As a supplement to our Pink Floyd title story of the eclipsed print edition 11/2014 we document here the complete interview which our author Wolf Kampmann conducted with Phil Manzanera at the beginning of October about the work on "The Endless River".
eclipsed: How can you make an album out of outtakes from "The Division Bell" after twenty years?
Phil Manzanera: When Pink Floyd started recording, which then became "The Division Bell", they decided to record the album like in the old days. The shows of the "Momentary Laps Of Reason" tour had gone well and the guys wondered why they shouldn't just improvise freely as they had done before. They went to different studios, maybe they had some chord sequences in their heads, but mostly they improvised. David had a DAT recorder with him, and whenever they had something up their sleeve that sounded reasonable, he would record it. In this way, twenty hours of jams and ideas were created.
eclipsed: But that was twenty years ago.
Manzanera: I had no idea they had done this. Two years ago David said to me: "Since Rick is no longer with us, maybe we should look through these recordings". It was added that the twentieth anniversary [of the publication] of "The Division Bell" was due. I went into his studio and asked the technician if he could give me all the material from those sessions. It's all beautifully catalogued. I listened through the twenty hours completely and marked all the parts I liked. Then I wondered what to do with it. I told myself there were acts in classical music. Pink Floyd are known for their long pieces. I imagined a record of about fifty minutes divided into four longer parts. With melodies that are interrupted by other themes and then return, as is the case with Pink Floyd.
eclipsed: What did the musicians say?
Manzanera: I spent six weeks studying the music and then went to David to present my ideas for the album. David and Nick thought about it for nine months and nothing happened. David wasn't sure because I had only used material they had already recorded. But I had allowed myself extreme liberties. If something had a wrong key, I'd just change it. This is possible with modern technology. When I was missing a beat, I added it, I needed additional guitars, I took them from a completely different song. I completely rebuilt everything, but based on their groundwork.
eclipsed: How did Killing-Joke-Mann Youth come into play as another producer?
Manzanera: At the end of 2013 David said he needed some fresh ears and played it for Youth. But he only introduced him to the first two parts. Youth thought it was a little too short because he only knew these two parts, but thought he could make something out of them. When I met Youth, I told him I thought his takes were great, but asked about the other two parts. He had no idea what I was talking about. David then said he liked some of Youth's plays and some of mine. And if something didn't seem mature to them in the past, they had simply worked on it until they were satisfied. So he called Nick, we all met at David's studio in Brighton and worked together until it was done. Actually, it never gets done. Just last week something happened with the music again. The whole thing is a series of processes. In the days of "The Division Bell" one could not have made such a record. Today you can load all these analog things into your computer and change them.
eclipsed: The whole album is instrumental..
Manzanera: Originally "The Division Bell" was supposed to be a double album with a vocal and an instrumental CD. But it had taken so long to work on the vocal record that there was no time left for the other half. The new record is like the long lost second half of "The Division Bell". But actually, she's more than that. There are so many phases of Pink Floyd that I like. I used material in the style of "Live At Pompeii" and "Wish You Were Here" and also came across a solo that Rick had played on a church organ at the very beginning of the band. I also found a song with voice without words. I gave it to [Gilmour's wife] Polly Samson, a well-known novelist who had already contributed lyrics to "The Division Bell". She wrote a text in which she beautifully described the mood within Pink Floyd.
eclipsed: Rick Wright had no influence on the album anymore.
Manzanera: But it's a kind of tribute to Rick. He was always a little overlooked by Pink Floyd, because David and Roger were always in the foreground. But his part in the sound of Pink Floyd was immense. His keyboards have shaped the whole concept of Pink Floyd enormously. This is prominently featured on "The Endless River".
eclipsed: This is also an interesting historical dialogue, because a band from 1993 communicates with a band from 2013.
Manzanera: The whole record works like a documentary. They are recordings from the year 1993, when they played in a certain way. But it also contains recordings from 1968 on the great organ in the Royal Albert Hall. It was a challenge to integrate this tape into the musical wallpaper they had rolled up here. All in all, it's a very modern concept to mix different sources together. Almost like a DJ mix where everything is held together by the beat. This is possible thanks to modern technology.
eclipsed: We are also dealing here with an interesting combination of personalities. The spirit of Rick Wright, the two band members David Gilmour and Nick Mason, Andy Jackson, who joined Pink Floyd in 1980 as a sound engineer, Youth with his industrial background and you, who come back from a completely different corner. This results in a completely new formation.
Manzanera: Polly Samson, the lyricist, not to forget. Yes, it's a new, modern version of Pink Floyd for the 21st century. But David is and remains the captain whose job it is to bring the ship from Pink Floyd safely into the harbour. He's in charge, there's no getting away from his decision. And the rest of us would do well to always bear this in mind.
eclipsed: In fact, you are much more than just a producer, because you have completely reassembled the music.
Manzanera: Of course, I always had the big picture in mind, but everyone contributed their parts.
eclipsed: Why did it take so long to make this second record out of the recordings of "The Division Bell"?
Manzanera: It is similar to painting a picture. You work on the form, it doesn't work, you keep trying out new colors, you run off again and again and have to start all over again. It should be a record that sounds good, but still has enough contrasts, dynamics and inner logic. This takes time. The record is 52 minutes long, but there are also 19 hours and eight minutes that cannot be heard. This is an incredible process.
eclipsed: Will these remaining 19 hours still be used at some point?
Manzanera: I can't imagine that. It took me six weeks alone to work my way through the material. No, I certainly don't want to do that again. While I was working on this CD, I was fortunately producing two more albums of my own. It was really important to have something else at that time that would clear my mind.
eclipsed: The classic Pink-Floyd albums were quite avant-garde at the time of their release and only later became "folklore". Did you try to emphasize these avant-garde moments more strongly during production?
Manzanera: I've always had this thought in mind, and I think I've managed to do that a bit. My original version was a little too avant-garde. It probably would have demanded too much from the listener. David decided to make the music more digestible. He just listened to the music differently. David thought there was too much of me in there. But he wanted it to sound more like David and Nick. It's their record, and it has to sound like them, or it's not Pink Floyd. In other words, they had to be happy with it. I had just gone too far.
eclipsed: Did Gilmour and Mason actually also record new takes or did they only participate in the reworking of the old recordings?
Manzanera: You played a lot of new parts about the existing stuff. I thought it was great to watch David and Nick play on Pink Floyd material. Of course, they were a little worried about how it would feel to play with themselves. But then they jammed a little, and it immediately felt organic. So it is with musicians, they can think and talk forever about how this and that could work, but as they reach for their instruments and start playing, all those concerns are gone. That's the way it's been with Pink Floyd for many years. It's like they flip a switch. When they play, they have so much joy, but as soon as they put the instruments out of their hands again, the bitching starts.
eclipsed: The artwork of the CD is untypical for Pink Floyd. How did this happen?
Manzanera: This has nothing to do with me. David, Nick and their managers are solely responsible for this. I sent Storm Thorgerson Christmas 2012 my version. That was just before he died. I wanted him to think about a cover. I have no idea if there are any sketches of him. But he definitely heard the first version of the album before he died.
eclipsed: Doesn't the cover look a lot more New Age than Pink Floyd?
Manzanera: You might be right. But I had no influence on that. I contributed my part and people didn't want to hear my opinion on other aspects. Job done, bye. It's different with Roxy Music. I have a total say in the covers.