Roger Waters discusses his new 'Us + Them' film

News 14/10/2019

Roger Waters completed his huge 'Us + Them' tour at the end of last year, a tour which he wanted to use as a plea for humanity, a call for listeners to get together and tackle the world's problems. 

He played songs from the Pink Floyd catalogue like 'Us and Them', 'Pigs' and 'Money' as well as selections from his recent LP Is This the Life We Really Want? Throughout the performances he used giant video screens to tell stories of refugees fleeing their homelands and warlords abusing power. 

His new film, which he co-directed with longtime collaborator Sean Evans, highlights this same message, featuring footage from the tour's stop in Amsterdam last year. 

"I’m glad the film turned out to have a humane and political message," says Waters. He was worried during the editing process since the film was too long, so he decided to cut the nightly encore 'Comfortably Numb' since "it’s an appendage added to the end of the thing," and he and Evans focused their cut to show more of the story of the woman featured in the visuals for his Is This the Life song 'The Last Refugee'. "I think the film benefits greatly from that," he says.

Waters was stunned to see the emotion of his fans faces when he watched the concert footage, saying: "I’m proud of them. I’m proud of anybody who allows themselves to be moved by the idea that human beings acting collectively to make each other’s lives more full of love is something worth fighting for."

When asked by The Rolling Stone if he feels like the message of the tour reached people the way he intended, Waters responded: "You know, yeah. That comes out in the film. There’s one woman in the film who is singing along with the second verse in [Is This the Life’s] 'Déjà Vu' — I can’t remember which line — but she’s got a little tear running down her cheek. And I think, 'Wow. I must have done something right that these young, young people are responding to work that I created when I was 74 years old'.

It’s moving. So I’ve done something right.

During the tour performances, at one point Waters and the band put on pig masks and drink wine on stage. Waters explains: "There’s a long section in 'Dogs' after I sing the verse 'Dragged down by the stone', which is about dogs and pigs destroying whatever they can in a mad scramble to be Gordon Gekko. So it’s only Joey [Waronker, drums] and [keyboardist] Jon Carin actually playing anything. So what are the rest of us going to do? Stand around on the stage? Let’s dress up as pigs and be served by sheep in a bar and have a glass of champagne and be obnoxious, so it developed from that. It’s an opportunity to attempt a piece of theater on the stage,"

"And it’s a bit of audience participation. I hold up a sign that says 'Pigs Rule the World' followed by another that says, 'Fuck the pigs'. And the audience is very glad, ’cause by and large most people don’t want to be ruled by these assholes. Most people recognize that the division of wealth is completely unacceptable, and we don’t want to be ruled by the oligarchs. We don’t think it’s a great system where the poor get poorer and the rich get richer and richer. It needs to be addressed and redressed as soon as possible,"

He went on to explain that this was why he used a lot of imagery from Animals, like having Battersea Station split the audience in half, because the message in the show relates to the themes of the album: "When I designed that album cover and went and photographed Battersea Station, I thought it was quite good symbolically of a band like Pink Floyd, because it’s a thing that has some power and there are four of us and four chimneys. It’s all very phallic and whatever. It sort of represented to some extent the power, maybe, that we had as a band if we cared to use it for something. And maybe music has no power. I don’t believe that. I believe music is a very powerful art form and that it can be used as a political tool, as well as a source of entertainment to keep the masses quiet,"

And when asked if there was anything that didn't make it into the film that he wishes has, Waters commented: "I sort of wanted to do something that implicated the people who would have been present at the Obama weekly drone-strike meetings, where they would sit in a darkened room somewhere and decide who to kill next week, which is one of the most disgusting pieces of U.S. foreign policy. Well, no — maybe that’s pitching a bit hard. But it’s pretty scary to think of grown men sitting in a room deciding who to kill — foreign nationals — and then killing them. This is disgusting beyond all belief. So I wanted to shoot something that implied that, but we didn’t have time. So I regret that."