That speaks to the power of music and lyrics that endure. It enables you to eventually come to such a revelation. As bleak as things appear when you first listen to it, it has another side that you’ll get to.
I think Roger Waters is saying that your dreams, the things that you think, and the ideas that you’re visualizing have to propel you into action. Your experiences, the things you do — that’s really what your life is. The things that you think and the things that you believe in your mind — they’re invisible. They don’t really do anything. The mechanism of being human is designed to have experiences. All that you see, all that you taste, and all that you feel is what you become.
So I think he’s telling you, “Don’t just dream your life away. Dreams are great, as long as they lead to action. Don’t just read books. Books are great, as long as they lead to some action. Life is what you do, not what you think. Thinking and thinking and thinking is just thinking. You’re not doing anything.”
Speaking of doing and not just dreaming, your Dark Side has a lot of action, loudness, and dynamics — the kinds of elements we really enjoy as listeners. Also, there is, of course, distortion. Do you know when you’ve got the “correct” amount of distortion? Or is there even a “correct” answer to that?
Ah, one of the noble questions. [laughs] It all comes down to your perception that day. If you’ve been in Houston, Texas, and it’s 100 degrees in the shade and bitterly humid, and then you go to someplace like Buffalo, New York, where everyone thinks it’s hot but to you it feels cold — well, it just depends on what you’re used to. When we’re in the studio, it feels as though we have endless possibilities for how much we turn up this knob or turn down that knob, or how much distortion we add to things — but it’s not really endless. It’s like bathwater. You know you don’t want it to be too cold or too hot. There’s that area in the middle — you turn the knob and feel it, and there you go. It doesn’t take you a week to get that bath to the right temperature. Music, tempos, distortion, EQ — they’re exactly like that. You find what you like and you move on. And that's the thing. There is no “correct” amount. If you’re lucky, you simply listen, and you say what you like and what you don’t like — in the same way you turn on the bathwater to the temperature you feel works — and you go for it. There is no “right amount”; there’s the amount you like right now. In a sense, that’s what it’s all about. We want our art to be something that we’re doing at the edge of our fi ngertips. We don’t want to feel like everybody is sitting around going over every nuanced millisecond until it’s all approved.
Back to an earlier point: Sometimes you find things in songs that aren’t readily apparent the fi rst few times you listen to them, or even play them as a band. You may discover different things later on because you had to listen to a song or play it for years to get to a certain level with it.
I can tell you that for sure. There’s been some music in my life that I’ve listened to a lot and then gotten away from for a while, but I’ll come back to it and think, “Oh, my God, I never realized that this was going on here!”
It happened recently, in fact. Believe it or not, I relistened to Led Zeppelin IV — the one with “Black Dog,” “When the Levee Breaks,” and all those great songs — and I heard new things there that came out of my experiences with recording, my experiences with making music, and my understanding of the dynamics of recorded vocals. There are probably a handful of records I’ve heard a thousand times, and that’s one of them. If you’re lucky like I was, putting the music and your mind together will reveal endless possibilities. The music is the music, but it’s you hearing the little crack in there, that little vein that you didn’t realize was there before. It’s exhilarating!
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