ie the fact that no one was really looking each other in the
eye, and that it was all very mechanical... most of waht was going on. So I
suggested we change it -- that we didn't do the other two songs but tried
somehow to make a bridge between the first and second halves of 'Shine On',
and bridge them with stuff that had some kind of relevance to the state we
were all in at the time. Which is how 'Welcome to the Machine', 'Wish You Were
Here', and 'Have a Cigar' came in.
N.S. 'Shine On' was originally a song concerning Barrett's plight, wasn't it?
N.S. Do the other songs also fit in with that?
R.W. It was very strange. The lyrics were written -- and the lyrics are the
bit of the song about Syd, the rest of it could be about anything -- I don't
why I started writing those lyrics about Syd... I think because that phrase of
Dave's was an extremely mournful kind of sound and it just... I haven't a
clue... but it was a long time before the 'Wish You Were Here' recording
sessions when Syd's state could be seen as being symbolic of the general state
of the group, ie very fragmented. 'Welcome to the Machine' is about 'them and
us', and anyone who gets involved in the process.
N.S. And 'Have a Cigar'?
R.W. By taking 'Shine On' as a starting point, and wanting to write something
to do with 'Shine On' ie something to do with a person succumbing to the
pressures of life in general and rock'n all in particular... we'd just come
off an American Tour when I wrote that, and I'd been exposed to all the
N.S. No, Roger... you must have written it after the English tour, because
'Have a Cigar' was included in 'Shine On' during the American Tour in April
R.W. Oh yes! Right... I can't do it can I? This interview. My minds just a
scrambled egg, mate. I can't answer these questions. I don't know! ... I don't
know the answers to the questions. I'll have to go home and study some more.
I'm going to have to think about it all very carefully then I shall make a
statement to the press about all this and that. God Peter, (Peter Barnes.
Floyd Music Publisher, producing the Song Book) I'm sorry. I wanted to do this
interview. I wanted it to be good, coherent, friendly interview for the
punters but my mind's scrambled... no, my mind's not scrambled, I just can't
get my mind round all that ****ing nonsense... all that bollocks about when,
how and why... you know, the medium is not the message, Marshall... is it? I
mean, it's all in the lap of ****ing gods... (Pause for laughter)
N.S. Listen, Roger. What do you say to accusations about the album that you
are biting the hand that feeds you... that the position you take up in a lot
of the lyrics is highly dubious given the nature of your success?
R.W. Why? Biting the hand of the record companies?
N.S. Of the business...
R.W. Well the business doesn't feed me, you see. It's the people who buy the
records who are doing the feeding. I mean, I like to believe that the people
who buy the records listen to the lyrics and some of them some of the time
think: - Yeah, that's ****ing true, or there's a bit of truth in them
somewhere, and that's all that really matters. Some of the lyrics may even be
directed at some of the records buyers. I don't think they are on this album,
but they are in some of the songs I've written that aren't recorded yet. On
the album they are mainly directed at a kind of inanimate being -- the
business. And the business doesn't feed us. The public feeds us; in spite of
the business really. The public feed the business as well. The people who buy
records feed everybody.
N.S. So the disillusionment implicit in album, is only disillusionment with
R.W. I never harboured any illusions so far as the business was concerned. I
was under some illusions so far as the band was concerned. Like I was saying
earlier about the guy in Genesis who thinks that there's something special
about them... I think he said their music demands you listen to it, you can't
carry on a conversation while its on. I know I felt that about our music at
one time 'cos I've listened to interviews I did, and sat and laughed myself
sick listening to those. You know, twenty year old punks spouting a whole
bunch of shit, a whole bunch of middle class shit, about "quality", making
qualitative judgements about what we were doing. And when one or two pundits
said that we were *real* music and a cut above average rock'n roll band, or
set us apart from the mainstream of rock'n roll as something rather special
and important. I was very happy to believe it at the time. Of course it's
absolute crap. Electric pop *is* where its at in terms of music today.
