Former Pink Floyd leader Roger Waters could count the number of interviews he`s done in the past year, if not the past decade, on both hands. He can count the number he`s actually enjoyed and still have enough fingers left to choke the hapless interrogator, were he so inclined. "The need doesn`t seem to arise; I haven`t toured a great deal," said Waters, a prime influence on artists as diverse as Nine Inch Nails` Trent Reznor and the members of Radiohead, Phish and the Squirrels.
In fact, he has hardly toured, period. His recent concert at Coors Amphitheatre outside of San Diego was his first area performance since a 1987 date at the San Diego Sports Arena.
"Last year was my first (solo) tour for 13 years," noted Waters, speaking from his Caribbean vacation home on the island of Barbados. "Back in the early days (of Pink Floyd), I took the view I didn`t need to do any interviews. I really had nothing to communicate via the press.
"And," he added, "I was in my `(screw) you` mode."
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Waters chuckled as he recalled his time as a brooding young musician who let his moody, sometimes vitriolic songs speak for him.
"I was rather an aloof youth," he said, adding with a laugh, "and that`s not easy to say. I wore all black and stood in the corner, scowling, in order that you should not come up and ask me questions."
"Today I`m Mr. Lovable, this avuncular character spreading joy to the world," quipped Waters, who is aware of his reputation as one of rock`s most notoriously dour and cranky stars.
Further contradicting his reputation, the veteran English musician speaks thoughtfully and with surprising warmth about everything from his current band and latest batch of songs to "Ca Ira," the bilingual opera about the French Revolution that he is completing with librettist Etiene Roda-Gil, and - of all things - his golf game. ("My handicap is 12," Waters said. "Not bad? It`s a miracle!")
He also explained how the female half of the Captain & Tennille, the middle-of-the-road pop duo of "Muskrat Love" fame, came to perform on Pink Floyd`s 1979 opus, "The Wall":
"I had wanted the Beach Boys to do the harmony vocals," Waters noted, before describing that group`s Mike Love as "weird" and "completely (expletive) mad."
"And Bruce (Johnson of the Beach Boys) took me aside and said: `I think I know what you want, (vocal) harmonies, but you might find a different route.` And I said: `Who?` And he came up with names, which is how I met the Captain & Tennille, and - more importantly - the other singers (featured on `The Wall`). We`re still friends, and they`re all in L.A. But we tend to meet up only at gigs."
Perhaps most surprising, Waters openly discussed his tenure in Pink Floyd from the mid-1960s through the early 1970s, when its "Dark Side of the Moon" album established the band as one of the most popular and enduring in rock history.
"I think we did some great work together," said Waters, who left the band in 1983 amid a flurry of lawsuits. "And when I say `we,` I mean we. We all did great work together, and I`m really happy about that."
Alas, "Dark Side`s" title proved sadly prophetic.
The 1973 album, which remains a best-seller to this day, marked the beginning of the end for the band, or at least the edition with Waters, who became the group`s putative leader in 1969 (following the departure of drug-addled singer-guitarist Syd Barrett and the arrival of his replacement, David Gilmour).
In the aftermath of "Dark Side`s" release and multimillion-selling success, Waters found himself increasingly at odds with Gilmour, drummer Nick Mason and keyboardist Rick Wright. As their power struggle worsened, so did the four musicians` personal and professional relationships. Things reached a head in 1979, when Waters said he`d quit if Wright did not leave the band after the conclusion of its concert tour to promote "The Wall."
The crestfallen Wright reluctantly departed. Waters himself quit in 1983, then sued Gilmour and Mason in an ultimately futile attempt to prevent them from working without him under the Pink Floyd monicker. He remains annoyed that the Water-less band - which still performs songs he wrote - has become a stadium-rock favorite, while his solo career has sputtered.
But he quickly dismissed a suggestion that Gilmour, Wright and Mason are like three ex-wives, with whom he can never fully sever ties.
"Well, you know, the ties are there," Waters said. "We`re bound together by history, so ... it would be ridiculous to sever the ties."
Then why can`t the four of them bury the hatchet and work together again, especially since their music together as Pink Floyd is generally superior to anything they have done since splitting up?
"Because I don`t want to," Waters said, his voice growing testy.
"I have no interest in working with any of them, at all. I have interest in working with other people, and I`m doing that ..."
His tone was far more pleasant when discussing his former band`s early musical exploits.
Were Pink Floyd`s lengthy on-stage improvisations in the late-1960s inspired by his love of jazz?
"No," Waters, 55, replied. "They were inspired by the fact we were very musically unaccomplished, and it was the only way we could fill in the time. That may sound flip, but it`s partially true.
"Very few rock bands then were writing original material; that kind of started in England with the Beatles. So, to have a long set list, you needed to learn other people`s songs, and we weren`t very good at that. We did go through one or two personal, personnel - what am I trying to say? As I get older, I forget words."
"Yeah, where we had people who could play the blues a bit," he continued. "So for a long time, our set list was almost entirely (blues songs by) Elmore James and Rufus Thomas, and esoteric stuff by Sleepy John Estes. But we weren`t very good at learning contemporary pop songs.
"And we were not influenced by (jazz icons) John Coltrane or Sun Ra. After Syd (Barrett) joined, we were more influenced by stories coming out of the (American) West Coast about what people were doing, bands like Love."
Many of the angst-filled Pink Floyd songs Waters wrote in the 1970s struck a resounding chord with millions of listeners. With his days as a struggling artist long behind him, what inspires this classic-rock millionaire`s creative impulses now?
"I guess I`m still looking for answers, connections," he mused. "And occasionally, on the way you find you`ve made a couple of brush strokes that make sense. Then you look for a few more. It may be some of us go on painting the same picture all our lives, and I`m not sure if that`s true of me. I hope the picture has changed somewhat ...
"If life is a big picture, it is only important to make one beautiful mark on it. And it doesn`t matter how small or large. But it`s important to try to make the mark."
Waters left Pink Floyd in large part because he wanted full artistic control over his music. Now, for the first time since officially launching his solo career in 1984, he is welcoming creative input for his next solo project from the members of his latest band.
"At the moment, I`m working on a new album where I go back to my old way of writing, which is to write the songs, then teach them to the band and see what they have to bring to it, and how working (together) as a group changes and develops things. Once they seem satisfactory, we`ll make a recording," he said.
"Seeing the process triggered memories I had, I guess, of working with Pink Floyd."
Presumably, he means of working with Pink Floyd when doing so was still enjoyable?
"Absolutely, when it was enjoyable, which it was for," Waters paused for dramatic emphasis, "10 to 12 minutes."
"I`m kidding!" he said, his voice dancing with uncharacteristic glee. "Really."
(c) Visit Copley News Service
Author: George Varga
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