Exclusive: David Gilmour Looks Darkly at the Future of Pink Floyd

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Earlier this month, Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour released Remember That Night - Live from the Royal Albert Hall, a DVD taken from the London stand of his 2006 world tour featuring guest spots by David Bowie, Graham Nash and David Crosby. Last week he chatted with Rolling Stone's Brian Hiatt about the DVD, his solo career and the possibility of a Pink Floyd reunion: We hate to break it to you, Floyd fans, but the prognosis sounds pretty grim.

How did you get David Bowie to guest at your show? He hasn't been performing live much lately.
We were thinking it would be interesting and amusing to get different people up to guest in places. We wanted to get someone to take Roger's part on "Comfortably Numb" since it's such a two-person sort of conversation. Our tour manager guy had been working a lot with David Bowie, said he had lunch with him, and I said, "Ask him if he wants to come and do 'Comfortably Numb,'" he said he'd love to, and could he do another song as well, and I said, "What would you like to do?" So he did "Arnold Layne," as well.

Do you have a sense of what you're doing after this DVD?
No. the DVD has been an extraordinary amount of work — I never thought quite how much work it was going to be, getting that all together and working on it, and that's taken right up until now, basically. I'm not obsessed with a massive ambition to conquer the world anymore. I just would like it if people took the DVD, as the tour I did around the States was fairly limited, a few cities, and I hope people who've got a great home system, big screen, great speakers, and will invite a few friends over for a couple of beers and sit down and dig it. I watched it last week, and it was just fantastic. It was a great experience.

What are your hobbies outside of music? What will you do if you're not working for the next few months?
I'm raising a young family, that sort of stuff takes up an awful lot of time. First time around, when you raise a family when you're young and ambitious, the family sort of takes second place to your ambition. When you get a second shot at it, I think your attitude may change — certainly, mine has, and I want to put them first. I've done an awful lot of stuff, so while I'm definitely going to get back to it one of these days, do another record and some more gigs, there's not that sense of urgency.

You mentioned something about going out with a lighter burden — is some of that not carrying the Pink Floyd name with you?
Yes. There's a load of expectations that you can ignore, but it's difficult to ignore when you go out as Pink Floyd. When you just give yourself your own name and go out, people are going to want you to do whatever you want to do, that's kind of implicit in the title, isn't it? I felt much more at ease and much more able to maybe rehearse something for half an hour at a soundcheck and then do it in the evening, and take a much more relaxed approach to some of it.

The inevitable question: The last I heard, you were speaking of Live 8 as perhaps the end of the story of Pink Floyd. What's your current thoughts on the subject?

What I've been doing for the last couple of years — what I was in the middle of when Live 8 came along — was my album, and that's what I'm thinking about. It's been a joy and very satisfying, and the album did very well, even though Rolling Stone only gave it two stars. Everything went so well, I can't see why I would want to be going back to that old thing. It's very retrogressive. I want to look forward, and looking back isn't my joy. Roger hasn't written a lyric lately that has really been something where I've gone, "Wow, I wish that was part of my oeuvre." I don't know how one puts it, but going back into all that just wouldn't bring me joy. It's my time of life to be selfish — please myself.

 

You could do it without Roger again.
Yeah, yeah. One could do that. But again, I can't really see why I would want to, unless I wanted a big boost for my ego or a big boost for my bank account, neither of which I need that badly.

They offer you outrageous sums of money to do this.
They did, yeah.

It must be strange to say, "No, I'm not taking that enormous sum of money."
I can't — it's a very hard thing to discuss, really. To you and to virtually everyone in the public, they would find that a difficult thing to understand, because believe me, when I was impoverished, I wouldn't have turned it down so easily. Life has dealt me a pretty fair hand, I've done very well, I've been very, very lucky, and now I can say, "This isn't what I want to do." As they say, every man has his price, and maybe that's true, but whatever we've been offered isn't mine.

Have you spoken to Roger since Live 8?
Yeah. Yes, I have. He called me up about something a little while ago. It's nice. Of course, he was rehearsing. In the documentary that goes with the DVD, there's a moment of me saying hi to Roger, where we were rehearsing, at Bray Studios near London at the same time last year.

So there's been a little bit of a thaw?
Yeah. We're not calling each other every week and going out for dinner every week, but the week of Live 8, we went out for dinner a couple of times. It's a bit more reasonable. I think there are fundamental differences of opinion and view. As Roger likes to say, we are musically, philosophically, and politically different.

 

As a Beatles fan, there was something Lennon and McCartney could do together that they couldn't do apart. Are you willing to accept that that's true of you and Roger — and yet still not do it? Yeah, I am willing to accept that. I know that art should be about everything, and therefore, one should get over all one's differences to create art. But I suspect that our conjunction of people and musicality and taste and intelligence has run out of steam. Roger thought it had in 1975. Certainly, I don't have any particular desire for it. What one is willing to sacrifice for one's art is another whole point, and that's beyond that I'm willing to do right at the moment.

So if you're going to do another solo record, we have a few years to wait?
Well, not too long — not as long as the last time, and that's twelve years, which is a little excessive.