Musician, December 1992
"Roger gave you an interview?"
There was a slight lilt of surprise in Dave Gilmour's customarily baronial tone.
"Well, yeah," I said, "he has a wonderful new album about media desensitization and the self-destruction of the human race."
"Had he seen the article you did about me?"
"He had. He was a bit miffed by some of the things you said, in fact."
"If someone said such things about "me"," Dave laughed, "I'd sue them."
Such things would have burned Roger's ears off even if he'd never seen them. Of course, he had. I'd faxed him some pre-publication excerpts as an invitation to rebut the tales of Roger's egomania, dissentiousness and delusions Dave told in a recent "Musician" cover story. Dave bore all the scars of a real survivor, and his characterizations of Waters were enough to invite pity for his ex-bandmates. Dave calls on unrelated business, or just to say hell; Roger dispatches several go-betweens to say "No comment."
But I'm not about to buy any one man's opinion of any other - even if the man on the line is the closest associate Roger Waters had for the twenty years leading up to his attempted destruction of the name "Pink Floyd" upon leaving it behind in 1986. For the moment we get suckered by what public figures want us to think, we have the makings of the crippled world order outlined in "Amused to Death", which is the most evolved work any member, or ex-member, of Pink Floyd has ever done. And Roger Waters wants to talk about that. On the expressway out to his impressive summer rental in the Hamptons, a 500-pound wheel flew off a truck from the oncoming lane and destroyed the front end of the car I was riding in. An officer assessing the wreckage pointed out that had the car been traveling one or two miles per hour faster, all passengers would unquestionably have been mutilated. Waters, who would moments later deny his reputation as a sociological obstacle course, simply couldn't help himself: "So -- You'd rather "die" than face me."
At the heart of "Amused To Death" are the same concerns that have plagued this man since he assumed lyrical control of Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd: the pointless extermination of values, the lumps taken by innocent bystanders amid heartless political actions, dogs and war. Centering on a monkey transfixed by television, the album takes Waters' ongoing preoccupation with nature subsumed by "civilized thinking" and sets it against his regard for the malleable, sheeplike masses. His monkey is a picture of unimprinted innocence; he is also a caricature of blind imitation. Students of Floyd will recognize the elements, but while recasting his concepts, Roger has made more subtle use of musical detail; the gentle cadences that signaled final peace in "The Wall" and "Animals" create a false sense of security in "Amused To Death".
To appreciate "Death" is to be implicitly displeased; Roger has turned to issues of more sobering impact than the ennui he reacted to in 1973's enormously popular "Dark Side of the Moon", which just shows how far we've come in the 20 years since that record. The horrors he depicts are stark and lacerating - even coming from someone who from up close looks like a dyspeptic David Brenner. He and his music are eerie. Somehow, even if you don't want to believe him, you find yourself thinking he's right. "Amused to Death" isn't just a Waters masterpiece, it's "another" Waters masterpiece.
And because God plays into it as more than just a motif, as the all-defining single "What God Wants" makes clear, I've gone in assuming that Waters has finally come to terms with the fact that for all the moralizing any songwriter can do, he knows you can't fight city hall. Though God serves as a motivation or excuse for greed in certain parts of the album, Waters laments religion as determinism.
"Well, everything is relative," he said very quietly, walking past a couch covered with pillows bearing slogans like "Where there's a will, there's a relative." "The solar system has a relationship to the rest of the universe, and the earth is in the solar system and we're on it, so if you care to follow it through, we all relate to everything. However, my attitude is not fatalistic. I believe that to at least some extent, man's destiny lies in his own hands. And man is generic term, because a lot of individuals don't have much say. You do, I do, but a lot don't.
The work is my response to the world outside me. Unlike "The Wall", for instance, the narrative is external rather than internal. What "makes" the work is the internal response to the external narrative. 'What God Wants' derives at least in part from George Bush's statements during what came to be known as Desert Storm - all that crap about God being on the side of the American people, which is always crass, but within the context of what was going on there, a 'holy war,' is ludicrous and obscene. The idea of whose side God is on is 600 years old - can we please move on from the fucking "Crusades"? It's good smokescreen material for the powers that be, but it doesn't help us ordinary people one little bit. It's no help to anybody, except him, of course."
