The following pages feature possibly the last interview
with Syd Barrett, until now this interview has never
appeared in print.
The interviewer and introduction: Giovanni Dadomo.
There is a fomidable and sometimes rather tasteless
mystique surrounding Syd Barrett not very different to that
which, until recently, went hand in hand with the name of
Arthur Lee. What little has been written has only added
weight to weight to the myth of a modern Neitzche/Nijinsky
figure who mumbles inanities and vague things about
'getting it together'. Strangely enough Syd turns out to
be as normal, unkempt and emaciated as most of us. Talkative,
unpretentious, and above all, very human...........
THE MADCAP SPEAKS.........
Piper at the Gates of Dawn?
S.B.: "Wind in the Willows." That was very difficult in some
ways, getting used to the studio and everything. But it was
fun, we freaked about alot. I was working very hard then,
there's still lots of stuff lying around from then, even
some of the stuff on "Madcap".
Some of your songs seem rather obscure.....like "Chapter 24"
S.B.: "Chapter 24".....that was from 'I Ching', there was
someone around who was very into that, most of the words
came strait off that. "Lucifer Sam" was another one, it
didn't mean much to me at the time, but then three or four
months later it came to mean alot.
How important are lyrics to you?
S.B.: Very important. I think it's good if a song has more
than one meaning. Maybe that kind of song can reach far
more people, that's nice. On the other hand I like songs
that are simple, I liked "Arnold Layne" because to me it
was a very clear song.
Some of your words don't come over too clearly, like on
"Octopus" "There's little minnie cann, coughs and clears
his throat," have you thought about printing the words
on the sleeve next time?
S.B.: Yeah, that would be nice, (laughing) that was "little
What about "Octopus", that was my personal favorite?
S.B.: I carried that around in my head for about six months
before I actually wrote it, so maybe that's why it came
out so well. The idea was like those number songs like
"Green Grow the Rushes Ho" where you have say, twelve lines
each related to the next, and an overall theme. It's like
a fool-proof combination of lyrics really, and then the
chorus comes in and changes the tempo but holds the whole
There's a strong childhood feel to alot of your songs with
lots of fairy-tale and nursery-rhyme elements, have you
thought about writing for kids?
S.B.: Fairy-tales are nice.....I think alot of it has to do
with living in Cambridge, with nature and everything, it's
so clean and I still drive back alot. If I'd stayed at
college I would have become a teacher. Leaving school and
suddenly being without that structure around you and nothing
to relate to maybe that's a part of it too.
There was a strange science-fiction thing in the early Floyd
, were you into that?
S.B.: Not really except "Journey into Space" and "Quartermass"
, which was when I was about fifteen, so that could be where
it came from.
Your lyrics could be described as surrealistic collages,
did your art training affect your writing?
S.B.: Only the rate of work, learning to work hard. I do tend
to take lines from other things, lines I like, and then write
around them. But I don't consciously relate to painting.
It's just writing good songs that matters really.
Do you still paint?
S.B.: Not much, the guy who lives next door to me paints,
and he's doing it well, so I don't really feel the need.
Do you want to do other things?
S.B.: Alot of people want to make films and do photography
and things, but I'm quite happy doing what I'm doing.
Are you into other people's music?
S.B.: I don't really buy many records, there's so much around that you don't know what to listen to. All I've got at home is Bo Diddley, some Stones and Beatles stuff, and old jazz records. I like Family, they do some nice things.
What about the underground?
S.B.: I haven't been to the arts lab or anything, so I don't know really what's happening. There are just so many people running around. Doing different things and no kind of unity. It doesn't really bother me.
Do you read poetry?
S.B.: I've got penguins lying around at home, Shakesphere and Chaucer, you know? But I don't really read alot. Maybe I should.
Were you satisfied with "Madcap Laughs"?
S.B.: Yes, I liked what came out, only it was released far too long after it was done. I wanted it to be a whole thing that people would listen to all the way through with everything related and balanced, the tempos and moods offsetting each other, and
I hope that's what it sounds like. I've got it at home but I don't listen to it much now.
Madcap is rather gentile compared with your Floyd stuff, what about the new album?
S.B.: There'll be all kinds of things. It depends on what I feel like doing at the time. The important thing is that it will be better than the last.
In "No Man's Land" on 'Madcap' there's a long spoken part which is barely audible, like the faded lyrics of "Astonomie Domine", was the intention to abstract the words into just background noise?
S.B.: Originally the words were ment to be heard clearly, but we went and actually did it, that's how it came out, which wasn't really how I'd planned it.
How's the guitar playing?
S.B.: I always write with guitar. I've got this big room and I just go in and do the work.
I like to do the words and music simultaniously, so when I go into the studio I've got the words on one side and my music on the other. I suppose I could do with so
What about the future, are you looking forward to singing and playing again?
S.B.: Yes that would be nice, I used to enjoy it. It was a gas, but so is doing nothing. It's artschool laziness really. I've got this Wembley gig and another thing in summer.
What about forming a band?
S.B.: I'll be getting something together for the Wembley thing and then just see what happens.
S.B.: I'm working on the album. There's four tracks in the can already and it should be out about September. There are no set musicians, just people helping out like on "Madcap" which gives me far more freedom in what I want to do......I feel as if I've
got lots of things, much better things to do still......That's why there isn't really alot to say, I just want to get it all done........