Archive for January, 2007

Entry for January 31, 2007

January 31, 2007

A Conversation With David Gilmour, Pt. 2

You produced Syd Barrett’s first LP, or at least several tracks on it. It’s never been fully credited, but on some of those tracks was it Soft Machine who played? And were those the tracks that you produced, or was it the other fellow?

It was the other fellow. I mean, what happened was, Syd was gonna make the solo album, and a guy called Malcolm Jones at EMI uses gonna produce this album. And it went on for months and months and months, and they did these tracks, and they’re nice tracks, too, but they’d only got half an album after months and months, a lot of money spent, and Malcolm Jones was tearing his hair out. And EMI shut the project down, because too much money had been spent-they decided to cut their losses and just forget it.

Was it Syd with the basic Soft Machine trio, then?

Yes, it was Hugh Hopper, Mike Ratledge and Robert Wyatt playing the basic tracks on a lot of those tracks–not all of them. So EMI closed the project down, but myself and Roger offered to finish the project off, and they gave us like two extra days or something, to “finish” the album, which is (laughs)…But we did it, and the rough, the really rough acoustic ones are the ones that me and Roger did. And we sort of remixed the other tracks–I mixed the other tracks–and we stuck an album together as best we could. Just so it could go out, you know? And I thought of the title, and Syd had the picture taken by a friend of his, and that was it. The better produced tracks are really the ones that Malcolm Jones produced. But those took months, and we only had two days. There just wasn’t any option–we had to take the first take of anything and stick it out. It captures a part of Syd, I think.

There’s certainly been a fascination about him through the years.

Well, there’s the fascination with him by all the fans–there’s this sort of mythology that all the stuff we’ve done ever same is about him. When in fact only one track at all has ever had anything to do with him.

“Shine On You Crazy Diamond”?

Yeah.

Does that disturb you?

It doesn’t disturb me that much. I mean, you can’t get away from people’s ideas and mythologies–I can do this, I can set the record straight, I’ve done so as much as I can in the past 15 fucking years (laughs). I don’t give a shit anymore, you know? If people want to believe that, there’s nothing you can do by saying anything to make them change what they believe. They’re still gonna believe that I’m lying or that I’m misinformed, or I don’t know what I’m talking about, so…

This fascination that you’re talking about still shows up consistently. There was an NME piece I read a while back…

The NME stuff? There’s one writer, Nick Kent, who I actually talked to, had to spend an entire afternoon discussing the whole thing with him, and he obviously thought I just didn’t know Syd very well, or didn’t know anything about it. Well, I obviously think I know him very well, and he had a whole bunch of sort of “followers,” of parasite supporters who would hang around him and give him drugs…

Syd, you mean?

Syd, in around the ‘69 or ‘70 period. They thought they were friends of his, and were helping him–and I thought were just being destructive parasites. But, I mean, we all have our own opinion about what is wrong with our friends and what is right with our friends, and who’s a good friend for them. I have my own particular feeling about it, my particular belief about it all, and I’m not likely to change that for anyone else’s opinion (laughs), and they’re not likely to change theirs for mine. I can remember back in about 1969 or 1970, there were myths–a whole Pink Floyd myth already–and every time we did interviews, Roger would do an interview, or I would do an interview, we’d do everything in our power to dispel it. We’d say, “It’s complete shit, we’re not taking acid every fucking day, we’re musicians, making music.” And this whole myth would still sort of carry on through whatever we ever did. It just never makes any fucking difference. The people that want to hear that it was a myth, that it wasn’t like that, will believe it. And the rest of them won’t.

I just saw that Pink Floyd At Pompeii is back on sale as a videocassette in the States. I remember seeing it on public television back in ‘70 or ‘71. What was that, and what did you do it for?

Someone said let’s make a film, we’ve got an idea; someone said we’ve got the money; and we said fine. And we went and did it. It took an awful long time to come out.

Funny that it’s coming out again in ‘84.

I’ve seen it–I think a lot of it’s pretty bad, but some of it’s pretty good. And the sound quality, I thought, is remarkably good really, in the end. I mean we recorded it live, in the amphitheater, with an eight-track tape machine with microphones just sort of stuck in the front. And we took it to a studio in Paris and mixed it, and did the odd repair and things. But I think the sound quality is remarkably good, considering.

Two obscure soundtrack questions: Tell me about the band’s involvement in Tonite Let’s All Make Love In London and The Committee.

Tonite Let’s All Make Love In London was a film by a friend of ours–it was done before they had a recording contract…

Oh, you’re not on that…

No, it was before my time. And I think they made it in a demo studio somewhere in England, and I think it was just a version of “Interstellar Overdrive,” as far as I know. I’m not 100 percent certain about it, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen it. I’m only telling you the answer I’ve heard the others use.

And now the soundtrack is being bootlegged; I don’t know if you knew that.

I had no idea at all. The Committee was a film by a guy called Max Steuer, it had Paul Jones in it, I think, and we did little bits of music for it.

So you are involved in that?

Yes.

And that was incidental music, not taken from your albums?

Yes, it was incidental music we did, I think, in London in ‘69 or so. ‘68 or ‘69. It uses pretty dreadful, in my memory–but I have never heard it since.

And if I were to see the film I would hear this music?

You would hear some sort of tinkling noises, I think. (laughs)

Is it true that for the Zabriskie Point film, you recorded an entire album of music, but only three of those songs were used?

Yeah. We recorded tracks for lots of places in the film. Michelangelo Antonioni, who we all got on with pretty well, had some strange ideas about how he wanted the music to be, and the best things that we did, in my opinion, were the ones he didn’t use. And the bits that were not nearly so interesting were the bits he did use. It seemed to be the way he did everything: he’d choose actors who had no character and he’d choose music that was just virtually nothing. And any time the music added emotion or power to his imagery, it became not what he wanted, so he wouldn’t use it. And the best bits we did, I think, were the love scene…

Which is on the soundtrack, is it not?

Nope, Jerry Garcia did it in the end. But I think we did a very good piece of music for the love scene, and we did a very good piece for that sort of rioting scene, where they’re rioting on the campus of UCLA. And he didn’t use that, either. And that actual piece that we had, for the UCLA rioting thing, was a very beautiful piano piece of music that Rick Wright wrote that we thought worked exceptionally well. There’s all this sort of mad violence going on while this quiet, soothing music played. I thought it worked brilliantly, we all did. But we used it–the track–later, called it “Us And Them” and put it on Dark Side Of The Moon. (laughs)

Are there a lot of things like that–things that were recorded that never came out that could, if the band felt like it?

There are lots of bits from Zabriskie Point, but they’re none of them finished, they’re none of them useable. We went through them all later. We’d listen to tracks and think, “Well, we could do this bit again, or turn this bit into a song for an album.” We’ve delved anything that was worth anything off of those things. There are some other bits of music–once in a while I hear one as a soundtrack on television in England, you know? On a BBC program, I hear one and say, “That’s us! What the fuck is that?” And I can’t remember. Because we used to do things on British television, on programs where we’d actually just go on and play live on the television. We’d make it up as we went along, it wasn’t written at all. We’d do something strange, and weird and wonderful, and years later, some music director of some program would be shuffling through anything marked “Pink Floyd” in the vaults–because that’s where they often find good bits of stuff to stick on things–and they’d find som
ething. And I wouldn’t know even when we’d done it, what it was or anything about it. And there are a few bits like that, and one or two of them aren’t bad, actually.

Your first big record in the States was probably Ummagumma–oh, by the way, is that pronounced “Uhmma-guumma” or “Oooma-gooma”?

Well, I call it Oooma-gooma, but it wasn’t very big in the States. None of those records ever got in the Top 30, say.

But it was highly influential, certainly. And a lot of the bands around at that time–Can, Tangerine Dream, Faust & Neu!, say–owed a lot to you. What did you think about those bands at the time; did you listen to them?

I never listened to then, really. I’ve listened to a little bit of Tangerine Dream every once in a while, and…

You don’t like them?

I tend to think…they get hold of a good idea, and then they don’t use it right. I usually think that about most of that stuff–I mean I don’t want to generalize, I don’t know enough about it. But my most common reaction is that they’ve got onto a good idea, and then they flog it to death–and they keep it running along at the same level, and the same intensity, until it becomes a boring idea. Instead of using dynamics, and going up and down–you know, the whole sort of structure of what we used to do, in those days. And what made it work, I think, was the sort of sense of dynamics, things moving down to nothing and then coming up. That was the sort of thing–along with the type of music that it was–that made it work. And that’s why I think a lot of those others didn’t.

Oh, I should ask you: Did I see the band playing on the syndicated TV show The Pat Boone Show, or did I just imagine that?

It was before my time.

But it happened?

Yeah. With Syd. Pat talked to Syd and Syd didn’t answer. (laughs) I’ve not seen it, but the band have told me about it, with wondrous amazement. Because they mimed–they played a track on it, miming–and Syd didn’t move his arms or his lips, sort of the normal thing that was expected during miming.

Considering his reputation, Pat booked a lot of strange bands on his show. Probably ones that shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

Yeah. We owe everything to Pat. (grins)

I’ve been following Robert Wyatt’s career for a while, and I remember Pink Floyd played a benefit in London for him. Have most of you been involved with him? I know Nick’s done quite a bit.

Well, Nick is much more friends with Robert than I am, and I’ve known Robert since 1968. I mean, he’s a really nice guy, and I like him, but I don’t know him very well. I don’t really see very much of him; we don’t move in the same circles. But he’s a great guy… very nice. Unlucky, had a bad accident, drank a bit too much… But them’s the breaks, you know? That’s what happens. We were very glad to help him out. And those were the days when practically every concert we did in England was a benefit of some sort.

And now on to present day: What’s going on for you in the future? What are you going to do after this tour?

I don’t know. It doesn’t really matter terribly much, but I expect I’ll make another solo album. That’s what I think I’ll do. I would like to establish myself, to get my name into that sort of category of people that can, on the merits of what they’re expected to do, get enough people to listen to them and support what they do, whatever that happens to be. Whether I make it a collaboration with someone else or another completely solo project, or whatever it happens to be–if it’s got my name on it, then people will sort of expect a certain…

Quality?

… quality or something from it. I’m still learning, you know? It’s a new game for me, this solo artist business. But I suppose the only regrets I have from the whole Floyd thing is that I spent that much time working with that few people. And that I could’ve learned more and spread more by working with or for other people during that period of time.

Have you written material and brought it up to the band and had it turned down?

Of course, we all do that, all the time. But I’ve never brought anything up to the band that I’ve been convinced was great and that they’ve turned down. There’ve been things on the Final Cut album that I brought up that everyone liked–that Roger liked, and wrote lyrics to, but they didn
’t work with the song, you know? We couldn’t get the lyrics to marry with the song, you know? The lyrics didn’t make the song work. So in the end, I didn’t want to put it on–and Roger didn’t want it in that particular form. So I got Pete Townshend to write words for it and called it “Love On The Air.” (laughs) And that was one that was a possibility for that Final Cut album at one time.

Personally, I think you have a much more highly evolved melodic sense than Roger does…

Me too. (grins)

Do you envision him agreeing as well?

I don’t have expectations. I’m not going to sit around and wait for him to call, and if I get to the point where that’s the next thing I want to do, then I’ll give him a call. I don’t know. As you say, my lyrics are good–I think they are–and in some areas there’s a possibility of then getting quite good…

Like “Cruise,” from the new album. A great song–someone in our magazine mentioned that there’s a chance one of the better political songs in some time may go somewhat unnoticed merely because it’s out under your name, not where some might ordinarily expect to find such things.

Well, this is something I expect, that people are not going to look at them very much at first. And that it’s going to take a while for people to actually realize that I…

[tape side ends, Gilmour graps cassette and flips it over himself]

So this is a problem you’re going to have to deal with yourself?

Yes–I mean Roger’s got 16 years sort of head start on me, on learning how to hone your craft as a lyric writer. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to be as good as Roger, because he’s certainly very good at it. But I can hold my own on music, anytime–and I think for the first time, last year, when I started to write, I started for the first time to actually believe that I could write a lyric. And although I’m still very slow, and I’m quite hard on myself–and I think I have to be–and I discard an enormous amount of stuff–I mean, each song that I wrote had like 30 or 40 full scrap sheets of paper I threw away. I mean, I think I’ll get a word processor next time. (laughs) I think I can improve as a lyric writer.

