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 Here...

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 finished.

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 together.

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 album?

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 Be Crazy'.

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 it?

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 '75...

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 laughter)

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 the business?

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 laughter)

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 before.

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 bit.

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 easy.

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 struggle.

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 happening either...

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