Guitar World, September 1994
Sounds of Silence
By B. Tolinski
In this exclusive interview, the ordinarily reserved David Gilmour discusses his perspective - personal, political and musical - on Pink Floyd's great return. With a number one album, a high-profile stadium tour and non-stop radio air-play, Pink Floyd appears to be everywhere - and oddly nowhere.
In an era when MTV appearances and revealing magazine interviews are de rigor for rock stars on the make, the members of Floyd have methodically kept the media at bay. You won't find their mugs plastered on the cover of "Rolling Stone" or "Entertainment Weekly." Don't expect to see them on Letterman any time soon. In fact, if you happen to be lucky enough to scalp a ticket to one of their sold-out shows, you may even miss them on stage. Shrouded by state-of-the-art stage production, the band performs their spacy anthems while obscured by clouds of dry ice and laser technology.
And group leader Gilmour wouldn't have it any other way.
Sporting a fresh crew cut and dressed in meticulously pressed black clothes, the earnest guitarist/vocalist could easily pass for one of the hipper graying, urban professionals that comprise part of his audience.
"I cannot tell you how happy I am about the accidents and the choices that have brought me to the place where I can sing what I want to, get paid very well for it and still be able to live like a normal human being," Gilmour says with a visible relief. "It's having the best of all possible worlds."
"Occasionally I get these sort of out-of-body experiences when I'm on stage, standing in front of maybe 60,000 people. I look at myself, thinking, 'Good Lord, how on earth did this happen?' One part of my brain is fully focused on performing, and the other part is somewhere else, thinking, 'How extraordinary it is - but how lucky I am!'"
Lucky, yes; happy - that's another story. Pink Floyd's brilliant new recording, "The Division Bell" (Columbia), strongly suggests that Gilmour still has one or two personal demons rattling around his cage. The album - named after the bell in the British House Of Commons that summons members to parliamentary debate - is a thinly veiled documentary of the guitarist's battle-scarred relationships with the women in his life and with ex-bandmate Roger Waters. Considering the recording's delicate subject matter, it's little wonder that he exercises his right to be selective about who he talks to.
Montreal, Canada: A crew numbering well over 100 scurry around making last minute preparations for the second of three sold-out Pink Floyd concerts at the city's Olympia stadium. The 180-foot stage is truly miraculous. Consisting of a 130-foot arch constructed from 700 tons of steel, it serves as the launching pad for one of the most visually ambitious tours in rock history. Soon, it will spring to life, dazzling over 80,000 Floyd fanatics with a light show designed to make the aurora borealis look like a 10-cent sparkler.
Gilmour promises to chat after a quick afternoon rehearsal with Floyd's expanded road band, which features keyboardist Rick Wright and drummer Nick Mason, both original members, as well as seven additional musicians. The rehearsal begins with Gilmour leading the group through a powerful version of Eclipse, the majestic grand finale to the haunting best-seller, "Dark Side Of The Moon." The band plays it through three more times, effecting minor changes in tempo and dynamics with each performance.
Suddenly, in a fleeting moment between takes, the ensemble, with the exception of Gilmour, launches into a raucous version of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love." Floyd playing Zep - it's a classic Classic Rock moment! But it immediately becomes apparent that taskmaster Gilmour is not amused. "Love" quickly peters out, and it's back to the business at hand.
The rehearsal finishes 30 minutes later, and David is ready to speak. When asked about the band's impromptu Zeppelin jam, the soft spoken Englishman deadpans, "Oh yes, I docked them a week's wages for that."
Gilmour is extremely polite throughout our encounter, but he never lets his guard down. Secrecy has always been an essential component of Pink Floyd mystique, and he dispenses information sparingly. "I don't like to get too specific about lyrics," he warns. "It places limitations on them, and spoils the listeners' interpretation." He is similarly reluctant to talk about his instrument, explaining that he gets "really bored talking about guitars and amps, because I just can't remember what I used on anything."
But as the conversation progresses, the reticent rocker opens up, and the walls come tumbling down.
GW: Why have you been so reluctant to talk about "The Division Bell"?
DG: I found that there's very little that one wants to say about it. I mean, I don't know if it's just a stage in my life, but I just don't feel like saying very much about how I write songs and what they mean and all that sort of stuff. But we'll give it a whirl. I'm not trying to be unhelpful. Forgive me. It's got nothing to do with anything except me.
