Roger Waters once wrote an entire rock opera about the dangers of isolation, but life in self-quarantine seemed to be suiting him as he hung out in his home studio in mid-April. He was spending time continuing to prep for his postponed-until-2021 This Is Not a Drill Tour, recording music (including a tribute to his late friend John Prine), and pursuing his fervent interest in leftist politics and world affairs (the night before, he’d watched “a series of webinars about the whole story of Syria”). “If you’re looking for the silver lining,” Waters says of being stuck at home, “it can help you to focus on things.”
You work incredibly hard on your tours. How do you feel about having to postpone this one?
Yeah, well, we haven’t stopped work. We didn’t stop for a single second. The show is part rock & roll arena show, part cinema. It’s couched on this idea that we are divided between the ruling classes, who I characterize as living in the iCloud. They live in the sky — it’s all white up there, and they live in great luxury. And then there’s the netherworld where the rest of us shuffle around, uncomfortably numb. And then there’s a third place, the bar, which is a figment of my imagination, where people from all over the world, all communities, colors, creeds, religions can gather and speak to one another. I will be employing actors to be characters in the bar — I’m already casting, and I’ve written the whole screenplay.
Are you pulling together songs from both your own catalog and Pink Floyd’s — maybe ones you haven’t played on recent tours?
I hate to be the one to have to point this out to you, but they’re all my songs! I can throw together a set list of any song that I ever wrote in my life, with the exception of some of the early ones. I’m not sure where “Set the Controls [for the Heart of the Sun]” might fit into this narrative. Because that was when I was in my early twenties and I was copying shit out of books of Chinese poetry.
Last year, you had some kind of attempted peace meeting between you and David Gilmour. What happened there?
I did. It’s funny that you should say between me and him. There wasn’t an elephant in the room. There was a drummer in the room! Nick [Mason] was there. Only three of us are alive. Syd [Barrett]’s dead and Rick [Wright]’s dead. I wrote out a sort of a plan, but my plan didn’t bear fruit. It was just, Can we release the remastered vinyl version of Animals without it turning into the third world war? I said, “Why don’t we have a vote, and at least we can just get on with it?” But they wouldn’t have that. God knows why.
In these awful times, it’s tempting to think it would be nice for estranged bands to reunite, isn’t it?
No, it wouldn’t be nice! It would be fucking awful. Obviously if you’re a fan of those days of Pink Floyd, well, then you have a different point of view. But I had to live through it. That was my life. I know in the wake of it I’ve been cast as something of a villain … so be it. I can live with that. But would I trade my liberty for those chains? No fucking way.
It’s scary to realize how many of our most beloved touring acts are in their seventies or older, and to contemplate what that means for their touring future. Has it occurred to you that some of your peers may have already played their last shows?
Well, some people are playing their last shows anyway, because they’re too fucking old! Like me, for instance. I thought long and hard before rebooking this tour for next summer. I had to make the decision of whether to push the button or not. I’m 76, so next year I will be pushing 77. I find it hard to imagine doing a rock & roll arena show when I’m 80. You know, everything comes to an end. Nobody lives forever.
You’re a Bernie Sanders supporter and no fan of Joe Biden. Are you at all swayed by the arguments of people like Noam Chomsky that those on the left have a duty to vote for the Democratic candidate?
It’s one of the few issues where I’m on the fence. I cannot imagine Biden beating Trump in an election. Biden is such a fucking slimeball, and he’s so weak, and he has no appeal to anybody. Trump at least is a snake-oil salesman. He does tricks. He does them really badly, but people don’t care. They kind of like all of that. But I’m still staggering under the weight of them having rejected the only candidate that represented the people in America, who was Bernie Sanders, and still is. I honestly don’t know where I stand on that lesser-of-two-evils question.
You love the music of John Prine, and other rootsier stuff, like the Band. Ever thought of recording music that’s more in that vein?
It’s funny you should ask that. I made a new version of [Prine’s] “Paradise,” and I confess to thinking this morning, “I could definitely do ‘Hello in There,’ ” and, “I wonder what key ‘Sam Stone’ is in?” And I desperately want to do “Donald and Lydia.” Imagine the joy, even for myself, of recording those songs and allowing part of my life to be living through that experience.