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ROGER WATERS radio interview

SFX Radio, March 2000 – interviewed by Jim Ladd

Jim Ladd:Welcome to the SFX radio network press conference with Roger Waters. We’re here to discuss the continuation of Roger’s ‘In the Flesh Tour 2000’, the upcoming release of ‘Is There Anybody Out There: The Wall Live’ from Pink Floyd, and Roger’s new solo record. Joining us now from Paris, France, please welcome Roger Waters:

Roger Waters: Hello Roger! (laughs) Hi Jim.

Jim Ladd: How you doing, man?

Roger Waters: I’m doing well.

Jim Ladd: You begin touring again on June 2nd in Tampa, Florida, and you’re gonna do 23 cities in all. Tickets are already on sale in most cities. I just wanted to know first off, were you surprised at the overwhelming reception you received on the first leg of this tour?

Roger Waters: Yeah, I was surprised. It was extremely gratifying, and it made us a very happy little band of campers, I don’t mind telling you.

Jim Ladd: Would you like to expand on that?

Roger Waters: You know, there’s something pleasurable about playing music and people singing and listening to it, and telling you that they like it. It’s a happy situation, and I like it. What more can I say?

Jim Ladd: You have spoken about the magic that happens when you really connect with an audience. Does that happen every night – that magic connection – or is that kind of a rare thing? And describe the feeling for me…

Roger Waters: It happened every night on the first leg of the tour just about. There were a couple of nights when I got involved in some of the old stuff – strangely enough, in the smallest venues. We did the Rosemont Theatre in Chicago and that was one of the less good gigs. Notwithstanding the fact that there were only 3000, well, 3 and a half thousand people there, there were two or three who wanted to whistle to the old joining-in business through the whole show which I find rather distracting. When you’re trying to sing a song, and someone is whistling loudly through it, it’s offputting. By and large, we had wonderful responses from the audiences and the magic was definitely there. I got a lot of kind of shivers down the spine.

Jim Ladd: Glad to hear that. We might just put out there in the ether that if you’re gonna go to one of these concerts and you really want to be connected with roger – shut up during the quiet songs and go nuts at the end of the tune. Is that fair to say?

Roger Waters: That would be marvellous.

Jim Ladd: Speaking of the shows, first off, you were surprised, I think, at the fact that you actually had to cancel some of the smaller halls and rebook in some of the bigger places because the response was so great. Is that correct?

Roger Waters: Yeah. I mean, clearly we didn’t have to, but in fact the very small halls didn’t work very well with this show. The Rosemont Theatre in Chicago was too small for this show and there were a couple of others. The place we did in Quebec was a bit too small. It felt like cramming a medium size show into a very small venue and it didn’t work. So it seems to work best in places that are from sort of six to seven thousand people up to some of the sheds – some of the indoor-outdoor venues – for twenty thousand people. I think any bigger than that and it would start become alienating again.

Jim Ladd: Well, this brings us to the point that you are really unequalled when it comes to staging a show. Now, every band of course uses some form of lights and special effects to one degree or another, but your show always has a storyline that…you use these things to enhance the show rather than merely having a lot of sound and fury which signifies nothing. Will this tour…does it have a theme, a thematic thread to it from the beginning to the end of the show?

Roger Waters: Not really. The narrative, such as it is, is really the narrative of my career. It’s something of a greatest hits. There’s work from my days with Pink Floyd as well as stuff I’ve done since I left. And we’ll be doing at least one new song during this tour. So really the way it hangs together is that the way the songs connect with one another dictates the running order. There is no real narrative. Though, because it’s written by one guy, there’s some kind of philosophical or musical thread running through it.

Jim Ladd: Will the second leg of this tour differ from the first? And by that I mean, did you do something, and after all of these shows, you thought ‘Well geez, when I go back out again, I want to try this or that’, or is it going to be fairly much the same setlist?

Roger Waters: No, well the setlist has changed. I have made a few changes to it. I’ve dropped some tunes and put other tunes in instead and I’ve continued to work on the show. I’ve been working for the last couple of days with Jonathan Park on new visual stuff and changing visual stuff. I’m dropping some of the stuff I did for The Wall and adding some other things.

Jim Ladd: Okay. You did – which I was happy to hear – some personal meet and greets with the audience after some of your shows. I wanted to ask you how you liked that experience. Will you be doing more of these?

Roger Waters: What, you mean just outside the gig?

Jim Ladd: Yeah, I understood you took time to shake hands, talk to people, sign autographs, whatever – spend time with some fans.

