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Behind «The Wall»
Roger Waters speaks out

Cover Story by Nigel Cook. Roger Waters on why the moon isn't dark after all
Between 1965 and 1983, Roger Waters (vocals and bass) was a major force in Pink Floyd, the UK psychedelic rock band composed of Syd Barrett (quitar and vocals(, David Gilmour (guitar); Nick Mason (drums): and Richard Wright (keyboards). Waters, Mason and Wright had played together in the Architextural Abdabs before being joined in 1965 by Barrett )d. 2006), who changed the band’s name to the Pink Floyd Sound (after two bluesmen: Pink Anderson and Floyd Council). Their group’s early sound was mainly credited to Barrett, who (because of LSD abuse) or mental illness, depending on the source) was replaced by Gilmour in 1968. The band continued with moderate success until 1973, when the album «Dark Side of the Moon» (Waters wrote all the lyrics and some of the music) put them on the top of the charts; indeed, it became one of the best selling records in rock history, spending more than 1’500 weeks on Billboard’s Top 200. Pink Floyd had more success with «Wish You Were Here» (1975), «Animals» (1977) and «The Wall» (1979), but in 1983 the band broke up, and Waters launched a solo career. He released «The Pros» and «Cons of Hitchhiking» in 1984, Radio K.A.O.S.». in 1987, and «Amused to Death» in 1992, Since then, he has written an opera, «Ca Ira», set during the French Revolution, released on DC in 2005, and embarked on a series of tours. In July 2005, he reunited for a one-off performance with his former band mates for the Live 8 benefit concert. In a rare and insightful interview, Waters discusses his former band, and his inspiration for «The Dark Side of the Moon» Tour.

You finally got a chance to get back out in the public eye a couple of years ago with the «In the Flesh» Tour and now you’re on the second leg of «The Dark Side of the Moon» What took you so long to get back out there in the public eye again?
The last big tour that I did was in 1987, the «Radio K.A.O.S.» Tour. Then I did «The Wall» in Berlin in 1990 which was a lot of work. Then I got divorced and then I kind of moved around a bit. I did one gig in 1992 for Don Henley for his Walden Woods project in Universal Amphitheater in LA. He asked me if I would sing a few songs and I did. It was Don Henley, me, John Fogerty and Neil Young. It was a great night, I went onstage and I used his band and sang a few songs. There was an enormous feeling of warmth coming from the audience. I thought, “Wow, actually this isn’t too bad. Maybe I should do some of this again.” That was in the back of my mind through the 90’s. Then finally in 1999 I thought well I’ll dip my toe in the water and see what happens. I did, and it went pretty well. So I went back out in 2001. Here I am now touring with «The Dark Side of the Moon» and it’s all good.

Was there a sense when you left the band that the fans didn’t really know how much you were creatively involved in Pink Floyd?
I think there is no question but that the Live 8 performance, when we got back together, kicked things into a slightly different perspective. Obviously a huge number of people saw Live 8 on TV and saw our performance. I think it gave people the opportunity to say, “Aha, I see, That’s the guy who wrote the songs” and to make that connection. I think through the years after I left the band in 1985 – they toured in 1987, and again in 1994 – I think I was perceived rather as kind of the grumpy guy who left in a huff. After Live 8 I think they went, “well, Maybe he’s not quite so grumpy after all.” I thoroughly enjoyed Live 8. I came to it with a very open mind and a very open heart and decidet to just get on with it and do it. So I think that changed people’s perceptions to some extent.

It looked like you were having a good time up there. It looked like you actually choked up a little bit during «Wish You Were Here».
I think that’s pitching it too strong. But certainly I love singing that song. I only sang the second verse of it. I think it was the second or third verse. But I loved singing it when we were on the road. I still like the song very much. I wrote it, whenever it was, 1975 or something, and it still means a lot to me.

Is it harder to sing that song now than it used to be just with Syd’s recent passing? Does it just have a different take now?
I do «Shine On You Crazy Diamond» in my show, as well. Just after Syd had died, it was slightly unnerving for a few performances I have to say. I still feel a deep connection with Syd whenever I play those songs live on stage. «Wish You Were here» isn’t specifically about Syd «Shine On You Crazy Diamond» obviously is.

For years it was always Roger versus David. No one really seems to concertrate or really focus on the good that you guyd did when you were really a core band. What are some of the highlights when you worked with Dave Gilmour that you look back on and go: “That is a great memory”?
Dave was always a great singer and he still is actually. He still sings really beautifully. He has a very acute and sensitive ear for harmony. So a lot of those kind of double tracks and the haarmonies where he sings with his own voice through «Dark Side» are on lots of the records. I would sort of sit back while he did that and he would just follow his own instincts and produce these great harmonies. I was always somewhat in owe of that. I think it takes great talent to be able to do that and it’s something that I really appreciate.

Talking about «The Dark side of the Moon», how would you say this show is different from «In the Flesh»??
I think this show is more coherent theatrically. There is a real sense of nanative that includes «Dark Side of the Moon» but runs from the front to the end of the whole show. O produced a whole bunch of visuals that start 15 minutes before we come on stage and go right through to the end. There’s a whole nanative about a guy in a room and a radio and listening to it and connections with things. So it’s different in that way.

