Get Back to Radio
An Exclusive Interview with Jim Ladd
Editor's Note: Johnny Valenzuela has worked in the Los Angeles radio industry for over 10 years, and as such has engineered innumerable concerts, specials, and interviews with rock's biggest names, including Roger Waters and Pink Floyd. His career has also allowed him to work closely with Jim Ladd, who inspired--and eventually portrayed--the DJ character named "Jim" on Radio KAOS. For this issue of Spare Bricks, Johnny was able to put Ladd himself in the hot seat and get him to recount his memories of the Radio KAOS sessions and tour.
Johnny Valenzuela: Do you remember the very first time you heard of or heard the music of Pink Floyd?
Jim Ladd: Yes. I was at the first station I ever worked for, and they had put out... what's the one where they had all the equipment set up on the road?
JL: Ummagumma, right. Ummagumma. And I had no idea what to do with this record, but I couldn't stop listening to it. I just thought it was... bacon frying? What's this about? And so I would visit Pink Floyd now and again there. But it was Dark Side of the Moon... I remember that very clearly, that my friend Damien, who was a jock at KLOS, one day he came home--we were roommates, we had a house that he and I shared--and he came home one day and said, 'Sit down.' I said 'what are you talking about?' He goes, 'Sit down and shut up.' He stuck a joint in my mouth, he put a pair of headphones on me, lit the joint, and started Dark Side of the Moon. Said, 'I'll see you in an hour'. And when it got done, I just started the record again, and sat and listened to the whole thing again and was completely taken away. And that was really when I became a Pink Floyd fan. Dark Side.
JV: Do you remember the first time you saw them live?
JL: Yeah, it was The Wall. Through circumstance or whatever I never saw them until The Wall, which was a pretty amazing introduction to Pink Floyd. And I also got to host one of the concerts. They played here for a week in Los Angeles at the Sports Arena. I hosted one or two of the shows, but I went to like five of them, and all the rehearsals. So that was my first Pink Floyd concert.
JV: If that was the first time you saw them live I'm assuming that was the first time you met the band, and met Roger Waters face-to-face.
JL: No. The first time I met any of the band was actually David Gilmour, and he had put out a solo album. I have to give credit to a guy named Paul Rappaport. One of the great, wonderful people in the record business that's trustworthy, and one of the nicest guys in the world. And for years he and I had tried to get an interview with Pink Floyd for me, because I was doing the Innerview show. I was such a huge fan of the band, and Paul was a great supporter of the Innerview show, he really liked it. He said that 'we've got to do this', and they said 'No' for years and years and years. Finally, David Gilmour puts this solo album out and he agrees to do an interview, and comes up to the house and we do an interview. And I did explain that although we will feature the solo album we have to put some Pink Floyd music in it. And so we do the interview, and I thought it was pretty good. I thought he certainly did well, very well spoken guy, and enjoyed talking to him. That was the first time I met him.
Now the first time I met Roger was when The Wall came out. And Roger, as we all know, will do anything get his name in the press. Any magazine he can be on, Roger's right there. Roger's big at all the record store openings. No, you can't print that, because people will think I'm serious. Roger was... if you think Dave Gilmour was difficult to get, Roger Waters was impossible to get for an interview. Wouldn't do Rolling Stone, wouldn't do anybody, period. But Paul kept after him and after him. And he came out and rented a house out here while he was rehearsing for the Wall concerts, just as The Wall came out. And while he was here, in the place that he detested as the ultimate example of the airhead consciousness, he turns on KMET and hears 'The Fish Report With a Beat', and loves it. And goes, 'Well, wait a minute, maybe there's something more here than I thought.' And then got into the radio station, and really liked what we were doing and understood it. That's how I remember him agreeing to do the interview, because I worked at KMET.
So I went to his house, the house that he had rented out here, and I arrived to do the interview, and was met by his then-wife, Carolyne, who showed me upstairs into the bedroom, where he was in bed, surrounded by blueprints. Just masses of stacks of paper and blueprints, because he just wrenched his back playing tennis. So, he's in pain and in bed, and so we set up the thing there.
And for the first time, I said I would deviate from the format of the Innerview show. Because The Wall was what it was, and I *really* did my homework on this interview, I really listened to this thing and knew it inside and out. I said we're going to do this cut by cut, song by song, in order. And he loved that, because he'd just issued this thing, and this was his great work at the time. So we did this interview, and it really, really went well, and is still today one of the best interviews I've ever done with anybody. He was articulate, funny, thoughtful, difficult; all the great things that you need in an interview, he was. And we kind of hit it off after that, and slowly became friends in that I then interviewed him for everything that came out afterwards, whether it was The Final Cut or all of his solo albums and so forth.
JV: You sort of became his media go-to guy for anytime he had a project.
JL: For a while, yes. Nowadays he's much more open to the press, as he should be and as I encouraged him to be. But yes, for a while there, I was the only person to my knowledge that he talked to, which was a great honor for me.
JV: I'm sure there's many other people out there--many other radio and press people-- that thank you for encouraging him to soften up to everybody else.
