David Gilmour Refocuses on Life After Pink Floyd with ‘Rattle That Lock’

October 22nd, 2015

This is an article from the all-new NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015 issue of Guitar Aficionado magazine. For this story, plus features on Rolling Stone guitarist Ron Wood’s revealing 1965 diary, country rebel Dwight Yoakam, electric blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa’s vintage guitar collection, rare photos of the Beatles and Rolling Stones, and more, pick up the new issue of Guitar Aficionado at your newsstand, or online by clicking anywhere in this text.

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COMING BACK TO LIFE: After closing the final chapter of Pink Floyd, David Gilmour looks forward to focusing entirely on his solo career & family.

By Chris Gill | Photos by Ross Halfin

Back in 2009 when David Gilmour and his wife, novelist Polly Samson, purchased an oceanfront mansion in Hove on the south coast of England, many fans of his work assumed that he had retired from music once and for all. Gilmour’s most recent solo album at the time, On an Island, came out on his 60th birthday in 2006, and 22 years had transpired between the release of it and his previous effort, 1984’s About Face. With the death of Pink Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright on September 15, 2008, Pink Floyd were essentially finished, and all hopes of a reunion that were rekindled by the band’s 2005 Live 8 appearance were dashed for good.

In the years between now and then, there were a few glimmers of hope that Gilmour would become musically active again. In 2010, he collaborated with the Orb on the album Metallic Spheres, where the Orb’s signature ambient sound provided a lush textural bed for Gilmour’s inspired guitar work. His appearance at Roger Waters’ The Wall Live tour in London in 2011 also showed that perhaps he hadn’t yet put Pink Floyd in rear-view mirror. However, moments like these were few and far between, and the public was more likely to see Gilmour at events for the various charities he supported than on a concert stage.

Any assumptions about Gilmour’s retirement from the music business were proven completely wrong when official news of a new (and final) Pink Floyd studio album was announced July 2014 and The Endless River was released last November. But an even greater surprise came this past in March when news leaked that Gilmour would be releasing a new solo album (his fourth) later this year and supporting it with a live tour. When Gilmour’s Rattle That Lock came out in September, he provided fans with his most prolific period of new material output since the early Eighties.

“I’m always working,” Gilmour says. Indeed, he was putting final touches on Rattle That Lock at his boathouse studio, Astoria, docked on the River Thames near Hampton, before driving down to Hove to do this interview. “I would have finished this album earlier, but I took a long break from it to record The Endless River. Once that was finished, it took me a few months to complete Rattle That Lock.”

Gilmour says that he can’t remember when work on Rattle That Lock began, however. “Ideas and songs are always coming to me,” he says. “The pot gets fuller and fuller quite slowly over a few years. Then I realize that it’s going to be an album, and I start planning and moving forwards. But I can’t honestly pinpoint the moment that that happened with this one.”

Gilmour credits his co-producer, guitarist Phil Manzanera, with helping him bring the material together. “Phil is a great sounding board,” Gilmour says. “He’s a great archivist as well. He has tons of my demos, and he’s very happy to spend a long time listening through them for little ideas and making suggestions about how to use them or put two or three pieces together to create a song out of things that have slipped by me. Two songs on this album—‘Faces of Stone’ and ‘Today’—came from him finding bits and putting them together for me.”

Gilmour and Manzanera collaborated together on the album for several years, working mostly at the new studio Gilmour built near his home in Hove called Medina, while Manzanera did some work at his own studio called Gallery. Gilmour uses his famous Astoria boathouse studio these days primarily for mixing and making final last-minute fixes on vocal tracks. Sessions with string sections and an orchestra were recorded at George Martin’s AIR Lyndhurst studio in Hampstead.

Inspiration for the songs came from numerous sources. Gilmour’s wife, Polly, wrote lyrics to five of the album’s 10 songs, while Gilmour penned lyrics for two, and the remaining three were instrumentals. While Pink Floyd’s The Endless River was the band’s final send off to Rick Wright (the songs were based on unfinished recordings Wright made with Gilmour and drummer Nick Mason during the 1993 sessions for The Division Bell), Gilmour paid his own tribute to Wright on “A Boat Lies Waiting.” The album’s title track was inspired by Gilmour’s train travels through France.

“The main theme is a jingle that Michaël Boumendil wrote for the railway system in France,” he explains. “It’s just a great little syncopated piece of music that you hear at train stations in France. Every time I’d get off of a train in France I would hear that. It makes you want to jig a little bit,” he adds, laughing. “I recorded it with my iPhone in a station somewhere and took it home and wrote the song around it.”

Musically, Rattle That Lock is quite a departure from Gilmour’s previous solo albums and work with Pink Floyd. Many of the songs are quite upbeat, from the pop strains of the title track to the cool, jazzy feel of “The Girl in the Yellow Dress,” although the war- and terrorism-themed lyrics of “In Any Tongue” as well as that song’s cinematic production provide striking contrast. But there is one unifying theme between this album and Gilmour’s prior work—his soaring, lyrical guitar playing.

While Gilmour owns an impressive guitar collection, he hasn’t made any new additions to it in recent years. “I still play my black Strat a lot,” he says. “I’m using my 1955 Fender Esquire on the solos for ‘Rattle That Lock’ and ‘Today.’ I also played my black Gretsch Duo-Jet [a 1958 model with Filtertron humbuckers] and Gibson Les Paul gold top [1955] with single-coil P-90 pickups on some of the album. I’m still using two different Martin guitars for my acoustic stuff, one of which is the same D-35 guitar that I used to record ‘Wish You Were Here,’ and the other is a 1945 Martin D-18, which I’ve used a lot over the years.”

Gilmour’s newest major addition to his equipment arsenal appears to be an Alessandro Bluetick Coonhound amp. “I used that for the solo on ‘Louder Than Words’ [from The Endless River],” he says. “I also have an Alessandro Redbone Special that I use to run a Leslie cabinet, although I still prefer the sound of my Yamaha RA-200 for rotating speaker effects. My other main amps these days include a Hiwatt combo [SA212] along with some tweed Fenders [Champ, Tremolux, and Twin].

“My main setup changes all the time,” he says when asked for further details about what he used on the album. “I’m always trying different things. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. I have used a [Chandler/B.K. Butler] Tube Driver along with a compressor—I have several compressor pedals and often use different ones—for most of my overdrive-type tones in recent years. I haven’t used a Big Muff for 20 years now, I suppose. On some of these solos I only used a compressor with a little bit of delay. I ran the compressor’s output volume hotter than usual for some overdrive.”

Gilmour’s propensity to change all the time is certainly reflected by the music on Rattle That Lock. However, he denies that the more adventurous spirit of this album was the result of him closing the final chapter of Pink Floyd by completing the band’s very last album. “For me, the final chapter of Pink Floyd closed a lot longer ago than most people would think,” he explains. “I decided a very long time ago that that part of my life was over. I’m really reveling in my work and partnership with Polly at the moment. It’s a privilege to work with her, and I’m looking forward to moving on and doing more.”

This is an article from the all-new NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015 issue of Guitar Aficionado magazine. For this story, plus features on Rolling Stone guitarist Ron Wood’s revealing 1965 diary, country rebel Dwight Yoakam, electric blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa’s vintage guitar collection, rare photos of the Beatles and Rolling Stones, and more, pick up the new issue of Guitar Aficionado at your newsstand, or online by clicking anywhere in this text.

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