Nobody's writing modern works for symphony orchestras that anybody's... well
some people my be interested, but ****ing few, and the divisions that always
existed etween popular music and serious music are no longer there. You can't
get any more serious than Lennon at his most serious. If you get any more
serious than *that* you ****ing throw yourself under a train.
N.S. I'd like to know more about the early difficulties you had in the studio
during 'Wish You Were Here'.
R.W. I think having made it -- having become very successful -- was the
starting point. But having made it, if we could all have accepted that's what
we were in it for, we could then have all split up gracefully at that point.
but we can't, and the reason we can't is, well there are several reasons. I
haven't really thought about this very carefully, but I would say one reason
is: - if you have a need to make it, to become, a super-hero in your own terms
and a lot of other peoples as well, when you make it the need isn't dissipated
- -- you still have the need, therefore you try to maintain your position as a
superhero. I think that's true of all of us. Also, when you've been in a band
eight years and you've all been working and plugging away to get to the top
together its very fightening to leave, to do something else. Its nice and safe
and warm and easy... basically its easy. If the four of us now got together
and put out a record that didn't have our name attached to it it would be
bloody difficult. The name 'Pink Floyd', the name not us, not the individuals
in the band, but the name Pink Floyd is worth millions of pounds. The name is
probably worth one million sales of album, any album we put out. Even if we
just coughed a million people will have ordered it simply because of the name.
And if anybody leaves, or we split up, its back to our own resources without
the name. None of us are sure of our resources; an awful lot of people in
rock'n roll aren't sure of their resources. That's way they're in there trying
to prove they're big and loveable... I mean, I know I'm big and loveable,
Nick, but I'm worried about some of the other chaps... (Laughter)... that's
why I stay in the group... I'm worried about the others, whats going to become
of them... (More laughter)
N.S. Having decided on bridging 'Shine On', the album then came quite easily,
R.W. Yes. Quite quick and easy. 'Have a Cigar' first... actually some of the
lyrics to 'Wish You Were Here' came first. Just lyrics on a piece of paper,
several couplets and pairs of words. That was kind of shelved, then 'Have
Cigar'. When we changed the plan we had a big meeting -- we all sat round and
unburdened ourselves a lot, and I took notes on what everybody was saying. It
was a meeting about what wasn't happening and why. Dave was always clear that
he wanted to do the other two songs -- he never quite copped what I was
talking about. But Rick did and Nicky did and he was outvoted so we went on.
N.S. The sessions were in two blocks, weren't they?
R.W. Two blocks. The middle of Janyary to the middle of March. An American
Tour, then another month (May) in the studio, another American Tour, then we
came back and finished it off. Took three weeks, I think.
N.S. How much of our albums arise spontaneously in studio work, and how much
is laid down before you ever record?
R.W. You can't really generalise. For example, 'Have a Cigar'. The verses,
(tune and words) were all written before I ever played it to the others.
Except the stuff before and after the vocal, that happened in the studio. The
same with 'Welcome to the Machine' -- the verses were done, but the run up and
out was in the studio. 'Dark Side' was done much more with us all working
together. We all sat in a room for ages and ages -- we'd got a whole lot of
pieces of music and I put an idea over the whole thing and wrote the words.
Having laid lyrics on the different bits we decided what order to put them in,
and how to link them. It wasn't like the concept came first and then we worked
right through it.
N.S. No rule then, about which come first -- the music or lyric?
R.W. No, except that either the music comes first and the lyrics are added, or
music and lyrics come together. Only once have the lyrics been written down
first -- 'Wish You Were Here'. But this is unusual; it hasn't happened before.
N.S. Why did you get Roy Harper to do the vocal on 'Have a Cigar'?
R.W. ... a lot of people think I can't sing, including me a bit. I'm very
unclear about what singing is. I know I find it hard to pitch, and I know the
sound of my voice isn't very good in purely aesthetic terms, and Roy Harper
was recording his own album in another EMI studio at the time, he's a mate,
and we thought he could probably do a job on it.
N.S. Didn't you also use Stephane Grappelly on the album somewhere?