JL: Well, I don't know that he listened to me, but now you'll see him in other things, as it should be. I just want to see his music exposed to as many people as possible, so if doing the occasional press interview for him means that more people are going to know who he is as opposed to the brand name of Pink Floyd, that's good.
JV: At the height of his anti-press stance, did he ever tell you why he was like that?
JL: Privacy. And they were kind of all like that, as far as I know. I don't know Nick Mason and Rick Wright. I've met them, but I don't know them. Roger kind of always wanted the best of both worlds. I don't know if it was he or Gilmour who told me the story of once where they did some show--this was well after Dark Side so they were hugely popular--and then they just walked off the stage out into the parking lot to the buses and nobody knew who they were. But that was by design; they wanted it that way. Roger has never been the guy to play up the rock star aspect of his life. So he wanted it that way. And that was good for him for a while, but when he left Pink Floyd it also became a disadvantage for a while.
JV: With Radio KAOS, how was that first brought to you? Did you get a phone call, did he come over, or what?
JL: He called me and said 'I'm doing this album, and there is a character of this kid named Billy,' and he explained who Billy was and what he saw as the thread of the album, and that 'there's a character in the album who Billy talks to, whose name is Jim. He's a disc jockey on an LA radio station, who's fighting a rear-guard action for free form radio. Do you know anybody like that?' He couldn't just ask me--he had to do that. So, I was obviously honored, really honored. So I said I would do it, and then he asked me to do some things for him, some recordings here in LA.
JV: Your wonderful wife makes a cameo on the album, and you get to tell her 'I don't care, shut up, play the record.'
JL: This was Roger's idea, and it was great. Apparently he had done something similar on Dark Side to get those... "I've always been mad" and those little pieces. What he asked me to do was to get a bunch of people together, and he gave me questions that he wanted me to ask them on 3x5 cards. He said 'I want you to take these people into the studio one at a time and without letting them know what the question is, sit them down in front of the mic, hand them the cards, tell them to turn them over one at a time, and answer the first thing that comes to their mind.' And one of the questions was: 'There's been a nuclear attack, and you only have a certain amount of time to live--the bombs are coming, the rockets are coming, missiles are coming. Where would you want to be?" And my wife answers--not 'With my husband'--'I want to be home with my monkey and my dog'. And Roger thought that was hilarious, because there's no mention of me, you'll notice, on there. The husband is not mentioned at all. The monkey and the dog--that's where she wanted to be. And all that stuff about the fish, and flounder and all that stuff, that all came from those sessions where I brought [my wife] Shelly and then I brought J.J. Jackson in and I brought a bunch of other people in, and they just answered the questions. 'What's your favorite fish?' He had all these different questions. So that's how we got that.
I'll tell you a quick story. One night [on the tour], Shelly had come to a show. I think we were at Madison Square Garden. The first time I ever set foot in Madison Square Garden was this. Never even seen Madison Square Garden. We do the show, the show's over, we go out into the parking lot to get into the cars to go to the hotel. And there's a bunch of fans out there who recognize me from the performance, and ask for me to sign some stuff. So I start signing these autographs, and Shelly's standing next to me. And I say to one of them, "You know that part on the album where the lady says 'I want to be home with my monkey and my dog'?" and they go "Yeah!" I said, "Well that's her." The entire crowd left me and surrounded Shelly. I swear to God. I'm standing there looking in over this gaggle of people, and she's signing autographs. I thought that was one of the great moments of the tour.
And I did one other session for him, where he wanted radio noises, sounds. I have a collection of antique radios, and I thought 'Well, this'll be cool'. So I got a studio, a different studio, and I packed up what must have been 20 of these antique radios--it was a huge operation. Because when you tune them you get that kind of shortwave, weird sound which you don't get anymore on modern radios. You don't get static, but you get that high-pitched whine between stations. And I went in there and tuned them to all these different stations so he could get a talk show, an old radio program, a rock show, and I went around and recorded each radio. And then I would tune some of the better ones that would make that noise so he would have sound effects. I don't know that he used any of that, come to think of it, on Radio KAOS. You know on The Wall, there's that thing after "Hey You" where you hear the television, you know, they're flipping around the TV? I think that's what he had in mind, I'm guessing. But I don't recall that any of that made it onto the record. But the voice recordings did.
JV: So where did you record your vocal tracks?
JL: At his house, in England.
JV: Oh, in England? So that was that at his studio, the Billiard Room?
JL: Yes, in the Billiard Room studio, right. And he had a great, wonderful studio, really sounded great. And the session was kind of an interesting day, in that after I'd recorded these sound effects for him, and I sent him the tapes, then he asked me to come over to London and I spent like a week there. And the first couple of days I don't know what we did, we hung out, or talked about the album or something. And then the third day, I think it was, we went skeet shooting, which I really liked. We went out this place and went on this course, and there was this old guy who looked like he was right out of some painting from the 18th or 19th century, in his kind of baggy plaid pants and his little hunting cap. Because in England if you own a gun you can't even keep it at your house, you have to keep it at the shooting place. So anyway we went out there and we start on this course where you walk around and at different points on the course, sometimes from a tower sometimes from a bush, they fire off one of these clay pigeons and you shoot at it.
