David Gilmour Discusses Guitars, Blues and 'The Division Bell' in 1994 Guitar World Interview
Here's an interview with David Gilmour of Pink Floyd from the September 1994 issue of Guitar World. To see the Pink Floyd cover -- and all the GW covers from 1994 -- click here.
With a number one album, a high-profile stadium tour and non-stop radio airplay, Pink Floyd appear to be everywhere -- and, oddly, nowhere.
In an era when MTV appearances and revealing magazine interviews are de rigueur for rock stars on the make, the members of Floyd have methodically kept the media at bay. You find their mugs plastered on the cover of Rolling Stone or Entertainment Weekly. Don’t expect to see them on Letterman anytime soon. In fact, if you happen to be lucky enough to scalp a ticket to one of their sold-out shows, you may even miss them on stage, shrouded by state-of-the-art stage production, the band performs their spacey anthems while obscured by clouds of dry ice and laser technology.
And group leader David Gilmour wouldn’t have it any other way.
Sporting a fresh crew-cut and dressed in meticulously pressed black clothes, the earnest guitarist/vocalist could easily pass for one of the hipper graying, urban professionals that comprise part of his audience. "I cannot tell you how happy I am about the accidents and the choices that have brought me to the place where I can sing what I want to, get paid very well for it and still be able to live like a normal human being," Gilmour says with visible relief "It's having the best of all possible worlds.
"Occasionally I get these sort of out-of-body experiences when I'm on stage, standing in front of maybe 60,000 people. I look at myself, thinking, 'Good Lord, how on earth did this happen?' One part of my brain is fully focused on performing, and the other part is somewhere else, thinking, 'How extraordinary it is -- but how lucky I am!'"
Lucky, yes; happy -- that's another story. Pink Floyd's brilliant new recording, The Division Bell(Columbia), strongly suggests that Gilmour still has one or two personal demons rattling around his cage. The album -- named after the bell in the British House Of Commons that summons members to parliamentary debate -- is a thinly veiled documentary of the guitarist's battle-scarred relationships with the women in his life and with ex-bandmate Roger Waters. Considering the recording's delicate subject matter, it 's little wonder that he exercises his right to be selective about who he talks to.
MONTREAL, CANADA - A crew numbering well over 100 scurry around making last-minute preparations for the second of three sold-out Pink Floyd concerts at the city 's Olympia Stadium. The 180-foot stage is truly miraculous. Consisting of a 130-foot arch constructed from 700 tons of steel, it serves as the launching pad for one of the most visually ambitious tours in rock history. Soon, it will spring to life, dazzling over 80,000 Floyd fanatics with a light show designed to make the aurora borealis look like a 10-cent sparkler.
Gilmour promises to chat after a quick afternoon rehearsal with Floyd's expanded road band, which features keyboardist Rick Wright and drummer Nick Mason, both original members, and seven additional musicians. The rehearsal beings with Gilmour leading the group through a powerful version of “Eclipse,” the majestic grand finale to the haunting best-seller Dark Side of the Moon. The band plays it through three more times, effecting minor changes in tempo and dynamics with each performance.
Suddenly, in a fleeting moment between takes, the ensemble, with the exception of Gilmour, launches into a raucous version of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love." Floyd playing Zep -- it's a classic Classic Rock moment! But it immediately becomes apparent that taskmaster Gilmour is not amused. "Love" quickly peters out, and it's back to the business at hand.
The rehearsal finishes 30 minutes later, and David is ready to speak. When asked about the band's impromptu Zeppelin jam, the soft-spoken Englishman deadpans, "Oh yes, I docked them a week's wages for that."
Gilmour is extremely polite throughout our encounter, but he never lets his guard down. Secrecy has always been an essential component of the Pink Floyd mystique and he dispenses information sparingly. "I don't like to get too specific about lyrics," he warns. "It places limitations on them, and spoils the listeners' interpretation." He is similarly reluctant to talk about his instrument, explaining that he gets "really bored of talking about guitars and amps, because I just can't remember what I used on anything."
But as the conversation progresses, the reticent rocker opens up-and the walls come tumbling down.
GUITAR WORLD: Why have you been so reluctant to talk about The Division Bell?
l found that there's very little that one wants to say about it. I mean, I don't know if it's just a stage in my life, but I just don't feel like saying very much about how I write songs and what they mean and all that sort of stuff. But we'll give it a whirl. I'm not trying to be unhelpful. Forgive me. It's got nothing to do with anything except me.
Fair enough. Overall, The Division Bell seems to be about man's inability to communicate with other humans. Obviously, you've given much thought to this matter.
Well, it was never really a conscious decision to take it on as a theme -- it just happened. One or two things started to move in that direction, and as soon as a theme begins to appear, I find it very hard to get away from it.
Do you find that you need a theme to get the creative juices flowing?
I don't think so. But, usually, one eventually appears in my work. Something comes up that ties the whole thing together. Your mood at the time of making and writing an album usually supplies the subject matter. In the past I have tried to sit down and consciously create a concept, but it never seemed to work very well. It has to appear naturally. And it has to be a kind of a nebulous one, that's come up of its own volition.
Like most Floyd albums, The Division Bell has a universal theme. But it also seems more intimate than your past work. Were you trying to create something more personal?
I wasn't trying to. Again, all I can really say is that it is just the way it seemed to come up. It probably had something to do with "High Hopes," my first composition for the album. The song originated from a phrase that my girlfriend suggested, about how time brings you down. Oddly, the line that she gave me wasn't really important. There was just something in it that sparked me into thinking about my childhood and my life in Cambridge, England. So, if you like, the first thing that got written for the album was much more personal than I've tended to be. And I suppose it set the scene for what was to follow.