August 1996, by Mark Blake
PART ONE - BROKEN CHINA
What prompted you to make another solo record?
It was while we were recording the last Floyd Album, The Division Bell. The idea for this record was inspired, sadly, by my personal experiences with a close friend whi was suffering from depression. I wanted to express my feelings about what I was seeing. It wasn't a healing process, as such, as I wasn't the person suffering, but it made me come to terms with my own feelings about what I was witnessing.
When we made The Division Bell, I was part of the whole creative process again because I was writing again rather than just playing on the material; but I felt that it wasn't going in the right direction all the time. I like the record, but it was also frustrating. As a writer you can always end up disagreeing with the people you're working with about certain things, and I felt that it was time I did something for myself.
I very much enjoyed playing live on The Division Bell tour so when I came home, the last thing I wanted to do was sit around and do nothing. As I had been gathering ideas for my own album, I made arrangements to go into my studio and start writing.
Was Anthony Moore an obvious choice to work with?
Definitely. Initially I asked him to help me out in my studio. I'd bought some computer equipment - which I wasn't entirely familiar with and I knew that Anthony could help me. But the main reason for getting him involved was remembering how well we'd worked together on Wearing The Inside Out. I really didn't want to do this album completely on my own, because I don't consider myself a lyricist. It was also easy for Anthony to understand the theme of the album, because he sympathised with the feelings that my friend and I were experiencing.
You've already mentioned that you were frustrated by some aspects of The Division Bell, did you experience a real sense of freedom working on an album that was exclusively your own?
The word 'freedom' has been mentioned a few times and with the Floyd, I would always go away, write a song and bring it to the rest of the band as a demo. They would always say that if they liked it, they'd use it and if they didn't they wouldn't. With Broken China it was completely different: I didn't have any music written before Anthony came and worked with me. The album was mapped out: the different structures - whether one section was going to be made up of, for example symphonic music and another one of rock. But we never went through a demo stage. We put the whole thing together in my studio in France.
How did you decide which musicians you were going to use on the project? (Featured players include Floyd guitarist Tim Renwick, guitarist Dominic Miller, bassist Pino Palladino, drummer Manu Katche and vocalist Sinead O'Conner).
I saw Peter Gabriel's world tour early in 1994. Manu Katche was playing drums and I had already formulated the idea of doing an album. As soon as I heard him, I knew that I wanted him to play on Broken China, so I sent him the music and, although is schedule was very tight, he called to say that he would like to play, on the understanding that Pino Palladino would play bass, as they work together very much as a team. Pino was already my main choice anyway and it was a joy to see them playing together and to experience how quickly they laid down the tracks.
Eight tracks in six days - amazing ! Tim Renwick was naturally my first choice, because of our association with the Floyd tours and also, besides being a close friend, he gives you whatever sound and feel you suggest. Afterwards, when I was looking for someone to play some atmospheric guitars, Laurie Latham, who engineered the overdubs, suggested Dominic Miller, who, although working with Sting at the time, took time off to work with me. The extraordinary thing is that all the musicians I wanted to work with, found the time to come and play on Broken China.
Why did you choose Sinead O'Conner to sing on two tracks?
Again, Sinead was my first choice. However, getting your favourite sessions players to perform is one thing, asking an established artist, is another. I was thrilled when she agreed. I had always known that I would need a girl to sing Reaching for the Rail and Breakthrough, as these songs are the spoken words of the person of whom I am writing. For me, the quality of her voice was absolutely perfect for the two songs.
Do you feel more comfortable about singing lead vocals now?
Certainly. Initially I was thinking of getting somebody else in to sing all the male vocals - I didn't know who - but I quickly realised that doing that would take the album away from me. It wouldn't be so personal. Being able to record in my own studio made it easy. I would go there by myself and sing whatever came into my head - improvising and sometimes making up complete lyrical nonsense. Then I'd listen back, find out what worked and what didn't, and gradually I built up my confidence from there. Listening back now, I like the sound of my own voice, because I found a style that I felt very confident with.
How do you view you last two solo records?
The last one (Identity recorded with Fashion's Dave Harris, under the collective name Zee in 1894) I always describe as an "experimental mistake". We made the whole record on the Fairlight, which was an amazing machine at the time; but which now seems rather dated. Wet Dream (my first solo album released in 1978) was rather amateurish. It wasn't very well produced and the lyrics weren't very strong, but at the end of the day, I think there's something rather quaint about it. I actually like it now.
You've talked about suffering from writer's block in the past. How long did that situation last?
I don't know if it was writer's block, but I became very lazy. After Identity in 1984 I went off to live in Greece, in an environment that was not very conducive to playing music. I lost touch, if you like. I was happy sailing my yacht around the Greek islands (laughs), but now I look back and think "Perhaps it was a bit of a waste of time".
You were no longer involved with Pink Floyd at this time (having quit the band during the recording of The Wall). Did you feel a real need at that time to get away from the music business?
It wasn't a decision based on music. It was more on a personal level, because I'd become involved with someone that lived in Greece and I took the decision to move there to be with her. I didn't do it with the intention of getting away from the music business. But I just woke up one day and thought. "God! what have I been doing?" So I phoned Dave (Gilmour) up and we met up in Greece and he said he was planning to do another album with the Floyd (A Momentary Lapse Of Reason). I told him that if he needed anyone to play keyboards, that I'd love to do it. I came in halfway through the record and then went out on tour with them.
Are you now officially a member of Pink Floyd?
Yes. It was good to be able to contribute to The Division Bell from the beginning, rather than come in halfway through, as I did on A Momentary Lapse Of Reason.
How did it feel watching Floyd continue as a band without you, having been involved since the very beginning?
It felt horrible. The whole point about my leaving the band in the first place, was because Roger (Waters) was assuming control. He had written the whole of The Wall. It was his piece and he had the right to withdraw it and that was what he was threatening to do unless I left the band. There was this big personality clash between me and Roger, and at the end of the day I realised that I couldn't work with this person anyway - so I left.