David Gilmour: “When I’m playing, I’m not thinking of anything. I’m going to let my mind be devoid of everything and just let it steer itself”

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David Gilmour performs live on stage at the Arena Verona on July 10, 2016

(Image credit: Elena Di Vincenzo/Archivio Elena di Vincenzo/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)

This week, electric guitar legend David Gilmour shocked the music world by revealing that he had reunited with his mid-’80s – mid-’90s-era bandmates – Nick Mason and bass guitar player Guy Pratt – to record a new song under the Pink Floyd name, Hey Hey Rise Up.

Featuring vocals from Andriy Khlyvnyuk of the Ukrainian band BoomBox, the song is anchored by two minutes of spellbinding lead work from Gilmour, replete with the aching bends and crystalline tone that’ve made him one of rock’s most revered guitarists.

In a new interview with Rolling Stone (opens in new tab), Gilmour outlined how he approached the song’s solos, saying that he tried not to think too hard about where he wanted to take them. 

“I suppose what I do a lot is improvise and then fix,” he said. “If I make mistakes – which I make a lot of – we go in and figure out a new bit for that part. Usually the best part of it is the stuff that comes straight off the top of your head.

“The chords that I was using for the solos led themselves out of the music that Andriy is singing over, so what I’m playing over is inspired by that. 

“So you could say there’s a fairly direct and improvised influence of Ukraine and what I’m thinking of, but when I’m playing, I’m not thinking of anything. I’m going to let my mind be devoid of everything and just let it steer itself.”

Gilmour also clarified (opens in new tab) in the interview that the song was definitively a one-off for Pink Floyd, after saying as recently as last year – in an interview with Guitar Player (opens in new tab) – that the band had broken up for good. 

It was “the size of [Pink Floyd’s] platform,” Gilmour explained, that motivated him to release Hey Hey Rise Up as a Pink Floyd recording, rather than as a solo song.

“When I spoke to Nick, and he said he was willing to do it as Pink Floyd, it seemed like a no-brainer,” he said. “We want to spread this message of peace, and we want to raise the morale of the people who are defending their homeland there in Ukraine. So why not?”

Hey Hey Rise Up is based around a video and audio recording of Khlyvnyuk singing the World War I-era Ukranian protest song, The Red Viburnum In The Meadow, in Kyiv’s then-empty Sofiyskaya Square.

After it was posted to Khlyvnyuk’s Instagram (opens in new tab) page, the video went viral, and eventually reached Gilmour, who decided to set the vocal performance to an original instrumental.

Gilmour managed to get ahold of Khlyvnyuk from his hospital bed in Kyiv, where he was recovering from a mortar shrapnel injury. “I played him a little bit of the song down the phone line and he gave me his blessing,” he said in a statement accompanying the song’s release. “We both hope to do something together in person in the future.”

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Jackson Maxwell

Jackson is an Associate Editor at GuitarWorld.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player (opens in new tab). Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder (opens in new tab) and Unrecorded (opens in new tab). Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.

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