A couple of years ago, Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour and Nick Mason dug out about 20 hours of instrumental recordings they’d recorded with Rick Wright during the 1993 Division Bell sessions. Stunned at the quality of what they heard, they decided to revisit the material, recording new drum and guitar parts on top of the existing tracks. “As we went through this process, our minds focused on the fact that Rick isn’t coming back,” says David Gilmour. “We’ll never get another chance to play with him. This is his last recorded moment with Pink Floyd. It’s so sad.”
The end result of their work is The Endless River, a mostly instrumental Pink Floyd album that hits shelves on November 10th. We spoke with Gilmour about assembling the album, why Roger Waters isn’t a part of it, why this truly marks the end of Pink Floyd and his future plans for his solo career.
What made you decide to return to this material after all this time?
It’s been 20 years since The Division Bell. For a couple years we’ve been looking at things that, for one reason or another, didn’t make the album. It just seemed like a good moment to have a look at what we had and put this together. We were thrilled and really pleased with the material we found in the vault. There were things we could scarcely remember recording.
You originally saw the The Division Bell as a double album, right?
There was some discussion of that, but this is not really the other half of The Division Bell. This is separate. When we began that album, Rick, Nick and I took time to get to know each other musically again. We hadn’t played together, at least loosely and without any intent, in a long time. Our albums tended to start with one or two people writing a song and then the whole group would put it together. This was a more organic way of starting something. I suppose you could say we got lured back into the old way of doing things when we made The Division Bell.
I can see now that there are all sorts of options about the way The Division Bell could have gone. But the album is what it is, and it sounds great. I listened to it just last week. I suppose you could say this is a sidekick to it.
What state were these songs in when you dug them out?
It was a very wide palette of stuff. A lot of these things, particularly from the first couple of weeks, were just us jamming together at Nick’s Britannia Row studio. We didn’t even have a multitrack. I had mics going through the control desk and coming out to a DAT player in the other room. If anything sounded remotely interesting, I’d just press record. It was never even properly balanced and it was committed straight to stereo. What you can do to that is add stuff, but you can’t edit and take away.
Then there’s other tracks we recorded on my house boat. Those went to multitrack. On some of those, we’ve subsequently added drums, guitar and voices. But there’s only one song [“Louder Than Words”] with lyrics, which were written by [my wife] Polly Sampson, who wrote most of the lyrics on The Division Bell and my solo album On an Island. When we listened back to everything, we realized there was something great there we could tweak into something.