Interview with David Gilmour from "The Source"
DG: ...If you think you've done something that you could improve by
changing it around I have absolutely no objection to getting the
razor blade out and moving things...
...What I need a producer for is someone to be tough and honest
with me and tell me what he does and doesn't like so I have
another good opinion...
...A lot of those standard things like the birds and things are
all in the EMI sound effects library and they've got a cupboard
with thousands of tapes in it and we would just go down and raid
CK: Hi, I'm Charlie Kendal. When I mention Pink Floyd, what do you
think of? A pink pig floating in the smog over a colossal power
station? A white brick wall? Or a prism refracting light? Or
maybe you see two men in grey suits shaking hands...one of whom
is in flames. The point is that when people think of Pink Floyd,
they conjure images and feelings, not names, faces, and
personalities. Because, as popular and enduring Pink Floyd is,
how many of us could name each member of the group? During the
next two hours, we'll focus on Pink Floyd's guitarist, David
Gilmour. We'll discuss his new solo album _About Face_ and his
sixteen years with Pink Floyd.
[Run Like Hell]
CK: Run Like Hell, from Pink Floyd's classic _The Wall_. More from
the wall later. Recently we talked to David Gilmour about not
only the Floyd, but also his solo lp _About Face_. We asked
David how he went about choosing the musicians for his second
DG: Doing this album I wanted to make a really good record. I didn't
want to do it very very quickly, and I wanted to get the best
musicians in the world that I could get hold of to play with me,
so I thought I'd just make a little list of all my favourite
musicians, you know, best drummer, best bass player, best
keyboard player, and I'll work through the list to see who I can
get. Jeff Peccarro was top of my drummers list, pino palladino
was top of my bass players list, and Ian Quely, or the Rev, as
he's known, he actually came and did the bulk of the hammond and
piano playing, and he was terrific. Steve Winwood was top of my
keyboard playing list but he couldn't do most of the album, but
I got him to do a bit. He played hammond organ on "Blue Light."
I had a bit more time and was feeling a bit freer about things on
this album...just more "accidents" tend to occur. I mean the
"Blue Light" track for example actually consists of two different
songs. We wound up cutting bits out of each like making a jigsaw
puzzle up and used bits of the backing track of one and then bits
of the other and then swapping back and forth.
CK: "Blue Light," from David Gilmour's new solo album, _About Face._
The earliest days of Pink Floyd do *not* include David Gilmour,
except that David did go to High School in Cambridge with Roger
Waters and Floyd's acknowledged founder Syd Barrett. Waters,
Rick Wright, and Nick Mason had been playing together in a band
called at various times Sigma 6, the T-set, the Abdabs, and
finally, the Pink Floyd Sound when Syd Barrett joined in late
DG: They were called "Pink Floyd Sound" originally, and we played
gigs together, my band in Cambridge and them when we actually
went up to London and played things with..on their sort of patch,
schools....I mean we were friends, I used to see them all the
time, they just used to do Bo Diddley numbers and things.
CK: It was Barrett's distinctive guitar style, and way-out lyrics,
that helped establish Pink Floyd as *the band* of London's
growing underground scene, via regular gigs at the Marquee club,
and the UFO club, in 1966. In 1967, Pink Floyd signed to EMI
records, and scored immediately with hit singles like Arnold
Layne, and See Emily Play. Even then Pink Floyd was challenging
the accepted boundries of concert performance by introducing
their own quadraphonic sound system and a choreographed light
show. Following the release of their debut album, _The Piper at
the Gates of Dawn_, Syd Barrett's behavior grew less inspired and
DG: I don't know at quite at what point Syd started to go very
strange, but I know I came back from France and I called Syd up
while I was there and he said why don't I come down they were
doing a recording session and he told me the studio. And I went
down to the studio and he didn't even recognize me, and that was
when--the day they were making See Emily Play.
CK: In February 1968 David Gilmour was asked to join Pink Floyd.
Seven weeks later, Syd Barrett was phased out completely.
DG: The band itself had various plans--the first plan was that I
would join and make it a five piece so it would make it easier
so that Syd could still be strange but the band would still
function. And then the next idea was that Syd would stay home
and do writing and be the Brian Wilson elusive character that
didn't actually perform with us and the third plan was the he
wouldn't do nothing at all. And it quickly changed 'round, and
it was just....it was *obviously* impossible to carry on that way
so we basically ditched Syd.
