You might only know him from playing with Pink Floyd, but Tim Renwick has played with them all. His résumé is a long list of top selling bands and artists and his reputation among fellow musicians is right up there with Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler and David Gilmour. I’m very proud to share this interview I recently did with Tim Renwick.
As you all know, Tim is an old friend of David and he was a part of Pink Floyd’s touring band in 1987-90 and in ’94. He was also playing with the band at the Live 8 concert in Hyde Park in 2005. Prior to all this, Tim played with Roger Waters on his Pros and Cons tour in 1984.
Tim Renwick recently released a new album, “Privateer”. As he talks about in the interview below, it’s a collection of songs he’s written over the years for Audio Network. The album includes 13 instrumentals written and produced by Tim and he’s got some familiar names lending their talents… more on that later.
“Privateer” is a solid guitar album showcasing Tim’s different styles and musical background (or influences). What I love about Tim is his ability to master all kinds of techniques, which makes his playing exciting and never boring. It’s never fair to compare songs with classics, but “Privateer” has it’s Clapton moments (“Nighthawk”), some Santana (“Bertholletia Excelsa”) and my favourite “Texas Nexus”, which has a bit of Joe Satriani/Billy Gibbons flavour to it. The albums isn’t challenging, neither the production nor the songs, but you’ll get a chance to hear Tim’s unique playing and tone. “Privateer” is an excellent album for those long careless summer nights. Absolutely recommended both for the avarage Floyd fan but certainly for the genuine guitar fan! Please visit Tim’s website and order your own copy!
So, here’s the interview!
You’ve known David Gilmour for quite some time, – he also contributed on a couple of Sutherland Brother & Quivers albums in the 70’s. I assume he was the one approaching you prior to Pink Floyd’s tour in 1987?
– I was born and raised in Cambridge and soon became aware of David who played in a group called Jokers Wilde with drummer Willie Wilson. They were the best local group and played largely surfing music with much vocal harmony. When this group disbanded, David formed a three-piece called The Flowers with bass player Rick Wills – later to play with the group Foriegner and Willie also on drums. They worked for a while in France but found little success – David was offered the job with Pink Floyd after his return to the UK. I played with Rick Wills in a band called Little Women for a while. I moved to London, most of my musician friends stayed in touch with each other and I asked Willie if he would join my band Quiver some time later. We used to see David quite a lot in those days, he would occasionally jam with Quiver (nobody recognized him in those days as Floyd were quite a “faceless” band) and we rehearsed in his home studio and recorded a few demos. Around that time we were managed by Floyds’ manager Steve O’Rourke, so we also found ourselves on various shows opening for the Floyd (and other bands such as T Rex!).
Quiver eventually joined forces with The Sutherland Brothers but we maintained a connection with David, who later produced and played pedal steel guitar on a B-side called ‘We Get Along’ for CBS Records. Throughout this time I think I saw every Floyd tour that there was!
David called me, out of the blue, to play with the band – I was completely gob-smacked. I had played some acoustic on the soundtrack of The Wall but apart from that I had no other previous playing experience with the band.
Do you remember on which songs you played guitar on the Wall soundtrack?
– Yes. It was the short instrumental between “Is There Anybody Out There?” and “Nobody Home” (side 3 of the album). It is actually untitled and consists of classical guitar and orchestra. I recorded it at Abbey Road Studio 1; the orchestra was already on tape. Michael Kamen was producing and there were no members of the band present. I attended the premier of the movie and was disappointed to note that I did not receive a credit! That’s life!!
In an interview with Guitar World in ’94 you said that you knew the Pink Floyd catalogue fairly well as you had transcribed everything for the Pros and Cons tour with Waters. How did you and Gilmour work out which parts you needed to play and did he advice you on which effects to use?
– Most of the original recordings had involved David playing more than one guitar part, so I took the backing role behind all solos and just laid back during the sections where he was also playing rhythm. At times it allowed him to concentrate on a challenging or high-pitched vocal part. He did suggest specific effects at times although it was usually fairly self-evident!
How was it to be asked again in 1994?
– David and Nick wanted to keep the continuity going and so the same musicians were asked once more – we had all got on so well on the previous extensive touring. The only changes were with the backing vocalists and also having Dick Parry on saxophone (who had played a lot of the original parts). He was the obvious choice really. It was great to be back!
You were using one of David’s old Pete Cornish boards for the ’94 tour. A second smaller board is also seen in your rig at the time. Do you remember the effects setup in these boards? Did you have them modified in any way?
– I used the same Cornish board throughout all my work with The Floyd – it was not modified at all. It was the board originally used by David and was probably one of the first made by Pete Cornish – certainly the largest at the time of construction. It had several send and return sockets for external effects and pedals, but I didn’t require them. Most of the components were from conventional stomp pedals, mainly MXR and Electro Harmonix’, but Pete had made his own fuzz box and vibrato effects – the latter most noticeable on “Money”, the former on “Brick in the Wall”. The smaller board had controls (on/off) for the Tubeworks reverb, Yamaha SPX 90 fx and Roland SDE 3000 Digital Delay unit.
Note: The board was made by Cornish for the Wall recording sessions. Some pictures from around About Face suggests that it was slightly modified to include additional effects and pictures from ’94 (when Tim used it) shows the board without the familiar customized Cry Baby volume pedal on top. – read more about the board here.
You were once again playing with the band at Live 8. It must have been a treat to participate in both such an event and the reunion of Pink Floyd!
