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VH-1 UK radio interview, April 1998 Friday

Nick Mason

Interviewed by T. Vance

Interviewed:
Nick Mason - NM

(Missing first 20 minutes, according to transcriptionist)


NM: Not clearly, because there probably wasn't one moment at which it came....started to come together. There were probably songs in existence that we were working on or working up....it....there's a lot of pieces of Dark Side that were played live before we recorded them.

(Clip of Brain Damage from Pompeii)

TV: Did it evolve as a concept, or did it just evolve as a number of different things? Was there...an overall guiding hand to it?

NM: Well, what happened was I think that a number of elements were in place, and then there was an idea to try and link them up together. I didn't think....it didn't start from scratch as an idea that then had the songs written round it. We had probably three or four of the songs, then there was an idea to develop it and Roger went off to write the necessary songs to make it link.

TV: When he returned with the songs in the original form, first draft, if you like, how were they greeted by everybody else?

NM: Um, I....approval, I think at the time virtually everything that came up was used and um....sort of hopefully improved on in the studio. I don't remember any rejects actually from the period.

TV: So there's nothing in the can?

NM: Sadly no....we could go back and dig out and bring out part two....

TV: (laughs)

(Clip of Eclipse from Pompeii)

TV: Was it an arduous task?

NM: Um...Not particularly. I think in many ways it was.... we'd got to a satisfactory point in terms of using the studios....um....we....by the time Dark Side it was just about the fifth year of working so we were pretty familiar with the way Abbey Road worked, we knew the people there, we had a very good team working with us, people like Alan Parsons, Chris Thomas, and Abbey Road was, by '73, was a much easier place to work. I mean, I know a number of people have talked about what Abbey Road used to be like, and when we first went in there, it was a lot less friendly, a lot less approving of the rock business. It was felt that they made proper music there, and these weird gits came in messed about....you know, it wasn't quite right. We were sort of "B" class....But by the time after....well....again, it's the Beatles, once the Beatles had been in and put their stamp on it, it really changed.

TV: It was very much an establishment building, wasn't it?

NM: Oh yes.

TV: It was like going to the BBC.

NM: It was more like going to the Lubyanka, painted in that green I believe the secret police at least favor.

TV: Ok, back to the music on the Friday Rock Show. This is Wish You Were Here.

(Clip of WYWH, from Pulse)

(Clip of OTTA, from Atlanta '87)

Break

TV: Who was your mentor at the record company? Who allowed you to spend this time in the studio, 'cause studio time costs money. Who shared your vision of Dark Side Of The Moon?

NM: Well by the time we were into Dark Side, we'd basically I think changed our deal with EMI, which was unlimited studio time, um....so EMI as a company had committed to the idea we should take however long it took.

TV: So they gave you full rein?

NM: As I say, I just think the culture of the studio had changed a lot in five years, and um....because the interesting thing is by Dark Side, we didn't have a producer. I mean we did have Chris Thomas, who came in a final mix, but we were entrusted with messing about in the studios without actually having a supervisor per se...

(Clip of Waters laying down OTR, from Pompeii)

TV: What was the reaction when the executives, be-suited executives I'm sure, of the day, heard Dark Side Of The Moon in it's initial stage? I mean, did they go "Very good!", or "What?"

NM: I've absolutely no idea of course, because we were never invited to the Boardroom to watch! (laughing).

TV: Really?

NM: The process....well I think it isn't....I think that's probably an over - simplified view of how it worked. I can't remember who was the....who was the sort of head man of the period. There were various different, as far as I can remember, there were different levels of power almost. There'd be the people in the studio who knew what was going on, and then there'd be, ah...there was a point at which there'd be liaison officers with flared trousers and curly hair sent in to find out how the guys were getting on, and then there'd be the men at Manchester Square.

TV: Mmm.

NM: But I think um....I think funnily enough, I have no memories at all of any sort of anxieties from EMI.

TV: So they....I mean, looking back at it, approval. It was approved.

NM: Um...yes.

TV: Ok, another Floyd track. Classic. Another Brick In The Wall.

(Clip of ABITW2)

Break.

