Wish you where here |
A Rambling Conversation with Roger Waters Concerning All This and That
NS : Here's good one to start with, Roger! Why was it two years before the
Floyd made an album after Dark Side of the Moon?
RW : That's a very good question, I'm very glad you asked me that one...er..
NS : Take your time... don't worry...
RW : Without looking at diaries its very difficult. I'm trying to remember
whatever went on... I'm not being funny, I honestly can't remember why. It
was 1973 when Dark Side of the Moon came out wasn't it? January 1973, and
we're now in Oct. '75, so in January '75 we began recording Wish You Were
NS : I remember I went to E.M.I. studios in the winter of '74, and the band
were recording stuff with bottles and rubber bands... the period I'm talking
about is the before your French tour in June '74.
RW : Ah! Right, yeah. Answer starts here... (great intake of breath)...
Well, Nick... there was an abortive attempt to make an album not using any
musical instruments. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it didn't
come together. Probably because we needed to stop for a bit.
NS : Why?
RW : Oh, just tired and bored...
NS : Go on... to get off the road? ... have some breathing space?
RW : Yeah. But I don't think it was as conscious as that really. I think it
was that when Dark Side of the Moon was so successful, it was the end. It
was the end of the road. We'd reached the point we'd all been aiming for
ever since we were teenagers and there was really nothing more to do in
terms of rock'n roll.
NS : A matter of money?
RW : Yes. Money and adulation... well, those kinds of sales are every
Rock'n'roll band's dream. Some bands pretend they're not, of course.
Recently I was reading an article, or an interview, by one of the guys who's
in Genesis, now that Peter Gabriel's left, and he mentioned PF in it. There
was a whole bunch of stuff about how if you're listening to a Genesis album
you really have to sit down and LISTEN, its not just wallpaper, not just
high class musak like PF or 'Tubular Bells', and I thought, Yeah, I remember
all that years ago when nobody was buying what we were doing. We were all
heavily into the notion that it was good music, good with a capital G, and
of course people weren't buying it because people don't buy good music. I
may be quite wrong but my theory is that if Genesis ever start selling large
quantities of albums now that Peter Gabriel, their Syd Barrett if you like,
has left, the young man who gave this interview will realise he's reached
some kind of end in terms of whatever he was striving for and all that stuff
about good music is a load of fucking bollocks. That's my feeling anyway.
And Wish You Were Here came about by us going on in spite of the fact we'd
NS : What finally prompted a move back into the studio?
RW : A feeling of boredom, I think really. You've got to do something. When
you've been used to working very hard for years and years, and reached the
point you were working towards there's still a need to go on because you
realise that where you've got to isn't what you thought it was...
NS : Was there some period during your apparent lay off when you all thought
the band would come together almost 'of itself', and produce something?
RW : It's so long ago... it's hard to remember, but I think there was that
feeling... that somebody would eventually come up with something, an idea.
The interesting thing is that when we finally did do an album, the album
(Wish You Were Here) is actually about not coming up with anything, because
the album is about none of us really being there, or being there only
marginally. About our non-preence in the situation we had clung to through
habit, and are still clinging to through habit -- being PF. Though its
moving into a sligtly different area again because I definitely think that
at the beginning of WYWH recording sessions most of us didn't wish we were
there at all, we wished we were somewhere else. I wasn't happy being there
because I got the feeling we weren't together, the band wasn't at all
NS : Stage by stage, how did the album happen?
RW : We did some rehearsals in a rehearsal studio in Kings Cross, and
started playing together and writing in the way we'd written a lot of things
before. In the same way that 'Echoes' was written. 'Shine On You Crazy
Diamond' was written in exactly the same way, with odd little musical ideas
coming out of various people. The first one, the main phrase, came from
Dave, the first loud guitar phrase you can hear on the album was the
starting point and we worked from there until we had the various parts of
'Shine On' finished.
NS : At the time the band was writing it, was the song for a tour or an
RW : I'm glad you asked that, 'cos you've reminded me that in fact we were
about to do a British Tour (Oct - Dec '74) and had to have some new
material. So we were getting some things together for that.
NS : There were a couple of other songs...