OK, but from your first album, with “I Can’t Breathe Anymore” and “Let’s Get Metaphysical” on this, there’s a certain humor and sophistication that’s very much in line with the best of Pink Floyd. I think you may be being a bit too hard on yourself.

I do need to improve in the craft, in the professionalism a bit, I think. Some of those things … I love “I Can’t Breathe Anymore,” I think it’s a great little song. It’s got some good lines in it.

Are you happy with the way things are right now?

I’m very happy with what’s going on right now. For me, this is very enjoyable. I’m enjoying what I’m doing and how I’m doing it. It’s very nice to start off and have this. This is like an alternative to, or an adjunct to, what I do in Pink Floyd. I’m quite happy for it to be either of those things. But it will continue–the solo thing is something that I’ve now got into, do enjoy and intend to continue. And whether or not Pink Floyd carries on as well is something that’s probably much more important to other people than it is to me. I know that if Pink Floyd did decide to record again, together–myself and Roger–I know that we could make something better than anything we’ve ever made before. And that’s still quite possible.

As a result of these experiences?

Well, even without these experiences, I think. We still have not achieved the top that we could achieve. And I both of us might learn–I certainly think I’ve learned something, and I hope Roger’s learned something out of his experience. It could make us do something better than we’ve ever done before; there’s no reason why not.

Are you personally–and do you think Roger might be–intimidated by the musical presence of both Eric Clapton and Pino Palladino in each other’s bands?

No, I’m not intimidated by the people I work with…

No, but might Roger not feel a little twinge when he listens to Pino playing?

No, no, no. Roger doesn’t think of himself or worry about himself as a bass player; bass playing to Roger is a very secondary thing. A performer of some sort, and a motivator and a writer is what I think he thinks himself. And I’m extremely happy to have Eric Clapton playing on Roger’s album–I think it’s great for Roger to find out what it’s like to play with other peop
le and see what they’re like. And Eric’s terrific–I’m a huge fan or Eric’s.

Well, if you do record together again, you both should’ve learned quite a bit.

I’ve never, within this period of time, had any objection whatsoever to other people playing guitar parts on our records. If there was something I couldn’t play, I would get someone in to do it. I mean, I can think of guitar parts that I can’t play–I’ve never actually had to use one, yet, but I could quite easily see that I might write a guitar part that I actually couldn’t play myself, and I’d get someone else in to play. That wouldn’t hurt my ego to do something like that. Like I said, there’s a track on “Don’t Leave Me Now” where we got Lee Ritenour to play a rhythm guitar part–because I didn’t know what the fuck to play, myself. I said, “I don’t know what to do on this track, I just don’t know what to do.” So we got him in to do the part. It was good fun. Someone else in there to bounce off of, you know?

Entry for January 31, 2007

January 31, 2007

A Conversation With David Gilmour, Pt. 2

You produced Syd Barrett’s first LP, or at least several tracks on it. It’s never been fully credited, but on some of those tracks was it Soft Machine who played? And were those the tracks that you produced, or was it the other fellow?

It was the other fellow. I mean, what happened was, Syd was gonna make the solo album, and a guy called Malcolm Jones at EMI uses gonna produce this album. And it went on for months and months and months, and they did these tracks, and they’re nice tracks, too, but they’d only got half an album after months and months, a lot of money spent, and Malcolm Jones was tearing his hair out. And EMI shut the project down, because too much money had been spent-they decided to cut their losses and just forget it.

Was it Syd with the basic Soft Machine trio, then?

Yes, it was Hugh Hopper, Mike Ratledge and Robert Wyatt playing the basic tracks on a lot of those tracks–not all of them. So EMI closed the project down, but myself and Roger offered to finish the project off, and they gave us like two extra days or something, to “finish” the album, which is (laughs)…But we did it, and the rough, the really rough acoustic ones are the ones that me and Roger did. And we sort of remixed the other tracks–I mixed the other tracks–and we stuck an album together as best we could. Just so it could go out, you know? And I thought of the title, and Syd had the picture taken by a friend of his, and that was it. The better produced tracks are really the ones that Malcolm Jones produced. But those took months, and we only had two days. There just wasn’t any option–we had to take the first take of anything and stick it out. It captures a part of Syd, I think.

There’s certainly been a fascination about him through the years.

Well, there’s the fascination with him by all the fans–there’s this sort of mythology that all the stuff we’ve done ever same is about him. When in fact only one track at all has ever had anything to do with him.

“Shine On You Crazy Diamond”?

Yeah.

Does that disturb you?

It doesn’t disturb me that much. I mean, you can’t get away from people’s ideas and mythologies–I can do this, I can set the record straight, I’ve done so as much as I can in the past 15 fucking years (laughs). I don’t give a shit anymore, you know? If people want to believe that, there’s nothing you can do by saying anything to make them change what they believe. They’re still gonna believe that I’m lying or that I’m misinformed, or I don’t know what I’m talking about, so…

This fascination that you’re talking about still shows up consistently. There was an NME piece I read a while back…

The NME stuff? There’s one writer, Nick Kent, who I actually talked to, had to spend an entire afternoon discussing the whole thing with him, and he obviously thought I just didn’t know Syd very well, or didn’t know anything about it. Well, I obviously think I know him very well, and he had a whole bunch of sort of “followers,” of parasite supporters who would hang around him and give him drugs…

Syd, you mean?

Syd, in around the ‘69 or ‘70 period. They thought they were friends of his, and were helping him–and I thought were just being destructive parasites. But, I mean, we all have our own opinion about what is wrong with our friends and what is right with our friends, and who’s a good friend for them. I have my own particular feeling about it, my particular belief about it all, and I’m not likely to change that for anyone else’s opinion (laughs), and they’re not likely to change theirs for mine. I can remember back in about 1969 or 1970, there were myths–a whole Pink Floyd myth already–and every time we did interviews, Roger would do an interview, or I would do an interview, we’d do everything in our power to dispel it. We’d say, “It’s complete shit, we’re not taking acid every fucking day, we’re musicians, making music.” And this whole myth would still sort of carry on through whatever we ever did. It just never makes any fucking difference. The people that want to hear that it was a myth, that it wasn’t like that, will believe it. And the rest of them won’t.

I just saw that Pink Floyd At Pompeii is back on sale as a videocassette in the States. I remember seeing it on public television back in ‘70 or ‘71. What was that, and what did you do it for?

Someone said let’s make a film, we’ve got an idea; someone said we’ve got the money; and we said fine. And we went and did it. It took an awful long time to come out.

Funny that it’s coming out again in ‘84.

I’ve seen it–I think a lot of it’s pretty bad, but some of it’s pretty good. And the sound quality, I thought, is remarkably good really, in the end. I mean we recorded it live, in the amphitheater, with an eight-track tape machine with microphones just sort of stuck in the front. And we took it to a studio in Paris and mixed it, and did the odd repair and things. But I think the sound quality is remarkably good, considering.

Two obscure soundtrack questions: Tell me about the band’s involvement in Tonite Let’s All Make Love In London and The Committee.

Tonite Let’s All Make Love In London was a film by a friend of ours–it was done before they had a recording contract…

Oh, you’re not on that…

No, it was before my time. And I think they made it in a demo studio somewhere in England, and I think it was just a version of “Interstellar Overdrive,” as far as I know. I’m not 100 percent certain about it, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen it. I’m only telling you the answer I’ve heard the others use.

And now the soundtrack is being bootlegged; I don’t know if you knew that.

I had no idea at all. The Committee was a film by a guy called Max Steuer, it had Paul Jones in it, I think, and we did little bits of music for it.

So you are involved in that?

Yes.

And that was incidental music, not taken from your albums?

Yes, it was incidental music we did, I think, in London in ‘69 or so. ‘68 or ‘69. It uses pretty dreadful, in my memory–but I have never heard it since.

And if I were to see the film I would hear this music?

You would hear some sort of tinkling noises, I think. (laughs)

Is it true that for the Zabriskie Point film, you recorded an entire album of music, but only three of those songs were used?

Yeah. We recorded tracks for lots of places in the film. Michelangelo Antonioni, who we all got on with pretty well, had some strange ideas about how he wanted the music to be, and the best things that we did, in my opinion, were the ones he didn’t use. And the bits that were not nearly so interesting were the bits he did use. It seemed to be the way he did everything: he’d choose actors who had no character and he’d choose music that was just virtually nothing. And any time the music added emotion or power to his imagery, it became not what he wanted, so he wouldn’t use it. And the best bits we did, I think, were the love scene…

Which is on the soundtrack, is it not?

Nope, Jerry Garcia did it in the end. But I think we did a very good piece of music for the love scene, and we did a very good piece for that sort of rioting scene, where they’re rioting on the campus of UCLA. And he didn’t use that, either. And that actual piece that we had, for the UCLA rioting thing, was a very beautiful piano piece of music that Rick Wright wrote that we thought worked exceptionally well. There’s all this sort of mad violence going on while this quiet, soothing music played. I thought it worked brilliantly, we all did. But we used it–the track–later, called it “Us And Them” and put it on Dark Side Of The Moon. (laughs)

Are there a lot of things like that–things that were recorded that never came out that could, if the band felt like it?

There are lots of bits from Zabriskie Point, but they’re none of them finished, they’re none of them useable. We went through them all later. We’d listen to tracks and think, “Well, we could do this bit again, or turn this bit into a song for an album.” We’ve delved anything that was worth anything off of those things. There are some other bits of music–once in a while I hear one as a soundtrack on television in England, you know? On a BBC program, I hear one and say, “That’s us! What the fuck is that?” And I can’t remember. Because we used to do things on British television, on programs where we’d actually just go on and play live on the television. We’d make it up as we went along, it wasn’t written at all. We’d do something strange, and weird and wonderful, and years later, some music director of some program would be shuffling through anything marked “Pink Floyd” in the vaults–because that’s where they often find good bits of stuff to stick on things–and they’d find som
ething. And I wouldn’t know even when we’d done it, what it was or anything about it. And there are a few bits like that, and one or two of them aren’t bad, actually.

Your first big record in the States was probably Ummagumma–oh, by the way, is that pronounced “Uhmma-guumma” or “Oooma-gooma”?

Well, I call it Oooma-gooma, but it wasn’t very big in the States. None of those records ever got in the Top 30, say.

But it was highly influential, certainly. And a lot of the bands around at that time–Can, Tangerine Dream, Faust & Neu!, say–owed a lot to you. What did you think about those bands at the time; did you listen to them?

I never listened to then, really. I’ve listened to a little bit of Tangerine Dream every once in a while, and…

You don’t like them?

I tend to think…they get hold of a good idea, and then they don’t use it right. I usually think that about most of that stuff–I mean I don’t want to generalize, I don’t know enough about it. But my most common reaction is that they’ve got onto a good idea, and then they flog it to death–and they keep it running along at the same level, and the same intensity, until it becomes a boring idea. Instead of using dynamics, and going up and down–you know, the whole sort of structure of what we used to do, in those days. And what made it work, I think, was the sort of sense of dynamics, things moving down to nothing and then coming up. That was the sort of thing–along with the type of music that it was–that made it work. And that’s why I think a lot of those others didn’t.

Oh, I should ask you: Did I see the band playing on the syndicated TV show The Pat Boone Show, or did I just imagine that?

It was before my time.

But it happened?

Yeah. With Syd. Pat talked to Syd and Syd didn’t answer. (laughs) I’ve not seen it, but the band have told me about it, with wondrous amazement. Because they mimed–they played a track on it, miming–and Syd didn’t move his arms or his lips, sort of the normal thing that was expected during miming.

Considering his reputation, Pat booked a lot of strange bands on his show. Probably ones that shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

Yeah. We owe everything to Pat. (grins)

I’ve been following Robert Wyatt’s career for a while, and I remember Pink Floyd played a benefit in London for him. Have most of you been involved with him? I know Nick’s done quite a bit.