GW: Fair enough. Overall, "The Division Bell" seems to be about man's inability to communicate with other humans. Obviously, you have given much thought to this matter.
DG: Well, it was never really a conscious decision to take it on as a theme - it just happened. One or two things started to move in that direction, and as soon as a theme begins to appear, I find it very hard to get away from it.
GW: Do you find that you need a theme to get the creative juices flowing?
DG: I don't think so. But, usually, one eventually appears in my work. Something comes up that ties the whole thing together. Your mood at the time of making and writing an album usually supplies the subject matter. In the past, I have tried to sit down and consciously create a concept, but it never seemed to work very well. It has to appear naturally. And it has to be a kind of a nebulous one, that's come up of its own volition.
GW: Like most Floyd albums, "The Division Bell" has a universal theme. But it also seems more intimate than your past work. Were you trying to create something more personal?
DG: I wasn't trying to. Again, all I can really say is that it is just the way it seemed to come up. It probably had something to do with "High Hopes," my first composition for the album. The song originated from a phrase that my girlfriend suggested, about how time brings you down. Oddly, that line that she gave me wasn't really important. There was just something in it that sparked me into thinking about my childhood and my life in Cambridge, England. So, if you like, the first thing that got written for the album was much more personal than I've tended to be. And I suppose it set the scene for what was to follow.
GW: Was recording the album cathartic for you?
DG: No. I didn't really think so. I can't really say that there was a huge angst that needed to be purged through song writing. It wasn't like "The Wall". But, on the other hand, maybe I did need to unload my subconscious. It just never really struck me that way.
GW: Several songs on the album, like "Keep Talking" suggest that all problems can be solved through discussion. Do you believe that?
DG: It's more of a wish than a belief. [laughs]
GW: Do you find it difficult to express your feelings verbally?
DG: Yes, I do, I suppose. I mean, I have moments of huge frustration because of my inability to express myself linguistically as clearly as I would like to. A lot of people think that I express myself most clearly through guitar playing. I don't really know about that. But it's just.... I don't like that feeling of frustration when you don't have quite the words to say what you want to say.
GW: You collaborated with other lyricists on "The Division Bell". Was that to help you express your ideas more clearly?
DG: Well, a lot of the lyrics were the result of collaboration between myself and my girlfriend, Polly Sampson. She's a journalist and a writer. After I would write some lyrics, it just seemed natural to have her look through them. In the beginning she tried not to interfere at all, and tried to encourage me to do it on my own. But, of course, that isn't the way things stay. And as time went by, she got more and more involved with the process that was beginning to absorb me 24 hours a day. Her involvement with the lyric writing process - and in fact, with the music - grew. It's been really nice to work with Polly and have input from someone who never wanted to write a pop song. And I imagine it was very good for her to realize that her brain could actually function musically, although she had no musical skill whatsoever. Her assistance was invaluable.
GW: A musical novice can often see something that would elude a trained musician.
DG: That's right.
GW: The album has a lot to do with people's failure to communicate, so it must have been interesting to discuss those kinds of barriers with someone you're close to. Did it help your relationship?
DG: Oh, of course. Some of the lyrics actually came out of our relationship. And some, unfortunately, came after moments of lack of communication between us. For example, the title "What Do You Want From Me?" came out of exactly one of those moments.
GW: It doesn't surprise me that the record has a more emotional vibe than those where the lyrics were written primarily by Roger Waters. [Bassist/Composer Waters left Floyd in 1985, citing creative and philosophical disagreements -- GW ed.] Your guitar playing has always been Pink Floyd's emotional anchor.
DG: It has been said. And I would agree with that.
GW: Did you discover anything about yourself as you were going through the process of writing and working on this record?
DG: [slightly annoyed] I don't know what I have discovered about myself, really. No, I don't. I haven't a clue. What was really nice about the recording was that myself and Rick [Wright, keyboardist] and Nick [Mason, drummer] came together and worked well as a unit in a way that we hadn't done for many, many years. Additionally, I discovered another separate creative team -- a lyric-writing team consisting of me, Polly and my close friend Nick Laird-Clowes. And although they were two separate teams, "The Division Bell" does feel like a very cohesive record. It feels like we all meant it and like we all played together very well. And the whole thing is very much a joint effort - in a much greater way than, for example, the last album, "Momentary Lapse Of Reason".
