Inside David Gilmour's Astoria houseboat recording studio
Wednesday 24 Sep 2008 8:12 p.m.
He has toured around the world with Pink Floyd and hit the road with his own solo show - but David Gilmour still reckons there is no place like home.
The famous British guitarist, singer and songwriter let us have a tour around his base, a houseboat moored on a tranquil stretch of the River Thames.
The place is his special hideaway, somewhere he discovered by accident - as Gilmour explains:
"Well I was driving down this road here one day in '86 I guess it probably was. I had been banned from driving for drink driving for a year, being silly. So I was being driven, rather than driving myself, and as you're driven you sort of look out of the windows a lot more and as we drove along we looked, I looked out, and I saw this metal work on the top over the wall, and I said to the chap driving: "Can we just pull over here and have a look?" And we pulled over and we stood on the pavement, we stood on the corner there and peered over and looked down and saw this incredible boat and this water and work on the top. And I though 'Oh, that's fantastic.'"
The boat is called the Astoria, it was built a century ago, at the then-enormous cost of 20,000 pounds, for Fred Karno, a music-hall impresario whose protégés included the young Charlie Chaplin.
It boasts Edwardian elegance with mahogany-panelled cabins, marble bathrooms and mother-of-pearl light switches.
Luckily Gilmour came across it again:
"About two weeks later I was in the dentist waiting room and I picked up a Country Life and there it was for sale in this Country Life by pure coincidence. So I rang them up and came down and had a look and bought it. I didn't even think about putting a studio in it at first. It was just very, very beautiful, a magical place."
Most of his work over the last two decades was mixed and assembled aboard the Astoria.
The post-Waters Pink Floyd albums The Division Bell and A Momentary Lapse of Reason were recorded here, as were Gilmour's solo albums, including On An Island.
David says: "Well it's lovely to be here, you know, to have the water gently drifting past us and all that, and I like to have windows. You know I've spent rather too much time in studios and most of them don't have windows, and I can't stand being in places that don't have windows."
Gilmour's latest project is a solo album and tour, captured on David Gilmour Live in Gdansk, a double concert album and DVD.
Recorded during the final date of Gilmour's 2006 On An Island tour, it's as meaty a package as you'd expect from a prog-rock colossus and features classic Floyd tracks like 'High Hopes', 'Comfortably Numb', 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond' and the 25-minute 'Echoes'.
"I'm a musician, it's what I do. It's my chosen vocation and as you said that itch suddenly at some point every once in a while starts making itself felt and you want to scratch it," he explains.
"The visible part that you see, that the public sees is, you know, from the moment the album is released and the tour happens 'til the end of the tour, really. And that is a six months period, but that's a six months period that's sort of in the middle of a four to five year period for me of solid hard work of writing, recording."
David Gilmour Live in Gdansk is being released by Columbia Records on September 23rd 2008.