Well, Nick is much more friends with Robert than I am, and I’ve known Robert since 1968. I mean, he’s a really nice guy, and I like him, but I don’t know him very well. I don’t really see very much of him; we don’t move in the same circles. But he’s a great guy… very nice. Unlucky, had a bad accident, drank a bit too much… But them’s the breaks, you know? That’s what happens. We were very glad to help him out. And those were the days when practically every concert we did in England was a benefit of some sort.

And now on to present day: What’s going on for you in the future? What are you going to do after this tour?

I don’t know. It doesn’t really matter terribly much, but I expect I’ll make another solo album. That’s what I think I’ll do. I would like to establish myself, to get my name into that sort of category of people that can, on the merits of what they’re expected to do, get enough people to listen to them and support what they do, whatever that happens to be. Whether I make it a collaboration with someone else or another completely solo project, or whatever it happens to be–if it’s got my name on it, then people will sort of expect a certain…

Quality?

… quality or something from it. I’m still learning, you know? It’s a new game for me, this solo artist business. But I suppose the only regrets I have from the whole Floyd thing is that I spent that much time working with that few people. And that I could’ve learned more and spread more by working with or for other people during that period of time.

Have you written material and brought it up to the band and had it turned down?

Of course, we all do that, all the time. But I’ve never brought anything up to the band that I’ve been convinced was great and that they’ve turned down. There’ve been things on the Final Cut album that I brought up that everyone liked–that Roger liked, and wrote lyrics to, but they didn
’t work with the song, you know? We couldn’t get the lyrics to marry with the song, you know? The lyrics didn’t make the song work. So in the end, I didn’t want to put it on–and Roger didn’t want it in that particular form. So I got Pete Townshend to write words for it and called it “Love On The Air.” (laughs) And that was one that was a possibility for that Final Cut album at one time.

Personally, I think you have a much more highly evolved melodic sense than Roger does…

Me too. (grins)

Do you envision him agreeing as well?

I don’t have expectations. I’m not going to sit around and wait for him to call, and if I get to the point where that’s the next thing I want to do, then I’ll give him a call. I don’t know. As you say, my lyrics are good–I think they are–and in some areas there’s a possibility of then getting quite good…

Like “Cruise,” from the new album. A great song–someone in our magazine mentioned that there’s a chance one of the better political songs in some time may go somewhat unnoticed merely because it’s out under your name, not where some might ordinarily expect to find such things.

Well, this is something I expect, that people are not going to look at them very much at first. And that it’s going to take a while for people to actually realize that I…

[tape side ends, Gilmour graps cassette and flips it over himself]

So this is a problem you’re going to have to deal with yourself?

Yes–I mean Roger’s got 16 years sort of head start on me, on learning how to hone your craft as a lyric writer. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to be as good as Roger, because he’s certainly very good at it. But I can hold my own on music, anytime–and I think for the first time, last year, when I started to write, I started for the first time to actually believe that I could write a lyric. And although I’m still very slow, and I’m quite hard on myself–and I think I have to be–and I discard an enormous amount of stuff–I mean, each song that I wrote had like 30 or 40 full scrap sheets of paper I threw away. I mean, I think I’ll get a word processor next time. (laughs) I think I can improve as a lyric writer.

OK, but from your first album, with “I Can’t Breathe Anymore” and “Let’s Get Metaphysical” on this, there’s a certain humor and sophistication that’s very much in line with the best of Pink Floyd. I think you may be being a bit too hard on yourself.

I do need to improve in the craft, in the professionalism a bit, I think. Some of those things … I love “I Can’t Breathe Anymore,” I think it’s a great little song. It’s got some good lines in it.

Are you happy with the way things are right now?

I’m very happy with what’s going on right now. For me, this is very enjoyable. I’m enjoying what I’m doing and how I’m doing it. It’s very nice to start off and have this. This is like an alternative to, or an adjunct to, what I do in Pink Floyd. I’m quite happy for it to be either of those things. But it will continue–the solo thing is something that I’ve now got into, do enjoy and intend to continue. And whether or not Pink Floyd carries on as well is something that’s probably much more important to other people than it is to me. I know that if Pink Floyd did decide to record again, together–myself and Roger–I know that we could make something better than anything we’ve ever made before. And that’s still quite possible.

As a result of these experiences?

Well, even without these experiences, I think. We still have not achieved the top that we could achieve. And I both of us might learn–I certainly think I’ve learned something, and I hope Roger’s learned something out of his experience. It could make us do something better than we’ve ever done before; there’s no reason why not.

Are you personally–and do you think Roger might be–intimidated by the musical presence of both Eric Clapton and Pino Palladino in each other’s bands?

No, I’m not intimidated by the people I work with…

No, but might Roger not feel a little twinge when he listens to Pino playing?

No, no, no. Roger doesn’t think of himself or worry about himself as a bass player; bass playing to Roger is a very secondary thing. A performer of some sort, and a motivator and a writer is what I think he thinks himself. And I’m extremely happy to have Eric Clapton playing on Roger’s album–I think it’s great for Roger to find out what it’s like to play with other peop
le and see what they’re like. And Eric’s terrific–I’m a huge fan or Eric’s.

Well, if you do record together again, you both should’ve learned quite a bit.

I’ve never, within this period of time, had any objection whatsoever to other people playing guitar parts on our records. If there was something I couldn’t play, I would get someone in to do it. I mean, I can think of guitar parts that I can’t play–I’ve never actually had to use one, yet, but I could quite easily see that I might write a guitar part that I actually couldn’t play myself, and I’d get someone else in to play. That wouldn’t hurt my ego to do something like that. Like I said, there’s a track on “Don’t Leave Me Now” where we got Lee Ritenour to play a rhythm guitar part–because I didn’t know what the fuck to play, myself. I said, “I don’t know what to do on this track, I just don’t know what to do.” So we got him in to do the part. It was good fun. Someone else in there to bounce off of, you know?

Entry for January 31, 2007

January 31, 2007

A Conversation With David Gilmour, Pt. 1

In 1984, Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour toured the States to promote About Face, his second solo album–which followed by a year Pink Floyd’s The Final Cut. Though no one knew it at the time, that album would be the last Floyd disc to feature Gilmour’s longtime bandmate Roger Waters. Ultimately, About Face sounded more like a Pink Floyd album than did Final Cut, was boosted by lyrical contributions from the Who’s Pete Townshend, and was an altogether dandy album. I spoke with Gilmour on June 6, 1984, backstage at the Pine Knob Music Theatre in Clarkston, Michigan, and found him charming, warm and personable.

***

You haven’t talked to the press much, have you?

I have during the last two or three months, let me tell you.

How’s it been for you?

It’s exhausting, but it’s OK.

How fast was the new album recorded?

Umm … the basic tracks were put down in about eight days, in Paris, where the basic unit, the four of us, did most of it, but then it took about another three months to do the rest of it.

How does that compare to Pink Floyd for you? Was that a relatively fast recording session?

No, I mean, I didn’t do it fast. It took quite a long time–longer than I’d hoped it would take. It felt pretty much the same sort of time scale we’d do a Pink Floyd album on.

I know everyone else has been asking you for three months, but…what’s the status of that band right now?

There just isn’t really a status, you know? No one’s made any decisions, no one’s really decided to quit, completely, but we haven’t made any plans to do anything. Rick’s left, of course, but as far as the other three of us are concerned, we just haven’t got any plans at the moment. And when and if that situation changes, we’ll do something.

I know in the latter days of Pink Floyd–say during the making of The Wallthere were quite a few session musicians aboard. Being from the old school myself, where session musicians are OK but an actual “band” is something quite different, do you find that there’s a big difference for you now, when you use them regularly?

We don’t use much in the way of session musicians, actually. The Wall album didn’t use much. I mean, there are a few people who appeared on it for various reasons here and there. There was a keyboard player who appeared on a couple of tracks.

Michael Kamen?

Well, Kamen played some piano, myself, Roger and [producer Bob] Ezrin played some synthesizer, as well as Rick…

Andy Bown?

No, Andy Bown didn’t play on it. A guy named Freddy Mandel played some Hammond organ on the “In The Flesh” tracks. A classical guitar player played a nylon-string guitar piece on one thing–because, for recording purposes, I haven’t got the right fingernails for that sort of thing. I can’t quite get it to sound quite perfect for recording. I can do it fine onstage. And Lee Ritenour played rhythm guitar on one track.

What I’m getting at is that now there’s a certain professionalism or perfectionism you’re working with here. In the past, on those earlier albums, did you merely “settle” for stuff that you would’ve preferred other people to play, or did you have some sort of rationale–“I’d rather we did it ourselves”?

No, no, we just never felt we really needed them that much, I have always felt quite comfy and capable, doing all the guitar parts that we needed. And I’ve enjoyed doing it. And between Rick and rnyself and Roger, we’ve always managed to do all the synthesizer and keyboard parts we’ve needed. And Nick has always managed to do the drums, and so on. And myself and Roger have done the bass guitar between us. And we’ve had saxophone guys with us before, ever since Dark Side Of the Moon we started using saxophone players, girl singers, you know, basic stuff. Orchestras. (laughs)

What’s that saxophonist’s name–Dick Parry?

Yeah.

If I can ask, are you guys pals?

Yeah, Dick’s a friend of mine from Cambridge.

No, I don’t mean him. I mean the band. Did you reach the point where you were so big there was no need to talk to one another unless it was time to record?

It’s not to do with being big– -we’ve never really been close personal friends. They started a group together, because they wanted to be in a group together–and it was before my time–not because they were real close friends. And when you start that sort of thing up, you get the people who can do the best possible job at that moment, because you have ambitions. You don’t have friends in who can’t play for no reason. I mean, some people do, but I don’t think the Floyd was ever started off that way. And we are, really, about as friendly as we’ve ever been.

Didn’t you ever reach a point where…

We fight all the time! I mean, myself and Roger have huge arguments, and we’ve practically come to blows sometimes, because we disagree about what we’re doing and we both believe in what we’re doing. To the extent where if I think he’s doing thing wrong and I’m trying to dissuade him from doing it–or vice-versa–then it can become fairly heated, because we want it to be right. And the great thing about being in a band like that is that some of the great things that happen happen because of compromise, because one person wants it one way, the other wants it another, and you reach some sort of compromise. And sometimes some things don’t work because of compromise.

How did these current link-ups with Pete Townshend and Mick Ralphs come about?

They all came about in different ways. For the album, I made a list of players I wanted to do the album, right? The best musicians…

Have anyone on the list you couldn’t get?

Well, I started with a list of the best bass players, and keyboard players, obviously, to take with me. [Jeff] Porcaro was first on the list of drummers and I got him, Pino Palladino was the first on the list of bass players, and I got him.

Incredible choice–he’s great.

And they’re both, for me, really perfect. I started off with a number of keyboard players who I phoned who couldn’t actually do it at the time, like Steve Winwood, who I wanted to do the whole album. He couldn’t do it at the time because he was busy on something; Bill Payne, he was another one on my list–he was busy between doing a Linda Ronstadt tour and a James Taylor tour or something. I asked Paul Carrack, he couldn’t do it, he was busy on something, I wanted someone who could play really classy, old-fashioned Hammond organ, to put basic tracks with everyone playing all together, which we could then use as the basic and then chop things around, get rid of things. That’s the way we do things. But I wanted the band to feel like a band, playing in the studio while we were putting the basic tracks down. So I couldn’t get any of those first-choice people–and in the end had to ask for recommendations on keyboard players. And someone suggested Ian Kewley to me, and I’d already got Pino, and they’re in the same band…

Paul Young’s band?

Yeah. So I asked Pino, and he said, “he’s terrific.” So I said great, we’ll give him a go, and he was terrific! Lots of people think some of the Hammond things on there are Steve Winwood, when in fact they’re Ian Kewley. Steve’s only playing–I got him in later, for a one-day session, he did Hammond on “Blue Light” and piano on “Love In The Air.” And that’s it. He’s down on the list, on the sort of “also played” musicians, and everyone thinks it’s a major thing. But it really isn’t quite like that.

I found it interesting that you chose Mick Ralphs to accompany you on this tour. Were you frustrated being the only guitarist in Pink Floyd?

