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October 12th 2004 - with Brain Damage Print E-mail

Interviewed by Matt Johns, 12th October 2004

 

Tuesday afternoon had a bit of a treat for Brain Damage - the chance for us to quiz Nick Mason on his new book, "Inside Out: A Personal History Of Pink Floyd", and find out one or two titbits of information relating to other projects - the Interstellar exhibition, a possible video anthology, and his racing, too!

Our thanks to Nick, of course, for allowing us some time in his current busy schedule of book signings and TV/radio appearances...

Q: You've spent quite a lot of time on the project now. How does it feel to get it done and on the shelves?

Nick Mason: Fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. Actually, it was Storm [Thorgerson], who said to me some years ago, when I was working on the car book [Into The Red]: "Books are completely unlike records, there's just much more of a sense of satisfaction when you grasp that first copy!" And he was absolutely right!

Q: How much were you able to use from the original version of the book?

Nick Mason: Oh, all of it. Pretty much - given that one tends to do a bit of re-writing and editing, and all the rest of it, I didn't actually change the book from when I started.

Q: What did you want to avoid with the book? And what did you want to address?

Nick Mason: Well, I suppose I wanted it to be two things. One was a SORT of record of how I'd seen events, and how it was, but it's certainly not a sort of "kiss-and-tell". As Roger said, "It's a good light read, but not much sex!" It's not some sort of expose, nor is it intended to be. Fortunately we're all still alive at the moment, and...

That [the sex] isn't actually the interesting part of a rock'n'roll book any more. So it's much more the collection of bits and pieces that make up life together for the four of us.

Q: How did you approach the writing of the book? Obviously there was the original version of the book, and you've worked on it for quite some time...

Nick Mason: I'll tell you exactly how it happened. When we finished the tour in '94, I was out of England and I had quite a lot of time on my hands. I simply started at the beginning, at the point at which I thought "first relevent musical moment", or whatever, and just started writing.

And I tried to set myself the task of doing 3,000 words a day - however rough - just so that there was something to look at. And I probably did the first... What I did, basically, was knock out the bones certainly of chapters one to five, in that period.

Chapters one to five were much easier in a way. Funnily enough, the memory is much clearer on the sort of detail of the very early years, whereas later on it becomes much more of a porridge of touring and recording and all the rest of it. One day in the studio can quite often get confused with another day - INCLUDING from album to album!

Q: Now, that's a surprise in a way, that the memories from the early days are so strong...

Nick Mason: I think because everything was so new [and exciting], crystal, if you like. Whereas if you say to me, "well, what was the tour in 1975 like", I wouldn't have a clue! But if you asked me about 1967 Chislehurst Caves or something, I'd probably think "Oh yeah, I remember that!"

Q: In the early days, the touring schedule must've been so exhausting! I'm not sure how you all coped with it - the touring up and down the country. As you mention in the book, the itinerary must've been decided by a dartboard!

Nick Mason: Yes! I think it's very easy to cope with stuff when you are young... I mean, we were all REALLY enthusiastic to work generally, so the idea of being paid to actually perform, was so good... OK, so you had to drive up to Doncaster, so what?

Q: What particularly impressed me were days when you went to Holland, for instance, then back that night to the Ally Pally!

Nick Mason: [Laughs] Yeah, that night...!

Q: [Laughs] Did seem a little foolhardy! Certainly the book expresses some of the pleasures of touring, in those early days, and interestingly enough, on the final tour, that sence of pleasure returns...

Nick Mason: Mmm. Yeah...

Q: The note of the book changes quite dramatically after the problems with Roger, and it is such an "up" ending to the book [Nick agrees]. What was the hardest part of the story to write?

Nick Mason: I think the hardest part was the toughest periods to try and be fair-ish about The Wall and The Final Cut. When I say The Wall, what I mean is the end of The Wall [project] and The Final Cut.

Q: The story has come out before, but it was interesting to read [in your words] how the real seeds [of the problems] were from the end of DSOTM, and I thought they came across so clearly - more so than in other books.

Nick Mason: Oh, well I'm glad if that came across...[I hoped it would]

Q: What research materials did you use for the book - diaries, and so on?