CK: "Free Four," from Pink Floyd's _Obscured by Clouds_. Their next
album would take 9 months to record, and today, is still on the
CK: If the Beatle's _Sgt. Pepper_ revolutionized the concept of rock
albums in 1967, then Pink Floyd's _Dark Side of the Moon_ fine
tuned that concept into genuine audio art six years later.
Recorded at EMI's fabled Abbey Road studios, where the Beatles
recorded all their albums, Pink Floyd produced the _Dark Side of
the Moon_ themselves, over a period of nine months. When it was
released in March 1973, _Dark Side_ represented a culmination of
the band's studio experiments, and Roger Waters' insights that
had only been brushed upon in their earlier recordings. The fact
that _Dark Side of the Moon_ was Pink Floyd's first number one
album in America is easily eclipsed by the fact that today the
album is still on Billboard's top 200 album charts. It is the
most consistent selling catalog lp in pop music history--over 500
weeks. Part of Dark Side's timeless appeal has got to be Pink
Floyd's skillful use of sound effects, which they had been using
in concerts for years.
DG: Yes we did all sorts of strange things you know for live concerts
as well, we used to make up tapes for the audience to come in by.
Just tapes of bird noises in quad--quadraphonic sound, you know,
with birds singing, and pheasants taking off in the distance, and
swans taking off from water, a tractor driving down one side of
the room, and an airplane going over the top, and all these
things carrying on, all just from just different sound effects
records, you just stick them in and you--you create a type of
mood. You know, any time you're short of inspiration you jsut
say "Oh, let's go and raid the sound effects cupboard and see if
we can find something interesting" and we just stick it on....
DG: We had people come in the studios and sit down. We'd made lots
of cards up with a question on and we set them up with a
microphone and everything and had the tape recorder on and they
had to sit there and they had to answer the questions. Some
people were great, that's how we got all the voices and all the
little lines that you hear on _Dark Side of the Moon_ all over
the place, that's how we got them.
CK: In the late 60's and early 70's, Alan Parsons was a staff
engineer at Abbey Road studios. Part of his job was to record
sound effects for EMI's vast sound effects library.
DG: He had just been sent out to do a recoring in a clock shop for
the sound effects library and he had just recently before we did
that album gone out with a whole set of equipment and had
recorded all these clocks in a clock shop. And we were doing
the song time, and he said "Listen, I just did all these things,
I did all these clocks," and so we wheeled out his tape and
listened to it and said "Great! Stick it on!"
CK: "Time," and "Money." A couple of tracks form Pink Floyd's
classic _The Dark Side of the Moon._ Following a lengthy U.S.
tour, a six month break, and a tour of the U.K., Pink Floyd
returned to the studio in early 1975 to record their next album.
The pressure was on to try to rival their masterpiece.
DG: You know it's only self-imposed, you know, it just becomes a bit
difficult when you've done a record that's done as well as _Dark
Side of the Moon_. And the point of going back into the studio
and saying, "God, we've got do do it all again," you know, "make
a better one." It's quite difficult.
CK: In 1975, Pink Floyd signed with Columbia records in America, and
released _Wish You Were Here_. Expanding on three themes
explored in _Dark Side of the Moon_, lonliness, alienation, and
madness, _Wish You Were Here_ was unofficially dedicated to Syd
Barrett. To get a better idea how a Pink Floyd album evolves
from mere thought to finished product, we asked David Gilmour how
they create that special atmosphere that is part of every Pink
DG: We just have a sound in mind, we want to create something, and
we try to create it. It's very simple, it's quite easy to make
an audio illusion, you know, to create one, like you know, a door
opening and people being behind that door. It's a very easy
thing to do. You just have a sound of this thing, the buzzing
"mmmmmmmmmmm" of the door opening well you've got to get some
sort of humming noise and then you just fade up a fader with
talking and laughing and clinking of glasses noises. And as you
get "mmmm" you just push up this fader at the same time and it
sounds just like the door's opening and you can suddenly hear all
these people on the other side of it.
[Have a Cigar]
DG: We actually recorded a car radio, with a microphone out there,
and, um, just spun through a few stations, and, um, got all these
sounds and then we went and made the sound of our track match up
with those. We sort of made horrible EQ things on the desk to
try and make it sound as nasty as what was coming off the radio.