Waters counts himself among the ordinary; the car outside the mansion is a bare-bones little rented grey number. In his art, though, he's never met the plight of the ordinary halfway. But unlike, say, "Pigs," or virtually anything from mid-period Floyd, he's siphoned off some of the venom, and in several pieces on "Amused to Death", uses descriptive suggestions and real scenes along with metaphor as tools to create the images. The softly sarcastic "It's a Miracle" was the last song written for the record.
"We based it on the rhythm from the middle of 'Late Home Tonight,'" he remembered, "where there's Graham Broad playing lots and lots of drums with me shouting in the background, pretending to be a mad Arab leader. We did a very up tempo version, and Flea played a great bassline, but it wasn't right. Then Pat Leonard started playing it on piano in half-time, and I started singing it in the tempo it now exists in. I put the cassette in the car and got that "buzz"; I was blown away. I played it six times on the way back to the house and then sat outside and played it three times more just because I adored it. And two days later I got Jeff Porcaro in, and he played those drums, which were amazing. And that was that."
"I went to Porcaro's funeral," I told Roger, "they buried him with his sticks, put them right inside the casket."
"Very Hollywood," he replied.
"You'd used him before....was he on "The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking"?"
"Wait, he was on "Momentary Lapse" - oh, and "The Wall"!"
Roger clicked his tongue and put his finger on his nose. "There you go. He played 'Mother.' There was a keyboardist and Lee Ritenour and Jeff. His father Joe played the military snare in 'Bring the Boys Back Home.'"
"Now, why credit everyone on your solo albums but put such scant information on the Pink Floyd records?"
"I don't know. I can't answer that. There was a whole big thing about credits on "The Wall", and I think we were fighting such serious internal battles that we didn't have time for anybody else's feelings, you know? Andy Fairweather- Low was out to dinner the other day; I gave him the first of the CDs and he said, 'I think finally we've got the credits right.'"
"Is James Johnson actually Jimmy Johnson, the great five- string bassist?"
"Yeah. He likes to be called James. I call him Steve. He's a very gentle man, and on 'What God Wants' I was going, 'This has got to have more aggression. What you're doing is too "Jimmy"; I want this to be more "Steve."' He's a great player. But the part I wanted more 'Steve,' somebody else played it. It's interesting, because it's the same bassline as 'Another Brick'; listen to it."
"In the video you're playing bass."
"Well, it's a pretend, but those videos always are, eh? I'd always thought it would be nice just to have cameras running the whole time we were recording, so that it was real. That would be the most watchable. But these things get made largely for MTV, and I'm not sure that they'd be interested in that sort of thing. They're much more interested in style and tennis shoes and baseball hats than music.
I was never a bass player. I've never played anything. I play guitar a bit on the records and would play bass, because I sometimes want to hear the "sound" I make when I hit a string on a bass with a pick or my finger; it makes a different sound than anybody else makes, to me. But I've never been interested in playing the bass. I'm not interested in playing instruments and I never have been."
"As a concept man, I'd think it might have riled you that at least in the earlier years, Floyd was considered more of a jazz-rock experimental band."
"No," Roger said, "I was quite happy standing there thundering about, playing whatever I could - that's "fun". And I see young bands occasionally now doing the same thing. I think it's called "thrash" now. It's the same thing: It's just kids who can't play, pissing about. It's terrific. That's all we were doing. I mean, Dave could play a little bit, but none of the rest of us could. And we all developed slight individual things. But I wasn't thinking like that. I didn't start conceptualizing and writing until post-Syd, and after that it became - well, maybe not...I was going to say it became controlled very quickly. I mean, it's only like five years between Syd leaving and "Dark Side of the Moon", and I suppose there's a little bit of that on "Dark Side of the Moon", but very little. What's the track called with the AMS Synthier?"
"'On the Run.'"