RW : Yeah. 'Raving and Drooling' and 'You've Gotta Be Crazy'. 'Raving and
Drooling' was something I'd written at home. Dave came up with a nice chord
sequence, I wrote some words, and we carried on from there with 'You Gotta
NS : It was then decided that these three songs would also be the basis for
the forthcoming album?
RW : Yes, that was the idea for a long time... while we did that tour.
NS : When did the plans change?
RW : When we got into the studio. January '75. We started recording and it
got very laborious and tortured, and everybody seemed to be very bored by
the whole thing. We pressed on regardless of the general ennui for a few
weeks and then things came to a bit of a head. I felt that the only way I
could retain interest in the project was to try to make the album relate to
what was going on there and then ie the fact that no one was really looking
each other in the eye, and that it was all very mechanical... most of waht
was going on. So I suggested we change it -- that we didn't do the other two
songs but tried somehow to make a bridge between the first and second halves
of 'Shine On', and bridge them with stuff that had some kind of relevance to
the state we were all in at the time. Which is how 'Welcome to the Machine',
'Wish You Were Here', and 'Have a Cigar' came in.
NS : 'Shine On' was originally a song concerning Barrett's plight, wasn't
RW : Yes.
NS : Do the other songs also fit in with that?
RW : It was very strange. The lyrics were written -- and the lyrics are the
bit of the song about Syd, the rest of it could be about anything -- I don't
why I started writing those lyrics about Syd... I think because that phrase
of Dave's was an extremely mournful kind of sound and it just... I haven't a
clue... but it was a long time before the Wish You Were Here recording
sessions when Syd's state could be seen as being symbolic of the general
state of the group, ie very fragmented. 'Welcome to the Machine' is about
'them and us', and anyone who gets involved in the process.
NS : And 'Have a Cigar'?
RW : By taking 'Shine On' as a starting point, and wanting to write
something to do with 'Shine On' ie something to do with a person succumbing
to the pressures of life in general and rock'n'roll in particular... we'd
just come off an American Tour when I wrote that, and I'd been exposed to
all the boogaloo...
NS : No, Roger... you must have written it after the English tour, because
'Have a Cigar' was included in 'Shine On' during the American Tour in April
RW : Oh yes! Right... I can't do it can I? This interview. My minds just a
scrambled egg, mate. I can't answer these questions. I don't know! ... I
don't know the answers to the questions. I'll have to go home and study some
more. I'm going to have to think about it all very carefully then I shall
make a statement to the press about all this and that. God, Peter, (Peter
Barnes, Floyd Music Publisher, producing the Song Book) I'm sorry. I wanted
to do this interview. I wanted it to be good, coherent, friendly interview
for the punters but my mind's scrambled... no, my mind's not scrambled, I
just can't get my mind round all that fucking nonsense... all that bollocks
about when, how and why... you know, the medium is not the message,
Marshall... is it? I mean, it's all in the lap of fucking gods... (Pause for
NS : Listen, Roger. What do you say to accusations about the album that you
are biting the hand that feeds you... that the position you take up in a lot
of the lyrics is highly dubious given the nature of your success?
RW : Why? Biting the hand of the record companies?
NS : Of the business...
RW : Well the business doesn't feed me, you see. It's the people who buy the
records who are doing the feeding. I mean, I like to believe that the people
who buy the records listen to the lyrics and some of them some of the time
to think: - Yeah, that's fucking true, or there's a bit of truth in them
somewhere, and that's all that really matters. Some of the lyrics may even
be directed at some of the records buyers. I don't think they are on this
album, but they are in some of the songs I've written that aren't recorded
yet. On the album they are mainly directed at a kind of inanimate being --
the business. And the business doesn't feed us. The public feeds us; in
spite of the business really. The public feed the business as well. The
people who buy records feed everybody.
