Mojo, December 1999
Danger! Band Imploding -
"Betrayal!" "It was war!" "I'm in therapy -"
DANGER DEMOLITION IN PROGRESS
ROGER WANTED RICK OUT. DAVE THOUGHT NICK WAS NEXT. BOB GAVE THEM THE HIT AND GOT SACKED TOO. NOW, FOR THE FIRST TIME, ALL THE ARCHITECTS OF THE WALL SPEAK OUT ON THE PROJECT THAT DESTROYED PINK FLOYD. SYLVIE SIMMONS DONS HER HARDHAT.
ROGER WATERS - Writer/ vocalist/ bass-player/ producer
DAVID GILMOUR - Vocalist/ guitarist/ producer/ co-writer (of "Comfortably Numb," "Young Lust," "Run Like Hell")
RICK WRIGHT - Keyboard player, for the first half of 'The Wall' as a member, then as a salaryman
NICK MASON - Drummer
JAMES GUTHRIE - Engineer/ co-producer
GERALD SCARFE - Artist/ animator
BOB EZRIN - Producer (former clients: Alice Cooper, Kiss), co-writer (of 'The Trial'), aged 29 when 'The Wall' began
On June 16 this year Rick Wright finally did what every therapist advises: confronted his Nemesis.
When the show was over Rick Wright decided to go backstage. "It was a difficult one - for both of us. There are a lot of issues that maybe one day we'll talk about but at the time I didn't want to go into all that. I just said, Hello, how are you, you're looking well."
"He stood in front of me, grinning" says Roger Waters. "I think he'd had a couple, there was a bit of Dutch courage going on, but he was perfectly gracious. So was I, I think. He introduced me to his wife, I said hello, and that was it. It wasn't uncomfortable. We didn't have much to say to one another." Wright and Waters had known each other, played together, since the early '60s. Until 'The Wall,' when Roger threw him out of Pink Floyd.
'The Wall' is the concept album of concept albums, a multi-leveled - lyrically, musically, visually - architectural structure, each brick a scar on the psyche. 'Dark Side Of The Moon' has been named as the thinking man's favorite album to have sex and take drugs to; the practical use of 'The Wall' for the millions who made it a Number 1 album (five weeks in Britain, 15 in the U.S.) can only be speculated. Bleak, claustrophobic, but with moments of flesh-tingling beauty, its themes of paranoia, megalomania, betrayal, breakdown and collapse appeared to permeate the people who made it.
It's 'The Wall''s 20th birthday this month - November 30, happy birthday! - and as part of the celebrations there's a double live album, produced by James Guthrie (also mixing the DVD of 'The Wall' film, which Waters found "terrible" but at least gave work to the future Saint Bob) who right now has 110 reels of 2-inch tape from three nights of concerts in 1980 and four in '81 baking in an oven – seriously; eight hours, gas mark 2. Apparently, the glue they used to bind oxide to tape makes the reels go soft as they get older. Something from which its musicians do not appear to suffer. Since this first upsurge of as-near-as-dammit communal Waters-Gilmour-Mason-Wright activity in the best part of two decades, the web has been buzzing with speculation of a thawing of tensions, a reunion; a millennium show; the Pyramids. "Ugh," Roger Waters shudders.
"The idea of having to stay in this big bowl of porridge swimming around - no, I'm going to get out, hose myself down, ah, that's better. Now I can get on with my life. The idea of getting involved with any of them again - and you can imagine, they're constantly trying to get me to leap back into the porridge - even doing this live album, the sleevenotes, it's brought back to me how crazy it all is. I don't want anything to do with it or them." His distaste is palpable.
In a studio filled with racing car posters in King's Crown, London, 3,000 miles from Waters' Long Island home, his old friend Nick Mason's manner is far less severe, though his own detached, good- natured way just as dismissive.
"Would *you* want to put 200 road crew together to work on New Year's Eve? Everyone's seen 'Spinal Tap' and that wonderful reunion moment at the end. I suppose if I had a sort of fantasy about it it would have happened for something like Live Aid. There's obviously an enormous sense of mistrust or betrayalor anger or whatever. I think one gets over it, but it would be quite difficult to revisit the areas that made it so much fun in the beginning."
