For the true Pink Floyd fanatic, 1987 was an extraordinary year. First the band split into two armed camps. Roger Waters fired the opening salvos with a blitz of media denunciations of his former bandmates, action in the British courts to stop them from operating under the name Pink Floyd and releasing Radio K.A.O.S., an album conceptually bigger than The Wall. With Waters making the first (and apparently the right) public relations moves, most critics came to Pink Floyd's opening dates to bury and not to praise them, convinced that Waters had taken the essence of the band with him.
Somebody forgot to tell the fans - and three guys named Gilmour, Mason and Wright. While the Waters tour drew respectably for a "new" artist, filling places like Madison Square Garden with old Floyd fanatics, Pink Floyd sold out the same venues for five and six nights in a row, playing to an audience that is, for the most part, too young to have seen them before (this is the band's first proper tour in 10 years). The new fans know of the band's legendary multimedia events from their older brothers and sisters, but they have also memorized nearly every note and lyric of Dark Side Of The Moon and The Wall and are quite capable of relishing peak Floyd.
What this new audience is seeing is a revitalized band, driven by the voice and guitar of David Gilmour. It's a harder and more fluid band than the Floyd that Waters abandoned. Awestruck fans are also seeing Pink Floyd's greatest bits, as the pig from Animals and the crashing airplane, animation and dazzling ball/claw from the Dark Side Of The Moon tour all make their second appearances alongside the new songs and visualizations.
While the new album has many of the elements a Pink Floyd album should have (such as the babbling voices and glistening guitar of "Signs Of Life" or the ominous force and dark lyrics of "Dogs Of War"), A Momentary Lapse of Reason turns Pink Floyd into a guitar band that retains some of the textures, themes and tactics of Water's Floyd, but is more angular, sleek and modern than the Floyd of Animals or The Final Cut. It immediately vaulted to the top of the charts, eclipsing what some consider a more Floydian effort by Roger Waters.
It is ironic that Waters - for two decades the brooding presence around which the rest of Pink Floyd was said to revolve - should be bested by his "own" invention. But Pink Floyd has always been a concept...and the band has been content to subjugate their own images to that concept. Even a perfectly awful album and tour would probably have done well, spurred on by the enormity of the legend.
But if Waters created the idea of Pink Floyd as an anonymous machine in which he was the central cog, Floyd's brightest moments were always as a band with David Gilmour's voice *and* guitar *and* songwriting tempering Water's manic genius. Momentary Lapse is Gilmour's triumph. Even though Gilmour appears to have taken over, with Mason and Wright not contributing to the music the way they did up to and including Dark Side, in this interview, Gilmour and Mason say that once again Pink Floyd is a *band*.
And, although this is probably their last major non-stop world tour, they plan to continue recording and touring as Pink Floyd, for a long time to come. For the Floyd fanatic, Christmas came early last year.
David Gilmour- DG
Nick Mason- NM
Creem: Some have suggested that the album's title has some deep significance - that it has something to do with you guys getting back together. After all, this is your first real tour in 10 years.
DG: Well, we did do The Wall tour, which was 35 dates......
NM: I'd agree. I'd say it's been 10 years since we toured properly.
DG: Yeah, it wasn't a proper tour, we'd do five cities for a week at a time. But anyway, A Momentary Lapse Of Reason has got nothing to do with us touring again, it's got nothing to do with getting back together, and it's got nothing to do with Roger Waters. Ha, ha, ha.
NM: It's fairly abstract - I think one looks for titles and images that you feel fit the music. The significance is only that they juxtapose together, but there is no specific meaning in the words themselves or a particular story that interlinks the music.
DG: It just means what is says.
Creem: You mean it doesn't mean that you decided, 'Hey we're Pink Floyd, why should we be sitting around doing nothing?
DG: No, it doesn't mean that at all.
NM: I mean, they're great interpretations. I like the interpretation of the title as meaning that we haven't worked for 10 years. That's quite a lengthy momentary lapse of reason.
Creem: When you went in to record this album, were there things that you felt you had to put on it in order to make it a Pink Floyd-sounding album?
DG: No, no, we had a load of demos...I had a load of demos that I had been working with, but basically we gathered in a studio in London - Nick and myself and Bob Ezrin, late September of last year - and some of my pieces were not as popular as others. We wrote some new stuff and threw others away and gradually we whittled it down.....
NM: And then we whittled it up. The first demos that Dave gave me had the Learning To Fly idea, it had the Dogs Of War idea; everything on it was potentially a good track and that's what it launched from.