– I was very surprised to be asked to take part in the Hyde Park concert because I had met David a few weeks earlier and he told me that he had been asked to perform but had categorically turned it down! Two weeks before the event, it seems, he had a change of heart, and called me up to play, saying that it would be a laugh to play once more with Roger in the band. It didn’t turn out to be much of a laugh! Roger appeared to want to be “group leader” from the start of rehearsals and it made for an uncomfortable atmosphere all round. He did not seem to credit the fact that most of the musicians and crew had worked together on and off for 17 years without him being there! It was, however, a great honour to have been involved – especially as I had been playing in Eric Clapton’s band on the original Live Aid concert from Philadelphia twenty years before!
How did you feel being in the middle of the whole Gilmour VS Waters thing?
– I remember a distinct sense of everyone involved keeping their heads down and attending to their own departments! I had, in fact gone to same school as Roger and played in his band on his Pros and Cons of Hitch-hiking world tour, so I had some previous experience of his band-leading style. David is generally much more fun to work for than Roger, who likes everything to be exactly the same night after night! I trusted that David knew what he was doing when he agreed to the reunion!
Have you listened to David’s latest album and did you get to see him on the tour?
– I have a copy of the album (which I bought) and I enjoy. I didn’t see the tour – but I was there at David’s 60th birthday party at London’s Porchester Hall, when he and his band performed the whole of the new album collection. A great evening.
What people may not know is that you’ve actually played on some of the biggest selling albums and tours of all time, – Dionne Warwick’s “Heartbreaker”, Kenny Roger’s “Eyes That See in the Dark” (including “Islands in the Stream”), two Pink Floyd tours (with album releases) and you’ve worked with huge stars like Elton John, David Bowie Celine Dion (to name but a few)… How does it feel to have been apart of all this? Is there one thing that stands out that you’re especially proud of?
– I suppose that the Al Stewart hit single ‘Year of the Cat’ is probably the best-known solo of mine. I played both the acoustic and electric parts. Playing with Pink Floyd has been the pinnacle for me – I don’t think there have been many artists that could surpass the scale of stage production or sheer size of audiences that we experienced on our tours together. Apart from Earl’s Court and one or two other shows (Moscow comes to mind) all the Floyd concerts were stadiums and were almost all sold out. I was involved in well over 300 of these shows – a unique job! My studio work has been very varied indeed. My musical taste is broad and I’ve made it a policy never to turn down a studio recording date out of hand. There is always something to be learned (even if it is how NOT to work!) and new friends to be made.
A lot of guitarists tend to stick to one style but you seem to be able to do all sorts of stuff on your guitar, – traditional blues, some Van Halen-ish tapping and even some amazing wammy-bar stuff that’s quite unique. Can you try to describe your style?
– I like to try and turn my hand to different approaches to playing the guitar – but for me, the melodic content is the most important factor.
You recently released a new album “Privateer”. It strikes me as a record reflecting on your influences, your musical preferences and your love for playing the guitar. Why a new album and how was it making it?
– “Privateer” is a collection of pieces that I have written over the last few years. The music has been used as background (or “underscore”) for many recent productions and is published by Audio Network Plc. who commissioned the works for their music library. Library music is something that I’ve been involved with for a long time now, having recorded some 15 albums of it! It is usually anonymous – sometimes that is a relief! With these tunes I was given a free rein to do what I wanted and it occurred to me that they sounded like a band. I asked permission to repackage some of them into album form. The tracks have been, where necessary, edited, overdubbed and compiled to make them more easily listenable and then remastered. So this CD was actually an accident, but I hope, a happy one!
Guy Pratt is playing bass on a couple of tracks and even your old band mate from the Quiver days, Willie Wilson (drummer on Gilmour’s first solo album and part of the Surrogate Band) is playing percussion. How did you put together the band?
– When I recorded this material it was done with a guide electronic drum part to begin with and instruments added one by one, initially all played by me. Later I replace my guide parts with better performances from other musicians, finally replacing the drum parts with a “real” drummer – in this case Henry Spinetti or Steve Jackson. Willie is an old friend from way back who now lives in the same Cornish village as me and plays in my band The Bucket Boys as does the excellent Steve Turner (National slide guitar). Martin Bell (fiddle) used to play with The Wonderstuff and lives just down the road, he also helped me with building the website and engineering the album. Guy was visiting between duties with Brian Ferry and David Gilmour.
The album says to be a collection of songs written for Audio Network. Can you shed some light on what Audio Network is all about?
– Music publishers Audio Network Plc are a fairly new production music library that operates mainly direct from their website – www.audiolicense.net – where you can listen to their 100 or so writers (in many different styles) and download anything for commercial OR personal use, including me!
You’re mostly associated with the Stratocaster. The guitar you’re using now appears to be a 60’s model with a humbucker bridge pickup. Can you tell us a little more about it?
– Yes. I bought it new, from Chandlers shop in Kew, in London about twelve years ago. It is sea-foam green having American electronics (Seymour Duncan Alnico Two pick-ups – single coil except for bridge position which is a dual tapped humbucker) and Japanese wooden parts. It has a pearlised scratchplate and was assembled by my friend Brinsley Schwartz for Chandler Guitars. It actually looks turquoise to me, but I’m a bit colour-blind!
What kind of effects are you using now?
– I’m pretty much semi-retired these days apart from the odd session in London or outing with The Bucket Boys. I live in Cornwall, which is a fairly remote location with its own special charm. I use a very simple set-up based around a reissue Fender Bassman (4 tens) and a few basic Boss stomp pedals. I do keep a small collection of guitars and amps that have been gathered over the years.
What are your plans for the future? Will you be touring with the new album? Are you planning on recording a follow up?
– I hope to carry on strumming until I drop with a bit of luck! Touring is unlikely at this point, but you never know what might come up! I hope to have more recorded music available from my website in the future – I shall certainly be producing more production music. For more detailed information on my discography and historical details check my website www.timrenwick.com. There you can also hear some extracts from my album and even order it if you wish!!
A big thanks to Tim Renwick for answering all these questions and for sharing many great stories!