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Live and Exclusive
On-air: Bank Holiday Monday 29 May at 2130-2230
David Gilmour
Radio 2 caught up with David Gilmour before his concert at the Mermaid to talk to him about his songwriting, learning the saxophone and still doing it at 60!

Talking about the songwriting process, are you more 9 -5 these days or do you get inspiration at strange times?

I really am an inspiration person; I just wait to let inspiration strike. Obviously I have written a lot of songs with Pink Floyd and with other people and on my own, where I have set down to try and write a song and sometimes that works quite well. Mostly, I have to say, it is from flashes of inspiration, which is why having a little minidisc recorder is fantastic. It means that in the last ten years, since there have been things of this type available and small enough to carry everywhere and convenient enough to switch on, my output of stuff has grown massively because I don't forget them.

Before, I'm sure I had as many moments but I just forgot them all! So, in the last twelve years since I actually made the last album I have gathered a 150 pieces of music on minidisc. So, they were the start points of the writing on this album.

Quite a few songs on the album came from those start points. Any other method I've used, I used to try and write things down, write the key it was in, the chord I was doing, the rhythm and tempo I was playing. You go back to that with a guitar and you read these notes and it makes no sense at all.

Myself and Phil Manzanera spent a long time sorting through the 150 pieces of music that 5 had, whittling them down and chucking other ones away. As soon as you get into that process that also fires you up and starts making those same creative processes work. Some of the songs were written in the recent period - they were born out of the work.

I guess you don't have to worry about deadlines now, compared to the record company deadlines of the past.

No, but I don't think deadlines are a bad thing. I can go on forever mucking about and really not getting that far. But with this album, as with any project really, if you're going to do that naturally follow the making the album, which is releasing it and doing a few shows, at some point you have to give in a deadline, self imposed or whatever. Other people have to be booking factories to make the album and halls to go and play in. There is a point where you give yourself a deadline, you think that's tons of time, and it takes up to the second! And on this album, we finished at four in the morning of the evening that we always said we'd finish.

How do you know when a song is finished?

When you have no more time, then it's finished. I could put out a version of this album three months before we finished and it would have an awful lot of qualities and it would be very different. I'm tempted to do it in fact - go back to the versions of these songs before they were anything near the finished stage and put that out later as an ancillary release. We'll see if I get to that.
In the very last week of mixing, you're still making fairly radical changes to what's going on.

You're famous for playing the Strat, but what instruments are you using for songwriting these days?

I use the piano and the acoustic guitar mostly. It seems kind of odd to be sitting in the country in a nice little studio…all sort of woody, with trees…and strapping on a loud electric guitar on and I suppose that effect the way that I'm writing. I'm very fond of the process of sitting at home in a room on my own with equipment that I can work and I feel it less inhibiting to experiment and to try things out. I use all sorts of instruments, and I can play the drums and the bass just about well enough to make a demo.

I see you've been experimenting with different guitars on this album.

Working in a rural environment in a rather nice studio, I've been using a rather old electric Gretsch Duo Jet guitar on a rather quiet clean setting, which is rather unlike the machoness of the Stratocaster.

I was wondering how you go about creating the soaring guitar solos, in particular the solos on Comfortably Numb?

Well, we thought that there would be a nice spot for a guitar solo in the middle and then there's a fade in the end. I know I thought that the one in the middle should be a melody and the one at the end should be an improved guitar solo. I came at them from complexly different angles.

What prompted you to learn the Saxophone at this stage in your life?

Well, I've always like the Saxophone - always fancied learning it - but always been too lazy to do anything about it. And around ten years ago, my wife Polly bought me a Saxophone for my birthday and I honked on it a couple of times, but didn't really do anything with it. But about four years ago, my boy Charlie decided he wanted to learn the Saxophone at school.

So, he started and I asked his Saxophone teacher if he did private lessons, which he did, so he started to come over once a week and it's very good to be learning together with Charlie, as he can learn how to read music quite well. It won't sink in with me - I'm too skilled at being able to learn music by listening to it and memorising it. I pretty much have avoided reading music properly.

So Charlie had some great advantages in these lessons and exams on one side, and I had some great advantages on another side. So we were in competition -our marks were usually within one or two percentage points of each other every exam we took and we went up to Grade Four.

When you look back and think of yourself as a 25 year old, could you imagine the David Gilmour of 60 years old out still doing it?

I don't think anyone of that age looks that far forward. I think there is a big defence mechanism built in when you don't want to look that far forward, and I certainly didn't! I didn't imagine I'd still be doing it, but I didn't imagine I wouldn't either. I couldn't imagine what on earth else I'd be doing!

Back to the David Gilmour page.

Sold On Song
Find out more about one of Pink Floyd's greatest moments - Comfortably Numb.
Pink Floyd Profile in BBC Music
Find out about all things Floyd and listen to a rare Syd Barrett interview!
David Gilmour Official Website
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Pink Floyd Official Site
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