David Gilmour, urbane, *very* English, camouflaging his true feelings in language - passives, convoluted double negatives - talks about Waters blithely, almost warmly at times, like an old sparring partner. "Obviously one sits and thinks about these things on occasion and I have thought, What would it be like if we all stood together in a studio and said 'Shall we do something?' I don't see how that could possibly work - We invited him if he wanted to come and play on 'Dark Side Of The Moon' at Earl's Court with us, but he politely said, No thank you. I actually invited him to my 50th birthday party, to which he also said, Thank you, no. I haven't made the hugest of efforts to draw him back into our fold, but I have been unstintingly polite."
And in the house in Atlanta, Georgia, where he lives with his American wife, Rick Wright still seems like a man in shock. Oddly enough the most
conciliatory of the four, his talk of injustice, betrayal and ongoing therapy is accompanied by the sound of thumping hammers. There are builders working away behind us. They're building, as it
happens, a wall.
July 6, 1977. On the last night of the "'Animals' In The Flesh" tour at Montreal's Olympic Stadium, Roger Waters spits at a fan.
David: I can remember not enjoying it much as a show. They'd just finished building this big stadium and the crane was still in there, they forgot to dismantle it and couldn't get it out. I was so unenamoured that I went out and sat on the mixing desk for the encore - that might have not contributed to Roger's mood. I think Roger was disgusted with himself really that he had let himself go sufficiently to spit at a fan.
Roger: I'm not sure I hit him.
Nick: Well, Roger is not exactly a man known for peace and love - But we were sympathetic, even if we didn't feel as passionately as he did - those stadium shows *are* very strange. When we're playing, we're watching the audience, the same way the audience is watching us, and all you can really see is those front rows and - I'm not saying they're all nutters, but what you tend to get, particularly if it's what's euphemistically called 'festival-seating'- ie no seats - is the people who are mad enough to be able to push their way to the front, the air-guitar players, the people who know all the words and rather sad ones who have been waiting all day and collapse just as the band comes onstage.
David: Roger never liked touring anyway very much, he was always rather tense and irritable. He was disgusted with the business in manyways, as we all were. The big change came with the huge success of 'Dark Side Of The Moon'-- the audiences liked to *interact*, shout a lot. Previous to then, even though we played large places, 10,000- seaters, you could hear a pin drop at appropriate moments. So it had been a shock - but four years on I was getting used to the idea that that's the way it had to be.
Roger: It just became more and more oppressive. Those places weren't built for music, they were built for sporting events, and it's not unnatural to experience a ritualisation of war, because that's all sport is. What was going through my mind - my whole body - was an enormous sense of frustration, a feeling of what are we all doing here, what's the point? And the answer that kept clanging back monotonously was: cash and ego. That's all it's about.
Ezrin: I met Roger through his then wife Carolyne, who once worked for me. On the 'Animals' tour, they stopped in Toronto where I was living, and on the
limousine ride out to the gig Roger told me about his feeling of alienation from the audience and his desire sometimes to put a wall between him and them. I recall saying flippantly, 'Well why don't
you?.' A year, 18 months later, I got a call asking me to come to his home to talk to him about the possibility of working together on this project called 'The Wall.'
THE MASTER BUILDER
The 'Animals' solo tour over, the band goes their separate ways - Gilmour and Wright to make solo albums, Roger to his house in the country to start writing.
Roger: Sometimes during the day I'll get this very blank feeling - not an empty feeling, it's very full - and I'll realise suddenly that I'm really long-sighted, everything becomes very out-of-focus, and I think, 'Oh, I'm going to write a song.' Then one has to take it by the scruff of the neck and use whatever craft I've developed over the years to finish it off, but the initial creation is a passive act. My view is it may be an expression of what Jung describes as the collective unconscious - human beings seem to have this need to illuminate and express their relationship with everything else. I'm trying to think whether I'd had any psychotherapy at that point and I think the answer is no, that didn't come until later - 1981, I think.
