David Gilmour Discusses Guitars, Blues and 'The Division Bell' in 1994 Guitar World Interview
In this interview from the September 1994 issue of Guitar World, David Gilmour discusses his perspective -- personal, political and musical -- on Pink Floyd's great return.
Was recording the album cathartic for you?
No. I don't really think so. I can't really say that there was a huge angst that needed to be purged through songwriting. It wasn't like The Wall. But, on the other hand, maybe I did need to unload my subconscious. It just never really struck me that way.
Several songs on the album, like "Keep Talking," suggest that all problems can be solved through discussion. Do you believe that?
It's more of a wish than a belief. [laughs]
Do you find it difficult to express your feelings verbally?
Yes, I do, I suppose. I mean, I have moments of huge frustration because of my inability to express myself linguistically as clearly as I would like to. A lot of people think that I express myself most clearly through the guitar playing. I don't really know about that. But it's just... I don't like that feeling of frustration when you don't quite have the words to say what you want to say.
You collaborated with other lyricists on The Division Bell. Was that to help you express your ideas more clearly?
Well, a lot of the lyrics were the result of a collaboration between myself and my girlfriend, Polly Samson. She's a journalist and writer. After I would write some lyrics, it just seemed natural to have her look through them. In the beginning she tried not to interfere at all, and tried to encourage me to do it on my own. But, of course, that isn't the way things stay. And as time went by, she got more and more involved with the process that was beginning to absorb me 24 hours a day. Her involvement with the lyric-writing process -- and, in fact, with the music -- grew.
It's been really nice to work with Polly and have input from someone who never wanted to write a pop song. And I imagine it was very good for her to realize that her brain could actually function musically, although she had no musical skill whatsoever. Her assistance was invaluable.
A musical novice can often see something that would elude a trained musician.
The album has a lot to do with people's failure to communicate, so it must have been interesting to discuss those kinds of barriers with someone you're close to. Did it help your relationship?
Oh, of course. Some of the lyrics actually came out of our relationship. And some, unfortunately, came after moments of lack of communication between us. For example, the title "What Do You Want From Me?'' came out of exactly one of those moments.
It doesn't surprise me that the record has a more emotional vibe than those where the lyrics were written primarily by Roger Waters. [Bassist/composer Waters left Floyd in 1985, citing creative and philosophical disagreements -- GW Ed.] Your guitar playing has always been Pink Floyd's emotional anchor.
It has been said. And I would agree with that.
Did you discover anything about yourself as you were going through the process of writing and working on this record?
[slightly annoyed] I don't know what I've discovered about myself, really. No, I don't. I haven't a clue. What was really nice about the recording of this record was that myself and Rick [Wright, keyboardist] and Nick [Mason, drummer] came together and worked well as a unit in a way that we hadn't done for many, many years. Additionally, I discovered another separate creative team -- a lyric-writing team consisting of me, Polly and my close friend Nick Laird-Clowes. And although there were two separate teams, The Division Bell does feel like a very cohesive record. It feels like we all meant it and like we all played together very well. And the whole thing is very much a joint effort -- in a much greater way than, for example, the last album, Momentary Lapse Of Reason.
Why are you relating better to Nick and Rick?
Probably because we are all playing and functioning much better than we were after the trials and tribulations of the late Roger years. Recording A Momentary Lapse of Reason was a very, very difficult process. We were all sort of catatonic. Unfortunately, we didn't really work together an awful lot.
But the success of that album, and the success of the supporting tour and the enjoyment that we got out of working together -- particularly on the last tour -- meant that this one could be made in a different way. It's a much more satisfying way to work than the way that A Momentary Lapse Of Reason came together. Yeah, they're very different albums.
Does it feel like a new band for you?
It feels like a good start. It feels like there's better things to come. I'm really, really happy and very proud of this album.
There was a long period between this and the last studio album. Why?
It's just that we didn't feel like working. I don't want to be a full-time member of Pink Floyd all my life. The ambition stage of our career is kind of behind us. I mean, we've accomplished most of the things we've wanted to accomplish. It's now just a pleasure to make a record. But it's still very hard to get yourself psyched-up and motivated to do it. I have many other things in my life; Pink Floyd is now one of a number of things. You earn the right -- and we have earned the right -- to take time off. When you're starting out on a career, you don't have that luxury. You have to devote every minute of every day in every year to work. You just have to work so hard and so consistently to make a career out of this business that we're in. And for me, I just don't have to do it quite as much.
Although the album clearly makes a personal statement, it also contains some specific political statements. On "A Great Day For Freedom," for instance, you address the great hopes triggered by the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the disappointment that followed in Europe.
Yeah. Well, it's kind of tragic what has happened in the eastern parts of Europe. There was a wonderful moment of optimism when the Wall came down -- the release of Eastern Europe from the nondemocratic side of the socialist system. But what they have now doesn't seem to be much better.
Again, I'm fairly pessimistic about it all. I sort of wish and live in hope, but I tend to think that history moves at a much slower pace than we think it does. I feel that real change takes a long, long time. We see the superficial changes that people think are enormous. But they pass, and several years down the road you find yourself back at the same place you were 20 years before, thinking, "My God, all of this happened and nothing happened."
"Lost for Words" also reflects a certain pessimism. The lyrics read, "So I open my door to my enemies/ And I ask could we wipe the slate clean/But they tell me to please go fuck myself/You know you just can't win." What do you do when somebody just tells you to go fuck yourself?
Well, the options are immediate. [laughs] You can simply become a good contortionist -- there's one option. Or just deck him. Or talk the matter out.
At what point do you think a relationship is no longer worth pursuing?
I don't know if that's something I can put into words. But it seems that I'm usually prepared to stick it out a lot longer than what, in hindsight, one should.
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