The man behind the kit with one of the most successful bands of all time, Nick Mason has earned his place in music history. As the only person to have played on every Pink Floyd release, Nick has a unique place in the band’s expansive story. With sales of 250 million albums, multiple awards, and a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, there’s little left for the drummer to achieve. Now out with his own Saucerful of Secrets however, he’s just been crowned ‘Prog God’ at the Progressive Music Awards. We caught up with Nick at the ceremony in London, for a chat about his career. Obscured by clouds; Eamon O’Neill and Neil Jones.
You’re now a Prog God, Nick Mason; how does it feel?
It doesn’t feel that different to how I felt earlier today really, but it’s a nice thing to have.
Ahead of the presentation, the short film that they played summarising your career must have brought back a lot of memories.
Well, the fact is that my career has spent a lot of time, certainly in the last ten, twenty years working through that sort of thing. Having done the V&A museum [the ‘Their Mortal Remains’ exhibition], I’d spent more or less a year and a half working through all that ancient history. So it’s not quite like it’s a surprise. I recognised all the clips, where they’re from, who’s in them, and all the rest of it.
There have been so many defining moments in Pink Floyd’s career, including the band’s return in 1987 with ‘A Momentary Lapse of Reason’; was that a difficult time for you, relaunching the band without Roger Waters?
Yes, I suppose it was, but I think with all these things, if you want to do it, you find a way. In a way, one of the curious things was the fact that Roger suggesting we shouldn’t carry on without him, which was an incredible sort of push to actually wanting to do it. So, yeah, at times it was alarming, whether the public would like it or not.
How satisfying has it been returning to the stage with your own Saucerful of Secrets band?
Oh, absolutely terrific, because, for twenty odd years there’s been bits and pieces of work, but not that actual intention of doing it properly and developing it. And from a playing point of view, doing one Live 8 every five years isn’t really enough!
When you left the stage at Live 8, did you, in your heart of hearts think that that was it?
Not really, because you just never know what’s going to happen. Funnily enough, I thought there might be more of that sort of thing, because Live 8 sort of indicated that it was a really good way of raising awareness and making money, and I thought possibly people would start thinking about doing a lot more of that. But the trouble is it’s a very complicated and difficult way of doing these things, and it hasn’t really happened like that.
Given that Richard Wright has now passed, do you think that that was the right way to end things for Pink Floyd, with the four of you back on stage one last time?
Yeah, I always said that I think in some ways it was one of the best gigs we ever did, just because everyone knew about the fact that there was a sort of war going on [between Roger Waters and David Gilmour], and yet everyone was able to go; “do you know what, this is more important than differences of opinion, the band, or music, or whatever”. And I think it was a sort of lovely example of being grown up.
Roger of course got up and played with Saucerful of Secrets in New York earlier this year; what was that like?
Lovely. Yeah, it was terrific; it was fun and it was having an old friend on stage, and yeah, I loved it.
Over the years there’s been some fantastic quotes from you; when asked what you thought of ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ you said; “Well, I think the drumming is excellent”!
Well, we knew it was good, but that doesn’t mean that it will sell in the way that it did. When I’m not being facetious about the drums, I think it’s an interesting thing because when it came out; I think it’s about the lyrics, I think it’s about the mixing, it’s about Abbey Road [recording studios], it’s about what Hipgnosis [cover art designers] did. It’s also about what Bhaskar Menon, who became the president of Capitol [records] did. Without him, however the records was, you need all the cards, that’s the thing, for a record to do that sort of well. You need the record company on side who must be really smart; you need graphics; you need the music; you need the technology; it’s not one great thing, it’s at least five.
Over Floyd’s lengthy career, have you got a snapshot moment in your mind where you think; “this is the moment that meant to most to me”?
No I don’t, because I think over fifty-odd years or so, there’s too many different periods, almost. So, I’ll have a snapshot maybe of the first year, when we were in a transit van driving up to Scotland and back. But then there’ll be another one which would be in the studios while The Beatles were down the corridor. You know, ‘Dark Side’, or making [Live in] ‘Pompie’; there are loads of different snapshots, and it’s not that one is better or more important than another, it’s the family album, and the story.
As a drummer, would you concede that ‘Another Brick in the Wall Part 2’ is in fact, a disco song?
Oh, god yes! That’s how it was designed. That was it; Bob Ezrin [producer] was very, very specific about exactly what the tempo should be, and it was 118 beats per minute.
You mentioned the ‘Their Mortal Remains’ exhibition, which is touring the world currently; what is it like seeing your stuff in a museum?
Well, that’s why it’s so nice to have The Saucers, because, actually, seeing yourself in a museum is interesting, but after a while you begin to think; “I didn’t really want to be a museum exhibit; I’d rather be a pop star!”
What happens next for Saucerful of Secrets; how far are you thinking ahead?
Next year. We’re definitely thinking that we’re intending to tour again, and hopefully worldwide.
How important is it to you to actually pay tribute to Syd Barrett?
Oh, it’s very important, because what I tend to say is, without Syd, we wouldn’t have got there. It would never have taken off, or if it had taken off, it would have taken off in a different way. The interesting thing is, you see the clip in the film [broadcast at the awards], and we’re playing ‘Astronomy Domine’, and David is, actually he’s not singing, he’s miming to Syd’s version. So that was quite a difficult transition, really.
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Nick Mason's Saucerful of Secrets vinyl & more, visit their Townsend Music store.