Well, we got about halfway through the course and somebody came running out from the lodge to get Roger because his wife was on the phone. One of the kids had gotten ill. So obviously that was it for the skeet shooting. We jumped back in the car and went back to his house, and he made sure that--and I can't remember if it was Harry or Indy that was ill--but he made sure that they were okay, you know, and they went to the doctor or whatever they had to do. So I said, "Look, why don't I go back to the hotel and get out of your way, because you've got this family thing going on.' And he said, 'No, I'd really rather work while I'm waiting for whatever was going on', because he knew the kid was okay, but I knew it was on his mind. And I said, 'Let me get out of here and I'll come back tomorrow or whenever you're ready.' He said, 'No, let's do it now.' He said, 'It would be better for me because I know the child's all right, but it'll take my mind off it.'
So I sat down by myself in this room, they put a microphone on me, had an engineer, and he said 'Okay, go ahead.' And I said, 'Well what do you want me to do?' He goes 'Well, what would you do on the air?' And I said, 'Well, you've got to give me some motivation, give me something, Roger.' So he would ask me questions, or say, 'Well what if somebody called in?' or that kind of thing. So we kind of just laid down tracks, not knowing how they would be used. I didn't know. He, obviously, had a very good idea of how they'd be used, and he'd get something he wanted, and he'd say 'Okay, do something else'. And I would kind of make this stuff up, on the spot, at his direction... but not a lot of direction. So that's how we did it.
JV: So then it wasn't scripted? It was all very much off the cuff?
JV: Now a lot of your parts on the album are very specific, you're having this conversation with Billy. Was he playing you those sound bites of Billy talking, or was he perhaps through the control room board talking as Billy to you? I guess in other words, had those tracks that he had recorded of Billy come first?
JL: You know, that's a good question, and I don't really recall. I remember him playing Billy's voice for me over this little home computer. He had somehow figured out how to make Billy's voice on a computer. To this day I don't know how he did it. Because imagine what PCs were like back then. It was like a 240 or some really crude little... I mean, it was state-of-the-art at the time, but it was...
JL: And he'd figured out how to make this voice come out of the thing. He obviously told me the plot. So when I say it was made up, I mean I knew I would be talking to this kid named Billy. The best I can remember he may have said something in the control room as Billy, and then I would respond to it. I think that's how we did some of it. And then some of it was just little jokes or shit that I would make up. He went back later after I'd gone home and he chose what I said and what Billy said, and he was the one who put those together. So I didn't know exactly how it was going to be used until the album was done.
JV: At the time of your recording session, had there been songs recorded already?
JL: Yeah. I had heard "Radio Waves" and I think "The Powers That Be" and "Me and Him". And "Too Much Information" I heard. But it wasn't until later that I heard the one where he put my name in it, which was "Sunset Strip". And then of course the great song "The Tide Is Turning". What a wonderful song that it. One of his best, I think.
JV: Absolutely. Do you remember the first time you heard the album finished?
JL: He sent it to me, and then called and said, 'I want you to listen to this and tell me if you're okay with your parts, and if you need to re-record anything or you want something different you've got to tell me by X date. And this is something I learned because of this experience. I listened to the album and I was so blown away with it that after the first listen I called him and said 'Great! Don't change anything on my part; I love it.' And then after the fifth time of listening to the album, I started to hear things--on only my parts, not his, obviously--that I would have done differently. But I was so impressed with his work that I really didn't focus on me, which is what he asked me to do. That's what I should have done. But I got too hung up in the music, you know, and I was listening to the music and I loved the music so much that I didn't really even focus on [my parts] that much.
And then later I listened to it, and of course, being me, I went 'I should re-do that', or 'I should have said this differently', or 'How come I didn't do that different', or 'That's stupid', or whatever. But nobody knows that but me, until now. And now, looking back on it--what is it, 15 years later?--I love it just the way it is. I'm glad I didn't go back and make it more slick. Because it's not slick, and it really does have more of a feeling of being live. He was able to capture that feeling of 'this might really be happening'. If I had said to him 'I want to re-record this, that, or the other' it would have come out more canned than it did. So there are parts of my performance, if you can call it that, that are not perfect, but I think they're better than if I had gone back and done them in retrospect because they work better because they're not perfect.
JV: When he asked you to do all this, and obviously you were honored and agreed to do it and so forth, had he indicated to you that, oh yeah, there's also a tour involved?
JL: No, not at first. No, that came later. And so I was really stunned when that happened, that I would be actually going on tour with Roger, and very happy to do it. And it came at a good time, because I was only working like one day a week or something, so I had the time to do it. And I would have taken the time anyway; I wouldn't have missed that opportunity. So that was a pretty amazing adventure.
JV: Now on the tour, in rehearsals, did Roger look to you for advice when it came to making theatrical decisions in regards to 'This will be much more radio-like'? Or was it just 'Jim, I've got this under control'?
