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.
The album ends with a funny little studio snippet of you talking to a little boy named Charlie. It seemed to suggest that the potential for miscommunication spans generations.
That is pretty succinct. [laughs]
At the same time, you must find it interesting that your music has multi-generational appeal. I saw people of all ages at your show.
It does really surprise me. But I think that we do have sort of a timeless quality. I listened to Dark Side Of The Moon last year around the time of the release of our Shine On boxed set, and I remember feeling that it was pretty timeless. And a lot of the issues that we have dealt with -- that Roger wrote about in his lyrics, if you like -- are pretty timeless. They are things that apply to any generation.
The band's success stems from the fact that it confronts ideas that have puzzled man from Day One.
Well, I'm certainly still a puzzled man. [laughs]
How involved are you with the staging of the band?
We were constantly involved during the entire process of designing and building the stage. Lots of things got turned down. And we wound up with the sort of thing that we all agree is good.
Earlier you said that you prefer not to explain the meaning of your lyrics, but in the staging of shows past and present, you have used lots of very literal props to illustrate your ideas: flying pigs, crashing airplanes, collapsing walls...
Yes. Yes. [laughs] That's true. But I think this show is a little less literal and more impressionistic. lt's a little less flashy, and because of that I'm probably more satisfied with this tour than any we've done.
Let's talk about the live show a little bit. I noticed that you began each set with a little tribute to Syd Barrett. [Barrett, Pink Floyd's founding singer/guitarist, left the band in 1968 due to mental illness.] The first set leads off with Syd's "Astronomy Domine," and the second set opens with "Shine On You Crazy Diamond," which makes allusions to Syd. Am I reading too much into this?
I think so. It wasn't a conscious decision to pay homage to Syd. We've probably paid homage to him quite enough. [laughs] We basically just wanted to widen the spectrum a little bit, and find one or two pieces of music we haven't done before. "Astronomy" just struck us as being a very good opening number. It's fun to go back and do that, despite some of the lyrics -- it's hard to sing it with a straight face. And "Shine On" was a terrific opener for the last tour, so now we just use it to open the second half of the show.
It must cross your mind, from time to time, how your life would be different if you hadn't replaced Syd in the band. Do you feel indebted to him at all?
Yes, of course, I do. I feel a debt to Syd. I was very fortunate. His bad luck was good luck for me. Of course, one can not possibly know what would have happened. Luckily, I don't have to ponder that too deeply. [laughs]
Your particular relationship with stardom is a little peculiar. You front one of the most popular bands in the world, yet you've managed to keep a low profile. You're modest almost to a perverse point. For example, during your solo for "Comfortably Numb," which is one the highlights of the concert, the laser show directs the audience away from you.
That is a little perverse. But it's a two-and-a-half hour show, and I think I get more adoration than I probably deserve. So I can't really worry about the odd moments when people are watching something else.
Are there moments in the show that you really look forward to?
I enjoy the newer material. At the same time, I realize that you have to achieve a balance between playing all the stuff that you'd want to play and playing stuff that you know the audience wants to hear. I don't harbor any resentment against the audience for wanting to hear our older material. They aren't making value judgments. They're more familiar with the older songs, and how they are connected to moments in their lives.
Let's talk about your guitar playing on some of the new songs. "What Do You Want From Me?" is a straight Chicago blues tune. Are you still a blues fan?
Absolutely -- even though I don't listen to very much blues anymore. I did listen to quite a lot when I was young. But I also listened to a lot of folk music and a lot of everything else.
Your blues influence is obvious, but I do hear a lot of folky, hymn-like overtones on some of your quieter songs like "On The Turning Away," "Wish You Were Here" and "Poles Apart."
I actually learned the guitar with the help of a Pete Seeger [folk legend and writer of "Turn, Turn, Turn"] instructional record when I was 13 or 14. And I did listen to a lot offolk and folk-blues. Leadbelly [African American folksinger] and Pete Seeger were both big influences on me.
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