When Roger Waters was asked to take on the mantle of Pink Floyd, and how it rejuvenated him

 Roger Waters.
Roger Waters.
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In 2018 Roger Waters commenced the UK leg of his Us + Them tour. He’d earlier sparked speculation that his career was winding down – but that was before the experience of 2016’s Desert Trip series of events. With a new lease of life, the typically sharp-talking Waters, at that time 74, continued telling it like he saw it.

On June 26, Roger Waters’ latest live extravaganza, the Us + Them tour, rolls into Dublin for the first of two shows. There will then be six concerts across the UK, the centrepiece of which is almost certainly going to be his headlining performance at London’s Hyde Park on July 6.

It’s the kind of massive live concert for which Waters became famous with Pink Floyd in the late 70s, and over the last decade, few have surpassed prog’s arch-conceptualist when it comes to stadium-sized events.

Following Pink Floyd’s final performance at Live 8 in July 2005, Waters toured The Dark Side Of The Moon from 2006 to 2008. In 2010 he took The Wall out on a tour of the world’s arenas, which later moved on to outdoor stadiums.

And now there’s his Us + Them jaunt, a kind of Pink Floyd’s greatest hits, plus a few songs from last year’s Is This The Life We Really Want?, his first solo album proper for a quarter of a century.

Given that, as of 2013, The Wall Live is the highest grossing tour by a solo artist, you’d have to say that Waters is doing alright. Is This The Life We Really Want? is a fine piece of work, while the continued runs around the world with the Floyd back catalogue prove that the man behind a lot of the ideas and music that emanated from Pink Floyd in the late 70s is getting things right.

Perhaps even more interestingly is that, in 2010, as he launched the tour of The Wall, the now-74-year-old announced: “I think I have a swan song in me and I think this will probably be it.” Eight years down the line, the facts tell a somewhat different story...

“Very good point,” Waters says. “I think the tour is because two years ago now, Paul Tollett and the people from Goldenvoice [Tollett’s promotions company] asked me to do Desert Trip, which was a Coachella thing. Because I did Coachella in 2008 and they’d always go, ‘Oh, we want you to come back and blah blah blah…’

“But Coachella is all sorts of young people doing whatever it is that young people do. then he had this idea of getting a bunch of more established acts together one autumn, and that’s what we did.

“So basically his idea was: ‘Let’s get Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Neil Young and The Who up. That’s the six acts, and we would do it over a weekend, you know: two acts a day, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. And if the tickets go well, we’ll do another weekend.’

“Well, the tickets did. I think there were 500,000 ticket requests in the first few hours. And so I put a lot of work into putting that show together, and realised I had been asked to don the Pink Floyd mantle, which hadn’t really happened before. And I said, ‘Yeah, okay, I can do that,’ and I did.

“But having done all that work, I thought, ‘Maybe if this new record comes out well, maybe I can put a show together that’s some of what I did at Desert Trip and a few songs from the new record.’ So that’s what I’ve done.

Most people think everything has happened because somebody is right and somebody is wrong and the people who are wrong have to be put in their place

“The ideas in it are kind of embodied by the song Us And Them from Dark Side Of The Moon, which is about searching within ourselves to find love and empathy for all fellow human beings.”

As you’ve mentioned, this tour is 75 per cent old material, 25 per cent new material; but you also said it will be connected by a general theme. So what links it all together?

Well, it’s called Us + Them, and it’s called that largely because there’s a verse in the song that says: ‘With, without, And who'll deny it’s what the fighting’s all about?

The answer to that question is: almost everybody will deny that with/without is what the fighting’s all about. It’s a war on terror; also it’s about ideology – but what is it really about?

Most people think that everything has happened because somebody is right and somebody is wrong and the people who are wrong have to be put in their place, and the best way to do that is to bomb them, or invade their country, or whatever it might be.

I’m not saying I know the truth and other people don’t, but I’m saying I tell the truth I believe in as directly as I can

But that’s not what war is about. War is actually about keeping rich people rich and poor people poor. That’s the function of it. There’s just so much money in the economies of the Western countries. Well, the ones who make weapons, which is mainly the United States, the UK, Russia, Germany, France, Belgium – those are the main ones.

So much is tied into the armament industries, in the great military industrial complexes Eisenhower warned us about. So that is the reason we’re in perpetual war.

Do you think you’d ever be able to make an album with songs that weren’t connected in theme?

I couldn’t personally. I can’t write a song that isn’t connected with how I feel. I think that maybe if my songs have an enduring quality to them, it’s that they’re truthful, that they’re very heartfelt. I mean, I’m not saying I know the truth and other people don’t, but I’m saying I tell the truth I believe in as directly as I can in the songs I write.

Are any of the gigs on this tour being filmed for a future release?

We’re actually filming the show in Amsterdam. I don’t know what we’ll do with it when we’ve filmed it but that’s where we’re going to do the filming. That’s been decided now.

Is there anything else Pink Floyd-related that you’ve been working on?

Yeah. I’ve just been working with Po [designer Aubrey Powell]. There’s a reissue of Animals, a 5.1 mix of Animals so I’ve been working... Well, I haven’t been working, he’s been working. He came up with some new photographs of Battersea Power Station to use as a CD cover for the new 5.1 mix. It’s beautiful.