German ATD Interview, September 1992
Taken from a loosely translated transcript, so forgive if there are errors.
(What God Wants I)
Q: The title of the album reminds me of Neil Postman's book. So, was it the basic idea?
RW: Er, the idea 'no', the title 'yes'. I stole the title from that book, because I loved the title. I enj...I like the book very much. This is what I thought, it was very interesting - but the title I loved. So I stole it.
Q: So, what's the basic idea of the album?
RW: Well, it characterizes this gorilla watching TV, and, er, the gorilla is a metaphor for the human race, or for human beings. And, er, the album is based upon my response to, ehm, TV of the last few years.
Q: So, do you watch to TV sometimes?
RW: "Er, recently no, ehm, but I was in the habit of watching TV from time to time. I've been in the United States for, er, the last eight or nine months, where TV is almost unwatchable, unless you're interested in American football, er, this sport is...is, also is almost unwatchable, because of the interruptions. They're so irritating.
Q: I remember Pink in the Wall always watching, sitting there and zapping, ehm, so was it Roger Waters, very much years ago, always watching TV?
RW: Er, no, I've never watched an enormous amount of TV, but, however a number of songs from this record are based on, ehm, my response to specific, er, bits of news, or, or, documentary stuff, I've seen. Ehm, and er, but the beginning of the idea of the album came from the song 'Perfect Sense Part 1', er, where...so the image of the monkey comes from the opening shot of '2001 - Space Odyssey", the Stanley Kubrick movie. Er, well the chimpanzee, although it's not a chimpanzee, but the early man, if you like, discovers the bone. And then he can use this bone as a weapon. And that song precedes through a brief history of, er, the human race, until we find ourselves returning to the Garden of Eden at the end of this song, to have another war.
Q: It's a conceptual album, isn't it? You like doing concept albums ?!
RW: Yes, that is my style!
Q: Why? Is it boring for you to do an album, just one song after another, or why...what's the reason for that?
RW: I'm not sure that, er, I can explain it and I'm not sure whether I should, either, you know, whether, ehm, we don't choose the work that we do - the work chooses us, I have a sense, you know. Ehm, I think, er, most people who paint pictures that are interesting, or make music that is interesting, tend to be in contact with something which chooses them rather than the other way around. So, normally, if you'd say 'well, now I'm going to write a song about the war in the gulf' it's likely that it will be boring, you know, ehm, because it gets in the pedantry of the approach. So, ehm, it's always been more interesting to me to produce a work that starts and goes through a series of songs that have a relationship - one with the other - and then has a middle and finally has an end, than to do, er, single songs. I don't know why.
Q: [..]... there are some interesting on that song ?!
RW: Yeah, this er, er, those are a small group of Chinese musicians that call themselves 'The Peking Brothers'. I believe, they've *escaped* from the National Peking Orchestra when they were in London, a few years ago. So there's, you know, a *instrument* and a lute and a *instrument* and a bass and a girl singing, as well.
But also a more interestingly: in the middle of the piece, after 'I grieve for my sister', you hear a girls voice in Chinese, which was a tape, that was smuggled out, er, from after the Tiananmen Square massacre from one of the leaders of the student demonstrators there. And she, er, it's an extraordinary tape. The whole thing is called 'Waiting for Our Executioners' and the bit that I've got on the record is the end of her tape, and she says: 'People in China, do not forget, do not forget the children who died for you. Long live the Republic!'. It's really a moving thing.
Q: ...you are not singing alone this song. You're singing together with Don Henley. So, how was it, working with him together? Is he a friend of yours?
RW: No, he's a, he's a friend of a friend of mine, ehm. The discjockey on Radio Kaos...is a friend of Don's. And, er, he's been trying to get us together, coz, er, you know, he felt we like-minded people. And, er, I thought that this song would work with two male voices. So, I said 'Hey, you will maybe... I asked him first whether he'd be delighted to, and I said 'How about it you are?' he said 'fine'. So, I played him the song and he liked it and came in the studio and we did it in a session, you know.
Q: It is the first album after five years, after the Kaos album. Did you work for five years on that album?
RW: No, I've done other things in the meantime. I wrote the music for, em, er, an opera called which is about the French revolution, with written called Etienne ille. And, er, maybe even that will be next thing that I work on, after this. And, er, I did one or two other things.
Q: How do you work when you compose an album? Do you write first the lyrics, or do you compose first the music?
RW: "It's, er, it, it, er.... It's, er, it depends. It varies a lot, Recently, I've moved more and more towards a technique, whereby having-been-moved -by-something enough for the idea for a song to form in my mind. I will then, er, record a demo of some music. And then, er, I'll wait until I have a pregnant feeling. When I feel that the lyrics may be ready to appear and, er, will go into the studio and put the tape on. And I put the headphones on and stand in front of the microphone an the engineer will play the tape. And when the moment comes, when the song should start, I sing, with nothing written down on paper. And sometimes I get 3-4-5-6 line out, straight away. And then - some of it, of course, is rubbish - and then I'll go back and drop in record of what I've done and build the song up that way. And when, when the mood is right sometime, I can get a whole song in about, you know, half an hour, 40 minutes, so it is very efficient. But also it takes the eager out of the writing, you know, and, er, it reduces the amount of craft and increases the connection with whatever the muse is that enables me to write songs in the first place.
Q: How long did you really work in studio with that album? Because there are fantastic sounds, ehm...must...need a long time...to do this ?!