TV: This is the Friday Rock Show, I'm Tommy Vance and my guest is Nick Mason from the Floyd. He's the drummer and a founder member.

TV: You've always been expansive in what you do, in performance. I mean, Floyd is very much a performance as it is the music, and the two are so integrated. You ain't gonna see Pink Floyd in a small venue. I'd really like to, but I don't think it would be achievable anymore. Now it is a stadium act, and it's a stadium act to perfection. How did you ultimately get to that, because that must have....either you made a lot of money, could afford to do it yourself, or you had to get someone to back you. Because when you went for it, you went for it.

NM: I think some of those early shows were done without mountains of equipment, but they were sort of setting the idea of how we would like to work. Where these shows...

(clip of end of OTR from DSoT plays over the following)

where there was no other band on the show which.....gave us immediately two or three advantages. A support band, first of all, has a tendency to take a lot of time changing equipment, or they have to go down in orchestra pit or something horrible like that, or they're terribly good and blow you off the stage, or they're terribly bad and the audience are pretty bad - tempered by the time the next band get on...um...so this business of running the show entirely on our own was something we really liked, and was sort of seen as a way forward. But the business of, of the sort of lighting I suppose....I think there was probably a point at which we had to dump these lights because we simply cannot get projectors sufficiently large enough to do the sort of venues we were looking at, and we started looking at stage lighting.

(clip of OTR concludes with plane blowing up and runs into GGITS, and finishes just before vocals come in)

TV: This is really the point of the fact that there wasn't a member of the band who didn't have foresight or vision ....you weren't just four guys off the back streets of any given town. You ah....had already....you were educated people.

NM: Ah....yeah, I suppose I'm not sure that's a....I think there are....there are other bands with A levels, let's put it like that....(both TV and NM laughing)....um....I'm not sure I....I think it was probably, probably doctor, that we just weren't comfortable with sort of trying to do duck walking about the stage a la Chuck Berry, you know....it didn't feel the way to go....

TV: (laughs)

NM: For us, and we were looking at other ways of sort of making a show without having to sort of jump about....so we start. I'm trying to think of the critical elements that make....the change, apart from sort of dry ice machines. But I suppose the most important moment were the Dark Side shows in '73 when we started making film specifically for the shows, and that was an expensive exercise, and a commitment to a different....a different idea because these weren't video screens, and we were never going to show ourselves. They were entirely about the audience seeing an image.

TV: Mm, on the big circular screen at the rear.

NM: Right, yes.

TV: Back to the music. This is live at Earls Court, the track is High Hopes.

(Clip of HH from Pulse)

(Clip of KT from Pulse)

TV: You're watching the Friday Rock Show from VH-1 here in London. My guest is Nick Mason from the Floyd. When was the last time you listened to the whole album, on headphones?

NM: On headphones? Um....(makes odd noises)....about four years ago, um....in fact when we were doing it initially, rehearsing it with the idea of performing it in '94, I think after that....yes, that's the last time I can think of on headphones. But it's not, sadly for me, one of those great experiences because you're so conscious of things that are not quite right or maybe should have been altered or whatever.

TV: Things you would have done differently, liked to change?

NM: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean....

TV: Every artist says that, don't they? Anybody who's in the creative business always goes "if only I put that brush stroke there, or"....where everyone else is going "genius". It's a difficult situation. But when you listen to it objectively, if ever you can, do you ever think "I know why it sold billions of albums and stayed in the charts for ever"?

NM: No, and I don't think there is a specific key. I think yet again it's that business of there is no one key, you need this whole great jangling ring of keys to make it happen and certainly I think there's some very strong ideas in the record. I'm very proud of it. I think everyone involved in it did their best - there's great engineering from Alan Parsons, there's great mixing by Chris Thomas, there's lyrics from Roger, great playing by Dave and so on. But there's other elements that are important....for example the packaging... Storm Thorgerson played a part in the success of the record. It is of course the sound of the thing but the reality is that people saw it in the shops and were fascinated or interested or whatever by what was on the cover, and probably hopefully like what was inside....there was a lot of attention to the packaging of it. I mean it tends to get forgotten now, because we're used to the culture of the CD, but when it was a vinyl album it came with a couple of posters and a postcard and you know, there was much more to it than just the one box.

