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Derek Trucks on the magic of Pink Floyd: “David Gilmour created his own universe on guitar through his tone and approach”

Derek Trucks and David Gilmour
(Image credit: Jeff Hahne / Jorgen Angel / Getty)

Modern slide guitar maestro Derek Trucks discusses his enduring love and admiration for Gilmour’s playing and tells us just why “you can’t duplicate that shit!”

“It’s hard to find just one specific track to key in on with a player as talented as David Gilmour. When you go back to those early Pink Floyd records now, you can hear there has obviously been an evolution. But other things about Pink Floyd remained absolutely unchanged. There are certain things you can’t run from if that’s who you are!

“That whole idea of having your own musical identity is very beautiful. That’s why we do it, to express who we are. David Gilmour is one of those characters who has this holistic thing going on. I feel like he’s created his own universe on guitar through his tone and approach. And you can hear it in his earliest recordings with Floyd – on things like The Nile Song.

“When he plays, it takes you back and makes you feel like you’re in a certain place. So whenever I hear him, it takes me back to spending time with one of my uncles when I was growing up. He was such a massive Pink Floyd fan, specifically David Gilmour’s guitar playing. Any time I hear that tone, those are the things I feel and think about. It’s always been there for me, with all these sounds that felt so magical.

“I can’t think of a single time I’ve seen him or heard David play and not enjoyed it. I’m always intrigued by what he’s doing. You know pretty immediately when it’s him plugged in, his sound is very singular. I can’t think of anyone else you could mistake him for... even though so many people have been influenced by him. 

“There’s a whole wave of players that got into the soundscape-y thing because of Pink Floyd, but you can’t duplicate that shit! I don’t know if it’s in his hands or the way he hears things or the way he attacks his instrument or dials in his gear... whatever it is, for some reason, a few people have it and most others don’t!

“But I guess a big part of that sound comes from his bending. It’s how he gets into those notes, and sometimes it’s already halfway bent before he strikes the notes but always perfectly controlled. It’s a rare thing, being able to make your guitar speak like that. Not many people can do it that well!

“This reminds me of a Hubert Sumlin moment I had. I would listen to his playing on those old Howlin’ Wolf records from the 60s, trying to figure it all out and find those sounds, like, ‘How the hell was he doing that?’ 

He could play through anything and you’ll know pretty quickly it’s him. I always thought it was the gear but, actually, it rarely is!

“And then one time we were backstage at a festival and he came into our room. There was this new Fender amp with a digital display on it and all these knobs, plus a brand new guitar with a tag on it. He plugged in and it was that same f*ckin’ sound from the 60s! I was wondering how that’s even possible. 

“But it was just his hands and how he attacks each note, which is just like Gilmour. He could play through anything and you’ll know pretty quickly it’s him. I always thought it was the gear but, actually, it rarely is!”

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Amit has been writing for titles like Total GuitarMusicRadar and Guitar World for over a decade and counts Richie Kotzen, Guthrie Govan and Jeff Beck among his primary influences. He's interviewed everyone from Ozzy Osbourne and Lemmy to Slash and Jimmy Page, and once even traded solos with a member of Slayer on a track released internationally. As a session guitarist, he's played alongside members of Judas Priest and Uriah Heep in London ensemble Metalworks, as well as handling lead guitars for legends like Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols, The Faces) and Stu Hamm (Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, G3).