PINK FLOYD - Rick Wright interview, Part 2

The second half of my Rick Wright interview from November, 1974. I think this was the first time any of the group had discussed ‘Shine On’ being about Syd Barrett.

The films that accompany Pink Floyd on stage aren’t Rick’s territory, but he feels there’s still room for improvement in the visual aspects of their show. “It was hard work for Roger, Nick and Arthur Max, the sound engineer, but it’s still not right. I think we are still at the experimental stage in finding out what visuals work and which don’t – even after all these years.
         “It’s so easy to have a film that is distracting, and, of course, I’ve never any idea what the effect of the film is: I’m always on stage playing. People always expect the Floyd to come up with something different, new and better when it comes to visuals, and it’s very difficult to keep thinking of new ideas.
         “The projector for the film was incredibly expensive and we got a new mixing desk too, which was also expensive. Buying those will probably mean we lose money on this tour, but that doesn’t matter because we’ll recoup it on later tours. We can never make money in England with 25 in the crew.
         ‘“We have got a new guy mixing the sound and he is used to working in a studio. Last night was the first time he’s worked with a live band and that’s why the first half of the concert wasn’t right. The second half was easier because he’d got to know us and the board by then.
         “We spent two weeks rehearsing at Elstree before this tour but in the end we couldn’t spend one whole day playing because of problems fitting the new system together. Also it demanded a lot of attention getting the notes for the first half of the show, which we hadn’t played much before this tour. Dave had to have the words of the songs stuck on to the top of his guitar.”
         I commented that I thought the three new songs were harsher, heavier numbers than the Floyd usually played and Rick agreed.
         “Yes, it’s the way the numbers have been written and it’s the way we played them. We always play heavier when we don’t know songs so well. When we first performed Dark Side it was heavier and harsher than it is now. As we get to know a song better, we tend to play it quieter.
         Rick confirmed that that ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’ was about Syd Barrett. “We don’t see much of him now since he left and we’re definitely a different band since his day. Thank God we’re not the same. I know that it’s very fashionable to like Syd these days, but I think we have improved immensely since he left, especially live. He was a brilliant songwriter and he was fantastic on Piper, but he was in the wrong state to play any music.
         “I am all for people trying to keep his name going, but... he hasn’t written anything for years. His two solo albums show the way he was going. The first album was better than the second and since then no one has been able to get him into a studio.”
         Rick seemed anxious to change the subject from his former colleague, so I inquired why it was the Floyd played live so infrequently.
         “We all differ in opinions about how much we should play live. Dave and I would like to do more live work, but Roger and Nick are happy with the way it is.
         “It’s such a headache going on the road and all of us except Dave are married with kids. I believe it’s very important that I am a good father and I am around with my children.
         “We limit ourselves to three-week tours and this has saved us from going mad. I feel that if we worked for weeks and weeks on the road all the time we wouldn’t be producing such good music.
         “Bands who work live all the time do it purely for the money, I think. No band can really enjoy playing one-nighters week after week, so it must be a financial rather than a musical motive.
         “Last year, apart from a French tour, we didn’t go out on the road at all, and we had a number one album in the States.
         “We could have gone over then and made a fortune but we would have made ourselves mad at the same time. We will probably do two three-week tours of the US next year and take a two-month break in between.
         “But even so, I don’t think we have played enough recently. You get to the point where you don’t play and then you lose the whole reason for being in a band in the first place and that, after all, is to go out and make music for people.
         “I would like to reach a situation where we devote six months in a year to the Floyd and six months to whatever we like. If for one of us this meant going on the road, then he could play with another band, and I think we might be reaching that stage now.
         “There are many things I would like to do which would not involve the Floyd, and this attitude could well save the Floyd in the long run. Everyone of us wants to do other things but at the moment we don’t have the time.
         “I feel this would be a good idea. Any band is a compromise between four individuals, but a compromise for a whole year isn’t a good thing. Its only time that has prevented us doing solo projects, and if I had six months away from the group I would certainty make an album of my own. The others feel the same way.
         “I couldn’t visualise going out with my own band on the road, but I would probably do a film score or maybe produce another artist. I know I would like to try playing with other musicians for a change.”
         Conversation switched to the low-key approach the group has towards the media, and Rick agreed that this was a deliberate policy. “We are not trying to sell ourselves, just the music.
         “Right from the start we adopted this policy. We have never had a publicty agent and we’ve never found one necessary. We don’t go to all the in parties and we don’t go to the in clubs in London.
         “People don’t recognise us on the streets and even if they did it wouldn’t be a problem. That kind of thing has changed since I moved out of London to Cambridge where people don’t know anything about the Floyd. Sometimes. I get people tramping through my garden and asking for an autograph because they’ve heard I’m in a pop group, but they don’t know what the Floyd do. They probably think we’re like Gary Glitter.
         “It’s a very nice situation to be in. Rod Stewart has the kind of personality that encourages all the fan worship, but we don’t. We’re just not that kind of band. Incidentally, I think Rod Stewart makes great music too. I like all sorts of music myself. I listen to my old favourites and I listen to records that people bring to me if I respect their taste.
         “I ignore the way pop is going. I have completely lost touch with the singles charts. I don’t listen to what is being played on the radio. I don’t watch Top of the Pops and I don’t even watch The Old Grey Whistle Test.
         “I don’t even know how the rock business is going, except that I think the bubble will burst fairly soon. It’s already burst in the States where Joe Public has decided he’s not going to pay such enormous ticket prices any more.
         “I don’t agree with these huge shows in front of tens of thousands of people. Wembley Empire Pool is the biggest place you can play before you lose the effect.”
         And how long could Pink Floyd last as a band?
         “It could last forever,” he said. “There’s no reason why it shouldn’t, but then we could have a fight tonight and split up tomorrow. If we carry out that idea of being a group for six months and individuals for the next six months, then there’s no reason why we can’t carry on for a long time.
         “As a group we still have much to do and much to do together. We probably do things much better with each other than we ever could with anyone else. We are basically happy with the situation at this time. Roger is very keen on sports, which suits his competitive spirit, and Nick is keen on sailing, and that’s another thing that helps us survive.
         “We’re not underground any more despite what people say. At the UFO it was underground, but you can’t be underground when you sell out every concert hall and your album goes to number one. No, the Pink Floyd can’t claim to be underground any more.”


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mike said...

'Public unwilling to pay high ticket prices anymore?' In '74? Little did he (or we) know...