David Gilmour Interview
Q: Can you tell me just a little bit, I guess coming from Cambridge, what first got you interested in, in music?
DG: It's very hard to remember. I think the first sort of rock 'n' roll thing that turned me on was Bill Haley and the Comets with his "Rock Around the Clock" when I was ten years old, in 1956. But I was very much into blues music like Lead Belly and all that stuff, and also folk music. In fact, I started playing guitar with a Pete Seeger guitar tutor record. That's where it all came from.
Q: Tell us about "Dark Side of the Moon." How did that begin? Who created the album?
DG: "Dark Side of the Moon"? It began in a little rehearsal room in London. We had quite a few pieces of music, some of which were left over from previous things. The "On the Run" sequence came in at the very last minute when we were nearly finished recording. We replaced another "On the Run" sequence which was more of a guitar jam thing, and the little synthesizer piece came along when the synthesizer arrived (laughs). Someone turned up with a synthesizer and showed us how to work it, and that came from that. The rest of it, like I say, we were in a rehearsal room and at some point during the proceedings, I don't remember exactly when it was, Roger came up with the idea of making it a piece about madness and all the other things that it's about. We did have it fairly completed a long time before we recorded it and in fact, performed it live in America and in England under the title "Eclipse" long before the record came out...long before it was all recorded.
Q: Where did you record it?
DG: It was done at Abbey Road Studios, mostly.
Q: Can you give me an idea of the roles that were being played in the recording studio? What were, perhaps, Roger's strong points that he brought to a song, and what things do you believe you brought to it?
DG: I think I tend to bring musicality and melodies. Roger was certainly a very good motivator and obviously a great lyricist. He was much more ruthless about musical ideas, where he'd be happy to lose something if it was for the greater good of making the whole album work. So, you know, Roger'd be happy to make a lovely sounding piece of music disappear into radio sound if it was benefiting the whole piece. Whereas, I would tend to want to retain the beauty of that music. We often had long bitter arguments about these things.
Q: Do you, do you remember writing "Run Like Hell"?
DG: I had the music for "Run Like Hell," I guess in 1978 or something. It was one of two pieces that I put in into "The Wall." Bob Ezrin was very keen that we should put them in. He liked them and we worked on them, and Roger wrote words for them. But it's hard to decipher from the very original demo. There wasn't an awful lot to it. There was just one guitar plunking away and that became the body of the song.
Q: What about those voices in "Dark Side of the Moon"?
DG: Again, this is Roger's idea. He wanted to use things in the songs to get responses from people. We wrote a series of questions on cards and put them on a music stand, one question on each card, and got people into the studio and told them to read the first question and answer it. Then they could remove that card and see the next question and answer that, but they couldn't look through the cards so they didn't really know what the thread of the questions was going to be until they got into it. We interviewed quite a few people that way, mostly roadies and roadies' girlfriends, and Jerry the Irish doorman at Abbey Road. But we also interviewed Henry McCullough 'cause Paul McCartney and Wings were recording in the other studio at Abbey Road at the time. We did that in number three at Abbey Road, and they were in number two. We also had Paul and Linda McCartney interviewed but they're much too good at being evasive for their answers to be usable.
Q: What were some of the questions?
DG: Things like, "When did you last hit someone?" and then the next question would be "Were you in the right?" and "Would you do it again if the same thing happened?" Another question like, "What does the dark side of the moon mean to you?" Of course, understanding that the "Dark Side of the Moon" was not yet the title of the album as far as anyone was concerned. So they were actually asking people, what does the other side of the moon mean? And Jerry the Irish doorman said, "There is no da'k side o' de moon really, it's all da'k." And stuff like that, when you put it into a context on the record, suddenly developed its own much more powerful meaning.
Q: Were you happy with that?
DG: Oh that was a terrific thing to do! I mean, we've still got the original tapes somewhere and we should dig them out and have a listen to them one day just for fun to hear all the different responses to all the different questions by all these different people.
Q: "Dark Side of the Moon" went on to become, what is it now, like the fourth biggest selling album of all time? Does this boggle your mind?
DG: Yep, yep. Constantly.
Q: What sort of effect did that success have on your subsequent work?
DG: It was kind of immediate, but nothing like the proportion it's achieved now. It came out in March '73, and by early '74 we were starting to work on the next album. By then, it had been a monster success as far as we were concerned. But I don't know quite how many it sold, but certainly nothing like what it's done today 'cause it has been selling sort of fairly copiously ever since. But it does put you in a position of having to rethink what you're in it for, because you have suddenly achieved all your goals in that...in your career if you like. I mean, all your childhood dreams of pop-star success... suddenly you've got them all and it's done and so you're sort of left wondering, well..."What do I do now?" And I guess that is largely what the theme of the "Wish You Were Here" was about. It was about us coming to terms with our success and the fulfillment of all those dreams and working out what we were actually in it for. And I have to say that my conclusion is, I'm in it for the music more than anything else. There are a lot of other things that I'm in it for as well, or was in it for and to some extent still am, but I think the music is still the prime motivator.
Q: A lot of people say the music in the 70s was too safe. What is your opinion on that?
DG: Music in the 70s was too safe. Punk was in the 70s, the Sex Pistols, they were played pretty safe, you know. Lots of people say that it was all crap in the 70s. Fleetwood Mac put out "Rumors," and we put out "Dark Side of the Moon," and "The Wall," in the 70s, and I think the criticism of the 70s followed after the euphoria of the 60s, where people were saying how wonderfully new and exciting a lot of it was. I don't think people who criticize the 70s really have looked at the great stuff that came out. The Eagles put out really good records in the 70s.
Q: What did you think of Punk when it came out?
DG: I thought it was quite lively. I don't think it's had a particularly lasting significance...it wasn't the first time it happened, either. I mean, people being incredibly rude and playing music incredibly badly and being incredibly obnoxious has always been a teenage sort of thing.
Q: You're very well known for your stage show. How do you feel about the theatrics of Rock 'n' Roll in terms of what you've done?
DG: I suppose what we try to do in our live performances is create an environment for a whole evening which includes the audience, rather than being in front of them and them being out there. We like to surround them with sound, with our quadraphonic system, which the band had before I joined in '67. We tend not to have support acts and we run a tape of noises and sound effects to try and get people in the right mood for a whole evening. So we create an environment which only includes us on the periphery. That's what we're trying to do.
Q: A few final questions: If rock 'n roll were a car, what car would it be?
DG: It would be one of those post insurance wreck ones which is joined together after two or three old wrecks and welded together and fun to drive on a Saturday night.
Q: When you first saw or heard Elvis Presley, what'd you think?
DG: Absolutely brilliant! I mean, my first, first record I ever bought was "Rock Around The Clock," Bill Haley. The second was "Jailhouse Rock." Elvis, in his very early years, was staggering. He went down hill a little bit...I suppose, under the influence of the good colonel. I don't know what went wrong, but it certainly did.
Q: Do you think Rock 'n Roll has changed the world?
DG: I'm sure it has a little bit. I'm sure we all get very high faluten ideas about how much it's changed the world. Certainly, in early 60s. I don't know what you wanna describe as Rock 'n' Roll, but I certainly thought that 60s stuff, Bob Dylan and the Beatles, changed the world a little bit. But the effect seems to have retreated. I think it's harder than we think to change the world. These things go in cycles. It doesn't seem to have done an awful lot of good, does it? You know, all the talk of racial harmony and equality in the world...we haven't got a long way since the 60s.