GW: Why are you relating better to Rick and Nick?
DG: Probably because we are all playing and functioning much better than we were after the trials and tribulations of the late Roger years. Recording "A Momentary Lapse Of Reason" was a very, very difficult process. We were all sort of catatonic. Unfortunately, we didn't really work together an awful lot. But the success of that album, and the success of the supporting tour and the enjoyment that we got out of working together -- particularly on the last tour -- meant that this one could be made in a different way. It's a much more satisfying way to work than the way that "A Momentary Lapse Of Reason" came together. Yeah, they're very different albums.
GW: Does it feel like a new band for you?
DG: It feels like a good start. It feels like there's better things to come. I'm really, really happy and proud of this album.
GW: There was a long period between this and the last studio album. Why?
DG: It's just that we didn't feel like working. I don't want to be a full-time member of Pink Floyd all my life. The ambition stage of our career is kind of behind us. I mean, we've accomplished most of the things we wanted to accomplish. It's now just a pleasure to make a record. But it's still very hard to get yourself psyched-up and motivated to do it. I have many other things in my life; Pink Floyd is now one of a number of things. You earn the right - and we have earned the right - to take time off. When you are starting out on a career, you don't have that luxury. You have to devote every minute of every day in every year to work. You just have to work so hard and so consistently to make a career out of this business that we're in. And for me, I don't just have to do it quite as much.
GW: Although the album clearly makes a personal statement, it also contains some specific political statements. On "A Great Day For Freedom", for instance, you address the great hopes triggered by the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the disappointment that followed in Europe.
DG: Yeah. Well, it's kind of tragic what has happened in the eastern parts of Europe. There was a wonderful moment of optimism when the Wall came down - the release of Eastern Europe from the non-democratic side of the socialist system. But what they have now doesn't seem to be much better. Again, I'm fairly pessimistic about it all. I sort of wish and live in hope, but I tend to think that history moves at a much slower pace than we think it does. I feel that real change takes a long, long time. We see the superficial changes that people think are enormous. But they pass, and several years down the road you find yourself back at the same place you were 20 years before, thinking "My God, all of this happened and nothing happened."
GW: "Lost For Words" also reflects a certain pessimism. The lyrics read, "So I open my door to my enemies/ And I ask could we wipe the slate clean /But they tell me to please go and fuck myself/You know you just can't win." What do you do when somebody just tells you to go fuck yourself?
DG: Well, the options are immediate.[laughs]You can simply become a good contortionist - there's one option. Or just deck him. Or talk the matter out.
GW: At what point do you think a relationship is no longer worth pursuing?
DG: I don't know if that's something I can put into words. But it seems I am usually prepared to stick it out a lot longer than what, in hindsight, one should.
GW: The album ends with a funny little studio snippet of you talking to a little boy named Charlie. It seemed to suggest that the potential for miscommunication spans generations.
DG: That is pretty succinct. [laughs]
GW: At the same time, you must find it interesting that your music has multigenerational appeal. I saw people of all ages at your show.
DG: It does really surprise me. But I think that we do have sort of a timeless quality. I listened to "Dark Side Of The Moon" last year around the time of the release of our "Shine On" boxed set, and I remember feeling that it was pretty timeless. And a lot of the issues that we have dealt with - that Roger wrote about in his lyrics, if you like - are pretty timeless. They are things that apply to any generation.
GW: The band's success stems from the fact that it confronts ideas that have puzzled man from Day One.
DG: Well, I'm certainly still a puzzled man. [laughs]
GW: How involved are you with the staging of the band?
DG: We were constantly involved during the entire process of designing and building the stage. Lots of things get turned down. And we wound up with the sort of thing that we all agree is good.
GW: Earlier you said that you prefer not to explain the meaning of your lyrics, but in the staging of shows past and present, you have used lots of very literal props to illustrate your ideas: flying pigs, crashing airplanes, collapsing walls ..."
DG: Yes. Yes. [laughs] That's true. But this show is a little less literal and more impressionistic. It's a little less flashy, and because of that I'm probably more satisfied with this tour than any we've done.