Roger Waters: Yeah, I don’t mind doing that. Clearly it’s a numbers thing. If there’s like forty or fifty people then you can say hello to them all and sign something. And they can say thank you and you can say thank you, and everybody goes away happy. If there’s a lot more than that than it could be a problem. But on the last tour, yeah, if I ever see people standing around with something to be signed, I’m very happy to, if I’ve got the time, which I usually have, to sign it for them. I’m a bit concerned about, though…there seems to be some kind of a business in selling on signed articles and memorabilia. You start seeing the same faces in city after city, and suddenly the same people have got all your albums from the start and it’s quite clear that they’re actually in the business and these things are going to go to trade fairs, or fan conventions, or something and they’re selling on these autographed items. When I see those faces, I refuse to sign that stuff. If somebody’s got a treasured album , and they bring it in, and they want me to sign it, I couldn’t be happier than to personalize that. But I’m not really interested in really helping people run businesses.

Jim Ladd: Good for you. Let’s get back to the songlist for a minute. I asked you this the last time I saw you and you had a great story about it. When you look back on your career, with so many songs to choose from, how did you ever decide on the setlist?

Roger Waters: I went back to the beginning, and I listened to all the songs, all of them, and I wrote a list of everything I wanted to do and it was about five hours long. So then I started hacking at it and I whittled it down to a couple of hours. You know, playing the songs night after night on the last tour, it became clear which ones worked really well, and which ones weren’t so good. So, I’m doing ‘Set the Controls’ now which we didn’t do on the last thing. I’m going to do ‘Bravery’ from Amused to Death. I thought the stuff from Amused to Death worked great apart from ‘What God Wants’, which was always hard work every night. It seemed like hard work to me the theatre of the piece was difficult to get across so I’m probably dropping that, I don’t know.

Jim Ladd: I’m sorry to hear that. I was so hoping that you would do ‘What God Wants’. That’s too bad.

Roger Waters: Well, I watched the video again the other night and I was watching and thinking: ‘This could work if we put that guitar part in here so the whole thing doesn’t grind to a halt when the vocals starts, and if we edited it a bit, shortened it…and if I brought the voices which are on the tape, you know, the shouting responses, the ‘What God Wants, God Gets’…then it could work.’ It’s maybe a question of dynamics. So I’m still not completely clear what I’m going to do.

Jim Ladd: Can you very quickly run down the people in the band. And I especially want to make mention of that little midget from Wales?

Roger Waters: Right. How quickly do you want me to do this?

Jim Ladd: Well, just tell us who’s in the band.

Roger Waters:Er…(laughs)

Jim Ladd: I don’t have a stopwatch on you Roger. I just meant I didn’t need a life history.

Roger Waters: I just wondered whether you wanted (gives a couple of names out quickly) – you know like that – or whether you wanted more when you said ‘very quickly’ but I get the picture. The drummer is called Graham Broad. There are three guitar players. Snowy White, who I have a long history with. He was one of the extra guitar players in Pink Floyd for a long time, so he in fact did the original Wall shows. Doyle Bramhall II. I’m sure lots of people in LA will know him, though he’s actually from Texas. Andy Fairweather-Low, the ubiquitous Welshman, one of the great guitar players, is in the band as always. And then there’s two keyboard players, Jon Carin and Andy Wallace. And two other vocalists, Katie Kissoon and PP Arnold, who were on the first leg of the tour last year. And in fact I am adding a third woman: Doyle’s wife is going to join us. So there will be three background vocals rather than two. I felt that that needed thickening up a bit.

Jim Ladd: Let’s talk about the new live version of ‘The Wall’ which will be in stores on April 18th. The title will be ‘Is There Anybody Out There: The Wall Live’, and this was recorded at Earl’s Court in London. Why did you choose that particular performance?

Roger Waters: Those were the only performances that were recorded.

Jim Ladd: No way!

Roger Waters: Actually, that’s not true. The performances in 1980 were recorded but very badly. These are the only ones that were recorded with any kind of real separation on 48 tracks. So, it’s just those five nights is all that exists, really.

Jim Ladd: Oh geez. So LA, New York and the one in Germany, that didn’t happen.

Roger Waters: No.

Jim Ladd: How long had it been since you heard these shows? Twenty years?

Roger Waters: Yeah.

Jim Ladd: Did you do any overdubbing or re-recording for the live CD?

Roger Waters: Nope, nothing.

Jim Ladd: Oh really? So it’s as it happened. That’s how we’re hearing it?

Roger Waters: Yep. Scary, eh?

Jim Ladd: Well, I think it’s a wonderful piece of history, you know.

Roger Waters: You know, strangely enough, the performances sound really good. I mean, it’s quite clear listening to it that it is live, but we haven’t fiddled with anything. I think we all agreed that that would not be a good idea.