"Yeah, that. Well, that was just a Synthier, and then you turned it up and it went from going ch-ch ts-ts deh ts-ts to dudududedele-deh. 'Hey! That sounds good - record it!" It's a bit like these young groups now, who I have "no" interest in at all, the ones that get a Roland 808 [drum machine]out of the box, plug it in and it goes bum-petek, bum-bum petek, and say, 'Oh, "wow"! We're a band!' And then they talk over it and it's called music. I don't get that at "all". In a way, that stuff on "Dark Side of the Moon" was that. Except it kind of expressed something to do with that theme of chasing your tail. What was important about that record is what it was "about", in my view. The recording was very ordinary, really."
"You hit puberty," he continued, "decide you want to be a rock star - in my case probably because my father was dead, to be simplistic about it - and you feel you need all that applause and money to validate your life. And although we hadn't achieved much success before "Dark Side of the Moon", nevertheless we'd had our fair share. But we had traveled an enormous amount, and we saw a lot more of how other people lived than you do if you leave school, go to college and get a job in town. And I suppose I was starting to ask some of the larger questions of, 'Well, hang on a minute. What's the "point" of all of it?' That's what "Dark Side of the Moon" is about, and maybe that's why it survived. That last thing I wrote on "Dark Side of the Moon" was 'Eclipse' - 'all that you touch and all that you see, all that you taste, all you feel' - so I was getting kind of Buddhist about it. so what caused it? I suppose all the un-Buddhist "stuff" of living in a van, seeing what the world was like, and being faced with one's ambitions and what they actually "were"."
As the band matured, so did those aspirations, though the basis of Waters' song-writing had crystallized.
"Yeah," he said, "I didn't like old men dying in doorways. I still don't. My political persuasions, although they've changed in the last 20 years, are still that I think we need to be kinder to each other. At the moment the profit- motivated free market implies, 'We can really see about this trickle-down theory.' "I" know it doesn't fucking work, and so does everybody else, but there's a pretense that a "global" free-market economy is good for everybody. It's good for businesses in rich countries selling shit to poor countries. But it's not good for people born into disadvantaged situations. And it "isn't" true that as long as you're given enough freedom you will achieve your potential and lead a fulfilled life. No, you won't - if you're in Somalia you'll die before you're a year old. And if you're born in south central L.A. you'll probably end up like one of the 22 people killed last weekend. It's a question of whether human beings are interested in organizing their society in a way that really does give people a chance - not just in terms of what they do with their lives, but whether they're allowed to understand what their situation "is", in a way that doesn't necessarily involve wearing a baseball hat from back to front and air-pump Nikes and shooting people. Because that's the message we're giving: 'This is the way to live. And it's cool: Put on a pair of these basketball boots and blow people away and you'll be okay.'"
If Waters openly concedes a lack of faith in the average person's ability to make upright choices when they're shot full of media, how can he possibly be anti- censorship? How could he oppose moral control for people without the benefit of good parenting, education or sense?
"Well, I'm "not" anti-censorship," he said. "I'm anti- censorship if it affects me and my point of view. You know, I'm on dangerous ground here...it might be that if I lived in Idaho I would feel compelled to put on a helmet and break the printing presses of the neo-Nazis hunkered down there spreading their shit over "my" land. Which is a form of censorship. In 1934 the communists fought running battles with the blackshirts in the east end of London - I'd have been in with breaking heads, and if I could destroy their right to free speech I would have. There comes a time when you have to stand your ground and say, 'What that guy's printing is wrong.' You can't climb onto cattle trucks shouting 'Everybody's entitled to their opinion.' No fuckin'way - they're "not" entitled to that opinion. However, I'm very anti-"People Who Try And Stop Us Saying 'Fuck' On The Radio", because that is smokescreening. I was in L.A. for the riots. I didn't watch TV much, but I watched occasionally to see people having dialogues in the streets. I found it "fantastic"."
"I thought the dialogues were disheartening," I said, in front of the smashed stores, people blithely looting and smiling."
"That didn't worry me. What was interesting was that they would take "anything" - it didn't matter what - and then come out and wave at the cameras on the way to the car. I thought that was actually rather "heartening."
