Pink Floyd’s bass man on the blues and the Floyd reunion at Live 8 (From Rolling Stone Online)
God bless the global success that was Live 8 — not least of all for reuniting acrimonious ex-bandmates Roger Waters and David Gilmour to perform Pink Floyd songs for the first time since 1981. “I was very happy — I definitely felt warm and cuddly toward everyone in the band,” says Waters, sipping white wine in his forty-ninth-floor midtown-Manhattan apartment. “I decided that if anything came up in rehearsals — any difference of opinion — I would just roll over. And I did.” Not only has Waters — the Floyd’s chief songwriter during the band’s Seventies heyday — closed a bitter chapter in the history of the group, he has completed a full-on opera, Ca Ira, which he began in 1989. Ca Ira is set against the backdrop of the French Revolution; a CD comes out in September, and the concert debut is slated for November 17th in Rome. But with Pink Floyd on the minds of rock fans, Waters flatly denies talk of a future tour in the U.S., even for the reported $150 million payday. “I don’t really need it,” he says. “It would be a very hot ticket. That said, I didn’t mind rolling over for one day, but I couldn’t roll over for a whole fucking tour.”
Growing up, what record changed your life?
Like everyone else in England, I listened to Radio Luxembourg, a pirate station. They played rock & roll, like Bill Haley and English acts with stupid invented names like Tommy Steele and Billy Fury. Seven or eight years later, the Beatles changed all that. In the meantime I fell in love with Lead Belly, Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, Art Blakey, Monk and Mingus. The blues is at the root of everything I do.
Did you sing in choir?
Before my voice broke, I used to sing treble in a combined choir.
Children’s choirs surface in your opera, and in Pink Floyd.
My great friend Nick Griffiths — who died this year — was entirely responsible for recording the kids on “Another Brick in the Wall.” The sound those kids make was brilliant, but we were 6,000 miles away, in Los Angeles. Last year some ambulance chaser desperately tried to find the kids — I think there were about a dozen or so — and ask them, “Why haven’t you gotten any royalties? Why don’t you sue Pink Floyd?” He found a few of them, and a couple said that singing on it was the best thing that’s ever happened to them.
You were an architecture student. What venue looks the best from the stage?
Most of my career has been in sports arenas, and those are awful places. Those old theaters are really nice, like the Fox Theatre in St. Louis, where they recorded the Chuck Berry movie [Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll]. I’ve played there, and the weird-red-plush, slightly decaying vibe is really cool.
Do you have the handwritten lyrics to the Floyd classics?
I don’t keep anything. No T-shirts or backstage passes — I have nothing at all of my past. I’ve been divorced so many times and moved so often…. I think I’ve still got the drawing I did of “The Wall.” It’s just on a piece of legal pad — a perspective view of an auditorium with a wall drawn across it, coming down through the seats. [Whispers] “Hey, what a great idea.”
What other band would you have liked to play bass in?
What’s always great is playing the blues.
Twelve-bar blues, straight up. Nothing better than that. When Eric [Clapton] was in my band, back in ’85, we’d play the blues during soundcheck. In Pink Floyd I was being savaged — because Dave [Gilmour] and Rick [Wright] were kind of insecure, they’d always try to attack me, saying I sang out of tune or I couldn’t really play. I said something about that to Eric, and he said, “Are you fucking crazy? You’re a great bass player.” I went, “Oh, yeah, maybe I am.” I would be totally happy to be standing at the back of a stage playing the blues hour after hour…. I enjoyed playing bass [at Live 8].
It looked like you were having the time of your life.
It was more fun than I can remember having with Pink Floyd twenty-five years ago. When we did The Wall, we’d have four Winnebagos parked in a circle, with all the doors facing away from the circle. It was really, really bad. Everybody was kind of jealous — definitely Dave. He was so pissed off that I was writing everything and doing all the work. He wanted to be that person, but he wasn’t. But at Live 8 everything was easy. I was there to enjoy myself.
How do you think Dave felt?
He did send me an e-mail afterward, saying, “Hi, Rog, I’m glad you made that phone call. It was fun, wasn’t it?” So he obviously had fun.
Can you think of a better band name than Pink Floyd?
Brand name or band name? It’s a great brand name. Dave and Rick did tours [as Pink Floyd] and made huge fortunes. I’ve seen videos of those tours. With all due respect, it was sort of muck.
I heard you’ve been working on a rock & roll record.
I’ve written a bunch of songs. When I discover what it’s actually about, I’ll finish it and put it out for better or worse. I just always seem so busy. I have a new woman in my life. I can’t believe I’m fucking sixty-one years old, and my golf game is such shit.
I hear you’re a pretty good pool player, though. What musician has been the toughest to beat?
There’s no musician out there who could hold a candle to me at pool.
C’mon, get back together!!!!