Initially, I had two images - of building a wall across the stage, and of the sado-masochistic relationship between audience and band, the idea of an audience being bombed and the ones being blown to pieces applauding the loudest because they're the centre of the action, even as victims. There is something macabre and a bit worrying about that relationship - that we will provide a PA system so loud that it can damage you and that you will fight to sit right in front of it so you can be damaged as much as possible - which is where the idea of Pink metamorphosed into a Nazi demagogue began to generate from.
(The theme of insanity) has something to do with Syd, but with my own experiences as well. 'When I was a child I had a fever, my hands felt just like two balloons', is about the indescribable feeling in my body during a high-fever delirium where everything felt too big. On the couple of occasions in my life where I have felt myself approaching metal breakdown it has felt like delirium, so my connection with how Syd or other schizophrenics must feel, is taken from both that childhood memory and the odd moments of my life of great personal stress when I have experienced the edges of that same feeling...
Ezrin: Roger invited me down for the weekend - he had a lovely house in the country with an appropriately dark studio area. It was one of those wonderfully moody, grey fall weekends in England. He sat me in a room and proceeded to play me a tape of music all strung together, almost like one song 90 minutes long, called 'The Wall,' then some bits and bobs of other ideas that he hoped to incorporate in some way, which never made it to the album but resurfaced later on some of his solo work. The English countryside under the weight of humidity and cloud was the perfect setting for this music and I was transported. It wasn't complete, it wasn't in anything like the final form of the work, but it captured the atmosphere and I just knew after listening to it that it was going to be an important work - and that it was going to take a lot of work to pull it into something cohesive.
Roger: I could see it was going to be a long and complex process and I needed a collaborator who I could talk to about it. Because there's nobody in the band that you can talk to about any of this stuff - Dave's just not interested, Rick was pretty closed down at that point, and Nick would be happy to listen because we were pretty close at the time but he's still more interested in his racing cars. I needed somebody like Ezrin who was musically and intellectually in a more similar place to where I was.
David: We never made plans immediately after finishing a project to get together and start the next thing, we always took a little bit of time off. I'd been persuaded by a couple of old friends that I'd been in a band with, pre-Pink Floyd, that we should just go in and make an album off the cuff, and have a bit of fun. Rick was doing an album. When we did meet up again in a studio in London, Roger had the idea that he wanted to make one of two projects that he had been working on at his home studio during that time. He came in with two fairly well-formed, largely demoed ideas: one was 'The Wall' and one was what eventually became his first solo album, which had one very nice tune but in my memory it was too much the same. Between us we decided 'The Wall' would be the one we would start working on when we reconvened in September.
Rick: At that time we were, in theory, bankrupt. Our accountants had lost our money, we owed huge amounts of tax, and we were told me must go away for a year, make an album to try and repay the tax we owed, so it was a pretty scary time for us all.
Nick: The tapes were very poor quality - Roger always made dreadful demos even though they were made on very sophisticated equipment - but it was immediately clear that it was an interesting idea that could be developed musically.
Rick: But there were some things about it where I thought, 'Oh no, here we go again - it's all about the war, about his mother, about his father being lost.' I'd hoped he could get through all of this and eventually he could deal with other stuff, but he had a fixation. Every song was written in the same tempo, same key, same everything. Possibly if we were not in this financial situation we might have said, 'Well, we don't like these songs,' and things might have been different. But Roger had this material, Dave and I didn't have any, so we'll do it.
David: It is true that we had some financial crisis, but I don't think that happened until after we'd started putting together the first bit of 'The
Wall' at Brittania Row studios between September and Christmas. I thought it was a very good concept at the time - I don't like it quite as much now, with the benefit of hindsight I found it a bit
whingeing - and well worth exploring. I was willing - have been before and since - to let Roger have full rein of his vision.
BRICK BY BRICK: THE BUILDING PROCESS
In an all-night session, Bob Ezrin ploughed through Roger Waters' tapes.