GW: Let's talk about the live show a little bit. I noticed that you began each set with a little tribute to Syd Barrett. [Barrett, Pink Floyd's founding singer/guitarist, left the band in 1968 due to mental illness. See the Feb. '93 GW for the complete story]. The first set leads off with Syd's "Astronomy Domine", and the second set opens with "Shine On You Crazy Diamond", which makes allusions to Syd. Am I reading too much into this?
DG: I think so. It wasn't a conscious decision to pay homage to Syd. We've probably paid homage to him quite enough. [laughs] We basically just wanted to widen the spectrum a little bit, and find one or two pieces of music we haven't done before. "Astronomy" just struck us as being a very good opening number. It's fun to go back and do that, despite some of the lyrics - it's hard to sing it with a straight face. And "Shine On" was a terrific opener for the last tour, so now we just use it to open the second half of the show.
GW: It must cross your mind, from time to time, how your life would be different if you hadn't replaced Syd in the band. Do you feel indebted to him at all?
DG: Yes, of course, I do. I feel a debt to Syd. I was very fortunate. His bad luck was good luck for me. Of course, one cannot possibly know what would have happened. Luckily, I don't have to ponder that too deeply. [laughs]
GW: Your particular relationship with stardom is a little peculiar. You front one of the most popular bands in the world, yet you've managed to keep a low profile. You're modest almost to a perverse point. For example, during your solo for "Comfortably Numb," which is one of the highlights of the concert, the laser show directs the audience away from you.
DG: That is a little perverse. But it's a two-and-a-half-hour show and I think I get more adoration than I probably deserve. So I can't really worry about the odd moments when people are watching something else.
GW: Are there moments in the show that you really look forward to?
DG: I enjoy the newer material. At the same time, I realize that you have to achieve a balance between playing all the stuff that you'd want to play and playing stuff you know the audience wants to hear. I don't harbor any resentment against the audience for wanting to hear our older material. They aren't making value judgments. They're more familiar with the older songs, and how they are connected to moments in their lives.
GW: Let's talk about your guitar playing on some of the new songs. "What Do You Want From Me?" is a straight Chicago blues tune. Are you still a blues fan?
DG: Absolutely - even though I don't listen to very much blues anymore. I did listen to quite a lot when I was young. But I also listened to a lot of folk music and a lot of everything else.
GW: Your blues influence is obvious, but I do hear a lot of folky, hymn-like overtones on some of your quieter songs like "On The Turning Away," "Wish You Were Here" and "Poles Apart."
DG: I actually learned the guitar with the help of a Pete Seeger [folk legend and writer of "Turn, Turn, Turn"] instructional record when I was 13 or 14. And I did listen to a lot of folk and folk blues. Leadbelly [African American folksinger] and Pete Seeger were both big influences on me.
GW: I also hear some Bob Dylan in your music.
DG: I actually saw his first-ever show in England, when I was about 15. Bob is about as good as it gets. People tend to think of him as just a lyricist, but he is actually a brilliant composer, as well, and a great singer - brilliant singer, yeah, fabulous!
GW: Have you ever wanted to see what you could do with one of Dylan's songs?
DG: I have, actually. I've had some fun mucking about in my home studio with things like a reggae version of "Like a Rolling Stone."
GW: What can you tell me about "The Division Bell"'s guitar instrumental "Marooned"?
DG: It's amazing how far I can bend those notes, isn't it?[laughs]
GW: I'll say. How do you achieve those wild, octave-wide, bends?
DG: A Digitech Whammy Pedal. It's a great little unit, but I haven't even begun to explore half the things it does. The fact that it allows you to bend a note a full octave is quite shocking. It's so odd.
GW: You seem to use the effect very naturally - I almost didn't notice it at first. Did you practice with it a lot before you recorded "Marooned"?
DG: No. [laughs] I think we basically wrote the first version of it the day I got the pedal. I still don't think I use it very effectively, but it's a very good pedal.
GW: How much of "Marooned" is improvised?
DG: Pretty much all of it. I probably took three or four passes at it and took the best bits out of each.
GW: Do you experiment much with your guitar in the studio?
DG: Not really. My guitar tech, Phil Taylor, tries to make me experiment much more than I would if I were left to my own devices. If I've got an amp or a couple of amps, and a guitar that I like, I'll just do everything with those. I'm very low tech when it comes to effects. I tend to still use pedals like a Big Muff. I'm not a fan of rack units - they don't have any balls to them. I still like my grungy old pedals. Most of what I use can be found in any music store anywhere.