"Because it showed you they weren't ashamed; it was like the were "shopping", they just weren't spending any money. It made you realize their lives were such that they didn't feel any guilt, at the time. Apparently a lot of them did later on: 'Hang on, maybe that was stealing.' Maybe I'm talking out of my ass, but I get a sense that in tough downtrodden communities like south central L.A., a large part of the population have adopted some Christian ethic, and are very moral, proper American people who probably hang onto church and what that means in far more Christian ways than George Bush does. George Bush says, 'Jesus "wants" us to go murder people in Iraq. I happen to know that. We can go do whatever we like, secure in the knowledge that Jesus is on our side.' What a load of crap. A lot of those people are going, 'I don't think Jesus wants us to rob. Jesus wants us to help people,' all that passive stuff. So I had a lot of respect for the people stealing stuff and waving at the cameras.
What happened with Rodney King was just a bunch of bullies beating somebody up. It was pure, simple "West Side Story". It had nothing to do with the "law". L.A. is an unbelievably racist town, and it's exacerbated by the influx of a recently arrived, economically strong Asian community. I had people not too far from the making of this record complaining about all the Japanese in their kid's school. Whose land is this? Is it any more yours than it was the Indians'? And why is it any more yours than the Japanese's, just because you're of European descent? You're all Americans. There's a weird thing developing about the Japanese just because they're good at making cars. Well, wake up! You taught them! You went in there after World War II and said, 'Guys, this how you do it.' You destroyed their ancient culture, if you like. All right, they were a warlike people; they were expansionist - it's "inevitable". That's what happens when you get a powerful and intelligent people who live on a tiny island. They learned how to do it, and they're doing it within the law. So just swallow it!"
"Well," I said, swallowing, "forgive me, but the same argument can be used to justify the recent actions of Gilmour, Mason and Wright."
"You taught them, you introduced the industry, they're expanding within the law.' Look at Pink Floyd as an industry, an institution; it continues, takes its lumps, absorbs your disdain. That you see it as a fraud parallels American prejudice against a cheap Japanese product. Slicker version, cheaper price."
"I don't...for you to work for a magazine called "Musician" and attempt to make that connection shows how desperate you are to get me to talk about Pink Floyd. I can't make a connection between what I do... writing songs and recording them, making films, putting on rock'n' roll shows, whatever it is I might want to do - I started writing poems and a bit of prose as well - I think that's intrinsically different than making automobiles. I don't see Dylan Thomas and Henry Ford as being in the same business. One tries to explain our condition, and by virtue of explaining it to himself, explains it to the rest of us, and the other is making motorcars, which explain nothing."
What need has Roger Waters for subjection to such "journalism"? Like Benny, a put upon character from his second solo record "Radio K.A.O.S.", he's been treated somewhat unjustly; Benny throws a rock in protest and goes to prison, while his crippled brother, who can receive radio waves telepathically, prevails and changes the world. In this futuristic sketch, the innate desire to communicate is rewarded, if not with approval, then with peace. Waters' most optimistic, stylized statement was rewarded with the distinction of being the least memorable thing he's ever done.
"You're absolutely right," he said. "I allowed myself to get pushed down roads that were uncomfortable for me. I should never have made that record, Matt. I love some of the songs-'Home' is one of the best things I've ever written. 'The Powers that Be' is great. And it comes out icky-prissy, because it's sequenced. I remember the producer saying one day, 'Oh no- that sounds old- fashioned,' and alarm bells went off in my head. After my experiences with "Pros and Cons" and "K.A.O.S." - I would play in Cincinnati to 2,000 people in a 10,000-seat hall while my colleagues were playing in a football stadium down the road to 80,000 people, and it was a bit galling.
But what I cling to from that "K.A.O.S." tour is kind of like Henry V-'The Fewer guys in the battle, the greater the share of glory.' I like the fact that of those 2,000 people in the hall-and there were "loads" of them all over the middle west - it was kind of a little exclusive club. Because the people who came were fans. There was a strong feeling of connection I got."
Roger's colleagues Dave Gilmour, Nick Mason and Rick Wright - in that order - continued as Pink Floyd after Waters declared the group creatively bankrupt in 1986 and began full-time work on his first solo album "The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking". The album's story came to Roger in the same writing spurt as "The Wall" seven years earlier, and though it was the "less" autobiographical, was rejected by the group.