JL: (laughs) No, he has everything under control. I was not looked to for advice on anything, thank you very much. He would ask me to do things as far as creating elements. And he did look over my shoulder to do that. For example, he wanted some commercials, some funny commercials. And I enlisted some the help of my friends and told them 'How would you like to be on the Roger Waters tour?' Rachel Donahue, for example, came up with an extraordinary one... it was like a Bimbo School, it was like you could go to this school and learn how to be a bimbo. Very funny. Damien came up with one about the Oliver North stuff that was in the news, and this was a way to dispose of your loved ones rather than burying them or cremating them... you could have them shredded. That was very funny. And I did one which caused the only problem, of course, which was the Carbon Copy Consultants School of Radio Broadcasting. And I did this thing about 'Remember when your local DJ was a bright, intelligent human being who loved the music, and you could trust him to play songs that he really loved? Well those days are over!' and we went into Wham!. We started with Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" as a bit, and then went into Wham!, and then I went into this long tirade in this voice of this really pukey Top 40 guy about 'You can learn to be boring and mindless too.'
Well, during the rehearsal in Pennsylvania... which, by the way, I didn't get a lot of rehearsal time, I would like to add that in. After the album was done and asked me to be on this tour, Roger was kind enough to bring me over to London again--and Shelly went with me--and put us up in a nice hotel, so I could rehearse with the band. And we were there for like a week. And every day I would get up and we would drive out to this really wonderful, old theatre that he had rented. It was like a vaudeville theater or something. Really ornate, and a lot of gold filigree and stuff. And we had this place, and that's where they set up and rehearsed the show, with all the lights and the cues and everything. And I sat there every day for a week and didn't do one thing. Nothing! And came home. Now I'm thinking 'Oh, my dear Lord. I'm going out on the road with Roger Waters and I haven't rehearsed one cue.' And there are a lot of cues in that show for me to do. Because he had a whole band to rehearse, he had the whole light show to do. You know, Roger does everything. It's all Roger's decision. So every minute detail of this production is him. So he's having to deal with all this stuff, and I think he kind of figured 'Well, Jim will just do his thing.' So I come home having not done one cue. I mean nothing!
And then I go to somewhere back East--I don't know if it was Pennsylvania or Maine or somewhere--where they'd rented the tour rehearsal hall, and they would rehearse there and we were then going to go to the first gig. On the last day of rehearsal... now there I'm there another week... Nothing! I mean, the stage is built, the booth is built... Nothing! Now I'm really starting to sweat bullets. And I don't want to interrupt him. I mean, he's got a thousand things on his mind; he's got Billy's scrawl, he's got to rehearse the band, he's got the light show, he's got the projection thing, the sound. All of this is going on and all of it he's got to come up and decide. He's like a movie director. Finally on the last day I go, "Roger, I've got to have one run-through with this, I really do." And he goes, "Oh, oh yeah, of course!" So I got my one or maybe two run-throughs, I think it was. Maybe it was a little more. And the next day we went out and did it. I was scared to death. But it worked. He had it planned so well that it worked. And once I got down what I had to do and when to do it, no problem. But that's how well thought out it was on his part.
JV: Okay. So opening night, there you are, it's 7 o'clock, the show is at 8. You're back in your dressing room. What's going on in your head?
JL: Oh, I'm completely calm, cool, and collected. Yeah, no problem. I'm going out in front of like 15,000 screaming Roger Waters fans who don't know me, by the way. I mean, if they listen to the album they might make the connection, but this is not like I'm in LA so 'How're you doing, everybody, I'm Jim Ladd' is going to get some sort of response. I was pretty damn nervous, because all I wanted to do was not screw it up for Roger. He had worked so hard on this and there was so much riding on it, with the release of Momentary Lapse of Reason, and now this comes out. You know, I'll never forgive the record company for that. That was not the right thing to do. They should have held back one or the other of those albums. That was really not the right thing to do. Because Radio KAOS is a great record and it got horribly overlooked because of the timing of Momentary Lapse of Reason. And one or the other they should have separated by six months. I don't know why they did that, what the rush was. That was a bad decision.
But anyway, the first night was a lot of butterflies and a lot of nerves. But the moment that I got out there and said 'Hello' and the audience roared--because the show started, not because of me--and I went through my little bit and I didn't screw it up, then it was like, "Let's go!' Then I was like, 'Yeah, man!' From then on it was phenomenal fun, for me. I mean, imagine: I had the best possible seat in the house. I have a little part of the show that I do. Throughout the show I'm sitting onstage next to this extraordinary band of musicians watching this phenomenal show every night, being a part of it, but not really too worried because most of my stuff I didn't have to worry about screwing up too badly. So it was a really fun thing to do.
JV: All the times that the band was playing that you weren't actually talking you were still there in the booth... was that because that's how the show was to be, or is that because you wanted to be there?
JL: No, that's what I was told to do. See, the concept of the stage show was the audience was coming into a radio studio to watch a radio show, my radio show. And it just happened that that night my guests were Roger Waters and the Bleeding Heart Band. Because if you remember, I would come out and I would play a couple of songs. That booth was a working radio booth. That wasn't like taped or anything; that was live every night and I would start those songs and play the records live. And then at one point I would say 'Hey, they're here. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome...' and that's when the real show, obviously, began. But no, I had to be there the whole time because there was so much interaction between me and Billy that they wanted me there the whole time, which was great with me; that's what I wanted to do.
