Interviewing Roger Waters can be a wild ride. If he likes a question, he’s happy to pontificate at length, but bore him with tired inquiries and angry Roger “If you don’t eat your meat, you won’t get any pudding!” Waters can come out, though usually only for a few frightening seconds. The occasion for Rolling Stone‘s latest chat with the Pink Floyd co-founder was the impending release of Roger Waters The Wall, a CD/Blu-ray document of his recent Wall tour, out December 1st, but inevitably politics came up quite a bit. Waters happened to phone mere seconds after Joe Biden announced he wasn’t running for president; knowing his interest in the political scene, we started with that. Perhaps it wasn’t the best idea.
Hey, Roger. Did you see the news about Joe Biden? He just said he’s not running for president.
I can’t understand a word you’re saying. You aren’t making any sense.
I was just saying that Joe Biden announced he’s not running for president.
And I’m surprised. I really thought he was going to go for it.
[Three-second pause] Thanks for sharing your opinion.
Okay, then. Let’s talk about The Wall. Why do you think it has managed to connect with so many people over the past 35 years?
After the death of the protest movement, which was quite strong among young people in the 1960s and 1970s, though it somehow got dissipated in the Silicon Valley revolution, I think people are ready now to start confronting very broad philosophical and political issues, and The Wall is absolutely packed with them. And a lot of these issues have to do with quality of life, and they also have to do with life and death.
And so I think The Wall allows us to focus our attention on a fundamental question, which would be whether or not we want to live in societies that are very, very similar to East Germany before Perestroika, should I say. I mean, I’m not going to go back to the 1930s because I should get into terrible trouble, but I think people are just beginning, as they sleepwalk their way through imperial capitalism, to realize the law is being eroded and the military are taking over commerce and the corporations are taking over government and that we the people no longer have a voice. To some extent, The Wall is asking the question, “Do you want a voice? And if you do, you better bloody well go out and get it because it’s not going to be handed to you on a plate.”
How has the meaning of the album changed for you since the time you wrote it?
[Sighs] I’ve answered this question so many times. At the start, it was much more a personal narrative about a man in his twenties who couldn’t quite make sense of what was going on in his life and why he felt so isolated from other human beings and really unable to reach out. And it was expressed because I had experienced that as a very successful young musician standing on the stage in front of an audience and realizing there was this extreme disconnect between how I felt and how they felt. And that’s where The Wall came from, that feeling of disconnection and it was why I thought of using the theatrical device of physically building a wall in front of the stage in order to express my feeling of alienation.