The biggest creative conflict Waters experienced during Pink Floyd's latter years was over two versions of "The Wall"'s "Comfortably Numb," one recorded by Dave to replace the initial, "sloppier" backing arrangement against which the orchestral parts were recorded.
"None of us went," Waters says. "They were done in New York by [Bob] Ezrin and Michael Kamen. And when they brought it back, I thought the chart was great; Dave thought it was sloppy. So when Ezrin and I went off to do vocal parts, Dave spent a week re-recording the track. I remember it came over on the 24-track tape and Ezrin and I were both really expecting it to be great, hoping he'd improved it, and we put it on and looked at each other and... (Roger mimes a yawn) because it was just awful - it was stilted and "stiff", and it lost all the passion and life the original had. And that became a "real" fight. It's most interesting that Ezrin completely agreed with me. But Dave obviously felt very, very strongly about it, and we ended up using the intro from the old one, the first few bars from the new one. That's all we could do without somebody 'winning' and somebody 'losing.' And of course, who "lost", if you like, was the band, because it was clear at that point that we didn't feel the same way about music."
"At some point along the way," I asked, "did you feel they, or Gilmour, lost the requisite sense of Pink Floyd drama? There obviously "was" a time when the music was fully realized and intriguing. Or was it, as he explained to me, that you finally just didn't want to write with him?"
"Dave and I never wrote together. I don't ever remember writing with Dave. Sometimes he'd bring in a chord sequence and I'd the make a song out of it. Or he'd bring a guitar riff in and I'd make a song out of it, like 'Wish You Were Here.' I love that riff, it's fantastic. But we never wrote together, ever. Never. And Dave was never interested in drama, ever. In my experience. He never showed any interest at all, "ever", in drama. Of any kind. Certainly not."
"I posed to Dave, 'Perhaps Roger didn't think the band should continue after his departure because he thought it wouldn't do justice to "Gilmour/Waters," not just because it wouldn't do justice to "Waters."' His response was that he didn't think you wanted to work with him."
"Look, I read that piece that you did with him in your magazine, and....what do you want me to do, shoot him in the other foot?"
"No, my interest is in exploring misconceptions of how the band made its music; if "that" wasn't beloved, the interaction between its creators wouldn't make much difference to anyone."
"All right," Roger said sharply.
"I think I took a pretty nonpartisan stance. In fact, when I apologized to you about all the brouhaha at the premiere of "Amused To Death", you said, 'No problem - everybody's got to make a living.' I thought, 'Gee, is that venom for me or Dave?'"
"That was directed at you. Why is that venomous? I mean, you only do that article...you want to sell copies of the magazine. If I sit here and give you the same kind of interview that Dave gave you, it's...I'd rather not talk about it. I take your point about students of the music being interested in where it came from. In order to answer those questions, it brings up all the other questions, and I'd rather not talk about it. I "am" interested in drama, I like my new record, I hope to go on tour with it. People can listen to "Momentary Lapse of reason" and to what I do, and to the old stuff, and if there are questions, well, just listen and make your own mind up about what it's all about. And that history will never be written because I'm not going to waste my life writing it. It gets written by "other" people, none of which I authorized, and most of which, I have to say, is a load of shit. I don't accept the view painted of me in any of it, but I understand why it's painted. I feel okay about myself and my work. I know what I did and didn't do. I made my position very clear in 1987 about how I felt about the use of the name, and my position hasn't changed. But the name is owned by other people and that's all there is to it. There's nothing I can do about it. So I'd rather "not" do anything about it, you know? There are certain fights worthwhile to fight whether you can win them or not, and this isn't one of them. God forbid that we should all be put through "two" of those interviews!"
"But I don't want to get off Pink Floyd yet because there's so much..."
"I don't mind talking about Pink Floyd at all," Roger said, "For instance, I don't mind answering your 'Comfortably Numb' question. But I'm not interested in a debate with Dave Gilmour. I'm not interested in a private debate, I'm not interested in a public debate. If you are representing people who read your magazine who are interested in the work I did when I was in that band, well then, I'm happy to talk to you about that, because I have a connection with them: They're interested because they like my work, and I'm interested in talking through you to them. What I don't want to get into is, 'Dave said this' or 'Dave said that.' I don't want to butt heads with anybody."
