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WIND BACK WEDNESDAY: BREAKING THROUGH THE WALL OF ROGER WATERS

January 9, 2018

It’s less than a month away from Roger Waters’ Australian tour, which will include material from his full career. In 2007, as he toured here for the first time in an age, he was finally coming to terms with the legacy of Floyd: the songs, the relationships, the bitterness. God, and humanity, on the other hand? Well, not so much.

 

THE (NOT QUITE AS) DARK SIDE OF THE MAN

 

In Roger Waters' hotel suite a grand piano in one corner of the suite suggests no one is concerned he might emulate his most famous alter ego, the emotionally barren, wholly self-destructive rock star from Pink Floyd's album and film, The Wall, and trash the joint.

 

On the coffee table is a pile of books he's reading on this tour of Australia, on top of which is a copy of Richard Dawkins' religious-baiting book The God Delusion.

 

The tall, slim Waters, whose long, wavy grey hair ironically gives him the air of a bohemian post-Vatican II priest, is eager to get stuck into it, having already enjoyed Sam Harris's book The End Of Faith, another provocative poke at continuing religious belief.

 

It's not a surprising reading list given faith and its consequences have been direct and indirect issues within many of Waters' songs, both for Pink Floyd and in his solo work since an acrimonious split in the 1980s with the other three members of the band.

 

"I think the fact that people are beginning to make these points, in a coherent way that is getting media attention, is fundamentally important to the possibilities of our children having proper lives," he says.

 

"I think the holy scriptures are superstitious nonsense. I think more and more the empirical evidence goes to support that view. It's great that people like Dawkins are actually writing very easy to read and coherent expressions of my point of view [he chuckles] so I'm pleased about that. So yes, you're right, [the place of religion] is absolutely central to all I do now."

In the second half of the concerts on this tour, for the first time, Waters is performing in full Pink Floyd's era defining 1973 album, Dark Side Of The Moon (which recently was voted by ABC listeners and viewers as one of their all-time favourite albums).

 

It was on that album that Waters, who as a very young child lost his father during the war, grew up in the emotionally stunted post-war years and lost his friend, Floyd's founding member and principal songwriter Syd Barrett, to psychosis, began to exercise and exorcise his personal demons as he sought to understand himself.

 

Religion is an obvious answer that others might have taken, but he chose not to. What did he find instead?

 

In one of his poems printed in the program for this tour, named after and inspired by a viewing of the concert film The Last Waltz, Waters writes "I just want that thing when voices join in harmony".

 

His 1992 album Amused To Death tackled some of these issues too.

 

"It' s the eternal question, whether man as a group is capable of good, or whether we are doomed to always make evil choices," Waters says.

 

Has he not seen evidence of man being capable of good?

 

"Well I have, in individual circumstances, obviously, but as a group, as a species, as I say in Amused To Death, ‘give any species too much rope and they fuck it up’.  We're doing a pretty royal job of fucking up at the moment."

 

It may not be surprising then that one of the appellations commonly attached to Waters is that he is at best self-loathing but possibly misanthropic.

 

"I'm not misanthropic at all," he says calmly. "I have to say though, as I have grown older and dealt with one or two of my specific personal psychological, philosophical problems, I found it easier myself to be nicer to people that I used to be when I was a snotty kid, a snotty young man. Which is good."

 

In a flippant way, you could say that looking at the possibility of human beings living together rather than in opposition, if the members of Pink Floyd can get back on stage together, as they did last year for the Live 8 concert, then anything is possible.

Waters laughs. "I guess the Live 8 thing could have been seen as symbolic of something, and in fact I did make some comments to that end.

 

“It did seem that to be wandering around espousing this idea of communicating and solving problems while not talking to [Floyd guitarist and vocalist Dave] Gilmour was hypocritical."

 

The emotional response of fans to that reunion stunned Waters. Enough for him at least - if not Gilmour, unfortunately for fans - to countenance the idea of a longer lasting reformation after two decades of being virulently opposed to the idea.

 

Maybe like Lou Reed who in Sydney last week with the stage production of his album Berlin went from a famously irascible if not downright abusive singer to a pleasant and emotional human being, there is something to be said for the cliche that as you get older you start realising you wasted too much time and energy with hating and anger.

 

"There is no question that that is true," Waters says. "Part of the reason I'm here is that since I started touring again in 1999, the connection that I feel with the audience - which is something that I was never interested in, never have anything to do with in the days of the Floyd - is something that I not only enjoy immensely but I concede has enormous value for me.

 

"And for them [in the audience] actually."

 

 

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