JV: I remember in the LA show you began the night by playing "Spirit of Radio" by Rush. Was that the first song you did every night?
JL: No. I would change it up just for me. Sometimes I would play "Heard It On the X" or "Spirit of Radio", or, I don't know, I had four or five different songs and I would usually play two. We started playing three or four, and that was too much, because once I'd start the song I'd have to sit there for three to five minutes with nothing to do. So I think I went back to him at one point and said 'Look, do you mind if I just played two songs, because it just seems to take too long,' and he said 'No problem.' After watching me play two songs or whatever my rap was, that was enough; let's get the band out there. But in LA I started, actually, by dedicating the show to KMET, and then "Spirit of Radio".
JV: The LA show in particular--well, it was the only one of the tour that I saw, unfortunately-- but at that one I think everyone in the room knew why that was such a special event going on, with the demise of KMET, and your return to the airwaves, so to speak, in LA. I remember at the very end of the night, as you're all doing the final 'thank you, goodnight' bow at the front of the stage, somebody handed you a KMET banner.
JL: That's right.
JV: I remember seeing on your face the joy of being able to hold that up, and that got a huge response.
JL: That was a night I will never forget, and I will always be in Roger Waters' debt for giving me that night. Look at how far ahead of the curve Roger Waters was on the subject of what's happened to radio today. Remember, this is back in 1987, right? Deregulation had just happened, people were still doing free-form radio all over the place. But Roger saw what was going to happen to radio, and that it was dying as we knew it, even though most people, even in the business, didn't see that. That's one of the things that inspired him, because KMET was going through what it did. And I will always love him, most importantly, for recognizing what KMET was all about, and how important it was, and giving me the opportunity to do that in front of my hometown. That meant so much to me.
You know, Roger has a reputation of being a perfectionist, and we hear about the arguments and all of that, and all of that stuff is real, but at the core, if you don't realize what a caring guy this is, you're missing the point. This is a man that has been an extremely good friend to me, and he did so at a time when I was unemployed, off the air, couldn't play his records, couldn't do anything for him. But he was so loyal as a friend, and always has been, that this is a guy who I really respect as a person, as well as an artist. I know this guy as a human being and what he values, and he would hate to hear me say this, because when we talk together it's mostly needling each other, because that's the kind of relationship we have. We do our best to just needle the shit out of each other. But he is a very caring human being, and a good friend.
JV: I've had the treat of hearing that in a number of interviews. When he gives you a one-sentence answer, you're able to turn around and go, "Is that all you're going to give me?" and not have him end the interview right there.
JL: I love the verbal joust with Roger Waters. He's one of my favorite people to interview, and it's not because he's easy. You've got to work at it. He and I have this kind of unspoken thing that when I come in to interview him I know I'm going to leave with the best interview that anybody's ever given me, but he's going to make me work for it. And that's fine with me, because I love the joust.
JV: Back to the KAOS tour, and you and I have talked a lot about this, but you were the only American in the cast.
JL: Oh, Jesus. Yeah, I paid dearly for that. I was the only American, and that means musicians, road crew, managers--I was it. So, of course, I was the butt of all of the jokes. And the problem was I could hold my own with these guys, except their point of culture reference and mine is much different, so they would be using cultural references I wouldn't understand, which made me look even slower than I probably am. But between Roger Waters and Andy Fairweather-Low, I'm still licking my wounds from that experience. They were not easy on me. It was great stuff, it was real guy stuff, you know. Nobody was going to walk away from that experience unscathed.
JV: Did you have a favorite part of the show? Like night after night, 'Okay this is the one I look forward to the most'?
JL: Several. It's hard to recall now. "Welcome to the Machine" was always great. "Radio Waves" I always liked. "The Powers That Be", that section was great. And of course "The Tide Is Turning", you know, that was always a real emotional part.
JV: My memory of "Welcome to the Machine", I don't know what kind of subsonic subwoofer system he had in the house, but to this day I have never, ever felt a seat vibrate as hard as it did during "Welcome to the Machine". I mean, he shook the building.
JL: This guy, if he could he would be down hard-wiring the equipment. People have to understand that he doesn't just go 'Well, go get me that'. All of that stuff's him. He's somehow searched out the latest technology to do that, and figured out how that will work best. I mean, he's really hands-on with that, so any of that stuff you experience from the moment the song's written to the moment it's delivered to you in concert, is him.
JV: Now what about the phone booth? Because obviously that was the wild card every night. Was there a screening process? Was there someone in the audience saying 'What's your question?' How did that come about?
JL: Yes, yes, good question. For the people who weren't there, at the mid-point of the show we would take an intermission. And when we came back from the intermission there was a phone booth arrangement set up right in the middle of the audience. And during the intermission one of the roadies, or somebody, would go out and they would find three or four people who looked like they weren't too stoned, and could ask a question. And they would probably ask them, 'What question did you want to ask?' And they would say, 'Okay, when we come back, Jim's going to come on and welcome everybody back to the show. We want you to step up to the microphone and you're going to ask a question of Roger.'
