Two days before his spectacular closing set on the first weekend of Desert Trip in Indio, California, Roger Waters is sitting in his backstage trailer already looking past that – to the summer of 2017. “I have so many ideas on how to engineer this,” the ex-Pink Floyd singer-bassist tells Rolling Stone brightly of his next tour, a five-month run through North American arenas which opens on May 26th in Kansas City. Billed as “Roger Waters – Us + Them” after the song on Pink Floyd’s 1973 breakthrough, The Dark Side of the Moon, it will be Waters’ first tour since “The Wall Live,” his worldwide 2010-2013 solo staging of the Floyd’s landmark 1979 album, The Wall. (The tour is still the highest grossing by a solo artist in history, pulling in more than $458 million.)
“Us + Them” will feature an entirely new audio-visual presentation of material from Waters’ long history with the Floyd. Waters also plans to debut songs from his first studio album since 1992’s Amused to Death, which he has been recording over the past year with Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich. “We’ve got some really good work in the can,” Waters reveals, looking at once hip and distinguished with his light-gray hair and beard set off by a black T-shirt and stovepipe jeans. “We did some work in London and in Los Angeles.” Waters, who is living in L.A. while he works on the record, will be back in the studio with Godrich in November.
In an exclusive, wide-ranging conversation over the noisy air conditioning in his trailer, Waters talks about the genesis of his new songs; his pride in the scope and invention of his stage shows; and about Pink Floyd’s new mega-box, The Early Years 1965-1972 – 27 discs with 130 tracks and 15 hours of video footage from their pre-Dark Side era, including the group’s very first recordings with star-crossed founding guitarist Syd Barrett. Released on November 11th, the set is a prelude to the first, major museum retrospective devoted to the group, The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains, which opens at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London on May 13th, 2017.
Waters, an outspoken advocate for Palestinian rights, also speaks about the latest, improbable Floyd reunion. On October 6th, Waters, guitarist David Gilmour and drummer Nick Mason announced a message of support on Pink Floyd’s official Facebook page for the Women’s Boat to Gaza, 13 activists sponsored by the Freedom Flotilla Coalition who were intercepted when they attempted to breach the Israeli navy’s blockade of Gaza. “It is an issue I care about deeply,” Waters says. “I knew the women – one of whom I know [Mairead Maguire, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate from Northern Ireland], all of whom I admire – were going to try and get through the blockade. And we knew they would be arrested.