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Here is an interview with the guitarist of one of the most popular bands in the world ever. Have a nice read!
A walk on the dark side…
Dave Gilmour looks back at the Floyd record career
By Tony Tyler
“Don`t take any pictures of me outside the house”, says David Gilmour, making a quick, impatient gesture like brushing away flies. “I can`t stand the pop-star-in-his-country-house syndrome.”
Sure David, but in the broadest sense you are a pop star. And when you`re the guitarist for famous, bestselling Pink Floyd, and you`ve made as many decent albums as Pink Floyd have, and you`ve gone the whole route long ago, and you`ve still got your wits about you, and the money keeps rolling in, what else is there to spend the bread on?
And it has to be said that Dave Gilmour`s spent his allotted share of the Floyd takings in a manner befitting one of the most tasteful bands of our time. His Essex mock-Tudor residence positively screams good taste – the real sort, not Ghastly Good Taste – and is conspicuous for its lack of middle-class accoutrements.
All rooms are in that happy state of disarray that comes from a relaxed lifestyle, the world is fenced out by a high hedge and the BMW in the garage and the swimming pool out back give off identical expensive glints.
Gilmour, wearing a T-shirt that says “Didn`t they do well” in sewn-on white letters, is lounging in a rocking-chair in front of a gorgeous, ornate, teak altar-screen that just radiates antiquity.
This morning though, despite the surrounding comforts and the presence of his lady at his side to succour him, the Floyd guitarist is in a somewhat fragile state, having visited the Marquee the previous evening (in the company of Roger Waters) to catch Roy Buchanan`s set.
He`s a little tired and he may, or may not, have been a little inebriated the night before – he can`t quite remember. Anyway, it isn`t important because this is the first interview he`s done for ages and neither of us can quite remember the procedure and there`s a lot to get through before lunchtime ennui sets in.
First off, David, congratulations on finally attaining the exalted No. 1 spot in the States with “Dark Side of the Moon”. A slow smile spreads across the Gilmour face.
“Yes, it is nice isn`t it? We`ve never really been above fortieth position before – but, even so, we`re still selling more albums there than we would in the English charts.”
He`s reluctant to be pinned down as to why this should suddenly happen, after five years of being a cult band in America. (I suppose we`ve always had this sort of underground image over there”), and he`s even more reluctant to define what Floyd`s appeal is in the States, or even what type of audiences the group attract. In fact, he doesn`t seem particularly interested in anything, taking the whole process with a combination of affable ennui and the tiniest hint of indifference.
“I don`t think it`ll make any change – I mean, we`ve never had any problem selling out even the largest halls and I don`t really see how that can change. We can still sell out the Santa Monica Civic two nights in succession and I`m not sure that the album will make any difference to that”.
Nonetheless, one is aware that perhaps the success of “Dark Side” took the band a little by surprise, as no tour has been planned to actually coincide with the peaking of the album. Though they are off again in June. Anyway…
Tea arrives and conversation briefly returns to the Marquee, where Gilmour had been spotted a couple of weeks ago. He seems to be a regular denizen. “In fact, I was down there that night to see Quiver.”
Gilmour was, at one time, a member of a group which included one of the present Quiver lineup, and Gilmour takes an interest in the group`s progress.
An interesting sidelight is his reference to Floyd as – “this band – I`ve been five years in this band” – as if he expected Floyd to finish tomorrow; and then you realise that he`s first and foremost a musician and the lead guitar chair in Pink Floyd is just another gig.
Floyd may one day disappear but Gilmour intends to keep right on playing…
Back to “Dark Side”, and I advance the hypothesis that the album shows a marked return to solid purpose that, for me, had been somewhat lacking in Floyd`s last three or so albums, good though they`ve been individually. Gilmour ponders this.
“I suppose so. Certainly there`s a sort of theme running through it which we haven`t really done for a long time. There`s two opinions about this in the group – half of us wanted to play a thematic piece, the other half wanted to play a collection of songs.”
Which half did he belong to? A reappearance of the slow smile. “I didn`t object, anyway.
“It`s basically Roger`s idea. We`d all written songs beforehand, and then Roger got the theme and the words together.”
I point out that, for the first time, the band have considered album lyrics important enough to print on the sleeve. “Yes, I generally don`t like sleeve lyrics”. End of subject.
The theme behind “Dark Side” is, of course, the various pressures that can drive one mad – “pressures directed at people like us, like `Money`, `Travel`, and so on”.
I remark that the piece has changed markedly since I saw it premiered at the Rainbow in 1972. Gilmour agrees, mentioning that the entire show had been on the road for about six months before the group took the project into the studio.
“Normally, we go into the studio, often without any concrete ideas, and allow the circumstances to dictate the music”.
Sometimes, though, this results in filler tracks (for example, the jokey sides on “Ummagumma” and “Atom Heart Mother”) and besides, isn`t it an expensive way to record? “No. We don`t pay. EMI do”.
