Roger Waters gets his groove back

Titled Is This The Life We Really Want?, Roger Waters' first album in 25 years will be released on Friday.
Titled Is This The Life We Really Want?, Roger Waters' first album in 25 years will be released on Friday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PARIS • Before he agreed to produce Roger Waters' first album in 25 years, Nigel Godrich had some hard words to say to the ex-Pink Floyd frontman.

"I told him what I thought of some of his earlier solo stuff," said the studio wizard behind Radiohead, who has been dubbed the "sixth member" of the British band.

Godrich, 46, did not mince his words with his boyhood hero.

"He made some records that were impenetrable. I can't listen to them - I turned them off.

"I tried to explain that to him," the producer said of his frank first meeting with Waters, the lyrical genius behind the legendary Pink Floyd albums - The Wall (1979) and Dark Side Of The Moon (1973).

But rather than punch him in the mouth, the famously combative Waters, 72, hired him.

"He got it," said Godrich, who claimed that Waters' powerful new album, Is This The Life We Really Want?, is a "reaffirmation of him as a truly great songwriter".

He realised Waters "really still had it" when he heard a demo of a new song, Deja Vu, that takes in everything from ageing to drone strikes.

Godrich, who worked with Waters for two years on the album's 12 tracks - which will be released on Friday - was keen that it would not be an exercise in self-indulgence.

Far from "guitar hero" pomp, the fiercely political Is This The Life We Really Want? is mostly pared back to bass and strings to showcase Waters "the poet", he said.

In the title track, Waters takes the baby-boomer generation to task - "Every time a Russian bride is advertised for sale/And every time a journalist is left to rot in jail" - for slipping from idealism into cynicism.

"We could have been free" but "we chose to adhere to abundance/ We chose The American Dream," he sings in Broken Bones.

Deja Vu has chilling lines such as "If I had been a drone/I would be afraid to find someone home".

Waters will embark on a North American tour called Us + Them before taking in Asia and Europe next year.

Godrich credits Waters' hugely successful The Wall live tour, which ran from 2010 to 2013, with reawakening his creative fire. "I think Roger had a rough ride. He might say differently, but as a fan, I think he did not get into his groove after the demise of Pink Floyd."

Waters left Pink Floyd in 1985 after disagreements with bandmates David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Richard Wright.

"Things started rolling again with The Wall tour and making a movie of it. So, he started writing music again," Godrich said.

"My job was to encourage him, to push him a little bit. Roger is hugely underrated. We've forgotten just how good a songwriter he is. I never thought of Pink Floyd being Pink Floyd after Roger left. He was the guy who nailed things with his lyrics."

Meanwhile, fans of Pink Floyd can catch a retrospective of the band, complete with rare paraphernalia, in London's Victoria and Albert Museum until Oct 1.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 29, 2017, with the headline 'Roger Waters gets his groove back'. Print Edition | Subscribe