So the next turn went straight to our own artificial one that
we'd just created. It's dirt easy, I mean that stuff is *not*
difficult, you've only got to have a little bit of imagination
and want to do it and then you work out how to do it.
[Wish You Were Here]
CK: Following the success of _Wish You Were Here_, Pink Floyd
released _Animals_ in early 1977. One of the songs featured on
_Animals_ had been a leftover from the _Wish You Were Here_
sessions. Originally, "Dogs" was titled "Raving and Drooling."
DG: On _Wish You Were Here_ we spent a lot of time in the rehearsal
situation just working things out, you know, writing as we went
along. "Raving and Drooling," [sic] or "Dogs" as it was later
known was just a simple little chord sequence that I had written
and that everyone seemed to like. I liked it because all the
chords were very unusual chords and you could play almost any
note over the top of them. Like for guitar solos they were great
because you could play nearly any note. So you can zoom around
anywhere and not worry about what frets you hit or anything
because almost anything you do hit if you do it deliberately
enough will sound alright.
CK: "Dogs," part one, from _Animals_. Just as Pink Floyd are masters
of the audio illusion, Hipgnosis, the people who create their
album artwork, are equally adept at the optical illusions. For
example, David Gilmour explains how the pig photo was created.
DG: The pig that you see up there, is not there, in that actual
picture. They got this *fantastic* shot of Battersea power
station, but we didn't have the pig up there. Then we put the
pig up there, and we shot the pig up there, and we took the pig
out of one picture of Battersea power station and we put it onto
another picture. So, it is right because it is in that position
and the lighting is right on that and everything so removing it
from one picture and putting it on another was okay, but to try
and fake it really would not have been okay. It's just all the
pictures when we did have the pig, the power station didn't look
nearly as nice as it did in this picture we had got the day
before before we had the pig there.
CK: In 1980 Pink Floyd released _The Wall_, an ambitions 2-record
set that included the band's first number one single in America,
"Another Brick in the Wall." Critics had often derided Roger
Waters for his bleak, depressing lyrics, and it's interesting to
note here that there was little enthusiasm when Roger Waters
played his demos of _The Wall_ for producer Bob Ezrin and the
rest of the band.
DG: He gave us all a cassette of the whole thing, and I couldn't
listen to it. It was too depressing, and too boring in lots of
places. But I liked the basic idea. We eventually agreed to do
it, but we had to chuck out a lot of stuff, rewrite a lot of
things and put a lot of new bits in, throw a lot of old bits out.
And when we actually were making it, and Roger was under
pressure, and we had said "That wasn't good enough," or "this
should be....." ...I mean Bob Ezrin was very good at helping get
a linear storyline, making it more clear and direct, you know.
Being something for Roger to bounce with a little bit. Roger
actually wrote some of the best ones after that point. When we
were actually doing it, when he was under pressure and being
pushed to do things, he did some of the best things, I think.
[Happiest Days of our Lives/Another Brick In The Wall, Part II]
CK: Except for those very early days with Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd
has been essentially Roger Waters' vehicle. He writes and sings
most of the songs with occasional help from David Gilmour.
"Comfortably Numb," from _The Wall_, uses a chord sequence David
had written during his sessions for his first solo album in 1978.
DG: I actually wrote the chord sequence for it while I was in Super
Bear doing my first solo album, right at the end. I didn't
intend, I mean, I never was going to actually record it then for
that solo thing. It was one of the things I'd just put down one
day and stored away with my other demos.
CK: "Comfortably Numb," one of the three songs David Gilmour
collaborated with Roger Waters on for _The Wall_. To translate
_The Wall_ from record to the concert stage was an enormous task,
especially considering the elaborate set the band devised. Four
hundered and twenty cardboard building blocks were constructed to
form a wall 31 feet high and 160 feet long. Because of the sets,
equipment, and the number of people required to produce the show,
the _Wall_ tour of America was probably the shortest in history-
-seven nights in two cities, New York and Los Angeles. David
admits, there can be problems staging a show like _The Wall_.
DG: There are problems in doing a show of that sort, like, you have
to say to yourself "we are doing theatre here," and theatre comes
first. After you've done it 20 or 30 times, playing the music
can get a bit boring, because there's no room for flexibility.