Now this was extraordinary because, no, it was not rehearsed, we did not know the question beforehand, Roger did not know the question, nobody knew. So it was completely spontaneous. And the fact that he would do that at that stage of the game was historic, because he did not have a lot of interaction with his audience at that time, and this was a major break from his policy of not talking to people. And he really wanted to have an interaction with the people who came. I think he enjoyed that experience, and nowadays he is much more accessible.
JV: I remember in LA there were two great questions, and then there was that guy, who... I don't even remember what the question was, but your response was, "Obviously you missed the announcement not to take the brown acid."
JV: Was there that guy every night of the tour?
JL: No. I mean, every once in a while there was that guy. I don't remember what he said...
JV: Honestly, I don't remember, but I do remember going...
JL: 'What the hell are you talking about?'
JL: Once in a while we would get that guy, but actually I was always kind of impressed by how coherent most of the fans were. The most asked question was about Syd Barrett.
JL: Yeah, they always asked about Syd Barrett. Occasionally they'd ask 'Is Pink Floyd getting back together?' Actually, they asked that a lot, but mostly they kind of got the vibe that this was Roger's show and we don't need to do that. And Roger, as any Pink Floyd fan knows, has always been very respectful of Syd Barrett, never minded answering a question about Syd Barrett. He had a place in the show dedicated to Syd Barrett; as you remember he did "Arnold Layne". Again there's an example of what Roger Waters is like--when he is your friend, he's your friend. At least that's my experience with him, and certainly the Syd Barrett thing will show you what he's made of.
JV: I'm assuming the phone booth was his idea, but did you have to sort of talk him into coming into the booth with you and answering these questions?
JL: I don't recall that. I don't think so, I think that was his idea, and that he wanted to interact with the fans in some way.
JV: It certainly seemed out of character for him, at the time.
JL: We were very surprised at that. I was surprised that he'd want to do it, the band was surprised he'd want to do it. I think he was not sure if it was something he'd want to do past the first one, but he ended up enjoying it. For the most part, the audience's questions were good, and sincere, and they really appreciated that. So I think he understood that, and we did it every night. It wasn't like we did it two or three times and went, "Fuck this," which he was capable of doing if he wanted to, but he seemed to enjoy it.
JV: Now the last night, the last show, your final curtain call, ''Good night, thank you very much,' house lights come on, everybody leaves. You're backstage, I assuming there's maybe a post-tour party. What was that feeling like at the end of the last show? Do you recall?
JL: I felt it to be a very hollow feeling, because I knew I wouldn't be doing this again, and I really enjoyed it. It wasn't like I got burned out on it. It was good for me because I got just enough of the experience, which was three months of touring, that it was still fun for me. It wasn't like I did it for a year and I had enough time to get jaded or bored about it or anything. So I was still kind of like, 'Wow, this is great! Let's go!' So I felt disappointed that it was over.
The vibe of that tour was not what the vibe of the current tour is. There was a lot of tension and a lot of stress during that tour, because he had just left Floyd, he was in a huge fight with them and the record company, and the disappointment of them being on tour. So it wasn't as relaxed and fun as I understand from the people that are involved in this current tour--meaning the last time he came to America and the European and worldwide tour--who are having the time of their lives. They can't wait to go out again, they're just having a blast, as is he. So it was a little tense during some of that. The pressure's all on Roger, you know. Everybody else is a hired gun, so really the pressure's on him. But to his credit, look what he gave the audience. That show, I think, is phenomenal. And I'm really sorry that it never got filmed or something, but I think that there was such a bad taste about the other things going on around, that it was kind of like 'Let's do this'. And yet, even with that, look how good it was.
JV: It is a shame that there isn't a video documentation of that. That is too bad. Looking back, what do you think of The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking?
JL: I like it. It was an album that took me a while to come to, because I didn't understand it immediately, to tell you the truth. I didn't get it. But now... in fact, I just played something from that two or three nights ago, I played the title track. And then in this last concert tour when I saw him do "Every Stranger's Eyes"--which just kills me. I just love that song. I now can go back and listen to Pros and Cons and appreciate it much more than I did at the time. So, yeah, at first I didn't really get that album, but now I like it.
JV: How about Amused to Death?
JL: I think that's brilliant. That's a brilliant piece of work. Very underrated. I think all of his solo stuff is underrated. If you're a Floyd fan and you get it, that's one thing. I don't remember what the critics said about any of these things, but these are masterpieces, really. This guy is not the normal singer-songwriter; this is Roger Waters. I met John Lennon, and I met George Harrison. I've had the privilege to meet a lot of people in this business. But he is in that rarefied category of Lennon, and Dylan, and McCartney, and in his way Jimi Hendrix, not as a songwriter, but what Jimi Hendrix represents to guitar playing. Roger Waters is that good. He's not, like, just 'great'. It's hard to even say how good he is as a songwriter and performer and what he's brought to rock and roll, because there's so few people who can stand on a stage with him.