Ezrin: What I did that night was write a script for an imaginary 'Wall' movie - as distinct from the *film*; I had nothing to do with that and was actually opposed to the idea of codifying it in any fixed imagery. I just had this sense of a narrative sound-scape - *saw* it, more than heard it - and organised all the pieces of music we had and some we didn't, plus sound effects and cross-fades, into a cohesive tale. I felt who the central character was and I came to the conclusion that we needed to take it out of the literal first-person and put it in the figurative - resurrecting old Pink to whom they had referred in the past. I came in the next day with a script - which, by the way, is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - handed it out to everybody and we did a table-read of 'The Wall.' It was a whole other way of doing things when you're making music, but it really helped to crystallise the work. From that point on we were no longer fishing, we were building to a plan.
Roger: The basic shape of it didn't change. Some songs changed a lot, others - "Don't Leave Me Now," "Is There Anybody Out There?," "Mother" - are almost exactly as they were originally.
Ezrin: Once we got out of Roger's house and into the studio, it was very much a collaborative effort, everybody had their opinions and contributions. It got very exciting sometimes. Often we'd have these bash-em-up's where we'd get into furious arguments about an approach to a song that would go on for weeks - as they're English and I'm Canadian we were very gentlemanly about it, but no one would budge. But the conclusion when there was that kind of conflict - the synthesis of two opposing ideas - was very much stronger than the original idea itself.
Roger: I seem to remember the four of us in the beginning before the recording going through the demo and throwing stuff out.
David: Just sitting around and bickering, frankly. Someone would say, 'I don't like that one very much,' someone else might agree, and then Roger would look all sulky and the next day he'd come back in with something brilliant. He was pretty good about that during 'The Wall - he became less good during 'The Final Cut.' Some of the songs - I remember "Nobody Home" - came along when we well into the thing and he'd gone off in a sulk the night before and come in the next day with something fantastic. It's often good to be geed up into a little state of rage.
Roger: They would like to believe, for whatever reasons, that the making of 'The Wall' was a group collaboration - well, OK, they collaborated in it, but they were not *collaborators.* This was not a co-operative. It was in no sense a democratic process. If somebody had a good idea I would accept it and maybe use it, in the same sense that if someone writes and directs a movie he will often listen to what the actors have to say. It sounds to me a bit like 'Animal Farm,' the pig fight about who was more equal than others. Since the break-up they've been at great pains to point out how it wasn't really my work at all and we all did it together. Well that's bollocks. It's just not true, as anybody who's listened to what they've done since can see - the fact that they don't actually do it, they get other people to do it. It's so *clear.* 'The Wall' I think is a terrific piece of work and I'm really proud of it. No, I'll go no further down there.
Nick: It really did feel like a band working on a record - maybe in a slightly dysfunctional way, but I think most bands are dysfunctional.
Roger: Rick didn't have any input at all, apart from playing the odd keyboard part, and Nick played the drums, with a little help from his friends. And Dave, yeah, Dave played the guitar and wrote the music for a couple of songs, but he didn't have any input into anything else really. We co-produced it, I think, Ezrin and myself - the collaboration with Ezrin was a pretty fertile one, his input was big - and Dave got a production credit - I'm sure he had something to do with the record production; he had very different ideas about that sort of thing. But there was really only one chief, and that was me.
David: Roger was obviously one of the main producers because it was his idea and he was very, very good about many things to do with production, like dynamics. I've always been one of the producers on Pink Floyd records, and while I might not argue with Roger much over lyrics I think I know as much as anyone in or around the band about music, and would certainly give my opinions quite forcibly. Bob Ezrin was in there partly as a man in the middle to help smooth the flow between Roger and I, whose arguments were numerous and heated.
Nick: We were looking at the way we worked to see if we could improve it, and everybody thought it would be enormously helpful to have an outside influence. Roger had met Bob Ezrin, and it seemed a good idea to have this hot young engineer, James Guthrie, to complement him.