GW: Are you using an E-bow on "Take It Back"?
DG: Yeah! On a Gibson J-200 acoustic guitar that is processed through a Zoom effects box, then directly injected into the board.
GW: That's a pretty bizarre configuration.
DG: Well, I guess I experiment more than I think I do. I had a Zoom in my control room one day and I was mucking about with something. Suddenly, I thought I should stick the E-bow on the strings and see what would happen. It sounded great, so we started writing a little duet for the E-bowed acoustic guitar and a keyboard. We never finished the piece, but Jon Carin [keyboardist] decided to sample the E-bowed guitar part. We kept the sample and ended up using it as a loop on "Take It Back," and again on "Keep Talking".
GW: How do you achieve that spacious Pink Floyd sound?
DG: Of course we try to everything as well as we possibly can. We have to get a reasonably good recording studio. And you need to get nice tape machines and pretty good mikes. You get the best engineer that you can lay your hands on. And, of course, you play it as well as you can. And that's it. It seems kind of odd to me that we should have the reputation of being "high tech". mean, I actually once got a little award from a stereo magazine for my production on the first Dream Academy album [The Dream Academy, Warner Bros., 1985]. What was amusing to me was that the album was actually made in small demo studios all over London. We just worked and mixed the hell out of it. I couldn't believe that we really got this award. I have to admit, it does sound very good. But, if you knew the way it was put together, you couldn't imagine that we would win an audiophile award.
GW: What people might not realize is that your spacious sound has something to do with your arrangements.
DG: I would agree. I have always had a 3-D sound in my head. I like to have some element of space and depth in everything we do. I can't seem to get away from that. And I listen to a lot of records and find them two-dimensional, just in the way they're mixed. And the sad part is that it's not hard to add dimension.
GW: Can you give me a specific example of how you spice up a typical Pink Floyd production?
DG: The E-bow loop in "Take It Back" is a good example. If you take that off, it becomes a totally different song. That relatively simple effect adds a whole extra dimension of space to the song.
GW: How was this recording experience different from those of the past?
DG: It was not that different. We used less sequencing this time than we did last time. We played more music in real time.
GW: When you're working with Nick and Rick on the initial ideas, is there a lot of verbal communication?
DG: Not much. Initially, we spent about three weeks just jamming and throwing ideas around. Anything that started sounding remotely interesting, I recorded on a small stereo DAT machine. Then we went back to the studio, listened and logged everything in. In total there were about 65 little pieces of music, and that was the start for us. And it was a very good start. These days I do less and less demoing for songs. I tend to just record ideas on a simple cassette recorder, using only an acoustic guitar - something very, very rough. And then I don't record the idea until I'm playing it well enough to commit it to a proper machine.
The worst thing is to record a crummy demo that has great atmosphere to it, and then spend months trying to recreate it. This is exactly what happened, in fact, on "High Hopes." I did a complete demo of that in a day at the studio. But for some reason, we couldn't use it because, I think, maybe the tempo wavered a little bit. It then took ages to capture a take that was anywhere near as good as the demo. It was the first song written for the album, and the last one finished.
GW: I noticed that you are using a D,A,D,G,A,D tuning on "Poles Apart". That's a new tuning for you.
DG: Yes, but the funny thing is that I didn't know it was such an established tuning -- I thought it was something new that I had invented. One day, I was on holiday in Greece and I had an acoustic guitar with me. I just decided to tune the bottom string down to D, and continued to experiment until I arrived at that tuning. Then I mucked around a bit and "Poles Apart" fell out of it a few minutes later.
GW: Why do you a lap steel on songs like "High Hopes" and "Great Gig In The Sky" instead of playing straight slide guitar on your Strat?
DG: I always had a fondness for pedal steels and lap steels. I guess it's because I could never come to grips with standard bottleneck playing.
GW: You have two Fender lap steels on tour with you. How are they tuned?
DG: The one that I use on "High Hopes" is tuned to a first-position E minor chord. The other one, which I use on "Great Gig In The Sky," is tuned like a regular guitar except for the top two strings - D,G,D,G,B,E. That allows me to form a minor chord on the top three strings and a major chord with all the other strings.