And it's also interesting to see the people he likes. He played this benefit for Don Henley. I introduced Don Henley to Roger Waters, because I felt that these two guys would somehow get along. Not that their music is similar, but they're so bright and such well-read people, and with the same sensibilities on a lot of subjects. So I introduced them, and that's how Don got on "Watching TV". So anyway, Roger agreed to play this benefit for Don Henley, and on the bill with Roger and Don was John Fogerty and Neil Young. And it's the only time I'd ever seen Roger Waters be a fan. Because when Neil Young and John Fogerty played, I was upstairs in this booth watching the show at the Universal Amphitheater, and Roger came up there to sit and watch Neil Young and John Fogerty play. So he can appreciate other people as well.
JV: This last tour, you were at the Portland show which became the DVD of In the Flesh. How was that for you, having a more active role in that particular night?
JL: Again, I was very honored to do it. And it was nice for me to be around the people who I'd known at KAOS, like Andy, and Roger of course, and Andrew Zweck, and Graham Broad, and the ladies that were there, P.P. Arnold, that I'd known. That was a real treat. I'd seen them at the two shows at the Universal Amphitheater, and then I went up to Portland. Basically all they wanted me to do was go out tell the people that it was being filmed, and to kind of prep them. So that's what I did, and that was real nice to be able to do that. And it was a little more difficult there than here, because again not everybody knew me. It wouldn't be like doing it in LA, where immediately they know who's talking to them--this was just some guy out there talking to them. But I introduced myself as the voice on Radio KAOS, so that kind of got them to know who I was. And I told them, 'Look, this is being filmed. When you want to applaud, go nuts. Show them what Portland is about, because they chose your town to tape this in, and it's a real complement to you. But I'm going to ask you, for your sake and Roger's sake, please, when they do the quiet stuff, be quiet. Listen to the songs. Don't whistle, don't yell out, don't be a jerk.' And of course somebody whistled at that moment. And I said, 'Like that guy. That's what we're talking about; don't do that, because it ain't funny. But when the song is over, let them know who you are.' And, by God, the audience got it. And if you watch the DVD they pretty much do that.
JV: Well, and that--all of the whistling and yelling and not paying attention to the music--through the latter 70s that was one of Roger's biggest beefs with playing the larger venues.
JL: That's why you got The Wall. That's what The Wall was about. Although I think he's come to grips with that and he can certainly handle that better, I didn't want to see that happen that night for him. I just wanted to see that go as smoothly as possible, and if my little speech could in any way get that into the audience's mind, I wanted to take that minute to do it, so that's what I did.
JV: It's well-known that he's been working on an opera for about ten years. And of course, every time there's a rumor, it's 'He's that close. He's almost there. It's almost there.' And likewise, it's known that he has been recording some songs, with the hopes of a new album sometime soon. What do you know about that that you can tell us?
JL: I do know something about that, and I can't tell you anything. I'm not at liberty to speak.
JV: Okay. Here's something I saw you do with Don Henley a couple of years ago, and I thought it was so cool. I want to give you some names, some nouns, and have you just comment.
JV: Paul Carrack.
JL: Brilliant singer. Was the one guy on the tour that took me aside and gave me some hints to how to survive on the road. And I really appreciated that. His one big suggestion was 'If you want to have any money left after the tour, stop ordering room service.' (laughs) Because we were staying in the best hotels. I saw this from the most advantageous vantage point. We stayed in, like, Four Seasons hotels. This wasn't Motel 6 and a bus. We flew everywhere and stayed in phenomenal hotels. I don't know what this could have cost. But you had like a little per diem to eat on, and it was really expensive. And I didn't even think of that. I was like, 'Well, we're out on tour! Order the room service! More of everything!' (laughs) And I'd go to visit one of them and say, 'Put it on my bill!' And the next thing I know, what I'd earned that week, I'm in debt! So he told me 'Go out to eat. Find a restaurant.' He did little things like that, and I really appreciated that.
JV: Graham Broad.
JL: One of the most pleasant people I've ever been around. Funny, self-effacing, very witty. Just a nice guy. I always got a good vibe being around Graham.
JV: I'm going to take cover when I say: Andy Fairweather-Low.
JL: Oh my God. This is a person who really needs to have some sort of keeper. And I mean that in the worst possible way. This guy's wit should be--and I mean this--Andy Fairweather-Low's wit should be registered as a lethal weapon. He may be the funniest person I ever met... and it's always at my expense. That's the thing. This guy is the king of the one-liner comeback. He can tell a story brilliantly, and he can have you on the floor, holding your guts in, you're laughing so hard. He really is a funny guy, I'm telling you. And a brilliant guitar player. One of the things about his brilliance is, I mean, you'll notice he's not the lead guitar player, but he's the leader of the band. He's the guy standing right next to Roger, and kind of holding that all together. When Roger's playing or singing or whatever, they're looking at Andy. He's played with Clapton, he's played with everybody, because he's just that good. He's not showy; he's not somebody that's going to come out and do windmills and splits and set his hair on fire. He's just a phenomenally good musician. But I don't ever want to speak to him again, because every time I do my self-esteem just drops, because he's that funny.
JV: Clare Torry.
