OK, first of all, please accept my apologies. I donâ€™t know if there will be a new album, nor what gear he will use – if he decides to do one. But, I thought it would be fun to speculate on what might be! Please join me!
Itâ€™s pretty pointless, I know. Thereâ€™s been no official statement on Davidâ€™s working on a new album. Still, there are numerous hints and indications that he might be doing so â€“ including recent comments and tweets from Manzanera and Polly. Itâ€™s also interesting to note the number of makers claiming that David has ordered this and that for his â€œnew studioâ€.
Say what you will about claims like these, the marketing value is considerable, but the fact is that thereâ€™s some truth in them. Evidence Audio has delivered I donâ€™t know how many hundreds of feet of new cables for Davidâ€™s new home studio and Effectrode has also shipped a couple of their outstanding pedals to Gilmour, requested by Phil Taylor. David is spotted using the PC-2A compressor and thereâ€™s even a quote on the Effectrode site from Taylor, praising the Helios Fuzz and also saying he wants to order a second pedal “before David starts recording”.
Of course, none of this are concrete proof of there being a new album on the way. David could very well be building a new studio for his own private amusement. Sort of a retiring cellarâ€¦ I donâ€™t know. Perhaps Phil Taylor has gotten free access to Davidâ€™s platinum credit card?
Letâ€™s go back. Phil Taylor joined Pink Floyd as backline technician in May/June 1974. Pink Floyd was gearing up for the second leg of the Dark Side of the Moon tour and much of summer was spent upgrading both the stage production and band equipment. One of Taylorâ€™s first jobs was to get new WEM cabs and Hiwatts for David. The two Jedson lap steels were also acquired at this point. David had been tracking down guitars for some time but it was Taylor who initiated the whole vintage quest and not least, introduced David to new gear.
By the mid 70s the whole effect pedal phenomena had exploded and within just a couple of years, guitarists went from having to punch hole in their speakers to achieve fuzz, to having a huge palette of different sounds to choose from. David was in the middle of it all and started to employ pedals like the MXR Phase 90 and EHX Electric Mistress as soon as they reached the shops.
Davidâ€™s guitars on Animals and not least Wall, sounded different than on earlier albums. The setup was obviously more elaborate, with different pedals and guitars being used but they also employed more intricate recording techniques. On Wall especially, the guitars sounded more mixed and processed and although itâ€™s hard to tell just what they did to the tracks, it was clearly an attemt to mix all the instruments for both a more aggressive tone and specific textures and sounds. Much more so than on any other Floyd album before and after.
We can now look back at the 80s with a bit of disbelieve and ridicule but the fact is that the whole industry shifted from analog to digital and the sky was the limit – apparently. David Gilmour replaced all his old stuff with Boss, active pickups and even guitar synths. It might be hard to understand how and why he would go down that path, and Iâ€™m sure he has asked himself that many times too when looking back, but the fact is that he was exploring new sounds and was, if not ahead of his time, then at least among the ones who dared to take chances.
Something happened to the industry in the early 90s and it probably started with the so-called grunge movement. It was really an uproar against the polished music that the record companies poured out in the late 80s. Bands like Niravana, Soundgarden, Mudhoney etc went back to the metal roots and embraced both the classic sound but also the vintage gear. This also coincided with the return of Mike Matthews, Sovtek and the Big Muff.
Perhaps this change and return to vintage and analog inspired Gilmour to design a rig for the Division Bell tour in 1994 that was, although pretty insane, very close to what heâ€™d used in the 70s. It was clear return to the basics and the essence of the old Floyd albums. It was also pretty obvious that both David and Taylor had done a lot of research and acquired lots of new gear for both the album and tour. Back was the watery rotary tones, UniVibes and screaming Big Muffs.
The biggest change in recent years must have been the return of the Black Strat at the Live 8 show in 2005. It was a Floyd reunion but the gear geek in me remembers the sight of the Black Strat the most. The look, the tone and even Davidâ€™s posture (!) had changed. Something happened during those rehearsals and I think that this transformation had a significant impact on how On an Island turned out.
It was Phil Taylor who apparently stuck the guitar in Davidâ€™s hands when he initially asked for the red. A coup? An order? It seems that the bold move was appreciated by David and it probably also revealed that Taylor has had more to do with Davidâ€™s tones over the years than any of us knew.
On an Island was a return to Davidâ€™s musical roots and influences and he also employed much of his old gear that dated back to the 70s, including the Black Strat, Gretsch, Goldtop, the classic Pete Cornish board (this was new, but very similar to the old Animals and Wall boards). Island is perhaps also one of the most honest sounding albums heâ€™s recorded in terms of tone â€“ apart from perhaps his first â€™78 solo album and Final Cut. What you hear is pretty much what happened in the studio. Island is also a fairly stripped down album and contrary to Division Bell, which has a fairly complexe mix, Island leaves room for each instrument and not least Davidâ€™s guitars.
So what if he will record a new album? How will it sound? If and when the album does happen itâ€™s obviously impossible to tell how heâ€™ll record his guitars and arrange his solos. Perhaps a new album will sound very different from Island. Perhaps not. Either way I have a feeling he will approach the guitar sessions in a similar manner as with Island. Itâ€™s how heâ€™s always done it. From plugging the wah the wrong way, to using echo to create walls of sound to sustained Whammy tones, Davidâ€™s approach has always been about trying out new things and experimenting to get the tones he wants. Itâ€™s a very subjective journey and although itâ€™s not as easy to create unique tones as it was back in the 60s or 70s, it still requires a lot of effort, trail and error, to get THE tone.
As I said, or admitted, itâ€™s pretty pointless to speculate on what he might be using but there are a few things that I would love to see him doâ€¦ for a possible new album. It would be very cool to hear the Yamaha RA200 rotating speaker again. It was employed during the 2007 Barn Jam and you could instantly recognize its unique watery character. I would love to hear it in all its glory and not just some hard to hear effect way back in the mix. I would also like to hear some modulation being used. A UniVibe perhaps and Mistress? I ask for too much, I know.
It would also be great to hear more of those dark and compressed P90s tones. I love those. Listen to Bryan Ferryâ€™s Olympia and songs like Song to the Siren. Davidâ€™s playing is sublime. Never taking up too much space but he delivers a few notes here and there that just hits you right in the heart. I actually prefer stuff like this over other typical P90s tones and songs like This Heaven.
Regardless of whether there will be a new album or not I find it very inspiring that Davidâ€™s still experimenting and testing new gear. I donâ€™t care whether he does it for his own pleasure or for a new album. The fact that he still does it is incredibly inspiring. It inspires me to never stop trying or to give up the quest but to continue and strive to be a better musician and guitarist. That being said, letâ€™s cross our fingers for a new album to happen!