GW: Do you feel like you're improving as a musician, as a guitarist?
DG: I don't really know. I doubt if I'm improving very much as a guitar player. If I sound better these days, I think it has more to do with the wonders of modern recording techniques and with having my own studio. Having your own studio often means having the luxury to keep first takes, which are usually my best. And most of the guitar playing on this album is literally the first time I stuck a guitar on and played.
In the old days, I usually wasn't able to keep the first take. We either didn't have the tape machine on, or I gave my best shot in a rehearsal room somewhere. So, to answer your question: no, I'm not getting better, but I think I'm better at capturing the good moments and hanging on to them.
GW: It does seem to me that, guitar-wise, this is a very ambitious record. Sonically, almost every song has something a little different to offer.
I'm glad someone thinks so. [laughs] Lots of people think we're merely
retreading old ground.
THE GREAT GIG IN THE SKYBy B. Tolinski
- Touring guitarist Tim Renwick tells what it's like - to be in the Pink
"I'm just your average, all-round, drop-in guitarist," says Tim Renwick with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. "Average" is hardly an appropriate description for this gifted English session ace who has toured with the likes of Eric Clapton, Elton John, Mike and the Mechanics, Roger Waters and, now, Pink Floyd. However, it was probably more than Renwick's sturdy rhythm and lead work that secured his position as David Gilmour's co-guitarist.
"I go way back with the band," explains Renwick, "I actually went to school with Roger Waters and Syd Barrett. They were four years older than me, but I remember them quite clearly. Yes, they were very cool. Roger made history by refusing to join the cadet force - he was a bit of a rebel. And Syd, believe it or not, was my patrol leader in the Scouts! He was a very impressive and charismatic bloke, as was Roger."
- What about David? -
"Dave was very much one of my early heroes," Renwick continues. "He went to a different school, but I used to see his band regularly. His pre-Floyd band was called Joker's Wild, and they were the hot group in town."
"I actually remember bumping into Dave the that night he was asked to join Pink Floyd, which is another interesting point of reference. Little did I know that I would end up playing in the same band 25 years later."
GW: How did you come to be in the Pink Floyd touring band?
TR: Even after we left school, I always kept in touch with Dave. He did some production work for a band that I was in years ago called Sutherland Brothers And Quiver. Later, I did a little bit of playing on the movie soundtrack of "The Wall".
GW: So what is your role on this tour?
TR: I'm basically here to cover the position. If something goes wrong with Dave's gear, I step in and fill the gap and distract.
GW: Have you gotten good at imitating David Gilmour?
TR: No, funny enough, I haven't. [laughs] I've always steered clear of learning other people's licks. I have a couple of solos each evening and I try to approach them differently than Dave.
GW: What have you learned from this experience?
TR: I kind of wished I'd really been aware when I was 20 just how serious pop music can be. I had it very much drilled into me that it was all very disposable - that it was very much sort of a hobby thing. But, you know, these guys have always been very serious about what they do, and that is very admirable. Rock and roll has turned into the modern day classical music.
GW: What's the worst thing that has happened to you on this tour?
TR: I use two pedalboards, which are pretty ancient. They're actually Dave's very first pedalboards, and they've been known to cut out on occasion. One night we went on, and when I hit the overdrive pedal for my solo on "Learning To Fly" everything just packed in. You've got the spotlight on and nothing's coming. It was just the most horrible feeling - especially in front of 60,000 people. It was like, "And now, ladies and gentleman ... nothing!" [laughs]
GW: So you're using Dave's old pedalboard? Is that so you can accurately recreate the original guitar sounds?
TR: Basically. I think it's the actual system he used to record "Dark Side Of The Moon". It basically houses a bunch of old MXR units and some junky fuzzboxes. The effects are really cruddy, but they're great. I really prefer this system to a lot of superclean rack effects that you hear.
GW: How did you go about learning the Pink Floyd catalog?
TR: Years ago, Roger Waters employed me to go through and archive all of Pink Floyd's material. Roger was getting ready to tour behind his solo album, "The Pros And Cons Of Hitchhiking", and he wanted to play some music from the Floyd catalog. But he couldn't even remember what keys they were in! [laughs] So he got me to write out all the arrangements. I transcribed all 11 Pink Floyd albums, and, as a result, I got to know their music quite well.