Oh, we’ve had second guitar players on all Pink Floyd stuff, since 197 … 7? … I think. Snowy White came on the ‘77 tour, and did all the tours and stuff.

Yeah, he’s got a hit over in England, doesn’t he?

Right. And the reason for having Mick, actually, is that we’re friends, that we live close by each other, and that he wasn’t doing anything. And I said, “I’m going out on the road next year, touring,” And he said, “Can I come?” And I said “
Yes.” Simple as that. He’s a great foil, a great guy to have around.

With Roger’s album out so close to your own, would you derive great personal satisfaction–frankly, as an independent observer and fan of the band, I know that your album is much more accessible, much more pleasant to listen to than Roger’s is. I don’t even know if you’ve heard it…

I haven’t.

OK. Your album has been out longer than Roger’s, I think it’s above Roger’s on the charts now.

It’s one place below it this week, I think…

If it stays up there longer than his, are you going to feel a sense of self-satisfaction, of proving a point with this you couldn’t in Pink Floyd?

Of course. To a certain extent there’s an air of competition between us. Roger does think–and has said–that he is the Pink Floyd. That he is the reason for what Pink Floyd is.

He’s said that?

He has said that to people.

What do you say to that?

I just say that he’s not, you know? I mean that is a basic bone of contention, obviously. We all have our, every person has their own “shortsightedness,” or myopia in life. I have my shortsightedness and Roger has his. My shortsightedness may be that I think I’m a vital, essential ingredient to what the Floyd has done all the way through. And Roger’s myopia to me seems to be that he thinks, at this juncture, that I’m not. I mean, he’s saying he is it–I’ve never thought or believed that I am it, I’m a vital part of it is what I’ve always believed. And to me–and I don’t want to get this into a huge fight or argument be myself and Roger–the Final Cut album is really his own work. I don’t like it, I think it shouldn’t have been out like that as a Pink Floyd record. But that’s one of those things that we fight about and argue about and disagree on and cause a bit of bad feeling at the time. But we get over these things. Obviously, I would like my album to do well. I’d like it to do better than Roger’s. I don’t know whether it will, and it doesn’t really matter terribly much. But I think I have something that is musical, and valuable, and is a vital part of it.

Are you as depressed a guy as he is?

No, no, no. I’m not as depressed a person. I have my moments of depression…

“Melancholy” is the word the press has been using….

Yeah.

But five years ago, if someone plopped your album and Roger’s on the turntable and asked me to guess which one was Pink Floyd’s, it wouldn’t have been his.

Well, you know, it’s one of those things where in this point of our lives, I suppose, we’ve both got a little something to prove. I’m sort of not happy about the way Pink Floyd has gone after The Wall.

What do you mean?

Well, I don’t like the Final Cut album–I don’t like the way we got into it, and I just don’t think it’s a good enough album. I quite simply think there are three good tracks on it and the rest of it is not good enough. It’s substandard to me.

Is “Not Now John” one of the tracks you like?

No, “Not Now John” I don’t like, myself. A lot of people do like it, but personally I don’t care for it. The “Final Cut” track itself, the “Gunner’s Dream” and “Fletcher,” that’s right. Those three are the ones I really 1ike, that I think are of the sort of quality that we normally aim for.

When you say that since The Wall things have gone slightly askew…

It’s just a matter of timing, really, things happening a certain way that I don’t think will happen again.

The common rap on Pink Floyd, if I may–and I’m sure you’ve heard this, too–is that since Dark Side Of The Moon, there’s been a certain self-consciousness on the band’s part in following up something that will remain on the charts for the rest of our lives.
I saw you performing stuff from Animals long before it came out, and when it finally did I was glad, but I wondered why it had taken so long. Was that self-consciousness a part of it?

No, actually the difficult part after Dark Side Of The Moon was doing the follow-up album, Wish You Were Here, which didn’t feel so good–our feelings weren’t so good during the making of it. But I like the album a lot. I think it’s got certain things on it that Dark Side Of The Moon hasn’t got. I think that Animals has got certain things that that Dark Side Of The Moon hasn’t got. And I like all those albums, I love the Wall album myself–I think the period of Pink Floyd time that I really love the best is from Meddle through to The Wall. I’m not interested in the stuff earlier than that, really.

Even Ummagumma?

It hasn’t withstood the test of time for me–I liked it at the time, but now I’m not really interested in listening to it anymore.

Remember when, years ago, Johnny Rotten wore some t-shirt denouncing Pink Floyd, and the general word back then that the band was old news? Was there any sort of truth within all that, did you sit back and consider, “Well, we better put an album out, it’s been three years or so…”

No, no. That stuff wasn’t really important, I don’t think. I think the punk movement’s importance is highly overrated, myself. I think it did give a few people a well-needed kick up the backside–but I don’t think much actual talent came out of that thing in itself. In a negative way, in booting other people, maybe, but not so far as producing very much. That’s my opinion.

Have you passed the point–say since Dark Sideof reading what other people have to say about you?

I read stuff, you know, when it’s current. I’ve got something going on now, obviously, and I’m reading bits and pieces being written about me.

What do you think? I mean, this is the first time in a while you’ve opened yourself up. It must be strange for you.

Well, you know–you do what you have to do. I’ve never had anything particularly against that, you know, it’s just never arisen in quite the same way as it’s arisen now.

Since Dark Side Of The Moon–and correct me if I’m wrong here–I’ve thought you’re probably the sort of guy who’d rather be producing, being more prolific than you’ve been. Especially rather than just sitting around waiting to produce one “perfect” Pink Floyd album every three years or so. Is this true?

I get moments of frustration about the time we’re taking to do things, but no–I’m entirely happy with the general progress of what we’ve done. And we have all wanted, since Dark Side Of The Moon –I mean, since Dark Side Of The Moon came out, I was 27, I suppose. Roger was 30, we were all married, we all had families on the way, all that sort of stuff. And we didn’t want to be doing it the way you do it when you’re 18 or 20, touring around the world. We wanted to be able to take a little bit more time doing things, we wanted to be able to get things right when we did them, and we wanted to be able to take some time off and have holidays. You can’t do that sort of stuff when you’re just starting out–you have to slog until you’re completely established and safe. You can’t afford to take a minute off, really, you’ve got to just keep at it. And as soon as we felt we could take life a little easier, we wanted to do so. I mean, music isn’t everything in life. There’s a lot of other stuff to it. I have never thought music was everything–I see a lot of young kids say music is everything in their life, and I’ve just never been like that. There’s always been other things in my life. It’s a part of my life–and a vital and important part of my life that I love and couldn’t do without-but it’s a part.

Were you happy with the film treatment The Wall received?

Umm–I liked the film. I don’t think the film is as good a thing as the Wall album is, and certainly not as good as the Wall live shows that we did were. I mean, in terms of relating the Wall story. But I do like it, I think it’s a good film.

What process was involved in that album’s creation, exactly? It’s a pretty dense story–did Roger sit down with you guys and try to figure things out, did he just do some demos, or what?

Well, Roger gave me some demos of The Wall that he had done in the beginning of the summer, right after my first solo album came out–summer of ‘78. And I took it to Greece with me, on my summer holiday, for three months. And I couldn’t actually listen to it through.

Why not–because of the time factor?

Because it was so depressing, so wailing and drawn
out. There wasn’t enough good music in it and stuff. And we took it to bits again soon after, and Bob Ezrin came in, and we pressured Roger. I brought in some tracks, like the “Comfortably Numb” track and the “Run Like Hell” track. The “Young Lust” track Roger had written music to, and we didn’t like it, so Roger said, “Well if you don’t like it, write something better yourself.” So I did. (laughs )

Surely you realize those are the tracks that were played on the radio?

Yes, yes, I know. But Roger actually works better under pressure, anyway; when we’d say to Roger we didn’t like certain things and we needed something for this point, he would go off in a slight pique or something and come back with something really great. Some of the best tracks on the album for me came out of that work, when we were all under pressure. And Roger was under pressure after we’d started on the project. “Nobody Home,” for example, was a track that came in, and I think it’s one of the best tracks on the album, I love that track. And a lot of the other things–quite a few of them, anyway–came in afterwards. A lot of things were condensed down very radically, the side three stuff, “Bring The Boys Back Home” and “Vera” and all those things–that waffled on for hours. These things got changed, radically, all the way through.

Do you actually joke around, or say, “Oh my God, Roger, I’m gonna go slit my wrists now”?

Yeah. We do that stuff all the time. And with that part of it, I actually went in with a razor blade and slashed his demo with a razor blade and cut out half of it.

To change the subject, what was your rationale at the time for recording your first solo album?

I wanted to make an album, I wanted to start this process that I’m starting now, really. I wanted to find out what it was like to make a solo record. I was very lacking in confidence, and so I had a couple of close friends who were with me to make the album. I really was sort of too nervous to book other musicians that I didn’t know; I didn’t know if the material I’d got was good enough. And I just went in and did it very, very quickly–just did it more or less instinctively, off the top of my head.

Those were the musicians from the band Cochise, correct?

Yes, they were in Cochise, but they were friends of mine in Cambridge before then.

Were they in your earlier band Jokers Wild, then?

Well, Willie [Wilson] was for a while, but my band after Joker’s Wild was a band I took to France and Spain for a while, and that was the three of us. So I took those guys because they were close to me, and they were saying, “Come on, Dave, you ought to make a solo record,” and I kept thinking I ought to, but never knowing if I had the ability or the confidence to actually get it right. I just went and did it very quickly, about three weeks it took, I think.

You’ve produced Unicorn and Kate Bush–is there anything else?

No, not really. It isn’t a job I love, producing other people–I’d rather be producing myself. Once in a while it becomes necessary for a talented person’s career that I give them help.

Does that come about because you’re out there listening to things?

No, people come to me, occasionally. A friend came to me with Kate Bush and said, “Listen to this girl, she’s great.” I listened, she was great, and there was just no way, with the demos I had, that I could’ve persuaded a record company. So I had to take an interest in it for a while then to make it work, do the mechanical things of getting the whole project underway. I organized recording three tracks with her in full quality–proper engineer, proper studio, proper orchestra, arranger, the whole thing. Did that, made it beautiful and perfect, and then sold that whole thing–her and those tapes–to EMI, to get her her start. As soon as she had her start, she didn’t need me or anyone else. She’s a very tough girl (laughs), she knows, exactly what she’s going for.

Another trivia question: Is that your brother in the band The Act?

Yep.

Is that still going on?

He was in that band for a while, I’ve got another friend–in fact he was in a band called Alfalpha previously–and he wanted to start a band, and my brother was out of work. I suggested that they meet, and they met and got on well–so I actually had a hand in starting that off. Then my brother was in a band called Scarlet Party that had a single and an album out in England last year. Very talented guys. But he’s left that now, as well.

Is he younger than you?

Yeah, he’s 30, about eight years younger.

Reading any Pink Floyd history, there’s always a reference to this legendary club called UFO. Were you a part of that, or was that before you were in the band?

That actual club, UFO, was shut down before I joined the band, I think. Or certainly we never played the club after I joined. But we did all that stuff, we did–what was it called?–the Roundhouse, the place that the whole UFO trip sort of moved to in Covent Garden, called the Middle Earth. We played there all the time, it was pretty wild.

(End Pt. 1)

Entry for January 31, 2007

January 31, 2007

A Conversation With David Gilmour, Pt. 1

In 1984, Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour toured the States to promote About Face, his second solo album–which followed by a year Pink Floyd’s The Final Cut. Though no one knew it at the time, that album would be the last Floyd disc to feature Gilmour’s longtime bandmate Roger Waters. Ultimately, About Face sounded more like a Pink Floyd album than did Final Cut, was boosted by lyrical contributions from the Who’s Pete Townshend, and was an altogether dandy album. I spoke with Gilmour on June 6, 1984, backstage at the Pine Knob Music Theatre in Clarkston, Michigan, and found him charming, warm and personable.

***

You haven’t talked to the press much, have you?

I have during the last two or three months, let me tell you.

How’s it been for you?

It’s exhausting, but it’s OK.

How fast was the new album recorded?

Umm … the basic tracks were put down in about eight days, in Paris, where the basic unit, the four of us, did most of it, but then it took about another three months to do the rest of it.

