The guitarist and vocalist is joined by Floyd drummer Nick Mason, longtime Pink Floyd bassist Guy Pratt and Nitin Sawhney on keyboards. The track also features vocals by Andriy Khlyvnyuk of Ukrainian band Boombox and can be heard above.
"I rang Nick up and said: ‘listen, I want to do this thing for Ukraine. I’d be really happy if you played on it and I’d also be really happy if you’d agree to us putting it out as Pink Floyd,'" Gilmour told the Guardian. "And he was absolutely on for that."
Russia's invasion of Ukraine has hit close to home for the guitar legend – he has a Ukrainian daughter-in-law and grandchildren. “We, like so many, have been feeling the fury and the frustration of this vile act of an independent, peaceful democratic country being invaded and having its people murdered by one of the world's major powers,” he says in a statement announcing the song's release.
“It’s Pink Floyd if it’s me and Nick," Gilmour told the Guardian, "and that is the biggest promotional vehicle; that is, as I said, the platform that I’ve been working on for my whole adult life, since I was 21. I wouldn’t do this with many more things, but it’s so vitally, vitally important that people understand what’s going on there and do everything within their power to change that situation. And the thought, also, that mine and Pink Floyd’s support of the Ukrainians could help boost morale in those areas: they need to know the whole world supports them."
Floyd's original bassist; songwriter and vocalist Roger Waters is not part of the recording reunion. Gilmour makes a brief mention of Waters in the Guardian interview before moving things on, after reference in the piece was made by the writer to Waters 'condemning propaganda to demonise Russia'. “Let’s just say I was disappointed and let’s move on," replied Gilmour. "Read into that what you will."
Gilmour does go into detail on his friendship with Khlyvnyuk though - who is still in Ukraine and was recently treated in hospital for a shrapnel injury.
“In 2015, I played a show at Koko in London in support of the Belarus Free Theatre, whose members have been imprisoned," explained Gilmour. "Pussy Riot and the Ukrainian band, Boombox, were also on the bill. They were supposed to do their own set, but their singer Andriy had visa problems, so the rest of the band backed me for my set – we played Wish You Were Here for Andriy that night."
"Recently I read that Andriy had left his American tour with Boombox, had gone back to Ukraine, and joined up with the Territorial Defense," continued Gilmour. "Then I saw this incredible video on Instagram, where he stands in a square in Kyiv with this beautiful gold-domed church and sings in the silence of a city with no traffic or background noise because of the war. It was a powerful moment that made me want to put it to music.”
Gilmour used the vocals for the clip in Hey Hey Rise Up. And while writing the music for the track, David managed to speak with Andriy from his hospital bed in Kyiv where he was recovering from the mortar shrapnel injury. “I played him a little bit of the song down the phone line and he gave me his blessing. We both hope to do something together in person in the future.”
While Gilmour doesn't sing on the track it's a treat for fans of his guitar playing with an extended solo.
“I hope it will receive wide support and publicity," said the musician. "We want to raise funds for humanitarian charities, and raise morale. We want express our support for Ukraine and in that way, show that most of the world thinks that it is totally wrong for a superpower to invade the independent democratic country that Ukraine has become.”
All proceeds from the track will go to Ukrainian humanitarian relief.
Stream the Hey Hey Rise Up (opens in new tab)