GW: Were you ever stuck for some of the voicings? Did you have to call Dave for help?
TR: Yeah, there were a few tunings which stumped me. I think I rang Dave and asked him to help.
GW: Was that weird?
TR: Yeah, it was a bit weird, but he didn't mind.
GW: So what's Dave like to work with?
TR: Very, very easy. Dave definitely knows the things that he wants to hear. But, at the same time, he gives everyone a free rein.
GW: How did you hook up with Eric Clapton?
TR: We both played on Roger's "Pros And Cons" tour, and later he asked me to play on his 1985 tour. Albert Lee had just left the band.
GW: And what was he like to work with?
TR: He's great. He's actually similar to Dave - very easygoing. I think he gave me even less instruction than Dave. I mean, Eric just didn't say anything about how he wanted me to play. [laughs] One thing that people don't know about Clapton is that he is a very funny guy.
This is a good story: When I was touring with him, I got this message from my home that my wife and children had moved out of the house because it had become infested with rats! Eric thought it was incredibly funny, so he told one of the road crew to remove the "S" and "T" off my guitar, so it became "Ratocaster."
On another occasion, I happened to stupidly mention to Eric that I was feeling a bit horny on the way to this gig in Richmond, Virginia. So, after the show, Eric said to me, "Would you like to go in the hospitality area?" So I walked into the hospitality area, and there were about 40 women standing there. He got the crew to round up all these women and put them all backstage! It was pretty embarrassing. [laughs]
GW: Somehow, I would imagine that Roger Waters is a bit less easygoing.
TR: Roger's a very different sort of person. I have tremendous respect for him. He's a very clever man, but he is very serious. When Eric and I toured with him, he wanted everything exactly the same as the record, which, unfortunately, kind of took the fun out of performing.
GW: It seems unusual that Roger would want someone like Eric Clapton, who tends to improvise, to be part of such a precise show.
TR: It probably wasn't
such a good idea. I don't know how much to say. But Eric and Roger did
have a slight falling out at one point. I mean, Eric didn't really
understand Roger's slant. Roger would be fussing about with some
lighting effect, and Eric would say, "Can't we just play the tune,
man?" [laughs] I mean, Eric took it on as a laugh. It was like,
"This is cool. Somebody else can be the boss, I'll just be the
guitar player." And he did it very much in that spirit. But it
wasn't the sort of lighthearted jaunt around America that it might have
been. So, yes, Roger does get incredibly serious about his stuff.
WELCOME TO THE MACHINESBy B. Tolinski
-A look behind David Gilmour's mighty wall of sound-
"I've been working with David Gilmour for over 20 years and we've exchanged very few cross words during that time," says guitar tech Phil Taylor. "David is very easygoing, but he expects things to be right - and he is used to them being right." With his soft voice and thoughtful expression, Taylor seems more like a gentleman's gentleman than your typical rock technician. But his efficient, no-nonsense manner makes it clear why he has remained a valued member of the Pink Floyd camp for two decades.
"I'm actually Pink Floyd's only full-time technician," Taylor continues. "In addition to maintaining Dave's equipment on the road, I designed and maintain his recording studio."
Clearly the elegant Mr. Taylor is eminently qualified to answer a question that tears at the hearts and minds of millions of guitarists: How does the wizard of Floyd achieve his singing sound?
GW: What is the concept behind David's road and studio systems?
PT: He likes to start with a very clean, undistorted guitar sound. All distortion, delays, compression, choruses and so on are added via various effect pedals. He applies the same philosophy in the recording studio.
GW: What does Dave use in the studio to achieve his sound?
PT: For amplification he uses a pair of Seventies 50-watt Hiwatt combos, a pair of '59 re-issue Fender Bassmans, and a Maestro Rover revolving speaker. Every once in a while he'll experiment with different guitars, but his primary instrument for the last 10 years has been his red 1984 '57 reissue Fender Stratocaster, which he also uses on the road.
GW: Is the Strat customized in any way?
PT: Yes. It's fitted with EMG-SA active single-coil pickups, an EMG-SPC midrange controller and an EMG-EXG expander which boosts treble and bass. Additionally, the guitar features a cut-down tremolo arm.
GW: What about microphones?
PT: It varies, but primarily Neumann U-87's and Shure SM-57's. We've also used a Neumann KM-86 on his rotating speaker.