NS : So the disillusionment implicit in album, is only disillusionment with
RW : I never harboured any illusions so far as the business was concerned. I
was under some illusions so far as the band was concerned. Like I was saying
earlier about the guy in Genesis who thinks that there's something special
about them... I think he said their music demands you listen to it, you
can't carry on a conversation while its on. I know I felt that about our
music at one time 'cos I've listened to interviews I did, and sat and
laughed myself sick listening to those. You know, twenty year old punks
spouting a whole bunch of shit, a whole bunch of middle class shit, about
"quality", making qualitative judgements about what we were doing. And when
one or two pundits said that we were real music and a cut above average
rock'n roll band, or set us apart from the mainstream of rock'n roll as
something rather special and important. I was very happy to believe it at
the time. Of course it's absolute crap. Electric pop is where its at in
terms of music today. Nobody's writing modern works for symphony orchestras
that anybody's... well some people my be interested, but fucking few, and
the divisions that always existed between popular music and serious music
are no longer there. You can't get any more serious than Lennon at his most
serious. If you get any more serious than that you fucking throw yourself
under a train.
NS : I'd like to know more about the early difficulties you had in the
studio during Wish You Were Here.
RW : I think having made it -- having become very successful -- was the
starting point. But having made it, if we could all have accepted that's
what we were in it for, we could then have all split up gracefully at that
point. But we can't, and the reason we can't is, well there are several
reasons. I haven't really thought about this very carefully, but I would say
one reason is: - if you have a need to make it, to become, a super-hero in
your own terms and a lot of other peoples as well, when you make it the need
isn't dissipated -- you still have the need, therefore you try to maintain
your position as a superhero. I think that's true of all of us. Also, when
you've been in a band eight years and you've all been working and plugging
away to get to the top together its very frightening to leave, to do
something else. Its nice and safe and warm and easy... basically its easy.
If the four of us now got together and put out a record that didn't have our
name attached to it it would be bloody difficult. The name 'Pink Floyd', the
name not us, not the individuals in the band, but the name Pink Floyd is
worth millions of pounds. The name is probably worth one million sales of
album, any album we put out. Even if we just coughed a million people will
have ordered it simply because of the name. And if anybody leaves, or we
split up, its back to our own resources without the name. None of us are
sure of our resources; an awful lot of people in rock'n roll aren't sure of
their resources. That's way they're in there trying to prove they're big and
loveable... I mean, I know I'm big and loveable, Nick, but I'm worried about
some of the other chaps... (Laughter)... that's why I stay in the group...
I'm worried about the others, whats going to become of them... (More
NS : Having decided on bridging 'Shine On', the album then came quite
easily, didn't it?
RW : Yes. Quite quick and easy. 'Have a Cigar' first... actually some of the
lyrics to 'Wish You Were Here' came first. Just lyrics on a piece of paper,
several couplets and pairs of words. That was kind of shelved, then 'Have A
Cigar'. When we changed the plan we had a big meeting -- we all sat round
and unburdened ourselves a lot, and I took notes on what everybody was
saying. It was a meeting about what wasn't happening and why. Dave was
always clear that he wanted to do the other two songs -- he never quite
copped what I was talking about. But Rick did and Nicky did and he was
outvoted so we went on.
NS : The sessions were in two blocks, weren't they?
RW : Two blocks. The middle of Janyary to the middle of March. An American
Tour, then another month (May) in the studio, another American Tour, then we
came back and finished it off. Took three weeks, I think.
NS : How much of our albums arise spontaneously in studio work, and how much
is laid down before you ever record?
RW : You can't really generalise. For example, 'Have a Cigar'. The verses,
(tune and words) were all written before I ever played it to the others.
Except the stuff before and after the vocal, that happened in the studio.
The same with 'Welcome to the Machine' -- the verses were done, but the run
up and out was in the studio. 'Dark Side' was done much more with us all
working together. We all sat in a room for ages and ages -- we'd got a whole
lot of pieces of music and I put an idea over the whole thing and wrote the
words. Having laid lyrics on the different bits we decided what order to put
them in, and how to link them. It wasn't like the concept came first and
then we worked right through it.
NS : No rule then, about which come first -- the music or lyric?
RW : No, except that either the music comes first and the lyrics are added,
or music and lyrics come together. Only once have the lyrics been written
down first -- 'Wish You Were Here'. But this is unusual; it hasn't happened
NS : Why did you get Roy Harper to do the vocal on 'Have a Cigar'?