How does that compare to Pink Floyd for you? Was that a relatively fast recording session?

No, I mean, I didn’t do it fast. It took quite a long time–longer than I’d hoped it would take. It felt pretty much the same sort of time scale we’d do a Pink Floyd album on.

I know everyone else has been asking you for three months, but…what’s the status of that band right now?

There just isn’t really a status, you know? No one’s made any decisions, no one’s really decided to quit, completely, but we haven’t made any plans to do anything. Rick’s left, of course, but as far as the other three of us are concerned, we just haven’t got any plans at the moment. And when and if that situation changes, we’ll do something.

I know in the latter days of Pink Floyd–say during the making of The Wallthere were quite a few session musicians aboard. Being from the old school myself, where session musicians are OK but an actual “band” is something quite different, do you find that there’s a big difference for you now, when you use them regularly?

We don’t use much in the way of session musicians, actually. The Wall album didn’t use much. I mean, there are a few people who appeared on it for various reasons here and there. There was a keyboard player who appeared on a couple of tracks.

Michael Kamen?

Well, Kamen played some piano, myself, Roger and [producer Bob] Ezrin played some synthesizer, as well as Rick…

Andy Bown?

No, Andy Bown didn’t play on it. A guy named Freddy Mandel played some Hammond organ on the “In The Flesh” tracks. A classical guitar player played a nylon-string guitar piece on one thing–because, for recording purposes, I haven’t got the right fingernails for that sort of thing. I can’t quite get it to sound quite perfect for recording. I can do it fine onstage. And Lee Ritenour played rhythm guitar on one track.

What I’m getting at is that now there’s a certain professionalism or perfectionism you’re working with here. In the past, on those earlier albums, did you merely “settle” for stuff that you would’ve preferred other people to play, or did you have some sort of rationale–“I’d rather we did it ourselves”?

No, no, we just never felt we really needed them that much, I have always felt quite comfy and capable, doing all the guitar parts that we needed. And I’ve enjoyed doing it. And between Rick and rnyself and Roger, we’ve always managed to do all the synthesizer and keyboard parts we’ve needed. And Nick has always managed to do the drums, and so on. And myself and Roger have done the bass guitar between us. And we’ve had saxophone guys with us before, ever since Dark Side Of the Moon we started using saxophone players, girl singers, you know, basic stuff. Orchestras. (laughs)

What’s that saxophonist’s name–Dick Parry?

Yeah.

If I can ask, are you guys pals?

Yeah, Dick’s a friend of mine from Cambridge.

No, I don’t mean him. I mean the band. Did you reach the point where you were so big there was no need to talk to one another unless it was time to record?

It’s not to do with being big– -we’ve never really been close personal friends. They started a group together, because they wanted to be in a group together–and it was before my time–not because they were real close friends. And when you start that sort of thing up, you get the people who can do the best possible job at that moment, because you have ambitions. You don’t have friends in who can’t play for no reason. I mean, some people do, but I don’t think the Floyd was ever started off that way. And we are, really, about as friendly as we’ve ever been.

Didn’t you ever reach a point where…

We fight all the time! I mean, myself and Roger have huge arguments, and we’ve practically come to blows sometimes, because we disagree about what we’re doing and we both believe in what we’re doing. To the extent where if I think he’s doing thing wrong and I’m trying to dissuade him from doing it–or vice-versa–then it can become fairly heated, because we want it to be right. And the great thing about being in a band like that is that some of the great things that happen happen because of compromise, because one person wants it one way, the other wants it another, and you reach some sort of compromise. And sometimes some things don’t work because of compromise.

How did these current link-ups with Pete Townshend and Mick Ralphs come about?

They all came about in different ways. For the album, I made a list of players I wanted to do the album, right? The best musicians…

Have anyone on the list you couldn’t get?

Well, I started with a list of the best bass players, and keyboard players, obviously, to take with me. [Jeff] Porcaro was first on the list of drummers and I got him, Pino Palladino was the first on the list of bass players, and I got him.

Incredible choice–he’s great.

And they’re both, for me, really perfect. I started off with a number of keyboard players who I phoned who couldn’t actually do it at the time, like Steve Winwood, who I wanted to do the whole album. He couldn’t do it at the time because he was busy on something; Bill Payne, he was another one on my list–he was busy between doing a Linda Ronstadt tour and a James Taylor tour or something. I asked Paul Carrack, he couldn’t do it, he was busy on something, I wanted someone who could play really classy, old-fashioned Hammond organ, to put basic tracks with everyone playing all together, which we could then use as the basic and then chop things around, get rid of things. That’s the way we do things. But I wanted the band to feel like a band, playing in the studio while we were putting the basic tracks down. So I couldn’t get any of those first-choice people–and in the end had to ask for recommendations on keyboard players. And someone suggested Ian Kewley to me, and I’d already got Pino, and they’re in the same band…

Paul Young’s band?

Yeah. So I asked Pino, and he said, “he’s terrific.” So I said great, we’ll give him a go, and he was terrific! Lots of people think some of the Hammond things on there are Steve Winwood, when in fact they’re Ian Kewley. Steve’s only playing–I got him in later, for a one-day session, he did Hammond on “Blue Light” and piano on “Love In The Air.” And that’s it. He’s down on the list, on the sort of “also played” musicians, and everyone thinks it’s a major thing. But it really isn’t quite like that.

I found it interesting that you chose Mick Ralphs to accompany you on this tour. Were you frustrated being the only guitarist in Pink Floyd?

Oh, we’ve had second guitar players on all Pink Floyd stuff, since 197 … 7? … I think. Snowy White came on the ‘77 tour, and did all the tours and stuff.

Yeah, he’s got a hit over in England, doesn’t he?

Right. And the reason for having Mick, actually, is that we’re friends, that we live close by each other, and that he wasn’t doing anything. And I said, “I’m going out on the road next year, touring,” And he said, “Can I come?” And I said “
Yes.” Simple as that. He’s a great foil, a great guy to have around.

With Roger’s album out so close to your own, would you derive great personal satisfaction–frankly, as an independent observer and fan of the band, I know that your album is much more accessible, much more pleasant to listen to than Roger’s is. I don’t even know if you’ve heard it…

I haven’t.

OK. Your album has been out longer than Roger’s, I think it’s above Roger’s on the charts now.

It’s one place below it this week, I think…

If it stays up there longer than his, are you going to feel a sense of self-satisfaction, of proving a point with this you couldn’t in Pink Floyd?

Of course. To a certain extent there’s an air of competition between us. Roger does think–and has said–that he is the Pink Floyd. That he is the reason for what Pink Floyd is.

He’s said that?

He has said that to people.

What do you say to that?

I just say that he’s not, you know? I mean that is a basic bone of contention, obviously. We all have our, every person has their own “shortsightedness,” or myopia in life. I have my shortsightedness and Roger has his. My shortsightedness may be that I think I’m a vital, essential ingredient to what the Floyd has done all the way through. And Roger’s myopia to me seems to be that he thinks, at this juncture, that I’m not. I mean, he’s saying he is it–I’ve never thought or believed that I am it, I’m a vital part of it is what I’ve always believed. And to me–and I don’t want to get this into a huge fight or argument be myself and Roger–the Final Cut album is really his own work. I don’t like it, I think it shouldn’t have been out like that as a Pink Floyd record. But that’s one of those things that we fight about and argue about and disagree on and cause a bit of bad feeling at the time. But we get over these things. Obviously, I would like my album to do well. I’d like it to do better than Roger’s. I don’t know whether it will, and it doesn’t really matter terribly much. But I think I have something that is musical, and valuable, and is a vital part of it.

Are you as depressed a guy as he is?

No, no, no. I’m not as depressed a person. I have my moments of depression…

“Melancholy” is the word the press has been using….

Yeah.

But five years ago, if someone plopped your album and Roger’s on the turntable and asked me to guess which one was Pink Floyd’s, it wouldn’t have been his.

Well, you know, it’s one of those things where in this point of our lives, I suppose, we’ve both got a little something to prove. I’m sort of not happy about the way Pink Floyd has gone after The Wall.

What do you mean?

Well, I don’t like the Final Cut album–I don’t like the way we got into it, and I just don’t think it’s a good enough album. I quite simply think there are three good tracks on it and the rest of it is not good enough. It’s substandard to me.

Is “Not Now John” one of the tracks you like?

No, “Not Now John” I don’t like, myself. A lot of people do like it, but personally I don’t care for it. The “Final Cut” track itself, the “Gunner’s Dream” and “Fletcher,” that’s right. Those three are the ones I really 1ike, that I think are of the sort of quality that we normally aim for.

When you say that since The Wall things have gone slightly askew…

It’s just a matter of timing, really, things happening a certain way that I don’t think will happen again.

The common rap on Pink Floyd, if I may–and I’m sure you’ve heard this, too–is that since Dark Side Of The Moon, there’s been a certain self-consciousness on the band’s part in following up something that will remain on the charts for the rest of our lives.
I saw you performing stuff from Animals long before it came out, and when it finally did I was glad, but I wondered why it had taken so long. Was that self-consciousness a part of it?

No, actually the difficult part after Dark Side Of The Moon was doing the follow-up album, Wish You Were Here, which didn’t feel so good–our feelings weren’t so good during the making of it. But I like the album a lot. I think it’s got certain things on it that Dark Side Of The Moon hasn’t got. I think that Animals has got certain things that that Dark Side Of The Moon hasn’t got. And I like all those albums, I love the Wall album myself–I think the period of Pink Floyd time that I really love the best is from Meddle through to The Wall. I’m not interested in the stuff earlier than that, really.

Even Ummagumma?

It hasn’t withstood the test of time for me–I liked it at the time, but now I’m not really interested in listening to it anymore.

Remember when, years ago, Johnny Rotten wore some t-shirt denouncing Pink Floyd, and the general word back then that the band was old news? Was there any sort of truth within all that, did you sit back and consider, “Well, we better put an album out, it’s been three years or so…”

No, no. That stuff wasn’t really important, I don’t think. I think the punk movement’s importance is highly overrated, myself. I think it did give a few people a well-needed kick up the backside–but I don’t think much actual talent came out of that thing in itself. In a negative way, in booting other people, maybe, but not so far as producing very much. That’s my opinion.

Have you passed the point–say since Dark Sideof reading what other people have to say about you?

I read stuff, you know, when it’s current. I’ve got something going on now, obviously, and I’m reading bits and pieces being written about me.

What do you think? I mean, this is the first time in a while you’ve opened yourself up. It must be strange for you.

Well, you know–you do what you have to do. I’ve never had anything particularly against that, you know, it’s just never arisen in quite the same way as it’s arisen now.

Since Dark Side Of The Moon–and correct me if I’m wrong here–I’ve thought you’re probably the sort of guy who’d rather be producing, being more prolific than you’ve been. Especially rather than just sitting around waiting to produce one “perfect” Pink Floyd album every three years or so. Is this true?

I get moments of frustration about the time we’re taking to do things, but no–I’m entirely happy with the general progress of what we’ve done. And we have all wanted, since Dark Side Of The Moon –I mean, since Dark Side Of The Moon came out, I was 27, I suppose. Roger was 30, we were all married, we all had families on the way, all that sort of stuff. And we didn’t want to be doing it the way you do it when you’re 18 or 20, touring around the world. We wanted to be able to take a little bit more time doing things, we wanted to be able to get things right when we did them, and we wanted to be able to take some time off and have holidays. You can’t do that sort of stuff when you’re just starting out–you have to slog until you’re completely established and safe. You can’t afford to take a minute off, really, you’ve got to just keep at it. And as soon as we felt we could take life a little easier, we wanted to do so. I mean, music isn’t everything in life. There’s a lot of other stuff to it. I have never thought music was everything–I see a lot of young kids say music is everything in their life, and I’ve just never been like that. There’s always been other things in my life. It’s a part of my life–and a vital and important part of my life that I love and couldn’t do without-but it’s a part.

Were you happy with the film treatment The Wall received?

Umm–I liked the film. I don’t think the film is as good a thing as the Wall album is, and certainly not as good as the Wall live shows that we did were. I mean, in terms of relating the Wall story. But I do like it, I think it’s a good film.

