Ross Greenwood had the pleasure of speaking to Roger Waters, one of Pink Floyd’s founding members, ahead of the Australian leg of his world tour, asking why they started the band.
Introduction: Roger Waters: ‘People don’t go into rock and roll bands for the art, old boy’
Ross Greenwood: To followers of this radio station from the network all around the country, you would know that song intimately. Pink Floyd’s “Money.” Now the fact of the matter is that Pink Floyd itself has been a phenomenon around the world. Some of the greatest selling albums that have ever been written. Dark Side of the Moon of course, Wish you were here, The Wall. Now, one of the great founders of Pink Floyd is Roger Waters, who is currently on a world tour but not only that, one of the most successful world tours of all time best seller artist. Now this is an incredible story of not only the way in which Pink Floyd was formed, then the way in which it evolved, but ultimately the way in which Roger Waters himself carved out a solo niche.
Now, the interesting side about Roger Waters is of course he is no longer a part of what is known as Pink Floyd but that came through acromany and strangely enough reunited with his band mates for the live eighth Global Arena Event and again in 2005. Now, it’s an amazing story. Let’s go to Roger Waters the man himself who is on the line right now. Many thanks for your time Roger.
Interview with: Roger Waters, Pink Floyd co-founder
Roger Waters: You’re welcome.
Ross Greenwood: Hindsight being hindsight, when you wrote Money say for example, given the fact that the band had so many vitriolic fights, legal fights that have been world documented since then, was money really the root of all evil?
Roger Waters: You know what we didn’t actually have any legal fights. That’s all bullocks, that’s all completely made up. You’re talking about when I left which was in 1985.
Ross Greenwood: Of course, yes.
Roger Waters: We never went to court, we never went anywhere near a court. I did take legal advice at that time. I thought it would be a good idea to retire the name, but I know lots of people have different views on whether you retire names or not. I’m a huge fan of the fact that Robert Plant and Jimmy Page refused to go and tour the world pretending to be Led Zeppelin. That’s just the way I feel about it. I was told very firmly by the lawyer I consulted, he said, “You can if you want, try and be Pink Floyd going on, because you don’t want to work with David and Nick anymore, but you can’t say that the name should be retired because it’s extremely valuable and Englis is really only interested in property. So whatever you think about whether a band should be called this name or that name depending on who’s in it is absolutely irrelevant,” and I didn’t argue at all. I went “Okay, I didn’t understand that. All right, let’s move on then” and we did.
Ross Greenwood: I want to go back to the beginning of it though because when you all come together as artists you’re there for the music not for the intellectual property rights, not necessarily for the matter, you were there for the art. At what point do you have to become a business person who is conscious of global branding?
Roger Waters: No, we weren’t there for the art, we were there because we wanted to pull chicks you know, and make a few quid.
Roger Waters: People don’t go into rock and roll bands for the art, old boy, so you’ve learned one thing.
Ross Greenwood: I have, it’s fantastic.
Roger Waters: We were like 25 years old or something. If we’d been interested in, I don’t know what, maybe one we’d been doing it for a few years and realized how hard it was and realized how uncompromising and how philistine for instance the record companies were. I started writing about it, so in Wish You Were Here particularly, there were songs I wrote like and Welcome to the Machine specifically are about the experience of being involved in the record industry and how the record industries. I was actually involved in a kind of a resistance against — I was making an art out of biting the hand that fed us, in a way. Except it wasn’t them, it was the people that buy the albums. That of course was back in the old days when artists used to get paid for making albums. Not like now.
Ross Greenwood: That’s what I want to come to.
Rogers: You know a wanker from Sweden who owns Spotify stealing everybody’s money.
Ross Greenwood: I wanted to get to that exact point because it’s changed and the way in which you make money now is certainly not the way in which you were capable of making money when you started performing with Pink Floyd or even as a solo artist where album sales and royalties at least were there. These days it’s just not the way for younger people as it was during those early days.
Rogers: It’s not and it’s very sad because a lot of people are very attracted to the idea of writing songs and trying to make music and everybody has a band and they play in their mom or dad’s garage and they whatever. And it used to be that for the one in ten thousand that was actually good enough to attract some attention, you could make a living but now you can’t because they’re stealing it. Because they can make the money out of selling adverts to McDonald’s or Volkswagen or whoever it might be. I cannot tell you how wrong I think it is. But these huge internet corporations who become alluring to themselves.
I’m glad we somehow got around to that because the most awful thing that’s going on in all of our lives at the moment is Google and Facebook and others trying to censor the internet by rewriting the algorithms that define the way their search engines work. Also, not many people notice but Google actually employs 10,000 people to police the Google search method and they’re using those 10,000 people to prevent traffic going to any website that is either politically left wing or anti war or provides a view that is contrary to the view held by the corporations and the oligarchs who own everything and run everything. That is scary.
Ross Greenwood: When you quoted the Wall, if we go back to that period and of course Teachers, Leave Those Kids Alone, and you were talking about the thought police, the way in which kid’s minds were being meddled with at that time, you can actually fast forward that to today arguably, and look at those search engines look at the algorithms that they’re using and you could equally say that that is a similar form of brainwashing.
Rogers: Of course it is. Yes, you’re absolutely right. It’s like, breaking your wall. When my kids were growing up I made them read Brave New World and 1984 among a number of other books, Treasure Island and a few other bits and bobs but to see whether I could encourage them not politically but to enjoy literature. It’s terrifying how we are being amused to our deaths.
