David Gilmour is no stranger to long gaps between albums — both Pink Floyd‘s and his own. So having his new Rattle That Lock album (due Sept. 18) and Floyd’s The Endless River come out just over 10 months apart seems like something of a land speed record.
But one did not have a particularly great impact on the other.
“This one [Rattle That Lock] has been going on for a while,” Gilmour tells Billboard. “The Endless River interrupted the making of this album. This album has been slowly snowballing, gathering speed and momentum as it goes along from a very slow, leisurely pace seven, eight years ago to now, when it’s been like an avalanche, really.”
The follow-up to On an Island (2006), Rattle That Lock even includes a piece of music — the rolling piano intro to “A Boat Lies Waiting,” a tribute to late Floyd keyboardist Rick Wright and one of five songs with lyrics by novelist Polly Samson, Gilmour’s wife — that dates back 18 years. Gilmour notes that you can even hear his now-18-year-old son Gabriel, then a baby, squawking in the background. All told, he worked on an estimated 35 pieces of music before winnowing it down to the 10 on the album (14 on the deluxe edition). “It’s just sitting down and listening and thinking about which ones are going to be about what subject, what lyrics are going to be on them and then which ones fit best together,” Gilmour notes.
And through that process, a theme emerged for the album — though nothing quite as focused and grand as some of Pink Floyd’s celebrated concepts. “It’s sort of a day in the life, where it’s just ideas and thoughts that you might have during the course of a day,” Gilmour explains. “That really helps me to get songs into the right order and the right shape and to focus on the way it should be. It’s really more of an aid for me than something that I want to lay on the public.”
Rattle That Lock also marks another step forward in the evolution of Gilmour’s songwriting partnership with Samson, who’s just published a new novel, The Kindness, that (like the album’s title) was partially inspired by Book 2 of John Milton’s epic Paradise Lost. Samson began writing lyrics on Pink Floyd’s 1994 release The Division Bell, but the creative process with Gilmour became more formalized — and comfortable — with On an Island and now Rattle That Lock.
“I thought it was a bit of a dirty secret when The Division Bell came out, but On an Island came more out of David coming to me saying, ‘I want you to write these lyrics. Will you write these lyrics?'” recalls Samson, who Gilmour also cajoled into singing on his last two solo albums. “When people do those lists of ‘What are your favorite Pink Floyd songs?’ they tend to stick to something like ‘High Hopes’ on there, and that’s good. I feel like I’ve got permission now. I feel OK about it, like, ‘Why shouldn’t I?’ And David has always been incredibly enthusiastic.”
Gilmour adds that Samson “used to try very hard to imagine herself as me and was writing things for me, but I think she’s liberated herself a bit from that view and now realizes she can write for herself, and because we share so many views, political and philosophical, they’ll still work perfectly well for me. I mean, I’ve got a lot of experience singing other people’s words — and my own, of course. It’s working really well as a partnership, and I’m thoroughly enjoying it.”
Gilmour has just started touring to support Rattle That Lock, blending the new album’s songs and other solo material with ample Pink Floyd favorites during the opening show Saturday in Brighton, England, where he and Samson reside with their youngest children. He’ll tour Europe and the U.K. into mid-October and South America in December before coming to North America for shows in five cities during late March and early April, with no plans to add more dates at the moment.
“I’m not doing many dates anywhere and am trying to fit them into specific periods of time that don’t interfere too much with my children’s schooling and those sorts of things,” Gilmour says. “It’s quite a lively show, and it will evolve as the tour goes on because at the moment the record isn’t out in Europe yet. So the first few dates are going to be played for people who haven’t heard the album yet, and when the album is out we’ll start evolving those sets.”