Creem: Was it all new stuff or was it stuff that you'd been sitting on for a few years?
DG: The Dogs Of War track, without the lyrics, I has sitting around for maybe a couple of years; the Terminal Frost track, too.
NM: Some of it goes back even farther than that!
DG: Part Two of Signs of Life was actually done in 1977, I think. The guitar and the whistling answers was actually a demo that I did in '77 or '78. We had to replace the actual guitar, but the backing chords are from an ancient thing I did. Most of the rest of it was written within the past two years.
Creem: Even though your new songs are quite different from the old ones and your stage show has more energy, you still get some of the same criticism - such as that you're still plodding along.
NM: I think this is the *least* plodding tour we've ever done. I think there are plenty of criticisms to be leveled at us, but I feel that isn't nailing it at all. We've been around for an awfully long time; it's been a long time since we toured and I suspect sometimes people have rose-colored memories. There have been a lot of very good reviews but I suspect that we stand for something that some reviewers just don't particularly care for. They never really say that we're disappointing, it's much more. Some reviewers find it difficult to come to grips with a band that won't prance about onstage. Some of the things that we think are absolutely clever they think are wrong in terms of rock 'n' roll. They think it's very important that the thing is focused onstage the whole time. I think they find it distressing, this idea of trying to do something that's a bit more spectacular so that it reaches out and engulfs the audience, no matter how far away they are.
Creem: That's always been one of the things that's made you a legendary band.
NM: Some people find what we do to be outside the mainstream. Perhaps it is outside the mainstream of rock 'n' roll and they don't like it for that reason.
DG: I suspect that some of this has more to do with some people not ever understanding what we are all about. We have always had good and bad reviews, they have never been consistent, so it isn't anything that concerns us. I know that we get off on our own staging and I know that on this tour, 99 percent of the audience goes away thinking that was good value for the money and they had a really good night out.
Creem: To the Pink Floyd fanatic, there is Pink Floyd and then there is everything else. How were you able to create this kind of following?
DG: The whole thing just developed gradually.......
NM: Yes, it developed , but when we started out we found us a little niche - we found an area where there was so much to do and so many interesting ideas to be explored that other people just had not gotten into. We were also very bad in some areas of this thing and we just wouldn't have made it if we had attempted to compete with other people. If we hadn't found our own thing that we were particularly good at and stuck with it and developed it, we would not have succeeded. Our musicianship just wasn't good enough in certain areas to stand up against some of these other bands.
DG: And also, we didn't have any performers in the band that would have been a sort of frontman. We didn't have a Roger Daltrey or a Mick Jagger, we had a different type of make-up. All we had was a bass player that would stomp around scowling and making faces.
NM: I think part of the reason we attracted a particularly almost desperate fan was because we got involved in these sort of musical pieces that were a bit more abstract, a bit more romantic really. They had a bit more space and, for a lot of people, it gave them the opportunity to put their ideas into it. I don't like drawing parallels to classical music, but to some extent it enabled people's imagination to be turned on in a way that you can't with a short single with very specific lyrics about gotta get you baby. The people who are the most ardent fans are the people who found their imaginations switched on.
Creem: It appears you've tapped into a certain mentality and that audience will be around for as long as you want it.
NM: It's extraordinary; it's absolutely wonderful. It's very nice to be playing to an audience for the first time, instead of playing nostalgia...it's nice to have the old fans there, but you definitely want to feel you're breaking new ground and that you're reaching new people who feel strongly about the music and shows- rather than, just 'Remember that, dear?"
Creem: Were you deliberately going after a younger audience when you made this album?
DG: We don't sit and plan who we are going to be playing to or anything like that. I mean, it would be wonderful if one could, but we just make a record as well as we can make it. We don't consider Pink Floyd techniques or recipes that we've used before; we just get on with making a record and doing the best tour we can do. They are very complicated procedures that we go through, but the idea behind it is a very simple one.
Creem: What did losing Roger Waters do to the band?
DG: Well, you lost something and you gain something. Frankly, at this moment I think we gained more than we lost. Our memories of our time with Roger are sort of tempered by the last few years, and the last few years have not been a lot of fun. Roger wanted to do things a certain way which we didn't happen to feel was the right way, and it's really been torture, since, since...well, I guess The Wall album was OK.
NM: The Wall album was the last time we were all working together, doing the best we could. But The Final Cut....
DG: The Final Cut and the making the The Wall film were both.....
NM: Very hard going.