JL: Clare Torry. She came out I think on one of the KAOS shows, and did the thing for "Great Gig in the Sky". One of the most extraordinary performances ever recorded. You know? I can't comment on what she's like as a person because I only met her once. But that voice, and that performance that was captured on Dark Side of the Moon has to be one of the most extraordinary vocal performances ever on record, I think.
JV: Pink Floyd.
JL: The first thing that comes to mind is to say 'thank you' to Pink Floyd as a band, Roger as a writer and visionary, for giving us that music. That is, there is no one who is like them that's before. There have been many people, obviously, influenced by them since. But there is a magic to that thing that was Pink Floyd, in spite of or because of all the machinations that went on between them, I don't know and I really don't care. But what they gave us will never be dated, it will never sound dated, it will never be dated lyrically, because it deals with the human condition in a way that I don't think anyone else has ever approached. And I just thank them for giving us that. Again, as a band, they're in that rarefied air of the Beatles and the Stones and the Doors. As a band, they're in maybe the top five that have ever been.
JV: Roger Waters.
JL: A simpleton, really. A simple man, not complex at all. (laughs) I don't know what to say about Roger other than I'm really proud to call him my friend. He's been a good friend to me, and I know I've said that before in the interview. But I think the reason that I emphasize that is because of his stature as a musician he's one of the very few people I would ever use the term 'genius' with, as far as being a musical genius. I would use that with John Lennon, I would use it with Roger Waters, I would use it with Bob Dylan. Not a lot of other people of that caliber come to mind. But having said that, he has been a good friend to me. And I really am in his debt in a lot of ways. When you think of the fact that Roger Waters thought of me to be on Radio KAOS, was kind enough to let me do those interviews with him which I treasure, that I went out on the road with him, that I can call him up and talk to him about things not related to the business. You know, I've called him on occasion just to ask his advice on life. And I really treasure that. Because I've spent a long time with him in different situations professionally and personally, and I've seen him as a musician, as a rock star, and as a human being. And I like him anyway.
JL: I will also say that he is, intellectually, I guess this is an obvious statement, he's a very bright guy. He's well-read, his opinions are really well thought-out. This is not somebody who has a knee-jerk reaction to anything. He's thought through what he's talking about. He's a very funny guy. A lot of people don't know that, but he's very funny. And he could have been an actor. He's an extraordinary mimic, and he can do voices and mimic people very well. So if he wasn't a musical genius he could have probably made it on the stage as an actor.
JV: Does he have an impression of you?
JL: If he does, he knows enough not to show it to me. I mean, he's done me to me on the phone a couple of times, but never to my face.
JV: Should you have an impression of him, I'm not going to ask you to do it.
JL: No. No.
JV: Last one: a Pink Floyd fan.
JL: Well, I think they probably range the gamut depending on the depth of their understanding of Floyd. I think there are Pink Floyd fans that just love "Money", and probably think that that's about Roger saying that he wants money. There's that level of fan; they just like the song. Then there are the people like you, who honest-to-God get it, and you are the guy that he's writing these songs for. Because you really understand what he's saying, and what the band is saying, and you are someone who has taken the time to listen to this music on the level that I know he wants you to listen to it on. That would mean something to him. He appreciates that. Roger Waters loves the fans. When you think about that incident that happened with The Wall, where he spit on the guy, you've got to figure where that came from. That didn't come because Roger was a jerk; it came because the guy was a jerk, and Roger reacted in a way that was probably inappropriate, obviously. But he cares so much about the music, it is so important to him, that he can't understand when people react in a mindless way. He doesn't want mindless adulation. He doesn't want to be the guy on People Magazine and Entertainment Tonight. He doesn't give a shit about that. He really cares about those songs, and communicating to the audience. And all he asks is that the audience be smart enough and sensitive enough to listen.
He once said--I love this quote of his--look, being in the audience is a creative act. That's part of creating the show. He's rehearsed for the show, he's written the songs, he's recorded the songs; he's done his part. Now he's come and he's going to play these songs for you. Now do your part, and be smart enough to know how to listen to them and appreciate them in the right way. And I think that's all he asks of his audiences, because he's giving you everything he's got. He does not go out on stage and go through the motions. He's really trying to reach beyond the stage and touch you in some way with that music. And the only thing that would disappoint him is A) if he failed to do that, or B) if you weren't bright enough to know, 'don't shout out requests, take in the experience, and get it'. That way, you are part of the creative process.
I just think the fans run the gamut from the people that are coming because they've heard of Pink Floyd or they like one particular song, but they don't even get the whole thing. And then there are people like you who really get what's going on, and appreciate it, and that who I think he's writing for.
JV: My very last question--I've been saving this for the very end. And it's a shame it's a magazine, because I would love to let the world see your reaction.
JL: What the hell are you doing now?
JV: Jim, would you be so kind as to autograph my copy of Radio KAOS?
JL: Oh, man, I'd be glad to. I'd be honored.
JV: And just do me a favor--leave enough room for Roger.
JL: Sure. I'm going to do it in the upper part so he has to sign below me. That'll piss him off. That'll really get to him. Let's see--written, produced, sung by Jim Ladd. Okay, good.
JV: And the other guy.
JL: Yeah, and the other guy.