RW : ... a lot of people think I can't sing, including me a bit. I'm very
unclear about what singing is. I know I find it hard to pitch, and I know
the sound of my voice isn't very good in purely aesthetic terms, and Roy
Harper was recording his own album in another EMI studio at the time, he's a
mate, and we thought he could probably do a job on it.
NS : Didn't you also use Stephane Grappelly on the album somewhere?
RW : Yeah. He was downstairs when we were doing 'Wish You Were Here'. Dave
had made the suggestion that there ought to be a country fiddle at the end
of it, or we might try it out, and Stephane Grappelli was downstairs in
number one studio making an album with Yehudi Menuhin. There was an
Australian guy looking after Grappelli who we'd met on a tour so we thought
we'd get Grappelli to do it. So they wheeled him up after much bartering
about his fee -- him being an old pro he tried to turn us over, and he did
to a certain extent. But it was wonderful to have him come in and play a
NS : He's not on the album now, though?
RW : You can just hear him if you listen very, very, very hard right at the
end of 'Wish You Were Here', you can just hear a violin come in after all
the wind stuff starts -- just! We decided not to give him credit, 'cos we
thought it might be a bit of an insult. He got his #300, though.
NS : I want to ask about your own writing. Do you work at it? Do you sit
down and think: - Ah! today I'll write a song?
RW : Sometimes I do. Sometimes I think, RIGHT!, and go and pick up a guitar
and occasionally it works. Usually something just flashes into my mind and I
think, well, I better write this down and then I go and pick up the guitar.
Usually a word, a phrase, a thought, or an idea. Once you've got five words
or a series of words that contain an idea... like 'come in here, dear boy'
then from that point on it becomes quite easy -- or at least to do one
verse. What's difficult is writing another verse, then another. The first is
NS : What about the two songs that weren't on the album.
RW : I think we'll record those, and there's a couple of other songs I'd
like the Floyd to record.
NS : What? Another album in the next twelve months?
RW : Oh yes, in the next few months, I've got a feeling we may knock another
one off a bit sharpish... bang it out... O.K. you started asking me why two
years after 'Dark Side', and "why not?" is how I feel about it. All this
bloody nonsense in the press about "waiting for so long". Sure some people
may have been waiting but it's only important 'cos a lot of people buy them.
It's only important to the fucking papers and the pundits because a lot of
people buy it.
NS : Do you think the Floyd will do concerts again?
RW : I've really no idea... not unless something fairly stupendous happens.
NS : Do you personally want to do more with the Floyd?
RW : I've been through a period when I've not wished to do any concerts with
the Floyd ever again. I felt that very strongly, but the last week I've had
vague kind of flickerings, feeling that I could maybe have a play. But when
those flickerings hit the front of my mind I cast myself back into how
fucking dreadful I felt on the last American Tour with all those thousands
and thousands and thousands of drunken kids smashing each other to pieces. I
felt dreadful because it had nothing to do with us -- I didn't think there
was any contact between us and them. There was no more contact between us
and them than them and... I was just about to say the Rolling Stones and
them. There obviously is contact of a kind between Mick Jagger and the
public but its wierd and its not the kind of contact that I want to be
involved with really. I don't like it. I don't like all that Superstar
hysteria. I don't like the idea of selling that kind of dream 'cos I know
its unreal 'cos I'm there. I'm at the top... I am the dream and it ain't
worth dreaming about. Not in the way they think it is anyway. It's all that
"I want to be a rock'n roll singer" number which rock'n roll sells on. It
sells partly on the music but it sells a hell of a lot on the fact that it
pushes that dream.
NS : A lot of people have made remarks to me over the album's sadness.
RW : I'm glad about that... I think the world is a very, very sad fucking
place... I find myself at the moment, backing away from it all... I'm very
sad about Syd, I wasn't for years. For years I suppose he was a threat
because of all that bollocks written about him and us. Of course he was very
important and the band would never have fucking started without him because
he was writing all the material. It couldn't have happened without him but
on the other hand it couldn't have gone on with him. He may or may not be
important in Rock'n Roll anthology terms but he's certainly not nearly as
important as people say in terms of Pink Floyd. So I think I was threatened
by him. But when he came to the 'Wish You Were Here' sessions -- ironic in
itself -- to see this great, fat, bald, mad person, the first day he came I
was in fucking tears... 'Shine On's' not really about Syd -- he's just a
symbol for all the extremes of absence some people have to indulge in
because it's the only way they can cope with how fucking sad it is -- modern
life, to withdraw completely. And I found that terribly sad... I think
finally that that maybe one of the reasons why we get slagged off so much
now. I think it's got a lot to do with the fact that the people who write
for the papers don't want to know about it because they're making a living
from Rock'n Roll.