Jim Ladd: Now that begs the question when you say ‘we all agreed’, what do you mean by that?

Roger Waters: Well, I don’t know what I mean. I didn’t hear that anybody had said: ‘Let’s re-record all the vocals’ or ‘I want to do the drums again please!’ So I just assume we were all agreed. I didn’t actually sit in a room and say, ‘Now, are we all agreed?’

Jim Ladd: OK. Do you have fond memories of those performances? Was it a good time in your career?

Roger Waters: Absolutely. They were fantastic, they really were. It was kind of a daft idea, and the fact that with the help of Gerry Scarfe and Mark Fisher and Jonathan Park, who were the main collaborators in putting the shows together, we kind of pulled it off and they worked as well as they did. It was just great and every night was a great pleasure.

Jim Ladd: You know, I’m glad to hear that because when you talk to people who attended those shows, that’s a real hallmark in their lives. Those shows made such an impression on people – not me, but you know most people. I’m glad to hear that it made an impression on you as well.

Roger Waters: Yeah, it was cool.

Jim Ladd: You have included two songs on this live album – we’re talking about The Wall now – that are not on the studio version, that you played that night, and one of which is ‘What Shall We Do Now?’ and the other is ‘The Last Few Bricks’. Right?

Roger Waters: Wrong.

Jim Ladd: Wrong?

Roger Waters: Well, you know, the idea that these are new songs is wrong. They aren’t new songs. What they are is…’What Shall We Do Now?’ is the list of kind of consumer, kind of… you remember in the movie the wall of consumer items?

Jim Ladd: Yeah.

Roger Waters:…And it’s that list, and it actually figures in the lyrics on the studio album, but the cut was not on the studio album because it screwed up the dynamic of the record. ‘Shall we buy a new guitar / shall we drive a more powerful car / shall we work straight through the night / shall we get into fights’ and all that. So it’s that. So there’s nothing very new about it. And ‘The Last Few Bricks’ is towards the end of the first half. In rehearsal we discovered that physically the guys who were building the wall didn’t have time to finish it for ‘Goodbye Cruel World’, so we had to fill in a few minutes of time. So we actually played a kind of reprise of tunes from the first half. There’s nothing new about that either, it’s just a medley of bits from the first half of the show.

Jim Ladd: Okay. I’ll try not to be so literal next time.

Roger Waters: Well, no, it’s an interesting point because the record company have put out that there are two new songs on this thing and that’s just not true and I think people should know.

Jim Ladd: You’re absolutely right, absolutely right. They’re not new like you wrote them yesterday. They just weren’t on the album.

Roger Waters: ‘What Shall We Do Now?’ is in the movie. So anybody who’s got the movie has had it for the last nineteen years and the other bit is just a medley.

Jim Ladd: Whose idea was it to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of ‘The Wall’ with this release? Did you say ‘Guys, let’s do this’, or the record company?

Roger Waters: It certainly wasn’t my idea. It was concocted between Steve O’Rourke and Dave Gilmour and the record company, I suppose. I would think largely the record company. And I was a bit…when I heard of the idea, it felt a bit like scrabbling to scrape the bottom of the barrel and see if there were any dollar bills left sticking there that could be scraped up, and so I was rather against the idea. Then I actually talked to my son Harry, who’s 23 now, and he said, ‘Well, why are you against it? A lot of people are interested in live recordings,’ and some bands that he likes, particularly like, you know the American band Phish for instance, he says somebody or other records every single show they do and a lot of people listen to them. He does, for instance. There’s a big kind of market in bootleg recordings and there’s a big interest in recordings of live performances of pieces of work that people know well. And I thought, well, why shouldn’t there be. Actually, James Guthrie, who has produced the record and done all the mixes, has done a great job and it sounds really good. It’s really interesting to hear what happened when we did it live. And it is the original cast recording.

Jim Ladd: It is the original cast recording, that’s true. That’s true. Let’s go on to something new, OK? You have already begun work, I am told, on a new solo project, yes?

Roger Waters: Yes.

Jim Ladd: And what will be the title and subject of this work, Mr Waters?

Roger Waters: I’m not really sure. I’ve just done a month’s work in compass point in Nassau with the band, who i just told you about. Except Andy wasn’t there, and the girls weren’t there, but the rest of the band were there. Andy Wallace wasn’t there – Andy Fairweather-Low was. And we’ve cut five tracks, four of which I think have lyrics already and one doesn’t have any. One of them is the song ‘Each Small Candle’ that we performed once on the last tour. We did it in Kansas City on the last gig and I thought that that was what the whole record was going to be about – was each small candle – the idea that we all have a responsibility for our own behaviour and everything that everybody does in life impinges on everyone else, broadly. But some other songs are appearing and they have kind of connections with each other. It seems to be broadening out from the initial concept. Though it may well be that the album will still be called ‘Each Small Candle’, ’cause I like that title. “Each small candle lig hts a corner of the dark”. But it seems to be about love.