Guthrie: At the time I got the phone call from the manager, Steve O' Rourke, summoning me to his office, I saw myself as a hot young *producer!* He told me the band was looking for some new blood and they'd heard my work - specifically 'The Movies' and 'Runner' - and sent me to meet Roger to see how the chemistry was between us. Basically, I wasn't told about Bob [Ezrin] and Bob wasn't told about me. When we arrived I think we felt we'd been booked to do the same job.
Ezrin: There was an awful lot of confusion as to who was actually making this record when I first started. Titles notwithstanding, we were all very high-powered people, very specific in our approach to things, very opinionated and at the height of our careers creatively, so it was heady times - I think at that point Roger wanted the project to be his. But when one member in a band declares prominence over the others, it can make it difficult to work together and I think he was sensitive to that - or as sensitive as Roger can be - so he brought me in, I think, as an ally to help him manage this process through. As it turns out, my perception of my job was to be the advocate of the work itself and that very often meant disagreeing with Roger *and* other people and being a catalyst for them to get past whatever arguments might exist.
Rick: I really enjoyed the days of 'Dark Side...' or 'Wish...' when we might have been fighting but we were doing it together. I was concerned that an outside producer might lose what the four of us would do together. But on the other hand I thought 'God, we do need a referee.'
Roger: We *were* working shoulder-to-shoulder up to and including 'Dark Side...' From that point on we weren't. We'd achieved what we set out to achieve together and the only reason we stayed together after that was through fear and avarice.
David: There's three sections of 'The Wall'-making. First in Brittania Row in London, going through the stuff, having ideas, demoing it all up, then France, where we made the bulk of the album, and Los Angeles where we went to finish it up and mix it. In France, particularly, we worked very well, very hard. It's amazing how much we actually got done in a comparatively short time.
Nick: The pace was fast and furious, very focused. We were actually running two studios in France at once.
David: Superbear, the studio we were mostly at, was quite high in the mountains and it's rather notorious for being difficult to sing there, and Roger had a lot of difficulty singing in tune. He always did - ha ha. So we found another studio, Miraval, and Roger would go there with Bob to do vocals.
Ezrin: We were working to a deadline which was a declared vacation - we had a lot of vacations! I once added it up and I think the whole process probably came out to four or five months of real studio time, but spread out over a year because we did short hours and took a lot of vacations. They were all family guys and wanted to work 10-6 - no, *Roger* decided we were working 10-6. We worked gentlemen's hours, wore gentlemen's clothes, ate gentlemen's food, even had tea and biccies brought in every day at the appropriate time. It was all very civilised. And considering we were doing at the same time some fairly countercultural stuff, it created almost a schizophrenic feeling of surreality about the project - in France, even more so. Some of us were living in Nice, some had rented entire towns, some were living at the studio, it was all quite fragmented, but we would come together at the studio and be creating these amazing things made out of some of the most banal elements - drum sound effects were nothing more than roasting pans being thrown at the floor.
I came in with a lot of ideas that were slightly foreign to the English team. We pioneered the multiple machine approach to recording that is now accepted as standard operating procedure. We cut our basic tracks on a 16-track, copied them to a mixed-down version on a 24- track, took all the drums and bounced them down to just a few tracks, put them on the 24, then added all of our overdubs, instruments, sound effects, vocals. The plan at the end was to sync up the 16- and the 24- track so they would run together, and the instruments on the 16 - would come back sounding absolutely glorious, because the tapes had been stored and not played and worn-out over all the months we'd been working, then all the overdubs would slot on top of them and we would have this wonderful-sounding album.
It sounded a bit like witchcraft to everybody when I proposed it. To their credit, they embraced the concept, but as we got closer to the moment of truth, they got more and more nervous. Guthrie in particular. I remember as we were finishing up one song it was necessary to erase the copy-drums from the 24-track, which meant that if the two tapes didn't sync up there would be no drums at all. James blanched when I made him press the erase button; it was like asking him to shoot a child. When it worked, you've never seen such a look of relief on the faces of so many people. That process has a tremendous amount to do with why that album has got that incredible presence and such a density of sound.