Saturday 24 March 2018

Still 'un-comfortably numb', Waters snarls a fresh anti-war message

'Wake up and smell the phosphorus', Roger Waters sings on his new single - an emotive return to his leitmotif: war and its effects on human beings

Roger Waters first solo rock album in 25 years
Roger Waters first solo rock album in 25 years
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

It has echoes of Wish You Were Here's Have a Cigar by his old muckers Pink Floyd. It could been taken from his anti-war, anti-fascist piece de resistance The Wall. With his new single Smell the Roses, Roger Waters returns to his career's - and indeed to his life's - leitmotif: war and its effects on human beings...

"Wake up/ Wake up and smell the phosphorus," he sings on Smell The Roses, from his first solo 'rock' album in 25 years, Is This the Life We Really Want? - the snarling sensory, if chilling, follow-up to 1992's Amused to Death.

"This is the room where they make the explosions/ Where they put your name on the bomb/ Here's where they bury the buts and the ifs/ And scratch out words like right and wrong," he rages, and "There's nothing but screams in the field of dreams/ Nothing but hope at the end of the road." And then, almost more hauntingly, almost more chillingly "Wake up/ Wake up and smell the bacon/ Run your greasy fingers through her hair/ This is the life that you have taken."

I interviewed Waters for three hours in Budapest in 2013, the day after he performed The Wall to 50,000 people at the Puskas Ferenc Stadium.

He talked about death and destruction. He talked about human barriers and alienation...

"Most of the barriers between human beings are artificially created for the benefit of the rich and powerful," he began, getting up a head of steam.

"They accrue power to themselves but in order to do that it is necessary for them to construct artificial walls between ordinary people who would much prefer to have a job and go fishing on Saturday, and bring up their kids, and go to the football match and do all that - rather than being nerve-gassed in Aleppo or engaged in this constant foul play which seems to be going on all over the globe at the behest of and much encouraged by the rich and the powerful."

I asked him did he think Tony Blair was a war criminal.

"Absolutely," came the reply without a moment's hesitation.

"I think he is the most horrific character that English politics has thrown up since Thatcher," Waters said, adding that he would never think of going into politics because he is "mistrustful of it".

"I also think it is supremely important and I wish more intelligent, qualified people would. But I think it tends to attract a lot of really, really bad people," he continued. "It attracts people who need to feel important and they like the sound of their own voices.

"They want other people to listen to them and these are character traits that don't naturally lend themselves to bode well for society or the human race in general.

"I live in the United States now and it is entirely driven by dollar bills. So the whole thing is intellectually bankrupt."

Roger said that his father Eric's death on February 18, 1944 in the Battle of Anzio against the Nazis was, in his view, the last just war. The Wall's acute sense of abandonment had its roots in Roger's very real abandonment when he lost his father when he was a baby.

You never really had a father, I said to Waters that day in Hungary.

"Neither did my father," he replied.

"George Henry, my grandfather, was in the Royal Engineers because he was a coal miner," he said.

"So they got them to dig tunnels under Jerry and he was killed in 1916, and my father was born in 1914. So he didn't have very long with a father at home either.

"I discovered in therapy about 25 years ago," he continued, "that this recurrent dream that I used to have of killing somebody was: 'I get it! I think I killed my father!"

"But I didn't", Roger Waters laughed like a broken drain, "because I was only that big."

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