Dave said just yesterday that among Roger's allegations against Gilmour's "fake" Floyd is that there was a lunch over which a record man chided Gilmour about his music "not sounding Floyd enough" to be released under the group's name. After self- consciously repairing the tracks, the story goes, Floyd released "A Momentary Lapse of Reason".
"Did Roger tell you about that? Absolute fantasy," Dave said dryly. "They got the date correct, October of 1986. October '86 is when I was doing the very first demos, and Bob Ezrin and I were still at the stage where we hadn't even made decisions about doing a group album or a solo album - we were at the beginning of "thinking" about doing a "record". Nothing could have been projected from hearing the stuff. So the date itself disproves him right there. The guy said he was going to see Roger that afternoon; we said, 'Give him our best.'" Those present at the lunch, however, corroborate Waters' claims.
Gilmour's Floyd prevailed at the box office, but the band simply can't escape Waters - they still perform under a giant pig, Dave still sings about dogs and war. Five years later, neither Dave nor Roger wants to surrender the legacy, though Waters was appeased eventually with a hefty buyout, and a heftier confidence he brings to his solo work. Both have me convinced that they work because they love to work, and their work has convinced me that either can do quite well without the other. All of "that" convinces me that egos, not a want of inspiration, are what destroyed their partnership.
"Your voice has many timbres," I told Roger that afternoon, "though I'm surprised that "Amused" has a collection of guest vocalists. Did you feel Dave was the best conduit for your lyrics, or was that transference just a necessary evil of playing in a band with another talented musician?"
"No, there's nothing evil about it. When we were both in Pink Floyd, we were both vocalists: I sang some songs and he sang some songs."
"As in'Dogs,' there was a nice counterpoint between your characters that..."
"Well, yeah, was there? Yeah, good. I mean, great. One thing about "being" in a group is that you have different elements and you give different things to it, and if two of you can sing, great. "Rick" used to sing too, you know. He used to sing harmonies, but rarely sang any lead on his own. So the three of us sang. That's what being in a group's about: You do all what you can for the greater good. That's the buzz, as anybody who's ever been in a group will tell you. Of "course" he had to sing my stuff, because he doesn't write....but that's okay. It's all right for somebody to write and several people to sing."
"When Rick was expelled in 1979," I said," the band dynamic changed; a rock quartet losing its keyboardist leaves a very crucial element of its sound to an outsider, like a session player. That alone is a real indication that you were effectively disbanding the group even then.
(very, very long pause)
I think you could say that 'Wish You Were Here' was written, partially specifically about Syd, but largely about my sense of the absence of one from another, and from the band. So as far as I'm concerned, "Wish You Were Here" was the last Pink Floyd album. "The Wall" was my record and so was "The Final Cut", and who played or didn't play on it - though I don't want to belittle Dave's contributions to "The Wall". He played some great stuff, and wrote a couple of great guitar riffs as well: 'Run Like Hell,' the intro to 'Young Lust.' But by and large, those records were nothing to do with anybody but me. And certainly Ezrin's contribution to "The Wall" was far greater than anybody in the band. He and I made the record together. And he was a great help. You know, Rick had drifted out of range by that point.
In 'Wish You Were Here,' we "weren't" there. All of us at different points had left, and I think in a way that's why it's a good record, because it honestly expresses that. The reason "The Wall" is a good record is because it's an honest autobiographical piece of writing of mine. And the machinery in place that enabled me to make that record was good. But it was only machinery by then; There was no question of there being a "group" anywhere. And the same with "The Final Cut". And with the next one. And clearly, the problem with the "next" one is that it's a lot easier to replace a keyboard player than a writer. And if you don't write, it's very hard to produce art. You can do it, but's "really" hard - you have to get "other" people to write it for you. And then it becomes really, really difficult. I "suspect". That's not something I've had to do, because I write. That's the only way I can answer this specific question about Rick. You know, Rick had left "long" before the summer of '79 - "long", long before. He was "gone". We split up years before. And it wasn't the unilateral and heinous, wicked thing that gets described in the "unofficial" histories."