Everything is timed, tapes have to be run, everything is like
precision, like a theatrical production. And so there's no room,
really, for any straying from the program that you're stuck to.
So, you know you can't extend something because you feel like
making it a bit longer and jamming or something, or doing
anything like that. Some of the normal freedoms, the liberties
you can take with your stuff, in normal stage performance, are
much more restricted in that particular instance.
CK: The latest addition to the Pink Floyd discogaphry was 1983's
album _The Final Cut._ Worth mentioning here is the absence on
the album of keyboardist Rick Wright, who had left the band
during the _Wall_ sessions. Expect a solo record from him later
this year. David Gilmour says the album title is a term used in
the film making business.
DG: When you're editing a movie it's called "cutting," you go in
the cutting room, and you cut the film, you know. You make a
rough cut, that's where you've stuck all the scenes together, and
have vaguely got it in the right order, that's called a "rough
cut," and when you've perfected it and have got everything just
right, that's called the "final cut."
CK: If you'd like to get in touch with David, here's an address:
David Gilmour/43 Portland Road/London, England/W11 41J.
CK: By the time David Gilmour recorded his first solo album in 1978,
he had been in Pink Floyd for ten years. With the help of old
friends Rick Wills of Foreigner on bass, and Willie Wilson of the
Southerland Brothers band on drumms, David Gilmour's self-titled
first album is a real showcase for his playing and songwriting.
When you mention hot guitar players, the names most mentioned are
Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix and Eddie van
Halen. Yet there are few players whose style is as expressive as
David Gilmour's. We asked David to talk about his guitar
DG: I've never had fast fingers, they're really pretty slow compared
to most, and the coordination between left and right hand and
stuff is not great. If I start trying to do too fast then this
one gets--the right one gets out of sync with the left hand, so
I have to rely on other things. I rely on effects, fuzzboxes,
anything that I can lay my hands on. Then I just try and make
nice, sort of, melodies with it, like try to make it sing, I try
to imagine that the guitar's kind of singing, you know?
[There's No Way Out Of Here]
[Short and Sweet]
CK: On occasion David has lent his talents to outside projects. He
played pedal steel guitar and produced two albums for a British
band called "Unicorn" in the mid 70's. In 1977, David financed
Kate Bush's demo tape that led to her signing with EMI and a hit
single, "Withering Heights."
DG: She was introduced to me by a friend, who said "I've got this
young 14 year-old girl, who's incredibly talented," he said "I
think I should--you know, you should do something for her." And
I listened to her and I agreed, so I did.
CK: David also played guitar on two tracks from Atomic Rooster's
album, _Headline News_. But most of his recent attention has
been on his new solo album, _About Face_.
CK: Dave spent the latter part of 1983 in France working on this
album, and by the time the musicians he hired arrived for the
recording, most of the recording was already arranged on demo
cassettes for them to hear. One of the songs, called "You Know
I'm Right," wasn't as structured as the others, and David
welcomed the fresh ideas the other players brought to the
DG: "You Know I'm Right," that was the last track we did, it's the
only one that--the only one of all the tracks that I didn't have
a sort of quite reasonably recorded demo with lynn drums and the
works on. It was terrific fun, 'cause it's the only--in a way it
was a good thing because they all got into the feel of it and
gave more of themselves to it because they hadn't got something
of mine to listen to which can stop them from putting themselves
into it. Because once they've heard the way I do it then they
know the sort of thing I'm thinking about and they tend to
restrict themselves to my ideas. And that track has got a great
feel to it I think because of that, because I didn't have a demo
[You Know I'm Right]
CK: "You Know I'm Right," David Gilmour from his new solo album
_About Face_. With Pink Floyd inactive for the moment, David
has plans to tour with his own band this year, although he says
he'll use a different lineup of musicians than those on his
DG: The musicians on the tour are not the ones on the record. I've
got a drummer called Chris Slade, who's played with Tom Jones,
Gary Neuman, I think he was in Uriah Heep in one of their
incarnations, and Manfred Man. I've got a bass player named
Mickey Fiat, who's done practically everything in the world.
Mick Ralphs is coming with me, he's a friend of mine, we live
close by and I see him a lot, and I was telling him I was coming
out on the road and he said, "ooooh, I'd love to go, can I come?"
so I said "sure."
[Until We Sleep]