R.W. Yeah. He was downstairs when we were doing 'Wish You Were Here'. Dave had
made the suggestion that there ought to be a country fiddle at the end of it,
or we might try it out, and Stephane Grappelli was downstairs in number one
studio making an album with Yehudi Menuhin. There was an Australian guy
looking after Grappelli who we'd met on a tour so we thought we'd get
Grappelli to do it. So they wheeled him up after much bartering about his fee
- -- him being an old pro he tried to turn us over, and he did to a certain
extent. But it was wonderful to have him come in and play a bit.
N.S. He's not on the album now, though?
R.W. You can just hear him if you listen very, very, very hard right at the
end of 'Wish You Were Here', you can just hear a violin come in after all the
wind stuff starts -- just! We decided not to give him credit, 'cos we thought
it might be a bit of an insult. He got his #300, though.
N.S. I want to ask about your own writing. Do you work at it? Do you sit down
and think: - Ah! today I'll write a song?
R.W. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I think, RIGHT!, and go and pick up a guitar
and occasionally it works. Usually something just flashes into my mind and I
think, well, I better write this down and then I go and pick up the guitar.
Usually a word, a phrase, a thought, or an idea. Once you've got five words or
a series of words that contain an idea... like 'come in here, dear boy' then
>from that point on it becomes quite easy -- or at least to do one verse.
What's difficult is writing another verse, then another. The first is easy.
N.S. What about the two songs that weren't on the album.
R.W. I think we'll record those, and there's a couple of other songs I'd like
the Floyd to record.
N.S. What? Another album in the next twelve months?
R.W. Oh yes, in the next few months, I've got a feeling we may knock another
one off a bit sharpish... bang it out... O.K. you started asking me why two
years after 'Dark Side', and "why not?" is how I feel about it. All this
bloody nonsense in the press about "waiting for so long". Sure some people may
have been waiting but it's only important 'cos a lot of people buy them. It's
only important to the ****ing papers and the pundits because a lot of people
N.S. Do you think the Floyd will do concerts again?
R.W. I've really no idea... not unless something fairly stupendous happens.
N.S. Do you personally want to do more with the Floyd?
R.W. I've been through a period when I've not wished to do any concerts with
the Floyd ever again. I felt that very strongly, but the last week I've had
vague kind of flickerings, feeling that I could maybe have a play. But when
those flickerings hit the front of my mind I cast myself back into how ****ing
dreadful I felt on the last American Tour with all those thousands and
thousands and thousands of drunken kids smashing each other to pieces. I felt
dreadful because it had nothing to do with us -- I didn't think there was any
contact between us and them. There was no more contact between us and them
than them and... I was just about to say the Rolling Stones and them. There
obviously is contact of a kind between Mick Jagger and the public but its
wierd and its not the kind of contact that I want to be involved with really.
I don't like it. I don't like all that Superstar hysteria. I don't like the
idea of selling that kind of dream 'cos I know its unreal 'cos I'm there. I'm
at the top... I am the dream and it ain't worth dreaming about. Not in the way
they think it is anyway. It's all that "I want to be a rock'n roll singer"
number which rock'n roll sells on. It sells partly on the music but it sells a
hell of a lot on the fact that it pushes that dream.
N.S. A lot of people have made remarks to me over the album's sadness.
R.W. I'm glad about that... I think the world is a very, very sad ****ing
place... I find myself at the moment, backing away from it all... I'm very sad
about Syd, I wasn't for years. For years I suppose he was a threat because of
all that bollocks written about him and us. Of course he was very important
and the band would never have ****ing started without him because he was
writing all the material. It couldn't have happened without him but on the
other hand it couldn't have gone on *with* him. He may or may not be important
in Rock'n Roll anthology terms but he's certainly not nearly as important as
people say in terms of Pink Floyd. So I think I was threatened by him. But
when he came to the 'Wish You Were Here' sessions -- ironic in itself -- to
see this great, fat, bald, mad person, the first day he came I was in ****ing
tears... 'Shine On's' not really about Syd -- he's just a symbol for all the
extremes of absence some people have to indulge in because it's the only way
they can cope with how ****ing sad it is -- modern life, to withdraw
completely. And I found that terribly sad... I think finally that that maybe
one of the reasons why we get slagged off so much now. I think it's got a lot
to do with the fact that the people who write for the papers don't want to
know about it because they're making a living from Rock'n Roll.