"Do you take solace in the fact that a band shaped by your writing could continue so successfully as an institution?"
"What's all this about an institution wanting to continue? How does the institution suddenly develop a personality and an ego? Do institutions make decisions about what they want to do? Institutions are controlled by individuals. It's not an institution. Pink Floyd has no feelings - it's two words. I mean, it only exists as a label to describe something. I would prefer that it was used to describe what happened between 1965 and 1977, but that's not the case. It is being used to describe other things. Well, so be it. I made an attempt to stop that happening. I thought it was wrong that label be used to describe something other than what I felt was the real deal, which was a group that Dave Gilmour and Nick Mason and Rick Wright and myself and Syd Barrett, in one form or another, were all part of over a period of 20-odd years. That's all. The institution hasn't decided anything. Various other "institutions" have."
Roger took a break, returned to the den and asked to run the recorder.
"You can draw a line between what I'm interested in and what I'm not interested in," he said. "On one side you can name Dylan and Lennon, who observe the world and have "feelings", and write songs directly from those feelings. On the vapid side you have pop groups who need material and write songs to fill the hole, rather than getting somebody else. But they might just as well get somebody else, because it's a manufacturing process. It's not poetry, because it doesn't spring from heart or guts or wherever John Lennon's or Dylan's songs came from. And in my view - I seem to always wind up attacking poor Phil Collins," he laughs, "but it's only because he's so visible - he's symptomatic of an awful lot of if. He might well disagree and so might his fans, but the "feeling" I get is that he's pretending to be a songwriter or a rock'n'roller. It's an act. That's why it's unsatisfying. And those videos underscore that feeling. If you cared about what you were doing, you would "not be able" to do that silly walk, one behind the other, because you would find it impossible to ridicule your work in that way. 'Mister Picasso, we think it would sell this work if you hung by your heels from a crane and held it upside-down with your trousers down.' Pablo's not gonna do that because he's serious about what he does. Just a passing thought. That's taken over an awful lot of the business. You could say, 'Well, why shouldn't it?' Absolutely "no" reason, so long as it doesn't take over and "squeeze" out the Lennons and Dylans because they're too good for it. They "won't" take their trousers down and do silly walks on the beach."
When Roger sings "God wants Semtex," it sounds like "God wants subtext," which could just as well be the pivot for his concept, and the last five years of his career.
"'Semtex' is, in England, almost in common usage like 'Hoover,'" he said. "It's the most popular plastic explosive. Semtex was used to blow down Pam Am 103, and set against the other lyrics,'sedition,''sex' and 'freedom,' it's shocking. But with all due respect to the people who lost relatives on the flight, what's really shocking is that the guys who put the Semtex on the plane were also doing "what God wanted". They were fighting for freedom and for God in the same way as the American pilots who incinerated those people fleeing on the road to Basra. I can't turn my camera, or my brush, away from those ironies. They become the stuff of news stories, we assimilate them and we become inured to the horror. Of course, the women and children on Pan Am 103, and all the soldiers and their families on the road to Basra - maybe 2000 families - are completely fucked, for the rest of their lives. And who gains? What's the point? It confuses me."
"Is it less cathartic to write about subject that present themselves so clearly, that can't really be transmuted by your art?"
"I don't know. I like working. Not all the "time"- I like fishing as well, and all kinds of other things. But I enjoy the process. As I said, I've been writing some poetry and prose, and what a surprise "that" is: You write, you read it, you say, 'This is all right, I think. I don't know; maybe it's not.' I always question stuff I do. There's a moment after making a demo of a song and sticking it on in the car when I really get off on it, but it doesn't last very long.And then when it's in a finished record and you listen to it once or twice, it's there, but again, it doesn't last. I think it is in the nature of all people who do these things - in the Lennon, the Dylan, the Pete Townshend manner, that come from the heart - that the gratification doesn't stay with you and you feel compelled to go start the process all over again. I think that is the burden all artists carry around."