GW: I notice David tends to use stomp boxes instead of rack-mounted effects. What is his reasoning?
PT: I think his general feeling is that while rack effects tend to cover a lot of areas, they don't cover any of them particularly well. He feels that foot pedals such as a Big Muff tend to have more character.
GW: How does he control his plethora of pedals on stage?
PT: He has a rack system, designed by Pete Cornish, which features a routing system of 24 sends and returns. The effects are controlled by a Bob Bradshaw pedalboard that turns them on and off in various preset configurations.
GW: What is David's workhorse amp on the road?
PT: As I mentioned, he likes his initial signal to be very clean. To achieve this he uses a mid-Seventies Alembic F2-B bass preamp and the power stage of six 100-watt Hiwatt heads. The Alembic F2-B is a very straightforward unit - it has a bright switch, volume, bass, middle and treble controls. We, however, have altered it just a little bit. We put an extra tube in the preamp section to give it a little more drive, lowered the impedance in the output and changed the capacitor in the bottom end to eliminate some of the lows, because it was very boomy through closed-back cabinets.
His stage speaker system consists of two WEM 4x12's with Fane Crescendo speakers, two Marshall 4x12's and three custom-made rotating speaker cabinets we call "doppolas."
GW: How did you stumble upon the Alembic preamp? It seems a strange choice.
PT: We bought a bunch of them back in the early Seventies for Roger Water's bass system. One day we decided to use one to power Dave's Yamaha RA-200 revolving speaker system, and discovered that the amp just generated a nice warm tone. It shouldn't really be a surprise - it basically uses a Fender circuit.
GW: Does David operate all of his effect changes from the stage, or do you control them from backstage?
PT: Dave performs all of his effects in real time. He likes to have control in case something is not sounding right on stage. It allows him to swap effects and improvise, depending on his mood. He has a very good ear, and is continually changing his effects to get the sound that he wants for any given show.
GW: What are some of the more exotic effects built into his rack?
PT: You remember the old Univox Uni-Vibes? I had one built into a rack system. We even had the old logo embossed on the face plate. We also have an old MXR DDL digital delay unit built into a rack unit. It has a digital readout, but it's really nowhere close to being accurate. Dave likes it because even though it's a digital unit, it still sounds a little dirty, like a tape unit.
He also uses a Lexicon PCM-70 to store the circular delay sounds you hear in songs like "Shine On" and "Time." Because it has a multi-tap function, it can pretty accurately duplicate the kind of echo Dave used to get from his old Binson echo unit. A t.c. electronic 2290 is his primary delay - it's what he uses for most things.
Additional pedals include a Boss CS-2 Sustainer, MXR Dyna Comp, Iba-nez CP9 Compressor-Limiter, Boss Hyperfuzz, Electro- Harmonix Big Muff, two Chandler Industries Tube Drivers and three Boss Graphic Equalizers.
He also operates several master volume pedals: one for his 4x12 cabinets, another one for his rotating speakers, another for his voice box and a speed control for the doppolas.
GW: How does Dave achieve the classic sound that we hear on the solos of songs like "Comfortably Numb"?
PT: It think it's just pretty much him. He is obviously using a couple of effects, like a Big Muff and a delay, but it really is just his fingers, his vibrato, his choice of notes and how he sets his effects. I find it extraordinary when people think they can copy his sound by duplicating his gear. In reality, no matter how well you duplicate the equipment, you will never be able to duplicate the personality.
GW: Has he ever used a locking tremolo system on his guitar?
PT: We tried using a Kahler locking system when they first came out. We liked it for a couple of weeks until we realized it completely deadened the sound. David's not really a violent whammy bar user anyway, so we really didn't need that kind of system.
GW: How many guitars does he use during the course of a performance?
PT: About seven. In addition to his Strats, he uses a Telecaster tuned to a drop-D for "Run Like Hell," two mid-Eighties Gibson J-200 acoustics - one tuned to standard pitch and the other tuned to D,A,D,G,A,D for "Poles Apart" - a Chet Atkins electric-acoustic and two lap steels.
GW: What kind of strings does David use on his Strat?
PT: He uses a customized set of GHS Boomers. The gauges are .010, .012, .016, .028, .038 and .048. For his acoustic guitars he uses Ernie Ball Earthwood light gauge strings.