What process was involved in that album’s creation, exactly? It’s a pretty dense story–did Roger sit down with you guys and try to figure things out, did he just do some demos, or what?

Well, Roger gave me some demos of The Wall that he had done in the beginning of the summer, right after my first solo album came out–summer of ‘78. And I took it to Greece with me, on my summer holiday, for three months. And I couldn’t actually listen to it through.

Why not–because of the time factor?

Because it was so depressing, so wailing and drawn
out. There wasn’t enough good music in it and stuff. And we took it to bits again soon after, and Bob Ezrin came in, and we pressured Roger. I brought in some tracks, like the “Comfortably Numb” track and the “Run Like Hell” track. The “Young Lust” track Roger had written music to, and we didn’t like it, so Roger said, “Well if you don’t like it, write something better yourself.” So I did. (laughs )

Surely you realize those are the tracks that were played on the radio?

Yes, yes, I know. But Roger actually works better under pressure, anyway; when we’d say to Roger we didn’t like certain things and we needed something for this point, he would go off in a slight pique or something and come back with something really great. Some of the best tracks on the album for me came out of that work, when we were all under pressure. And Roger was under pressure after we’d started on the project. “Nobody Home,” for example, was a track that came in, and I think it’s one of the best tracks on the album, I love that track. And a lot of the other things–quite a few of them, anyway–came in afterwards. A lot of things were condensed down very radically, the side three stuff, “Bring The Boys Back Home” and “Vera” and all those things–that waffled on for hours. These things got changed, radically, all the way through.

Do you actually joke around, or say, “Oh my God, Roger, I’m gonna go slit my wrists now”?

Yeah. We do that stuff all the time. And with that part of it, I actually went in with a razor blade and slashed his demo with a razor blade and cut out half of it.

To change the subject, what was your rationale at the time for recording your first solo album?

I wanted to make an album, I wanted to start this process that I’m starting now, really. I wanted to find out what it was like to make a solo record. I was very lacking in confidence, and so I had a couple of close friends who were with me to make the album. I really was sort of too nervous to book other musicians that I didn’t know; I didn’t know if the material I’d got was good enough. And I just went in and did it very, very quickly–just did it more or less instinctively, off the top of my head.

Those were the musicians from the band Cochise, correct?

Yes, they were in Cochise, but they were friends of mine in Cambridge before then.

Were they in your earlier band Jokers Wild, then?

Well, Willie [Wilson] was for a while, but my band after Joker’s Wild was a band I took to France and Spain for a while, and that was the three of us. So I took those guys because they were close to me, and they were saying, “Come on, Dave, you ought to make a solo record,” and I kept thinking I ought to, but never knowing if I had the ability or the confidence to actually get it right. I just went and did it very quickly, about three weeks it took, I think.

You’ve produced Unicorn and Kate Bush–is there anything else?

No, not really. It isn’t a job I love, producing other people–I’d rather be producing myself. Once in a while it becomes necessary for a talented person’s career that I give them help.

Does that come about because you’re out there listening to things?

No, people come to me, occasionally. A friend came to me with Kate Bush and said, “Listen to this girl, she’s great.” I listened, she was great, and there was just no way, with the demos I had, that I could’ve persuaded a record company. So I had to take an interest in it for a while then to make it work, do the mechanical things of getting the whole project underway. I organized recording three tracks with her in full quality–proper engineer, proper studio, proper orchestra, arranger, the whole thing. Did that, made it beautiful and perfect, and then sold that whole thing–her and those tapes–to EMI, to get her her start. As soon as she had her start, she didn’t need me or anyone else. She’s a very tough girl (laughs), she knows, exactly what she’s going for.

Another trivia question: Is that your brother in the band The Act?

Yep.

Is that still going on?

He was in that band for a while, I’ve got another friend–in fact he was in a band called Alfalpha previously–and he wanted to start a band, and my brother was out of work. I suggested that they meet, and they met and got on well–so I actually had a hand in starting that off. Then my brother was in a band called Scarlet Party that had a single and an album out in England last year. Very talented guys. But he’s left that now, as well.

Is he younger than you?

Yeah, he’s 30, about eight years younger.

Reading any Pink Floyd history, there’s always a reference to this legendary club called UFO. Were you a part of that, or was that before you were in the band?

That actual club, UFO, was shut down before I joined the band, I think. Or certainly we never played the club after I joined. But we did all that stuff, we did–what was it called?–the Roundhouse, the place that the whole UFO trip sort of moved to in Covent Garden, called the Middle Earth. We played there all the time, it was pretty wild.

(End Pt. 1)

Entry for January 30, 2007

January 30, 2007

GREAT MOMENTS IN ART DIRECTION, PT. 2

Entry for January 30, 2007

January 30, 2007

GREAT MOMENTS IN ART DIRECTION, PT. 2

Entry for January 26, 2007

January 26, 2007

A Conversation With Jerry Garcia

The following conversation with late Grateful Dead guitarist Garcia took place in the dressing room of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum prior to his band’s performance on February 24, 1992. It was to be part of a large feature on the band for a weekly entertainment publication but, oddly, that publication’s editors decided to forego the feature before the piece was ever written.

***

It’s been interesting hearing your new song “So Many Roads,” particularly because it seems so unusually autobiographical.

Well, it’s [longtime lyricist Robert] Hunter writing me, from my point of view, you know what I mean? We’ve been working together for so long that he knows what I know. The song is full of references to things that have to do with me. It’s got a line in there about “Winin’ Boy,” which is an old Jellyroll Morton tune. Back when I was a folkie, I spent a month working on the guitar arrangement of it. Hunter remembers “Winin’ Boy.” It goes “Winin’ boy, don’t deny my name,” and this tune also has “Don’t deny my name” in it. And it also has the line, “I thought I heard the KC whistle moaning sweet and low,” and that’s from “KC Moan,” an old jug band tune that we used to do in my various jug bands–a tune that I loved from that world of music, black music. So the song is studded with little references that have to do with me and where I’ve been, what I’ve been involved with, my own musical background, my roots. Hunter is the only guy that could do that. He can write my point of view better than I can think it, you know what I mean? So that’s the kind of relationship we have. And he frequently writes tunes from my point of view that are autobiographical–they’re actually biographical, I guess, he’s the one writing them–but even so, they express my point of view. And more than that, they express the emotional content of my soul in a certain way; only a long-term and intimate relationship with a guy as brilliant as Hunter coughs up that kind of result. I can sing that song and feel totally comfortable with it. It’s full of things that are part of my personal furniture from my own psyche, my own life, my own interests–and the roads thing, of course, is a natural.

I was wondering: Do you find yourself more relaxed when you’re out on the road performing?

No. I’m not a relaxed sort of person. I always have stage fright, I’m always nervous before a show. It only lasts until the show starts, but even so–I don’t think I would feel right if I weren’t that way, you know what I mean? Because fundamentally, it’s scary to go out in front of 18,000.people and do anything. And it’s all I can do to get myself out there and play. If I had to go out and speak, I would just be paralyzed. I couldn’t go out there by myself, even if I had a guitar and played. I don’t feel I have the personal energy to address that large of a crowd. There are people I’ve seen do it. Tracy Chapman does it. She’s teeny, she’s like a little girl, and her soul touches the entire audience–200,000 people sometimes. It’s a special thing that requires a hugeness of being. I don’t feel I’ve got that. I feel more like the guy who’s the apex man on the human pyramid. I’m up there, but I’m up there because everyone else is pushing.

Personally, do you feel like you’ve taken the right course?

Yeah. Whenever you do any kind of work, you always judge yourself harshly. I have never felt that I was very much good at anything [laughs]. It’s not like a thing where, well, now I can congratulate myself, pat myself on the back–I feel like I’m in the process of something which is still ongoing. Hopefully, I’m still learning how to play, the Grateful Dead is still learning how to be a band, we’re still learning how to make music happen, and we’re also learning how to do the thing that we have been called upon to do–which is something that seems important to a lot of people. We take it as seriously as we can, but we realize the need for us to be able to not take it seriously at all at the same time. It’s one of those things, you know what I mean? In other words, we didn’t really make this happen–it made itself happen, in a way, and we’re the guys that were there while it was happening.

Why do you think you’re the most successful touring act in rock ‘n’ roll right now?

I think it’s because we aren’t showbiz. We don’t do an act, we don’t have a show, we don’t have a formula, we don’t have big hits, we don’t really sell that many records. What reputation we’ve developed, and what audience we’ve got, we’ve cultivated as a function of them coming to a show and having an experience which is valuable to them–and one they want to keep having in .their life at relatively regular intervals. That’s the world we’re in. It may not be show business, you know what I mean? It may be something else which we don’t have a name for, or a word for, or a comfortable concept for, and we don’t want to go so far as to call it something like religion, or politics, but it’s something that humans want to do, and it’s helpful for them in some way.

I was just reading an article on the band in which a Deadhead was seriously–very seriously–pondering what he could possibly do when the band retires. To an outsider, that kind of devotion seems scary. Are you comfortable with the inherently cultish nature of Deadhead-dom?

I feel like what we do is not in any way exceptional. But I feel like there is something that … People need a situation which is free of context–that’s not telling them to do something, or to be some way, or is directing them in any particular way–but is full of content. You know what I mean? So that they can make their own decisions about what it is, and what their relationship is to it, and have it on their own terms, and interpret it as they will. We don’t have any dogma, we’re not trying to sell anything, we don’t have an idea that we’re backing up, we’re not selling candidates. So our situation is free of requirements. We’re not requiring anything of the audience, apart that they be there and they have a good time. And that’s what it’s about. And if that’s the only thing that it’s about, and it’s no higher than that, that’s a very good thing, I think. I figure whatever we’re doing, it’s probably not something sinister, you know what I mean?

Musically, how has technology changed the way you play?

Well, it’s given me some added vocabulary. So far I haven’t really gone into my MIDI stuff to the extent of starting to create my own voices, but I could. I’ve got a Korg M-1, and at home with my Mac I have an M-1 editing program, so I can edit and create my own voices. I may do it eventually, but right now I’ve got just a few inboard voices that allow me to use what I know about playing the guitar. In other words, they allow me to use my vibratos. My touch translates to other things, so my sense of tone and all these other things … it’s a successful transformation. So all of a sudden if what I’m hearing is a double reed, I can play it like a double reed with a certain amount of expression–it’s more organic. I try to find the voices that are less mechanical and more organic, that allow me to incorporate more of my touch. And there’s about four or five of them that I use probably more than I should, but I’m happy with the way they work in the music. And then it’s the thing about experience–about where you want to use them, how to fit then in, and things like that. Right now I would love to have a really fluid cello-to-viola voice. And also I’d like to have a string quartet voicing that would allow me to separate, say, four strings.

These are things that don’t now exist?

They could, but I haven’t gotten around to programming them. I’m a slow learner, so I like to incorporate things slowly, gradually over a long period of time. I’ve just made a major change in the whole structure of my effects and everything, which is something I’m still absorbing. But inside it all is just play the guitar. It’s still the guitar–it’s still guitar harmonics, keyboard logic that it’s still governing.

Things the Dead are now doing like the new Infrared Roses set, and the release of old material from the vaults–how do you look upon it all?

For me, it doesn’t hold much interest, and I’ll tell you why. For me, the past is clouded with me now listening to me then. I judge myself harshly. I think, “Jesus, that was stupid,” or else, “Why couldn’t I have been more in tune that night?” It’s mostly that. In other words, I see it on the level of what I failed to do, rather than what I did do. So I’m comparing it with something in my head, which is always a problem. And that’s not relevant to me or anybody else. I’m glad that things are doing out, because I know that there are people that want them. But that music was finished for me after I played it, you know what I mean? It doesn’t haunt me.

Do you think you’ve made many groundbreaking records?

No. I’d say Blues For Allah and Anthem Of The Sun were both very different from other records–the music on them and the sound, their version of music.

Have their been many distinct turning points in the band’s long history, in your view?