[Translate to English:]

What was the idea behind the prism for the album cover?
You’d have to ask Storm Thorgerson, who designed the cover. I have read probably a thousand times what it was and I can’t quite remember. But I know he thinks it’s about something. All I know is that he did about eight designs; he spread them out on the floor, and we all went: “That one”. It was just such a striking image, the front and the back. And then the inside thing was something that I added to it, the heartbeat thing. Why don’t we run it through the middle and put in a heart beat? That’s a good idea. And that was it. So it was one of the sort of quickest operations in album design that there has ever been.

You used to say after your first solo tour that your show was a Pink Floyd show except that it had a different drummer, different guitarist, and different Keyboard player.
Did I say that? How very provocative of me.

Do you think that holds true for this tour?
No, absolutely not. This is me playing my songs, largely. Some of them are co-written obviously, some of «The Dark Side of the Moon» stuff is. And also treating «Dark Side of the Moon» as one might treat a cassical pice of music. So we’re reproducing some of Dave’s solos. And we’re reproducin [Clare Torrey’s vocals].

I’d have to say Carol Kenyon, who is one of the singers that I have in the band, does a great job on «Great Gig in the Sky», She’s fairly faithful to Torrey’s original performance on the record and I find audiences go ape shit because they recognize it, but they see that she reinterprets it without staying too far from the original. That is not easy I have seen other people trying to replicate «Great Gig in the Sky» and not least on some of the shows that Dave, Rick and Nick did together. The girls that they had doing it didn’t even come close to the original experience..

Why do you thing «Dark Side of the Moon» still is a force on the charts today?
I think the record is musically sophisticated and yet simple. The song structures are very simple. I think lyrically it speaks to lots of concerns that successive generations have continued to have over and over and over again. A song like “Us and Them” seems just as apposite politically in 2007 as it did in 1973. Sadly, not enough has changed that the politics of the pice has become redundant. It’s just as important now as it was then.

Also, I think a song like «Time» expresses feelings that lots of young people have when they reach a certain age and think about what’s going on. They’re looking for meaning, looking for things, things that we will all go through. I hate to be the ine to have to tell you this, all you young people out there, but it goes on. We keep re-examining our lives and re-ecamining our relationships with our friends, our family, and other human beings.

There is now doubt that there is an enormous attachment to the work that runs through umpleen generations of people, which is very moving when you’re on stage doing it. I do a lit of stuff in the show where I go out to the edges. So I get quite close to people. I get that empathy from all kinds of different people, particularly out there in the wings where the seats are a bit cheaper. Thy’re from like kind of 10 year-olds to 80 year-olds and it’s good.

You kind of composing was ahead of its time. With Pink Floyd, for instance, you were among the first to really use synthesizers. What will Roger Waters pioneer in 2007? What do you want to do that’s cutting edge?
There are a number of things. I find myself sort of walking backwards to simpler musical expression. There is a part of me that desperately wants to be Neil Young or John Prine or Bob Dylan. So when I sit aline at home with a guitar, very often now I’m searching for that mother lode – the very, very simple structured melidy sequence, whattever it is. I’m always looking for «Hello in There» or «Heart of Gold». There are those nuggets still there in the 12 notes that are available to us.

Having said that, I’ve been telling people that I’m going to make a new album for 13 or 14 years now. I’ve written a ton of songs and they’re all sitting there waiting. I think that the motivation to actually finish something or to go back into the studio and work on something will be political. I have a strong sense that the driving force will be my political passion.

Talk a little bit about some of the other songs that you’re doing in your show that are not in «Dark Side». In particular, some of the songs that you haven’t performed live before?
What haven’t we done before? «Sheep» we never did before. «Leaving Beirut», which is a new song.

How would you say that this version of «Dark Side» differs from the shows that you did in the early 70s?
The visuals are much stronger; way, way stronger. I was really sort of struggling in those days with the idea of how to use film in a rock and roll show. I’v sort of got that pretty down now. So I think the visuals are really beautiful [in the current version]. I’ve used quite a lot of the original material, but I’ve used quite a lit of the original material, but I’ve distressed it, and the whole show is monochrome,

That was my basic idea about the show; I thought, hang on a minute. In the rainbow there are five colors; orange, red, blue, green, yellow, magenta, six. So, hey, why don’t I use a different color for each song? So the starting point – the simplest thin that you could possibly do – would be to throw up a big moon on the screen and have it change color. Then that was my starting point, then slowly different ideas came and I embellished it from that point on. So that’s it basically; it’s very, very, very coherent and beautiful to look at..

How woould you like to be remembered?
I think that I would like to be remembered as somebody who spole his truth and stood by it through thick and thin and was not to be diverted by the vagaries of fashion or popularity or anything else. I paint what I see.

Have you composed your masterpiece yet? Have we seen it?
I think masterpiece is a very big word, I think I’ve been involved in making some records that are pretty good. «Dark Side of the Moon», «The Wall» and «Amused to Death», I would name probably as the three works I’m most proud of.

For the fans that are going to be seeing your upcoming shows, what would you say to them?
What can I say? I think it’s a pretty good show. I think they’ll come. They’re going to come. The word is out. If you go on the net and check out the reviews and stuff of the shows that we did in the States last year; if you go on the net you can find out pretty well what the show is. I’ve fiddled with it a bit since, but it’s basically the same show that ) did in the States last year. A lot of people who saw it I’m sure they have said to their friends:”Hey, if you get a chance to see this go because it’s special.”

[ GUITAR CHINA | THAT'S | Nigel Cook | RW | Abraham Lam| RS ]

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