Jim Ladd: About love?

Roger Waters: Yeah.

Jim Ladd: Well, I really like the metaphor of the candle, and the fact that our individual lights, either singularly or combined, should illuminate the dark or the darkness.

Roger Waters: I like that idea too, but there’s another new song called ‘The Flickering Flame’. It’s got a long involved lyric, but the last bit of the lyric says something about what the thing’s about as well which is: the last few couplets go: ‘When my synapses pause in their quest for applause / When my ego lets go of my end of the bone / To focus instead on the love that is precious to me / Then I shall be free.’

Jim Ladd: Oh man. Very nice, Roger.

Roger Waters: So that’s kind of what it’s about too.

Jim Ladd: Did you say ‘When my ego lets go of my end of the bone’?

Roger Waters: Yeah.

Jim Ladd: That’s a great line.

Roger Waters: Aye.

Jim Ladd: You know, you still got it, pal. You know what I mean – you still got it.

Roger Waters: Uh, Jim…

Jim Ladd: Damn, that’s a great line. Do you have any idea when this will be done? You know, six months, a year, whenever it’s done, it’s done?

Roger Waters: No. I’m working on it…I’m in Paris at the moment working on the opera, but the singer I was supposed to be working with this week who is an American tenor called Paul Groves has sadly got flu – get well soon, Paul! – so I’ve found myself with a bunch of studio time and nothing much to fill it with. So I’m actually working on these songs now instead of working with him. Then next week I work with Ying Huang, who’s a soprano who’s doing the opera. So what I’d like to do is finish the lyrics. Maybe write a couple more songs, then go back in with the band, learn them, work out how exactly the whole thing fits together and then re-record everything with the band playing live together. That is the big difference in this record, from my more recent records, is that I’m working with a band, and we play everything together at the same time, which is a discipline I’m really enjoying.

Jim Ladd: That is a big difference. Yeah, that is true.

Roger Waters: Yeah.

Jim Ladd: Will you be playing any of the new songs on this upcoming tour?

Roger Waters: I will be playing definitely one new song – whether it’ll be ‘Each Small Candle’ or one of the others, I’m not sure. There’s another song that I’m thinking I might do live, because I think it could be great live. It’s got different sections, and one of the sections is a very uptempo, 7/8th feel thing which is really exciting and I have a lot of ideas of how it might work with a chord and stuff. That seems to be developing a working title of something like ‘Love in Spite of Traffic’ – it’s kind of what it’s about. I’m not quite sure how it’s going to develop. I seem to be…I don’t know…my preoccupations are changing as I get older.

Jim Ladd: And boy, they should be changing. I mean it would be sad if they weren’t. You should be growing as a human being and you obviously are.

Roger Waters: I am. I mean, I’m 182 pounds now, you know. Only a few years ago I was about 160.

Jim Ladd: Well, there you go. That’s exactly what I was talking about, Roger. That’s exactly what I meant. Phew. You know, by the way, and god, I hate to give you compliments but LA – and I don’t know why – but they are so looking forward to you coming here.

Roger Waters: Well, you know I lived in LA for six months in ’79, and we did a lot of the recording for ‘The Wall’ there. We finished the thing off in Producer’s Workshop on Hollywood Boulevard and recorded a lot of the sound effects and stuff that was on the record and all that stuff with me…you know that bit before ‘Nobody Home’ where there’s the sounds of people in the street and then me shouting ‘Shut up!’, well, we just opened the window onto Hollywood Boulevard and stuck the microphone out. So I have a real fondness for this city, weird as it is, and the audiences there have always been great. They’ve always been very responsive and I look forward to seeing the people I worked with all those years ago as well. Whenever I come back through LA, I always try and get hold of Jim Haas and John Joyce and Stan Farber and Joe Chemay, who were the singers who did the shows with us then. We usually managed to get them onstage singing the backgrounds in ‘In The Flesh’, or something like that and I always look forward to that. There’s something really cool about meeting old friends again.

Jim Ladd: Last question. You’ve spoken before about how music can touch the huamn spirit. Do you view making music as a spiritual act?

Roger Waters: Yeah. Music is an expression of the human spirit. So yeah, I very much see it as a spiritual act. Whatever that means, you know. The organization of simple and complex harmonic motions that we describe within our music definitely reach parts of us that we can’t really define or understand or know and we all kind of…I think we all intuitively understand that.

Jim Ladd: Very good, Very good.

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