Another brick in the Wall
INTERVIEW:‘You keep going until you stop, and when you stop you die.’ Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters remains as restless today as ever, writes RONAN MCGREEVY
Roger Waters will be 70 in September. He could have followed his surviving Pink Floyd bandmates, Dave Gilmour and Nick Mason, into a comfortable and well-monied retirement (Gilmour to his Thames houseboat; Mason to his collection of vintage and fast cars). He could have stopped now, content in the knowledge that Waters, the solo star, is every bit as big a draw as Pink Floyd were in their pomp. No longer for him the ignominy of playing gigs in small halls while his erstwhile band mates, who he believed could not survive without him, play stadiums.
The Wall tour has taken $377 million (€280 million) over the past three years. Nearly every show has sold out.
He has got the vindication he has sought and could have played out the rest of his days as an Englishman living in New York, listening to cricket on the BBC World Service and generally mooching around. Instead, Waters is embarking on a 25-date stadium tour of Europe this year, a supreme irony given his hatred of stadium concerts was the catalyst for The Wall in the first place.
The years have been good to Waters. Holding court at a hotel in London, the distinctive horse face has softened somewhat. He is handsome now, in a way that he never was when he was younger – the nose is not quite so dominant – and fitter looking too.
There was no indoor arena big enough for him to play in South America on the last tour, so he had to play stadium concerts. “There’s something about connecting with that many people outdoors which is actually extremely gratifying,” he says.
There is, though, a sense that Waters was born restless, and that contentment is something he neither has nor wants.
“As one starts to creak a bit more, and you start to have aches and pains, it is something that you come to understand: that you can’t stop moving. As you get older, you just have to push yourself harder and harder, and it takes more and more effort to stay active. You keep going until you stop, and when you stop you die.”
Waters remains the most compelling character in Pink Floyd. A grammar-school boy frequently mistaken for a public-school graduate. The anti-establishment youth who bought a country pile as soon as he had the money. A man who wrote about alienation and disillusionment, until Pink Floyd became the personification of everything punks hated about such music, distancing themselves from the prog-rock vibe by writing songs about . . . alienation and disillusionment.
Waters, the man, provokes strong emotions in those who know him. “I’d have to say that Roger Waters is one of the world’s most difficult men,” Mason once said – and he is a friend.
Waters had a reputation for being argumentative, domineering, arrogant and somewhat aloof, yet also a compassionate man who rails against injustices, especially for those who are victims of war, as he was once.
In an age of vapid, timid rock stars, he’s lost none of his sense of self-importance, recalling how he met the “what’s her name, the president of Argentina”, Cristina Kirchner, on his South American tour, and she asked him to intervene with the Falkland Islands’ administration.
The Argentines want to send in a Red Cross team to identify the remains of 123 soldiers who are interned at a cemetery in East Falklands.