It’s hard–because it’s irregular and it doesn’t happen at the times you think it might, it really doesn’t. Like sometimes you’d think when you get a new member it would change things, but sometimes that doesn’t do it. Sometimes it takes longer than that–sometimes it isn’t even related to that. We tend to let things go as long as we possibly can, until they get as bad as they possibly can, and then we do something about them. We’re always the last to know. We’ll get letters from people saying, “You guys are getting kind of repetitious–why don’t you learn some new tunes or something?”–before it’ll even occur to us. Because we get caught up in the day-to-day thing of it. And since we don’t have any agenda, we’re not looking at our great goal off in the distance and measuring our progress toward it. We’re not doing that. We’re freewheeling. We’re just going along.

But you’ve played with Ornette Coleman, you’ve done so many other unique things–there must be one or two extraordinary musical moments for you.

I don’t think I’ve had enough extraordinary moments. But most of then have been captured, one way or another, on tapes or something. And frequently I’m not the one to judge whether they’re extraordinary or not. Times that are fun for me are sometimes really boring for other people. And times that are difficult, or when I don’t feel I did a very good job, sometimes turn out to be much better than I thought they were when I hear them later.

Playing keyboards in the Grateful Dead doesn’t appear to be a healthy proposition. Do you ever talk about it?

Oh sure, we talk about it. It’s like the death chair. [laughs] You have to be [good-humored about it]. I don’t know whether it’s us, or whether it’s the position or what, but I don’t think … it’s something I really don’t know. I know that each person who’s been in our band and subsequently died, who was a keyboard player, had problems of their own, quite apart from the Grateful Dead. And that being in the Grateful Dead, like everything else, tends to amplify stuff. It makes bad things worse and good things better. It’s like a battery–you plug anything into it, and that thing gets louder, whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing.

Tell me about the Bill Graham Memorial Concert.

It was tough. For me, what was really tough was Bill’s funeral, or wake, or whatever. That was tough. I didn’t want Bill to die. I’m pissed off about his being dead. I always will be, it ain’t fair. And I’m frustrated in a peculiar way. I’m like everybody else, I thought Bill was indestructible; it never occurred to me that he might die–it just never occurred to me. I know that this is going to go on forever, this is going to go on for the rest of my life–I’m going to be thinking Jesus. We were kind of saving Bill up, you know what I mean? There are a couple of things that I’m always going to be glad about. I’m glad we took him to Egypt with us. It wasn’t his show; he didn’t have to do it. He came just to party, just to have a good time, just to come. And he was game enough to do it. And I’m glad he did it, because it was one of the greatest times any of us ever had. Our project with Bill was to make Bill a human being. When we first met him, he was so wired, and so uptight, and on such a New York trip, that it was hard to be around him even for a minute. He was so nervous, he had such frantic energy. And for us, it was always, “Come on, Bill,” you know? And he played all the way–he got high with us, he went off and did a lot of things. I’m proud of the guy that he became, and I’m proud of what he did with his life, and I’m proud of him for getting into the movies at the end. That was really rewarding for him. And I think he had a wonderful life.

And I also think, “Okay, Bill, you’ll always be that guy, you’re a man at the peak of your power–still a vigorous 60-year old guy, not showing any signs of decay, not decrepit at all.” Bill was getting to the point where he was old enough where he was going to be starting to lose it a little, and it would’ve drove him crazy, he would’ve hated it more than anything else. The idea that his son could beat him at racquetball–he was such a competitor. He would’ve had a massive heart attack. So at least he went out at peak power. And I’m pretty sure it was probably fast, so he didn’t experience any horrible horror, any pain probably, and I don’t see how you can improve on that. And as far as the Bill in our minds forever–our Bill will never be an old guy, we’ll never see him lose it. He’ll always be that vigorous guy, even when we get old and fucked up. If you had to pick your way to go, Bill didn’t pick a bad way. Bill went out at a good moment in his life.

Your contemporaries have either died, broken up, or simply don’t even have record deals anymore. Why have the Dead done so well in contrast?

I think it’s because we never thought we were that good to begin with. And we always were concerned with the growth, and with our little community. And we didn’t have an axe to grind, we didn’t want to be famous, particularly, we liked what we were doing. We always loved what we were doing, and we’ve continued to do it for love. And there’s something about the Grateful Dead that is just not like anything else. The people in it have a lot to do with it. They’re not like other people (laughs). They’re .not like other musicians. And things are always opening in front of us–there are things for us to conquer, things for us to do to get better at. We’ve always wanted to sound as good as we possibly could, we’ve always wanted for our audience to have an amazing experience as much as possible. And that’s been our thrust. Not personal aggrandizement, not scoring big in the music business. Our friends and other people in the music business who were certainly as talented as we are–probably most of them–it’s the thing of somewhere along the line, faith failed them. Or else they got involved in the music thing for some other reason–scoring chicks, getting bucks, something less than reaching all the way. I don’t know that that means anything, but maybe it has something to do with it, I don’t know.

How vigorously are your pursuing your career in visual art?

I’ve been doing it all my life. The first thing anybody ever noticed about me was that I was talented at art. I was brought up thinking of myself as a graphic artist, I went to art school, and I was always the kid that could draw. That’s what I thought I was going to do, too. But then when I got my first little electric guitar, I found myself spending virtually all my time donking around on it. Music kind of seduced me. I wasn’t really planning on becoming a musician, not even after I became one. I wasn’t really thinking about it. I just found myself playing all the time. I was so fascinated by the sound that I heard on records, I was thinking, I’ve got to make that sound, I’ve got to be able to make that sound. That’s what happened to me with 5-string banjo, too. I fell in love with it. I heard it, and I thought, “I’m not going to be happy in this world until I can make that sound.”

Does doing visual art tickle the same portion of your brain that playing music does?

No, it’s different. I do art in fits and starts. I have spasms of maybe three or four months of intense art activity, where every night I sit up for four or five hours and fire away. And then it goes away. It might go away for a year or six months, and I don’t think about it. I don’t start with ideas, I just start. I draw the way I play: Something starts coming out of it and I just go with it. Every once in a while I have an idea, and then I work on the idea, or every once in a while I find myself in a thematic thing. I’ll draw lots of parrots or lots of fish or something.

Your merchandising company is now raking in the bucks, but you couldn’t make the Dead’s own record label work in the ’70s. What’s different now?

We didn’t have quite the reputation then, and we didn’t have quite a big enough audience to be able to support it. And we were also trying to be a conventional record company. We were trying to distribute along conventional lines, and in those days we went with the independent distributors–which is like really four or five distributors in various localities. And the way they work, it’s all paper flow. When you make your first shipment of records to go into the record store, you don’t get any money for those. You get your money later.

But only if you’ve got something else good to offer them…

Right–if you’ve got something good to offer them. And since we didn’t have a real record company, and since we didn’t have any other high-powered acts or anything, if they wanted to burn us, no problem. Now, we don’t distribute the same way. And also, that whole distribution thing has all gone to shit, it’s a completely different deal now. Now it’s more like we can make the kind of deals we want to. And also, we have an audience which is our audience, so we don’t really care what’s happening in the music business at large. It’s too bad that the music business isn’t more concerned about music, more attentive to the music that keep them alive, the people who buy records and so forth. It’s still the way it always was–real greedy.

You’re still signed to Arista?

We owe Arista at least one more studio record, maybe two. I think just one.

What happens after that?

We’re back on our own again, and can do whatever we want.

Do you think you’ll do it on your own again?

We may. I don’t know that we’ll do it on the same terms. There’s something to be said for working for a record company when you’re going for platinum. We don’t have the facilities to be able to manufacture and ship large–we can’t do it. We may not need to do it, who knows? We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Soon as we’re finished, we can talk about it.

You recently were critically ill, which spooked a lot of people. Did that experience change you much?

I don’t think I changed a whole lot as a person, but a lot of things changed. I’ve never been quite the same since then–it did fuck me up. I have some permanent weirdness. This foot (points downward) is about 20 percent desensitized. This leg and this foot–I can still feel it and stuff, but I can’t run without looking at it, you know what I mean? It’s weird, it’s like when your foot falls asleep. But it won’t go away. Mentally, I have to grope. I used to be able to access a huge vocabulary, I could speak really precisely about things. Now sometimes I know what it is I want to say, but I’ve lost the index, you know? You don’t notice it, but I do. It’s a random-access thing, and I get a little mushy every once in a while. And then if I remember the exact word, maybe the next day I’ll forget it again and won’t be able to find it. But it’s quirky. Sometimes everything is fine, other times it’s a little mushy. It’s nothing serious, but it is something I notice, you know?

Entry for January 26, 2007

January 26, 2007

A Conversation With Jerry Garcia

The following conversation with late Grateful Dead guitarist Garcia took place in the dressing room of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum prior to his band’s performance on February 24, 1992. It was to be part of a large feature on the band for a weekly entertainment publication but, oddly, that publication’s editors decided to forego the feature before the piece was ever written.

***

It’s been interesting hearing your new song “So Many Roads,” particularly because it seems so unusually autobiographical.

Well, it’s [longtime lyricist Robert] Hunter writing me, from my point of view, you know what I mean? We’ve been working together for so long that he knows what I know. The song is full of references to things that have to do with me. It’s got a line in there about “Winin’ Boy,” which is an old Jellyroll Morton tune. Back when I was a folkie, I spent a month working on the guitar arrangement of it. Hunter remembers “Winin’ Boy.” It goes “Winin’ boy, don’t deny my name,” and this tune also has “Don’t deny my name” in it. And it also has the line, “I thought I heard the KC whistle moaning sweet and low,” and that’s from “KC Moan,” an old jug band tune that we used to do in my various jug bands–a tune that I loved from that world of music, black music. So the song is studded with little references that have to do with me and where I’ve been, what I’ve been involved with, my own musical background, my roots. Hunter is the only guy that could do that. He can write my point of view better than I can think it, you know what I mean? So that’s the kind of relationship we have. And he frequently writes tunes from my point of view that are autobiographical–they’re actually biographical, I guess, he’s the one writing them–but even so, they express my point of view. And more than that, they express the emotional content of my soul in a certain way; only a long-term and intimate relationship with a guy as brilliant as Hunter coughs up that kind of result. I can sing that song and feel totally comfortable with it. It’s full of things that are part of my personal furniture from my own psyche, my own life, my own interests–and the roads thing, of course, is a natural.

I was wondering: Do you find yourself more relaxed when you’re out on the road performing?

No. I’m not a relaxed sort of person. I always have stage fright, I’m always nervous before a show. It only lasts until the show starts, but even so–I don’t think I would feel right if I weren’t that way, you know what I mean? Because fundamentally, it’s scary to go out in front of 18,000.people and do anything. And it’s all I can do to get myself out there and play. If I had to go out and speak, I would just be paralyzed. I couldn’t go out there by myself, even if I had a guitar and played. I don’t feel I have the personal energy to address that large of a crowd. There are people I’ve seen do it. Tracy Chapman does it. She’s teeny, she’s like a little girl, and her soul touches the entire audience–200,000 people sometimes. It’s a special thing that requires a hugeness of being. I don’t feel I’ve got that. I feel more like the guy who’s the apex man on the human pyramid. I’m up there, but I’m up there because everyone else is pushing.

Personally, do you feel like you’ve taken the right course?

Yeah. Whenever you do any kind of work, you always judge yourself harshly. I have never felt that I was very much good at anything [laughs]. It’s not like a thing where, well, now I can congratulate myself, pat myself on the back–I feel like I’m in the process of something which is still ongoing. Hopefully, I’m still learning how to play, the Grateful Dead is still learning how to be a band, we’re still learning how to make music happen, and we’re also learning how to do the thing that we have been called upon to do–which is something that seems important to a lot of people. We take it as seriously as we can, but we realize the need for us to be able to not take it seriously at all at the same time. It’s one of those things, you know what I mean? In other words, we didn’t really make this happen–it made itself happen, in a way, and we’re the guys that were there while it was happening.

Why do you think you’re the most successful touring act in rock ‘n’ roll right now?

I think it’s because we aren’t showbiz. We don’t do an act, we don’t have a show, we don’t have a formula, we don’t have big hits, we don’t really sell that many records. What reputation we’ve developed, and what audience we’ve got, we’ve cultivated as a function of them coming to a show and having an experience which is valuable to them–and one they want to keep having in .their life at relatively regular intervals. That’s the world we’re in. It may not be show business, you know what I mean? It may be something else which we don’t have a name for, or a word for, or a comfortable concept for, and we don’t want to go so far as to call it something like religion, or politics, but it’s something that humans want to do, and it’s helpful for them in some way.

