It’s bright and early around town. For once in a blue moon, the bustling city of London, with all its vibrant, quaint character, shimmers gracefully in the morning sun. Concealed deep within it all is the dark side of the moon if you will – the hide-away of a rock and roll legend.
Having been at the forefront of a generation of musicians who revelled in the triumph of rock music, as the drummer of Pink Floyd since 1965, Nick Mason remains committed to many of his life-long hobbies as well as being in touch with the much reshaped music industry of today. He also does a rather good impression of a brummie accent.
In an exclusive interview with BurnFM, Nick, (whose family hailed originally from Birmingham), revealed that the key behind his longevity within the band was drawn more than anything out of an enduring love for playing music. Pink Floyd started out as the pursuit of a hobby which became a success over many years, as the talented minds of himself, Syd Barrett, Roger Waters, Richard Wright, and later David Gilmour, conspired to bring their collective imagination into the substance of musical creation.
From left to right: Richard Wright, Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Syd Barrett were the original four in the late 1960’s.
It might surprise a few that Nick suggested that the original quartet flirted with the idea of being an RnB band. But as he reminded me, he grew up in a generation where rock and roll had simply not yet been invented. As he lauded the ‘organic’ approach to creating music that saw them naturally develop ideas according to what they most enjoyed and how it best suited them to operate, he cast an interesting reflection on the present music industry; its evolving course, and the pressures inherent within it.
It is a thought that makes one wonder about the manufactured nature of some artists today who are pressured into filling a certain gap or presenting themselves in line with a particular image. Nick lamented the difficulties faced by young artists to gain a foothold, suggesting that the use of outdated management systems by record companies has been detrimental to the development of new talent.
As he perhaps quite rightly reminded us, the industry is one that has had a tendency to develop so fast, that responding effectively whilst trying to sell records has created challenges for both producers and musicians alike. Following long-standing disputes between Pink Floyd and iTunes, Nick was as candid as ever in alluding to the problems created by the digital revolution and highlighted the importance of taking an informed attitude in looking ahead to the future, where streaming of music seems to hold the greatest prospects.
Another associated change has been the ‘de-albumisation’ of music, an element of which was naturally lost at the end of the vinyl record era. One of the first things one will notice about the most celebrated works of Pink Floyd is how The Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall not only have such iconic associated artworks, but fit together as collections. Although he is sorry to see the demise in attention paid to the former – Nick has no real issue with todays ‘hit single’ culture – if anything preferring to see attention given to one song rather than to have it buffered with filler pieces purely for the purpose of creating an album-sized product.
Indeed it was at this point that I began to wonder whether the combination of his honesty and poise had been a factor in his commitment to Pink Floyd and the pursuit of so many exciting past-times.
Within so many bands, members have had their clashes; their desires to chase different dreams and to follow different musical routes. Having been a part of Pink Floyd since the beginning, Nick was keen to stress that he has always been averse to argument and instead eager to continue anything that he has liked doing. He also noted that when and if there was sufficient cause, Pink Floyd were happy to re-form for an occasion, be it for example at Live 8 in 2005, or more recently on one night of Roger Waters The Wall Tour in 2011 (where Nick, Roger and David Gilmour made a surprise appearance on stage together).
From left to right: Gilmour, Waters, Mason and Wright last appeared on stage at Live 8 in 2005.
Having just returned from an exciting weekend of motor racing at the Bahrain Grand Prix, Nick made no attempt to curb enthusiasm for his other great passion. In fact, with a vast collection of model cars, helmets and other memorabilia on display, one could almost be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon the abode of an ex-racing champion. But as far as Nick’s wonderful, adrenaline-fuelled career is concerned, there has not been a moment of hanging around on the starting grid. In essence, his pursuit of success through satisfaction is something we should all aspire to follow.
Nick Mason stands proudly next to his Ferrari 250 GTO, the jewel in his outstanding car collection.
You can listen to the interview in full on the BurnFM Music Team’s Mixcloud page here: