Few bands conjure as much goose-bump excitement among the classic rock faithful as the legendary Pink Floyd. Guitarist David Gilmour was a driving force for the band throughout most of its career, taking over for longtime friend Syd Barrett as Barrett’s mental condition deteriorated in the late Sixties. He shared vocal duties with bassist Roger Waters as the band released classic albums like “Dark Side of the Moon” and “Wish You Were Here,” and took over as front man after the band’s acrimonious break with Waters in the Eighties.
All along, Gilmour has kept up with a productive solo career as the recent release of the CD/DVD “David Gilmour: Live in Gdansk” illustrates. Recorded during his 2006 solo tour, the songs are from his solo releases and Floyd’s lengthy career. Sadly, it also represents his last recorded collaboration with Floyd keyboardist Rick Wright, who died on Sept. 15 last year.
Bankrate spoke with Gilmour several weeks before Wright’s death about the new record, his Floyd bandmates and his life as a rock legend.
Bankrate: Do you think Rick Wright got short shrift for what he actually contributed to Pink Floyd?
David Gilmour: I do, really. He and Nick’s (drummer Nick Mason) roles were fantastically important. It’s a strange sort of compulsion by many people to have to classify people within something in terms of their importance or dominance, when every part is as vital as every other part.
Bankrate: So many classic Floyd songs were inspired by the fate of the late Pink Floyd member Syd Barrett. Now that you’re older and Syd has passed on, has the meaning of those songs changed for you at all?
David Gilmour: I have always felt Syd’s presence when I’ve been singing “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” or “Wish You Were Here,” or any of those things. That was doubled in the period after Syd died, the last part of my tour in 2006. The last few shows, that feeling was much, much stronger, much more poignant, although you could say that we lost Syd an awfully long time before he actually died.
Bankrate: During the last several decades, did you have any contact with him at all?
David Gilmour: No, I didn’t. I had some contact with some of his family, and they thought it better that people from that part of his past shouldn’t really see him.
Bankrate: You were once voted Best Fender Guitar Player ever, beating out Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton. What’s your take on that?
David Gilmour: Well, they’re right, aren’t they? No, listen, these polls come across all the time, and every year, whoever’s been in the news that year is the one that gets up on top. Best ever Fender player will come around again, and it will be Eric or Jimi or someone. You can’t believe that stuff. Much as I’d love to believe I’m the best ever Fender guitar player, it just doesn’t really make sense.
Bankrate: Before this tour, you never played live with an orchestra. How did it feel having all that musical power behind you?
David Gilmour: It was fantastic — really great. Songs like “Comfortably Numb,” we used to do with an orchestral tape in the old days, and in more modern times did with more modern set-ups. But we had never done “Comfortably Numb” with an orchestra before. It also gave us a chance to dust off and do things like “High Hopes” and “A Great Day for Freedom,” which had all been done with orchestras on the record but had never been used that way live. So it was fantastic.
Bankrate: When you’re playing a guitar lead and they’re playing in the background, how is the interplay different from when it’s just a band?
David Gilmour: To be honest, when the electric guitar is thrashing out at full volume, the only thing you’re really hearing apart from the electric guitar is the drums and the other stuff. The orchestra doesn’t have a chance. You just hope the guys mixing sound out front can bring it off.
Bankrate: Do you get the same thrill from playing Pink Floyd songs now that you did when you were with the band?
David Gilmour: On this tour, the choices were entirely up to me, so I didn’t feel that I had to do anything I didn’t want to do. So I didn’t have to do anything because the audience expected it, since it was out under my name, not under the Pink Floyd name. I still was getting a thrill because the songs I was doing were songs that I love, and that I love to play.
Bankrate: At the Live 8 Pink Floyd reunion you played with Nick, Rick and Roger Waters, Roger seemed overjoyed. You looked less so. Was that as joyful a moment for you, or was that more of an obligation?
David Gilmour: It was fantastic. We had a few days of rehearsing beforehand which went pretty well, and everyone was very friendly and happy and jolly. It was lovely to do that, and I realized that we’re still playing very well together, but it also convinced me that I didn’t think it was realistic to suppose that we would ever want to go and do that on any scale other than that one-off sort of show.
Bankrate: So you’re squashing right now the hopes of a full-on Pink Floyd reunion.
David Gilmour: Yeah. Forget it.
Bankrate: Are you and Roger in touch in any way?
David Gilmour: We email each other occasionally.
Bankrate: Would you say that the legendary animosity between the two of you has thawed?
David Gilmour: We haven’t really seen each other since Live 8. We’re not in constant communication, but if anything came up that we wanted to talk about, I think it would be easier to do so now than before Live 8.
Bankrate: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not performing?
David Gilmour: Life is so full with raising children, trying to get them to school on time, trying to help them get their homework done, and trying to sort out their lives and bring them up properly. Life just seems very busy with all that domestic sort of stuff, I’m afraid. I do love flying airplanes. That’s one of my main hobbies, which I haven’t had enough time for just lately. I love the feeling of being free as an American eagle, soaring above the planet on a wing and a prayer.
Bankrate: What do you do to treat yourself?
David Gilmour: I like to go to Italy or France and get on a boat and sail around. Sailing around different spots is one of my favorite occupations for leisure time. I like the sea. I don’t really know why. It’s a pretty primal sort of thing. That, and sitting around a campfire staring at the flames and cooking a few sausages and singing a few songs with a bunch of friends. That’s pretty hard to beat.
Bankrate: I’ve read that you’re now one of the richest men in England. Is that true?
David Gilmour: No. It just isn’t. I don’t know how one counts as being one of the richest and whether these things are accurate, but I would think there are probably thousands richer than me. I have been very lucky. I am very well off. This gift I was given, and what’s gone along with it, has made me more money than I think I deserve. But I’m not up there with the Rockefellers, or some of the new Russian millionaires.
Bankrate: Has the creation and playing of music ever been overshadowed for you by having to deal with financial concerns?
David Gilmour: I do my very, very best to make other people deal with as much of that as I humanly can, so it doesn’t impinge on me too much. When it does impinge I can feel moments of irritation, but it’s part of life. You’ve got to deal with it.
Bankrate: Is there any part of that you enjoy, as far as investing?
David Gilmour: No. I’m not remotely interested in any form of investment. I just hope someone’s looking after it properly.
Bankrate: I understand you’re very fond of charity work.
David Gilmour: I’m not fond of charity work, but I have a charitable foundation which does give money out to various, suitable worthy causes of a global and local nature, big ones and small ones, which we spend a little bit of time dealing with every year. But life is a busy thing. I wish I could be a bit more dedicated to doing good. But I figure if I can’t put that much time into it, I can at least put some more money into it.