Richard Wright interview
August 1996, Mark Blake
Part three – Syd, drugs, the future
Q: You co-produced Syd Barrett’s second album (Barrett in 1970). Could you see yourself moving into production?
A: Producing yourself is one thing but producing somebody else is another. Anthony (Moore) could do it and does do it. But I don’t have the right sort of personality and desire, if you like. I couldn’t see myself doing something like Brian Eno. Doing Syd’s record was interesting, but extremely difficult. Dave and Roger did the first one (The Madcap Laughs) and Dave and myself did the second one. But by then it was just trying to help Syd any way we could, rather than worrying about getting the best guitar sound. You could forget about that! It was just going into the studio and trying to get him to sing. However, I think both of Syd albums are an interesting part of history.
Q: Do you have any contact with Syd Barrett?
A: I read in a magazine, that he’s now going blind because of diabetes. It’s terribly sad. We don’t see him, because apparently if he’s ever reminded of Pink Floyd and when he was in it, he goes into a depression for weeks on end. His mother asked us to stay away a few years ago. Apparently, most of the time he’s quite happy – or was – but our faces can trigger off a lapse. Would it have always happened or was it because of a huge overdose of acid ? Who knows. I suspect it was a bit of both. All I know is one week he was fine and a week later he turned up again and was completely different. It’s just a terrible tragedy.
Q: What are your views on acid now?
A: Syd was very influenced by a lot of people around him, who encouraged him to take trips. There are a load of acid casualties out there. He wasn’t alone. Back then, we had people like Timothy Leary openly advocating it: trip our and take it every day. Wrong ? Yes. Misguided ? Yes. It was wrong for me. I took two trips in my life. The first was quite enjoyable and that was before I was in the band. Then I took one more and I didn’t enjoy it at all, so I never took it again. It certainly destroyed Syd and I think it has destroyed a lot of other people.
Q: But Floyd’s music has often been described as “drug-inspired”. Do you think that suggestion is wrong?
A: If you mean Pink Floyd took drugs – you’re wrong. There is no way that I could play music and take any kind of drug at the same time.
Q: Do you listen to a lot of other music? Are you inspired by other keyboard players?
A: I don’t listen to as much music as I used to, because I’m so busy with my own music. I don’t think of other players as competition. I have a style of the Hammond which – good or bad – is my own. I’m not technically a great pianist. I was saying to someone the other day that I wish I could play honky-tonk piano. I listen to Dr John and appreciate what he does, but then can he play the Hammond like I can ? I look at myself as more of a writer than an actual performer. I can’t play the piano fast – I’m no Oscar Peterson – and I can’t read music. Sometimes, I wish I could sit down and play a wonderful piano concerto.
Q: What next?
A: I feel very confident about what I’ve done with Broken China. I’m proud of it. I like it a lot and I’m now having to live with it. There are already a few little things I might have changed, but not nearly as many as I thought there would be. This has really given me a lift. Next year I will be doing another album or possibly a film soundtrack. If the Floyd happens again, it happens, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. In the meantime, I am going to continue writing.
Q: So you don’t have any plans to record with Floyd again?
A: Some time in the future I’ll say to Dave, “When are are going to do another record?” and then one day he’ll say “I’m going into the studio to write – come along.” People keep asking me when Pink Floyd are going to make another record, but I honestly don’t know. We tend to record in six and seven-year cycles, so as the last album was finished in ’94, who knows, the next one could be in the year 2001 ! We don’t have a specific image to live up to, which makes it easier for us as we get older. With Pink Floyd we just have to insist that the lighting man hides us completely, so that no one can see us in our wheelchairs!