DG: Nearly impossible. The thought of continuing with Roger in that frame of mind was far worse than the thought of him going. Ha, ha, ha.
NM: There is no doubt that we lost a major contributor, talent or whatever when Roger left, but what's been very interesting has been the way it's galvanized us to do things that we would never have done if Roger had stayed. Dave would never have applied himself to writing - well, I won't say never, he might have, over the period of the next seven to 10 years. Whereas the pressure on him to perform and to put it together....speaking as the observer, I think Dave has not so much trouble with music - in fact, it comes very naturally to him - but the lyrics, which were pretty much murder. He did a sort of crash course in writing lyrics and, by the end of the album, they were really sort of flying out.
So from his point of view I think he got an enormous benefit from Roger leaving. From my point of view there is another enormous benefit - just from the sheer pleasure of getting on with and enjoying the work and playing live. Dave and I were always the ones who liked the idea of going out and playing. Roger didn't like the idea of touring. He's touring now and the probably finds it a lot easier with him having total control. But he still doesn't have that real enthusiasm for playing onstage.
Creem: Roger said in Creem that you guys would not write and he had to do all the writing - and then you got angry because he did all the writing. What's your side of the story?
DG: Roger wanted to do all the writing, he *wanted* to take over the whole thing. He would engineer moments to try and insure that no one else got any writing. Certainly on The Final Cut, he engineered a situation where no one else could do any writing.
NM: That's absolutely true, but this album (Momentary Lapse) is, to some extent, a vindication that the writing was not historically all Roger. The Final Cut was virtually all Roger, but even that was not *all* Roger. But The Wall and the stuff before that, you can hear how much of Dave there is. I'd have to say, no, Roger didn't do all the writing.
Yes, he wrote all the lyrics, but he didn't do all the music writing by any manner or means. That's one of the things that's been infuriating....Roger attempting to take credit for everything. Fine if he wants to take credit for a lot of it, but he's trying to say he did everything, and that's not how it worked.
That's not how life is and not how a band runs and it's certainly not how a band does good work. A band does good work because there is input from everyone. It may be that one person never does anything except say 'I like that', but that still can be important in terms of making things better.
DG: Roger conducted a long and deliberate campaign to try and insure that he did all the writing. For a long time he effectively attempted to demoralize everyone else around him, for some strange reason of his own. I don't think it worked - the more it became all Roger, the less really interesting it became. The Wall album was not a Roger Waters solo album, no matter what anyone thinks. It was a year of very hard work by Roger and all of us, turning a good idea that can only be described as a pig's ear, into a silk purse.
Creem: Is there any legal basis for what he's doing? Is there anything that says he is Pink Floyd?
NM: What we have is a record contract that very specifically says that if one of us leaves, the deal is still with Pink Floyd, but it changes slightly. What happened was Roger wrote the record company and said he's leaving. So Pink Floyd was still understood to be whoever remained.
DG: He had read and understood and signed a recording contract with our record company that provided specifically for this circumstance - that if he left, Nick and myself could carry on. He invoked the leaving member clause: if he leaves the band, it gives him a solo record contract.
NM: But then he decided to tell us that, in fact, we couldn't carry on without him and we shouldn't carry on without him and he would be jolly horrible to us if we did. But he actually hasn't done anything. He's threatened us a lot.
DG: Well, he's entered two cases against us in the English court of law, which will not come to court for an awfully long time. One of them, I think, has evaporated anyway, and the other one is pretty flimsy. The other thing he has possibilities of doing is enjoining us from carrying on or seeking an attachment on the money we are making.
NM: We spent 18 years touring with people shouting 'where's Syd Barrett?' but so far we haven't had one person shout, 'where's Roger?'. Genesis is a perfect example where you have Peter Gabriel, who is enormously popular in his own right, Phil Collins, who is enormously popular in his own right, and Mike Rutherford, who is also popular. There is room for everyone and, in fact, it's of benefit to everyone, because you get more material being thrown out and everyone can live with it very easily. It's not a competition, it's not a war, or a contest.
Creem: Are you still friends?
DG: It's impossible for us to be friends at the moment; we've never been. Nick was always much closer to Roger than I ever was, but this whole business could have been sorted out and we could have been working on a reasonable and tolerable level. There was definitely the ability and the opportunity for Roger's record and tour to come out slightly earlier in the year, and if there had been an agreement, we could have put our tickets on sale slightly later in the year. We could have made room for each other if we had any sort of mutual respect. But Roger has changed his plans and has spent the last year of his life on a deliberate campaign of wrecking us. There is no doubt about what he has been doing. In all the interviews he is conducting a vicious wrecking campaign, and I cannot remain friendly with someone like that.