N.S. And they don't want to know the real Barrett/Pink Floyd story.
R.W. Oh, they definitely don't want to know the real Barrett story... there
are no facts involved in the Barrett story so you can make up any story you
like -- and they do. There's a vague basis in fact ie Syd was in the band and
he did write the material on the first album, 80% of it, but that's all. It is
only that one album, and that's what people don't realise. That first album,
and one track on the second. That's all; nothing else.
N.S. Some of the reviews have been particularly scathing about 'Shine On'...
calling it an insult to Syd.
R.W. Have they? I didn't see that, but I can imagine because its so easy for
them. Its one of the very best kind of rock'n roll stories: - we are very
successful and because we're very successful we're very vulnerable to attack
and Syd is the weapon that is used to attack us. It makes it all a bit spicy
- -- and that's what sells the papers that the people write for. But its also
very easy because none of its fact -- it's all hearsay and none of them *know*
anything, and they all just make it up. Somebody makes it up once and the
others believe it. All that stuff about Syd starting the space-rock thing is
just so much ****ing nonsense. He was completely into Hilaire Belloc, and all
his stuff was kind of whimsical -- all fairly heavy rooted in English
literature. I think Syd had one song that had anything to do with space --
Astronomy Domine -- that's all. That's the sum total of all Syd's writing
about space and yet there's this whole ****ing mystique about how he was the
father of it all. It's just a load of old bollocks -- it all happened
afterwards. There's an instrumental track which we came up with together on
the first album -- 'Interstellar Overdrive' -- thats just the title, you see,
it's actually an abstract piece with an interstellar attchment in terms of its
name. They don't give a shit anyway.
... I'm very pleased that people are copping the album's sadness, that gives
me a doleful feeling of pleasure -- that some of the people out there who are
listening to it are getting it. Not like the cunts who are writing in the
papers: - "gosh, well, we waited so long for this", and then start talking
about the ****ing guitar solo in wierd terms, and who obviously haven't
understood what it's about. That guitar phrase of Dave's, the one that
inspired the whole piece, *is* a very sad phrase. I think these are very
mournful days. Things aren't getting better, they're getting worse and the
seventies is a very baleful decade. God knows what the eighties will be like.
The album *was* very difficult; it was a bloody difficult because of the first
six weeks of the sessions ie. 'Shine On', not the sax solo which was put on
afterwards, but the basic track was terribly ****ing hard to do because we
were all out of it and you can hear it. I could always hear it, kind of
mechanical and heavy. That's why I'm so glad people are copping the sadness of
it -- that in spite of ourselves we did manage to get something down, we did
manage to get something of what was going on in those sessions down on the
vinyl. Once we accepted that we were going to go off on a tangent during the
sessions it did become exciting, for me anyway, because then it was a
desperate ****ing battle trying to make it good. Actually we expended too much
energy before that point in order to be able to quite do it. By the time we
were finishing it, after the second American Tour, I hadn't got an ounce of
creative energy left in me anywhere, and those last couple of weeks were a
real ****ing struggle.
N.S. The nightmare was simply all of you arriving at doing it, and not really
R.W. Yes, absolutely. Which is why it's good. It's symbolic of what was going
on. Most people's experience is arriving at a point at which others are
arriving from somewhere else and not knowing what they're doing and why. And
all we were doing making 'Wish You Were Here' was being like everybody else --
full of doubts and uncertainties. You know, we don't know whats happening
N.S. You were just fulfilling a contract?
R.W. Not really, because we don't have to make albums. Fulfilling a contract
with ourselves if you like, because although legally we don't have to do
anything, we do have to do something otherwise we'd all shoot ourselves.