(U+T clip from Pompeii)

TV: When you look back on it do you....you look back on it with pride as you've implicated, as you've said, but as a milestone in music which the audience and other musicians consider it to be....do you think it is?

NM: I suppose it doesn't feel quite as important to me as that. Why is that? Um....I understand why that is, I mean I think the most noticeable quality of it as you listen to it is it's seamlessness, the fact it is so....it is put together with an enormous amount of attention and....but the funny thing is of course your own records never sound quite as convincing as other peoples because you sort of know how it was done, almost....

TV: What do you think then, if I dare ask you this, is your favorite track on the album?

NM: I like Time, partly because of the intro to it with the Rototoms, the whole sound of that, but I also like Money, for....because that was so radical for us, to do anything as difficult as playing in a seventh.

(Short clip of Money from an unidentified TDB tour show)

NM: I'm still sort of quite impressed we managed to stagger though it at all.

TV: What does that quite mean?

NM: Well the fact that it has a time signature that isn't that sort of steady, throbbing, slow four that virtually every other song we've done has.

TV: And it's in seven?

NM: It's in sevens, yeah.

TV: Sevens, just checking. A lot of people - including me - don't understand that and maybe that's one of the subconscious catches about it -

NM: Oh, I'm sure -

TV: To the audience.

NM: But it's certainly....I'll tell you what, it's a hell of a challenge if you watch people trying to dance to it.

TV: But the Americans always wanted to dance to it, didn't they? (strange American accent alert) Hey, this was a funky new dance record!

NM: (laughing) Well, I think they'd be....as I say....well, try it one day.

TV: Me? (laughs) I don't think so! Let's play this track here. The Friday Rock Show, Take It Back, the Floyd.

(Clip of TIB)

TV: You going to go back on the road in the near future?

NM: No plans at the moment....certainly not in the near future (laughs).

TV: You say that with sort of relief!

NM: I know....I....I....I have to say I like touring, and I like playing, I think that's the main....but I'd be very loathe to go back on the road without new music. I think it's um....as soon as you do that, you're a nostalgia band, and I think it's something that's probably good for the soul. When you take new music on the road, initially the audience are deeply disappointed, they're all going "yeah, yeah, give us the old stuff", but by the time we tour again that has become the old stuff, and it sits quite comfortably in the sort of library of material.

TV: So I guess that's basically a no! (laughs)

NM: It's a no at the moment certainly, 'cos we've got no new music.

TV: Might it be fair to say that in the history of the Floyd, somewhere along the line, it ended in tears?

NM: Wh....the story? The whole story, or the....

TV: The relationships, between yourself, Roger Waters and ....and the....the human side, has that hurt?

NM: Yes, but I think the world is fooling itself if it thinks that rock bands are made up of lovable mop - tops who really get on....I mean too many people have seen "Help!", is perhaps the trouble, um....it is....um....it is a stressful occupation's not what I mean, the problem is you have these little sort of power struggles going on, you have people who set off on an enterprise, with very similar ideas on what they want to do, and what happens is success particularly changes it, and everyone starts rethinking what they want to do, or how....or you realize it's not everyone wanting to do that, one's wanting to do that....and ....it's inevitable, it ends in tears. What one always hopes for and admires are people who can make those breaks in a more civilized way.

TV: So it's safe to say there won't be a revival of the original line-up of Pink Floyd?

NM: Who knows, but....it's not....um....but I wouldn't hold your breath!

TV: One final question I'd like to ask you....when you go into the studio, do you like crusts now?

NM: (puzzled) What?

TV: Watch this.

(Clip of pie bit from Pompeii)

TV: In those days you didn't like crusts, now do you like crusts?

NM: I've matured a lot, I think, since those days. Now I don't make the fuss.

TV: Or wear the mustache.

NM: Or wear the mustache! (laughs) Well the crumbs you see, all get stuck in it.

TV: Absolutely.

NM: You probably remember that as well.

TV: I do, I do....and the soup. (coughs) And everything else as well. Nick Mason, thank you very much indeed.

NM: Thank you.

TV: I do appreciate your time. Comfortably Numb.