Creem: Does this feel like a new beginning?
NM: New beginning is a funny way of putting it. It's certainly regeneration; it's the same thing but it's more fun, it's as much fun as any time I've had with the band in the last 15 years. It's very much a band feeling again, where you are looking forward to achieving things together. Some of that spirit is back in.
Creem: It seems your best stuff always had more than one credit.
DG: Well, Roger was always more important in his own mind than he was in ours.
Creem: Was it his singing that made the original version of The Wall so hard to listen to?
DG: It *is* a problem of Roger's that there are not too many people who can sit and listen to him going on that same way all the time without a break.
NM: It's not particularly melodic; it's a great acting voice.
DG: It works best when it is a counterpoint with mine, when he does a bit and I do a bit.
Creem: Would you ever perform songs like 'Atom Heart Mother' or 'Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun' again?
DG: No, we haven't entirely emptied the vaults in our search for stuff. We haven't gone back beyond 'Meddle'-it's the first album we've considered from that far back.
NM: We would be quite interested & we could talk about performing Dark Side Of The Moon in its entirety, but we really just haven't gotten around to it. It's something that would be nice to do if people knew that's what they were coming to see. It's kind of tricky when you're trying to give people a cross section of your songs.
Creem: Why do you think you're still the only band to perform in quad?
DG: You've got to have good ideas for it. You've got to know how to use it and most people don't think that way.
NM: Also it comes back to that thing of it being our niche. The fact of the matter is we've made our reputation from doing things like that. It you're U2 and Bono, there is no point in putting Bono in quad. The attention is all on this guy with the long hair being that.
DG: I'm sure other people have thought of it, but said, 'no, we'll just get accused of copying Pink Floyd'. For most people, for the few moments in which they could use it, it's probably too expensive.
NM: Also, quad works well with film, and for someone starting from scratch, to get into making films as well as a record is waste of time unless it's part of what you do. It's a waste of time because it's so time-consuming. I mean, I love it, but I wouldn't recommend it anyone else.
Creem: You were doing it from the beginning, weren't you?
NM: Yes, we started in '67.
DG: Before I joined the band. You know, I invented it.
NM: He also invented the wheel and wrote all the material for the Beatles. Quad is now almost obsolete because it was part of all recording studios about 15 years ago, but our original quad system was quite unique.
DG: In fact, our original quad pan board is in the Science Museum in England now. It was a remarkable jump forward.
Creem: Can you see yourself putting out an album every three or four years, doing the tour and that being enough for you for the rest of your life?
DG: It won't be *enough* for me, I have pretensions of being able to do all sorts of things. I still think there is time for me to become a Formula One racing driver. Ha, ha, ha. Send for the men in the white jackets.
NM: Speaking from my point of view though, one of the things I hoped when Roger was still in the band-and I now hope we can still achieve as we are now-is that...I don't think we see this as being the final tour or anything like that, but I can't imagine that we'll want to hammer on doing tour/album/tour/album for the next 20 years. At some point we'll think, 'well, it's been great but I want to stay in the garage and be a Formula One racing driver', and so on. But rather than just say goodbye and shovel it away, we could maintain it at some level and maybe just do few shows every year, maybe just for charity, maybe just to keep it. Rather than just bury the dinosaur you keep it in the science museum and bring it out every now and then and make it walk around. I don't think it should be buried, it should be allowed to die naturally.
Creem: The way it looks now, it's never going to die.
NM: Yes, we could keep bringing in younger musicians and send *them* out and watch them on television.
DG: We are making a point here with this album and with this tour and we're going to drive that point home. I don't know if there will be the necessity or the desire for us to undertake the type of world tour that we are doing this time around. I can't see that as being a common occurrence ever again. That's the only thing I think as being unlikely. I suspect we'll be slightly more sedate in the future.
Creem: To the public and to your fans this looks like a lot of fun, so if you're having fun and making money, that can't be such a bad life.
DG: And doing something artistically valid and creative. It's not at all a bad life and we know how lucky we are.
NM: But we couldn't recommend it to anyone else - just in case they wanted to push their way in and force us out. Ha, ha, ha. Actually it's very hard work to maintain this.
DG: Most of the hard work on this project is over. Making this record and putting this tour together and putting the team together that culminated in the shows you now see is much harder work than actually doing the concerts. This was a mammoth undertaking.