NS : And they don't want to know the real Barrett / Pink Floyd story.
RW : Oh, they definitely don't want to know the real Barrett story... there
are no facts involved in the Barrett story so you can make up any story you
like -- and they do. There's a vague basis in fact ie Syd was in the band
and he did write the material on the first album, 80% of it, but that's all.
It is only that one album, and that's what people don't realise. That first
album, and one track on the second. That's all; nothing else.
NS : Some of the reviews have been particularly scathing about 'Shine
On'...calling it an insult to Syd.
RW : Have they? I didn't see that, but I can imagine because its so easy for
them. Its one of the very best kind of rock'n roll stories: - we are very
successful and because we're very successful we're very vulnerable to attack
and Syd is the weapon that is used to attack us. It makes it all a bit spicy
-- and that's what sells the papers that the people write for. But its a so
very easy because none of its fact -- it's all hearsay and none of them know
anything, and they all just make it up. Somebody makes it up once and the
others believe it. All that stuff about Syd starting the space-rock thing is
just so much fucking nonsense. He was completely into Hilaire Belloc, and
all his stuff was kind of whimsical -- all fairly heavy rooted in English
literature. I think Syd had one song that had anything to do with space --
Astronomy Domine -- that's all. That's the sum total of all Syd's writing
about space and yet there's this whole fucking mystique about how he was the
father of it all. It's just a load of old bollocks -- it all happened
afterwards. There's an instrumental track which we came up with together on
the first album -- 'Interstellar Overdrive' -- that's just the title, you
see, it's actually an abstract piece with an interstellar attchment in terms
of its name. They don't give a shit anyway.... I'm very pleased that people
are copping the album's sadness, that gives me a doleful feeling of pleasure
-- that some of the people out there who are listening to it are getting it.
Not like the cunts who are writing in the papers: - "gosh, well, we waited
so long for this", and then start talking about the fucking guitar solo in
wierd terms, and who obviously haven't understood what it's about. That
guitar phrase of Dave's, the one that inspired the whole piece, is a very
sad phrase. I think these are very mournful days. Things aren't getting
better, they're getting worse and the seventies is a very baleful decade.
God knows what the eighties will be like. The album was very difficult; it
was a bloody difficult because of the first six weeks of the sessions ie.
'Shine On', not the sax solo which was put on afterwards, but the basic
track was terribly fucking hard to do because we were all out of it and you
can hear it. I could always hear it, kind of mechanical and heavy. That's
why I'm so glad people are copping the sadness of it -- that in spite of
ourselves we did manage to get something down, we did manage to get
something of what was going on in those sessions down on the vinyl. Once we
accepted that we were going to go off on a tangent during the sessions it
did become exciting, for me anyway, because then it was a desperate fucking
battle trying to make it good. Actually we expended too much energy before
that point in order to be able to quite do it. By the time we were finishing
it, after the second American Tour, I hadn't got an ounce of creative energy
left in me anywhere, and those last couple of weeks were a real fucking
NS : The nightmare was simply all of you arriving at doing it, and not
really knowing why?
RW : Yes, absolutely. Which is why it's good. It's symbolic of what was
going on. Most people's experience is arriving at a point at which others
are arriving from somewhere else and not knowing what they're doing and why.
And all we were doing making Wish You Were Here was being like everybody
else -- full of doubts and uncertainties. You know, we don't know whats
NS : You were just fulfilling a contract?
RW : Not really, because we don't have to make albums. Fulfilling a contract
with ourselves if you like, because although legally we don't have to do
anything, we do have to do something otherwise we'd all shoot ourselves.
WYWH Songbook, October 1975