Ross Greenwood: If I come to your new album, the title of that Is This the Life We Really Want, is not a bad question to ask a lot of people about the way in which life is moving and so many people’s lives are moving so quickly and of course we’ve got information at our fingertips by the nanosecond, it’s not a bad question to ask people is it?
Rogers: Every single thinking feeling human being in the world should resurrect the campaign for nuclear disarmament from the ’60s where people like me and my very first wife and many others would march from to London and go and listen to or some of these great philosophers and thinkers, encouraging us to try and get rid of the American basis in the United Kingdom and renounce the idea that the UK needed an independent nuclear deterrent, because we were right then and we’re right now. But we now live in a far more dangerous world than we did then.
We live in a world where the idea that it’s good to have a nuclear arsenal if you are a super power has become accepted and yet all the experts who follow atomic energy and nuclear weapons specifically are telling us now that the nuclear clock as they call it is closer to midnight which is when the accident happens or when some moron like Trump decides his red button is so big that he can push it and everything will be all right.
Ross Greenwood: I want to take you to another small thing, a personal side of your life and that is you have been, according to my research married four times.
Rogers: Yes, I have.
Ross Greenwood: What would you say to the virtue of marriage in modern life?
Rogers: I wouldn’t say anything about it because I think I’d be the last person in the world to ask. I’d just say that it may be an indication that I’m a very slow learner.
Ross Greenwood: It could be. Is it the reason why you’re still touring? The S&M Tour of course is in New Zealand as you said, coming to Australia, 64 stadium audiences, and of course we could go back to the whole way in which musicians make money these days largely through live performance but I’m wondering whether actually four marriages is the reason why you’re still touring.
Roger Waters: No, it’s not. I’m glad you’re going back to that subject, because the fact is that I actually did learn in the mobile app and judgment I think. I’m now lucky enough to be living with a fabulous woman. I’ve said more about her except that it’s been a huge surprise to me to discover that there’s somebody that I can be really happy with. We do it by being honest and by talking to each other all the time apart from obviously there’s been an obvious attraction.
I don’t know. I grew up as a young man, I had no idea how to relate to women. None. I did grow up in the– from the ashes of foot blitz. When I was 15 years old, that was 1958, it was a nightmare emotionally for a young man then. It was within that context that I made four really bad marriages.
Ross Greenwood: Right. Finally, I will go to the us and them tour, which is what we originally started to talk about. The whole point about this is–
Roger Waters: You don’t really want to talk about us winning the phase one by an international.
Ross Greenwood: No. We certainly don’t want to talk about that, because that would be a very neglectful thing for me to talk about to be honest [laughs]. Going to the tour, the size of these spectacles when you put them on inside the stadiums, is it the situation these days where the spectacle of the event is really ultimately an important part of the theatrical night of the tour itself?
Roger Waters: I don’t know. You would have to ask the people who go to Katy Perry shows-
Ross Greenwood: Yes [laughs].
Roger Waters: -or whatever because I’m sure they’re spectacular as well. You’d think, “Well, why do you want to go and listen to that nonsense?” I don’t mean to be particularly unkind to Katy Perry. It is whatever. Is it great to go and look at spectacular candy floors? I don’t think– that’s not why people come to my shows. They come to the shows because they want a good crowd or a good– they want to be engaged. They are engaged, because me and my band and my crew and everybody that– we will know why we’re there and we’re there to do that. We’re there to share an emotional experience, because it is big emotional experience for all of us every night.
Ross Greenwood: Whether it’s being out there, it is a spectacular effect from everything I’ve seen and everything I’ve read about it. It really is a piece of art as much as it is a place of music?
Roger Waters: Yes. I only have to make it for every venue we go to. Some of your little shades in Australia we’ve had to cut it down a bit.
Ross Greenwood: Which is not fair.
Roger Waters: [laughs]
Ross Greenwood: Do you find it even after all these years astonishing that people would share out the cash, pay up, hype the tickets, know they’re coming to a good show that’s got a good if you like reputation before it even arrives in town? Do the people have still got the money to come?
Roger Waters: Well, it’s weird because I don’t think the people have. They haven’t got the money to come to all the shows we’re going through. The reason for that is that the only way anybody can make any money in the music business is by getting bonus on the seats at live shows, because nobody pays you anything for making records anymore or for radio play for this sort or the other. They’ve also figured out how to steal all of that, which is awful. It’s true. I’m really concerned for young people who think they may like to write a song or learn to play the guitar and communicate their feelings to other human beings, because nobody wants to pay them for it. I think it should be free.
Ross Greenwood: That’s the problem. Nothing in this world is for free. We’re going to tell people. Roger Waters, currently on tour right around Australia. Brilliant concerts last night in Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney. Now, going around the country on Tuesday, Wednesday this week in Brisbane at the Entertainment Center. Saturday, Sunday and then also Tuesday next week at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne. In Adelaide, at the Entertainment Center on Friday, February 16th and wrapping up in Perth at the Perth Arena on Tuesday, February 20. Roger Waters, it’s great to have your company on the program today.
Roger Waters: Not at all. There is also I believe on one of the days we’re playing at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, there’s also a T20 at the MCG.
Ross Greenwood: Well, I will tell you what. You can just whip across and maybe-
Roger Waters: I’m going to be there.
Ross Greenwood: – have a look at the first turnovers and then just come back and knockout the second set. That will be fun. No problems at all.
Roger Waters: I’m going to say to Julian, “I want to worship freshen you a lot.”
Ross Greenwood: [laughs] Roger Waters, thank you so much for your time.
Roger Waters: Absolutely, Ross. Thanks a lot mate.
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