I was just reading an article on the band in which a Deadhead was seriously–very seriously–pondering what he could possibly do when the band retires. To an outsider, that kind of devotion seems scary. Are you comfortable with the inherently cultish nature of Deadhead-dom?

I feel like what we do is not in any way exceptional. But I feel like there is something that … People need a situation which is free of context–that’s not telling them to do something, or to be some way, or is directing them in any particular way–but is full of content. You know what I mean? So that they can make their own decisions about what it is, and what their relationship is to it, and have it on their own terms, and interpret it as they will. We don’t have any dogma, we’re not trying to sell anything, we don’t have an idea that we’re backing up, we’re not selling candidates. So our situation is free of requirements. We’re not requiring anything of the audience, apart that they be there and they have a good time. And that’s what it’s about. And if that’s the only thing that it’s about, and it’s no higher than that, that’s a very good thing, I think. I figure whatever we’re doing, it’s probably not something sinister, you know what I mean?

Musically, how has technology changed the way you play?

Well, it’s given me some added vocabulary. So far I haven’t really gone into my MIDI stuff to the extent of starting to create my own voices, but I could. I’ve got a Korg M-1, and at home with my Mac I have an M-1 editing program, so I can edit and create my own voices. I may do it eventually, but right now I’ve got just a few inboard voices that allow me to use what I know about playing the guitar. In other words, they allow me to use my vibratos. My touch translates to other things, so my sense of tone and all these other things … it’s a successful transformation. So all of a sudden if what I’m hearing is a double reed, I can play it like a double reed with a certain amount of expression–it’s more organic. I try to find the voices that are less mechanical and more organic, that allow me to incorporate more of my touch. And there’s about four or five of them that I use probably more than I should, but I’m happy with the way they work in the music. And then it’s the thing about experience–about where you want to use them, how to fit then in, and things like that. Right now I would love to have a really fluid cello-to-viola voice. And also I’d like to have a string quartet voicing that would allow me to separate, say, four strings.

These are things that don’t now exist?

They could, but I haven’t gotten around to programming them. I’m a slow learner, so I like to incorporate things slowly, gradually over a long period of time. I’ve just made a major change in the whole structure of my effects and everything, which is something I’m still absorbing. But inside it all is just play the guitar. It’s still the guitar–it’s still guitar harmonics, keyboard logic that it’s still governing.

Things the Dead are now doing like the new Infrared Roses set, and the release of old material from the vaults–how do you look upon it all?

For me, it doesn’t hold much interest, and I’ll tell you why. For me, the past is clouded with me now listening to me then. I judge myself harshly. I think, “Jesus, that was stupid,” or else, “Why couldn’t I have been more in tune that night?” It’s mostly that. In other words, I see it on the level of what I failed to do, rather than what I did do. So I’m comparing it with something in my head, which is always a problem. And that’s not relevant to me or anybody else. I’m glad that things are doing out, because I know that there are people that want them. But that music was finished for me after I played it, you know what I mean? It doesn’t haunt me.

Do you think you’ve made many groundbreaking records?

No. I’d say Blues For Allah and Anthem Of The Sun were both very different from other records–the music on them and the sound, their version of music.

Have their been many distinct turning points in the band’s long history, in your view?

It’s hard–because it’s irregular and it doesn’t happen at the times you think it might, it really doesn’t. Like sometimes you’d think when you get a new member it would change things, but sometimes that doesn’t do it. Sometimes it takes longer than that–sometimes it isn’t even related to that. We tend to let things go as long as we possibly can, until they get as bad as they possibly can, and then we do something about them. We’re always the last to know. We’ll get letters from people saying, “You guys are getting kind of repetitious–why don’t you learn some new tunes or something?”–before it’ll even occur to us. Because we get caught up in the day-to-day thing of it. And since we don’t have any agenda, we’re not looking at our great goal off in the distance and measuring our progress toward it. We’re not doing that. We’re freewheeling. We’re just going along.

But you’ve played with Ornette Coleman, you’ve done so many other unique things–there must be one or two extraordinary musical moments for you.

I don’t think I’ve had enough extraordinary moments. But most of then have been captured, one way or another, on tapes or something. And frequently I’m not the one to judge whether they’re extraordinary or not. Times that are fun for me are sometimes really boring for other people. And times that are difficult, or when I don’t feel I did a very good job, sometimes turn out to be much better than I thought they were when I hear them later.

Playing keyboards in the Grateful Dead doesn’t appear to be a healthy proposition. Do you ever talk about it?

Oh sure, we talk about it. It’s like the death chair. [laughs] You have to be [good-humored about it]. I don’t know whether it’s us, or whether it’s the position or what, but I don’t think … it’s something I really don’t know. I know that each person who’s been in our band and subsequently died, who was a keyboard player, had problems of their own, quite apart from the Grateful Dead. And that being in the Grateful Dead, like everything else, tends to amplify stuff. It makes bad things worse and good things better. It’s like a battery–you plug anything into it, and that thing gets louder, whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing.

Tell me about the Bill Graham Memorial Concert.

It was tough. For me, what was really tough was Bill’s funeral, or wake, or whatever. That was tough. I didn’t want Bill to die. I’m pissed off about his being dead. I always will be, it ain’t fair. And I’m frustrated in a peculiar way. I’m like everybody else, I thought Bill was indestructible; it never occurred to me that he might die–it just never occurred to me. I know that this is going to go on forever, this is going to go on for the rest of my life–I’m going to be thinking Jesus. We were kind of saving Bill up, you know what I mean? There are a couple of things that I’m always going to be glad about. I’m glad we took him to Egypt with us. It wasn’t his show; he didn’t have to do it. He came just to party, just to have a good time, just to come. And he was game enough to do it. And I’m glad he did it, because it was one of the greatest times any of us ever had. Our project with Bill was to make Bill a human being. When we first met him, he was so wired, and so uptight, and on such a New York trip, that it was hard to be around him even for a minute. He was so nervous, he had such frantic energy. And for us, it was always, “Come on, Bill,” you know? And he played all the way–he got high with us, he went off and did a lot of things. I’m proud of the guy that he became, and I’m proud of what he did with his life, and I’m proud of him for getting into the movies at the end. That was really rewarding for him. And I think he had a wonderful life.

And I also think, “Okay, Bill, you’ll always be that guy, you’re a man at the peak of your power–still a vigorous 60-year old guy, not showing any signs of decay, not decrepit at all.” Bill was getting to the point where he was old enough where he was going to be starting to lose it a little, and it would’ve drove him crazy, he would’ve hated it more than anything else. The idea that his son could beat him at racquetball–he was such a competitor. He would’ve had a massive heart attack. So at least he went out at peak power. And I’m pretty sure it was probably fast, so he didn’t experience any horrible horror, any pain probably, and I don’t see how you can improve on that. And as far as the Bill in our minds forever–our Bill will never be an old guy, we’ll never see him lose it. He’ll always be that vigorous guy, even when we get old and fucked up. If you had to pick your way to go, Bill didn’t pick a bad way. Bill went out at a good moment in his life.

Your contemporaries have either died, broken up, or simply don’t even have record deals anymore. Why have the Dead done so well in contrast?

I think it’s because we never thought we were that good to begin with. And we always were concerned with the growth, and with our little community. And we didn’t have an axe to grind, we didn’t want to be famous, particularly, we liked what we were doing. We always loved what we were doing, and we’ve continued to do it for love. And there’s something about the Grateful Dead that is just not like anything else. The people in it have a lot to do with it. They’re not like other people (laughs). They’re .not like other musicians. And things are always opening in front of us–there are things for us to conquer, things for us to do to get better at. We’ve always wanted to sound as good as we possibly could, we’ve always wanted for our audience to have an amazing experience as much as possible. And that’s been our thrust. Not personal aggrandizement, not scoring big in the music business. Our friends and other people in the music business who were certainly as talented as we are–probably most of them–it’s the thing of somewhere along the line, faith failed them. Or else they got involved in the music thing for some other reason–scoring chicks, getting bucks, something less than reaching all the way. I don’t know that that means anything, but maybe it has something to do with it, I don’t know.

How vigorously are your pursuing your career in visual art?

I’ve been doing it all my life. The first thing anybody ever noticed about me was that I was talented at art. I was brought up thinking of myself as a graphic artist, I went to art school, and I was always the kid that could draw. That’s what I thought I was going to do, too. But then when I got my first little electric guitar, I found myself spending virtually all my time donking around on it. Music kind of seduced me. I wasn’t really planning on becoming a musician, not even after I became one. I wasn’t really thinking about it. I just found myself playing all the time. I was so fascinated by the sound that I heard on records, I was thinking, I’ve got to make that sound, I’ve got to be able to make that sound. That’s what happened to me with 5-string banjo, too. I fell in love with it. I heard it, and I thought, “I’m not going to be happy in this world until I can make that sound.”

Does doing visual art tickle the same portion of your brain that playing music does?

No, it’s different. I do art in fits and starts. I have spasms of maybe three or four months of intense art activity, where every night I sit up for four or five hours and fire away. And then it goes away. It might go away for a year or six months, and I don’t think about it. I don’t start with ideas, I just start. I draw the way I play: Something starts coming out of it and I just go with it. Every once in a while I have an idea, and then I work on the idea, or every once in a while I find myself in a thematic thing. I’ll draw lots of parrots or lots of fish or something.

Your merchandising company is now raking in the bucks, but you couldn’t make the Dead’s own record label work in the ’70s. What’s different now?

We didn’t have quite the reputation then, and we didn’t have quite a big enough audience to be able to support it. And we were also trying to be a conventional record company. We were trying to distribute along conventional lines, and in those days we went with the independent distributors–which is like really four or five distributors in various localities. And the way they work, it’s all paper flow. When you make your first shipment of records to go into the record store, you don’t get any money for those. You get your money later.

But only if you’ve got something else good to offer them…

Right–if you’ve got something good to offer them. And since we didn’t have a real record company, and since we didn’t have any other high-powered acts or anything, if they wanted to burn us, no problem. Now, we don’t distribute the same way. And also, that whole distribution thing has all gone to shit, it’s a completely different deal now. Now it’s more like we can make the kind of deals we want to. And also, we have an audience which is our audience, so we don’t really care what’s happening in the music business at large. It’s too bad that the music business isn’t more concerned about music, more attentive to the music that keep them alive, the people who buy records and so forth. It’s still the way it always was–real greedy.

You’re still signed to Arista?

We owe Arista at least one more studio record, maybe two. I think just one.

What happens after that?

We’re back on our own again, and can do whatever we want.

Do you think you’ll do it on your own again?

We may. I don’t know that we’ll do it on the same terms. There’s something to be said for working for a record company when you’re going for platinum. We don’t have the facilities to be able to manufacture and ship large–we can’t do it. We may not need to do it, who knows? We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Soon as we’re finished, we can talk about it.

You recently were critically ill, which spooked a lot of people. Did that experience change you much?

I don’t think I changed a whole lot as a person, but a lot of things changed. I’ve never been quite the same since then–it did fuck me up. I have some permanent weirdness. This foot (points downward) is about 20 percent desensitized. This leg and this foot–I can still feel it and stuff, but I can’t run without looking at it, you know what I mean? It’s weird, it’s like when your foot falls asleep. But it won’t go away. Mentally, I have to grope. I used to be able to access a huge vocabulary, I could speak really precisely about things. Now sometimes I know what it is I want to say, but I’ve lost the index, you know? You don’t notice it, but I do. It’s a random-access thing, and I get a little mushy every once in a while. And then if I remember the exact word, maybe the next day I’ll forget it again and won’t be able to find it. But it’s quirky. Sometimes everything is fine, other times it’s a little mushy. It’s nothing serious, but it is something I notice, you know?

Entry for January 25, 2007

January 25, 2007

GREAT MOMENTS IN ART DIRECTION, PT. 1

Entry for January 25, 2007

January 25, 2007

GREAT MOMENTS IN ART DIRECTION, PT. 1