Another marked feature of the album is Gilmour`s own blossoming into a tough, bluesy player – especially on “Money”, which features several verses of really hard, spectacular licks.
Gilmour shrugs this off modestly, although Ginger, his lady, chimes in with her agreement that it represents Gilmour at his best. He thinks some of his playing on “Obscured By Clouds” is better, but concedes that “Money” was designed as a basically guitar track.
Other features from “Dark Side`s” live performance are also missing – noticeably the taped finale which uses extracts from the Collected Rantings of Malcolm Muggeridge. “Yes. Well, you didn`t really expect we`d get his permission, did you?”
He confesses that he never really listens to Floyd albums, and he`s reluctant to assess them in retrospect – but I detect a leaning towards “Obscured by Clouds”, which he has been known to direct into the garden on a summer`s day.
Others? Well, he likes some of the tracks on “Saucerful of Secrets”, mainly the title track and “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun”.
“Atom Heart Mother” he admits to have been an experiment, not a new direction, and he would record it completely differently now, had he the chance or the inclination.
“The trouble was, we recorded the group first and put the brass and the choir on afterwards. Now, I think I`d do the whole thing in one take. I feel that some of the rhythms don`t work and some of the syncopations aren`t quite right.”
Another period which Floyd dabbled in, but which didn`t really communicate itself to our ears via concrete Floyd music, was their flirtation with the French avant-garde and with ballet.
“In fact, we did that ballet for a whole week in France. Roland Petit choreographed it to some of our older material… but it`s too restricting for us. I mean, I can`t play and count bars at the same time. We had to have someone sitting on stage with a piece of paper telling us what bar we were playing…
“We also did the music for `More`. We hadn`t done film scores before, – but they offered us lots of money. We wrote the whole thing in eight days from start to finish.
“We did `Zabriskie Point` for Antonioni, and in fact we wrote much more than he eventually used. I feel, even now, that it would have been better if he`d used most of what we`d written.”
I put it to Gilmour that these wanderings from the band`s direct line of progression have been received by fans with disappointment.
He gets a little heated. “That`s the trouble – you can`t really break out of the progression-from-your-last-LP rut. People`s minds are set to expect something and if you don`t provide it, well…”
Many Floyd aficionados still feel that “Ummagumma” was the group`s high point. Gilmour disagrees. “For me, it was just an experiment. I think it was badly recorded – the studio side could have been done better. “We`re thinking of doing it again”.
But we don`t have time to explore the meaning behind that because now it`s time for Gilmour to show off his music room and, for the first time since this interview began, he comes to life.
Earlier, he`d told us that his opinion of the Music Press was that it was, well, irrelevant to Pink Floyd (“we don`t really need the Music Press and they don`t really need us”) and his attitude during the interview had been one of mild amusement coupled with disbelief at the workings of the journalistic mind.
But when we cross the carpet and enter the little room full of electronic equipment, he becomes a New Man.
Most private music rooms I`ve seen have been sterile, formal places, not, in my opinion, suited vibewise to the creative process – but Gilmour`s is lived-in and it works.
The usual tape recorders and eight-track stuff are there but there`s also a drumkit (Nick Mason`s? “No, mine”), about 12 guitars, ranging from a Strat through a `59 Les Paul Custom to a Les Paul Junior hanging on the wall, a Les Paul-type electric guitar (“custom-made, naturally”) and a beautiful classical guitar (“custom-made, naturally”).
But pride of place goes to the newest toy, a special synthesizer made by EMS (who make the VCS3) which, Gilmour assures us, is not on the market and never will be.
He plugs in the Strat and this device, rather like a plastic pulpit with pedals mounted underneath, gives off some of the most incredible sounds we`ve ever heard. And that includes every Pink Floyd album.
There`s a fader that lowers the note an octave, a whining fuzz device which couples into that, and, most uncanny of all, a phase “Itchycoo Park”-type effect that resembles a Phantom doing a ground strike somewhere in South East Asia.
Believers, you`re in for some hair-raising sounds when Gilmour gets this weapon on the road, as he says he intends to.
Looking at David Gilmour as he coaxes these apocalyptic noises from his guitar, one can see why he and the rest of Pink Floyd feel remote from the workings of the music business.
Gilmour in our interview never really came to life because he hasn`t any stake in successful musicbiz rapport with the Press – but he`s said more about Pink Floyd in 30 seconds of divebombing with the Strat and the Synthi HiFli than all the interviews in the world would ever do. And, really, isn`t that what it`s all about?
A real nice ad in tnis NME for the newest album by Suzi Quatro. Can you spot the album`s name?
This number of the NME also contains articles/interviews with these people: Roy Buchanan, Golden Earring, Linda McCartney, Alice Cooper, Faces, Strawbs, David Bowie, Hatfield and the North, Jack The Lad, John Surman.
This edition is sold!