RW: Yeah, wee woo, I thought, that I'd finished this record at one point in 1990. And then, you know, when you, when you, think you've finished something, the day comes when you put it, you sit and listen to it, and you know whether you have finished it, or not. And I realized that I had. And I was then, er, ehm, I started looking for a co-producer to work with. And eventually, er...I spoke to many people and eventually, er, Pat Leonard and I got together and we then worked on it. And Pat and myself and Nick Griffiths, who's the engineer on the have spend many pains, taking hours, er, trying to...express the feelings that are inherent in these songs.
(Late Home Tonight Part 1)
(It's a Miracle)
Q: ....you have a chorus on this song, The London Welsh Choral, but it's not a normal choral, I think ?!
RW: Er, no they, they, this is the 2nd version of the song that we did. Ehm, because the 1st version was at twice this tempo. It was done with a strong drumming beat in the background. But it didn't fit within the context of this part of the album, so, we had to re-record it. And we'd used The London Welsh Choral over it. But because we changed the tempo, we couldn't no longer use that recording behind the songs, so, what we did - it was Pat Leonard's, actually - was to take the, ehm, choir and to isolate the sound of the choir and to cut them up into 80cm length, throw it all in dustbin, and stick it back together at random. Backwards, forwards, however it come out, and then play it against the track. And because it is in the same key as the track, the random position of what we really recorded at a different tempo and that...strange...ehm, hm, you know, conglomeration of bits of tape works, I think, really well and gives it that weird atmosphere in the background. THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA, PAT! It's an old Beatles trick, I have to say, it's been something he's been dying to do, for like 20 years.
Q: You are working a lot with real voices and real instruments, why?
RW: Ehm, I think, er, there are real feelings and the need real people, playing real instruments, to really interpret them really well.
Q: Haha...Do you like the modern synthesizer stuff?
RW: Er, I'm not ..., I'm very bored with drum machines, you know, if I hear another record that goes 'woom-woom-tick-wa- tong-kung-ka-tick', you know, I'll think to myself, but, er, the problem with these things is, that it makes it very easy for people to make something that *sounds* like a record. This is like a facsimile of a piece of Rock 'n' Roll, very easily. You are going to the shop, you buy an Roland, you bring it home and you plug it in, and then you are...you can make records, you know. And if you speak over them then that's a rap record. And, er, what you produce is, is that stuff that has a...at least attraction, but that, ehm, you don't want to listen to the next day. Well, I don't.
Mod: And that....
RW: Sorry to interrupt, but anyway I think, to encourage people to learn to play instruments, that's a good job, you know, and it's a job that's disappearing. It's, it's...one of the jobs around here somebody can learn as technique and it's a fulfilling satisfying thing for them today, and also, er, for us to hear. And the same goes for choirs, you know. Choirs are wonderful things and the more we use them the better, in my view.
(Perfect Sense Part I)
Moderator then receives phone-in questions from the audience
1st caller: Will there be a reunion with Pink Floyd and Roger Waters?
RW: No, why not go back to the man from ?
Q: So, we'll do it later...
RW: I will do that later, dear...
Q: So, you don't want to answer?
RW: Oh no, I did answer. I said 'No'.
Q: Not more...not why?
RW: No, I'm not interested in 'Why', I think, its well documented.
1st caller: Ok.
RW: Ok, thanks
2nd caller: Hello, I'd like to ask him: whether how you do feel now about Berlin. For the reason that there have been many big stars and I heard about it that it was not so successful as it could be ?
RW: Is that it? That was the question, wasn't it? Ehm, yeah, there was, there were many starts there. Er, it, you are talking economically...?...in terms with the money, right?
2nd caller: Ja.
RW: That...it's that rumour, isn't it? Ok, well you are absolutely right. The memorial fund, I'm afraid was down in a number of ways, by a number of people. And the show is still in the 'red'. Ehm, Polygram Records, who took the video and who released the album - and whom I thank and will thank eternally for doing that, because it was very difficult, getting the things off the ground in the first place - is still selling videos and records and I have every hope that the in the future will got to the 'black'. Ehm...we were promised $ 2 1/2 million for the television rights. And the company that took them, who I won't mention, because they'll probably [ ] me if I do, but - disgustingly enough - only came up with $ 400.000 at the end of the day, which let us with a of 2.1 million dollars of what was promised to us. Ehm, and there were problems with all kinds of other things, so, ehm...
2nd caller: Would you try it again...such a big show?
RW: Ehm, you know, it's a strange...were you there?
2nd caller: Pardon?
RW: Were you there?
2nd caller: What do you mean?
2nd caller: I've not been there, but I...
RW: Not, ok.
2nd caller: ....heard the record. And I think 'If the record is' - pardon - as bad as it is, comparing it with, er, normal records, you make, er. I think think the show must be, ehm - I don't like to blame you, but - er, you know what I mean....
*translated- 'to blame' is often confused with 'to insult' (maybe in a bit weaker meaning), said to be a common mistake made by German folks)
RW: Well, you *told us* your opinion. I actually think the record is a very good record and, ehm, I think, it's very well produced and very well engineered, and...
2nd caller: OK, he-he
3rd caller: * asks question in German *
Q: That's a good question. He is asking you... - I don't know whether you heard of all the things that happens with the young German people attacking foreign people living in Germany at the moment?! Ehm, he is asking whether you would play again for German kids.
RW: Yeah, of course I would. You can't, er, you know, <...> everybody with the same brush. Ehm, in every country, in every society all over the world there are kids who've been, er,...and strangely enough I had a conversation with somebody about this only the other day. And we were trying to decide whether there were social or economical or whatever the reasons for people that behave like that. We have them in England just the same as you have them in Germany. Er, I suspect that, if we could produce one generation, who weren't beaten by their fathers...you know ...I suspect that all of these kids who commit these crimes have been beaten, probably severely and over long periods of time.