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Interview:
Roger Waters puts a new brick in "The Wall"
 

By GARY GRAFF
of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

He’s taken himself back to “The Dark Side of the Moon.”

Now Roger Waters is just as happy to return to “The Wall.”

Pink Floyd’s founding bassist and principle lyricist during the ’70s and ’80s has resurrected the group’s 1979 concept album — which spent 15 weeks atop the Billboard 200 chart and has been certified 23-times platinum — for a lavish tour that features the construction and subsequent destruction of a 240-foot-wide, 35-foot-tall wall. And he says that playing Pink Floyd’s 1972 classic “Dark Side” in its entirety during 2007-08 provided the inspiration for tackling the even more ambitious “The Wall.”

“I much enjoyed ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’ tour in ’07, and I think” it put the idea of doing “The Wall” into people’s heads, says Waters, 67, who left Pink Floyd in 1985 and settled out of court with the other band members over use of the name and imagery associated with the group. “I started to think about it, and when I’d recovered from that last tour, I got that feeling that I probably had at least one more (tour) left in me and started to think, ‘Y’know, maybe there is something there ... ’ ”

“The Wall” had been staged as a live piece before — but just 31 times. Pink Floyd played it at limited engagements in four cities during 1980-81. And Waters staged an all-star version of the album, which was adapted into a film in 1982, in July 1990 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

It was the latter that gave Waters a sense of what “The Wall” — with enduring rock radio staples “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2),” “Run Like Hell” and “Comfortably Numb” — could be in 2010. It was written, he notes, about a more insular issue, “about this kind of youngish guy who is so fearful that he inures himself. His defenses are so powerful because of his feelings of inadequacy and so on and so forth that ... he builds a wall around himself and keeps the world out.”

This time out, however, Waters’ mission was “to develop the piece to describe a broader, more universal condition than we did in 1980 and I did in 1990 in Berlin.” And, he says, it wasn’t difficult.

“It’s strange how the macro and the micro often mirror each other, so the story of one man and his failed relationships and his shame and his problems can somehow mirror a more macro kind of global-political-religious situation. There’s a wall between the north and south. There’s a wall between the rich and the poor. There is, with all due respect, a wall that we call the media that lies between we citizens and reality of our lives.

“So the wall is tremendously symbolic, maybe more so now, even, than it was when I wrote it.”

While leaving the actual music primarily the same, Waters has tweaked the extensive visual presentation of “The Wall” to express those more contemporary issues — and has gotten in hot water because of it. Most recently he was criticized by the American Anti-Defamation League, which protested that a sequence during the song “Goodbye Blue Sky,” where Jewish Stars of David were followed by money signs, was anti-Semitic.

Waters quickly responded in a statement saying that “there are no hidden meanings in the order or juxtaposition of these symbols,” but he’s since tweaked the video to separate the icons.

On the road, of course, “The Wall” loses some of its socio-political luster for Waters, whose focus has moved to executing the technically tricky show — which also feature projections and puppets — each night.

“Because it’s so visual, it means playing to (click tracks) a lot,” explains Waters, who’s also taking the show to Europe in 2011. “I personally don’t mind that. I’m happy to sacrifice the freedom of guitar players flailing about, doing anything they want, on the altar of creating a show that moves people and that’s political and so on.

“It’s a piece of theater, so it has to be controlled ... The lighting and the visual content has to be in sync with the music that we’re making. That doesn’t worry me at all.”

And, he adds, the tour has allowed Waters to bask again in an album he considers one of his greatest artistic achievements.

“I thought it was a great piece of work,” Waters says of “The Wall,” which won a Grammy Award for Best Engineered Recording — Non-Classical. “It was difficult to make. There was all kinds of politics going on in the band that didn’t help things.

“I was a bit surprised it was so successful, but I was really proud of it. I was proud of everything we did on it. It was ridiculously successful ... and still stands up musically, I think.”



Roger Waters performs “The Wall” at 8 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 24, at the Palace, Lapeer Road at I-75, Auburn Hills. Tickets are $102, $78 and $58. Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

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