Nick Mason: Nick Schaffner's book. [laughs] No - not really - just joking! The best thing I had for the early stuff, was that I kept scrapbooks, certainly for the first two years or so, and that was an enormous help, because there was nonsense - what Melody Maker had to say about us, or the Record Mirror, was not indepth, but it was a great trigger, and I think Bob Dylan said recently, "Once you get one memory, that triggers another". I certainly had some press cuttings... not much help really. Best of all, of course, is talking to people.

There are fewer and fewer people who were around at the time - or plenty of people who were around but can't remember a fucking thing... I didn't spend that long with them, but I must say that Roger and David were both brilliant, in terms of going through the manuscript and saying [in convincing Gilmour impression] "No, no, no - it wasn't like that!" That was really useful.

I did use some of the reference books, and it was quite interesting - I can't remember off the top of my head which were good, and which were bad. I mean, there's the "Pink Floyd Encyclopedia" - Vernon Fitch's thing - a lot of it is actually really accurate, but every now and again, you come across something that you think "no, no, it wasn't..."

But I'm not that exercised about dates. I've tried to get everything in the right order, and the right period, which sometimes is difficult; I found myself getting a complete album out in terms of [retrieving] a memory of something. I think the most useful things were just bits and pieces, and pictures of course.

Q: That brings me to one of my questions - the picture of Syd at the 1975 Wish You Were Here sessions that is included in the book. Was it a difficult decision to make, to include that - obviously some people might be surprised at the inclusion?

Nick Mason: Yes. I tell you what, I took a view on that. I thought if any of the others mentioned it, and said it shouldn't be there, I'd have ditched it. But much more to the point was that because of the book that was done by Tim Willis [Madcap: Half-Life Of Syd Barrett], there were already a bunch of pictures of Syd, looking like that. And I just thought, "well, if it's in the public domain anyway, then it's not quite the same". That was really my view on it.

The pictures are around, someone else is going to... well, someone else already HAS published the pictures! Not from the studio, but a similar period. So I didn't feel it was really out of order to do that.

Q: Going back to Roger, David and Rick - you said that they contributed in terms of saying "no, that's not how it was" and so forth, how much else did they contribute? Did they contribute any ideas or extra segments?

Nick Mason: Basically, what I did was actually waited until the end, and sent them the manuscript, to see if they wanted to sue or not! I left it until the very end because I didn't want to keep fiddling with it, really, I just wanted them to pick out things that they thought were really unfair, or things that were totally wrong.

I think it worked quite well like that; really, it was a matter of saying that they could have the last knockings of the last say.

Q: Did any of the changes they asked for, or even insisted on, annoy or frustrate you?

Nick Mason: No, definately not. I think virtually every point made was fair comment; both Dave and Roger felt at times that I was unfair to one or other, and sometimes to someone else, or someone else hadn't been credited properly. Generally it was just because I'd gone on the percieved wisdom of what I thought had happened, when in fact they were there, and said "no, no, it wasn't that..."

Q: The book seems to end fairly reluctantly, in a way, and seems to be unwilling to draw a line under the whole escapade [Nick laughs at the use of the word "escapade"!] The projects that you mention in the final segment - the ambient tapes from the Division Bell, the Unplugged concept - do you think any of them will see the light of day?

Nick Mason: I think it's entirely down to Dave. I don't think Dave - if he ever wants to do something again, I'm sure we will - it's really his choice, and [laughs] it's very hard to make Dave do anything he doesn't want to do, anyway! So, it's really, let's wait and see.

But it's interesting that no-one quite wants to say "that's it".

Q: Has going through the archives inspired any thoughts of putting out some of the unreleased audio or video lurking there?

Nick Mason: I think the unreleased video, yes. There's very little unreleased audio; we tended to use up everything we possibly could. But certainly it would be quite nice at some point to look at what there is in terms of video material.

Q: As I'm sure you know, there's a thriving market for it illegitimately - DVDs, CDs, videos and things...

Nick Mason: [Laughs] Yes!

Q: There's a lot of nice footage out there. I enjoyed the rare footage at the Interstellar exhibition...

Nick Mason: The problem with that is, that there is an awful lot of quite good footage, but with no sound on it. That's the sort of thing we're up against. So we'd have to think quite hard about how we'd cope with it.

Q: Maybe do a montage or overdub studio recordings or something...

Nick Mason: Yeah...

Q: I was chatting with Storm Thorgerson recently about the Interstellar exhibition, and he expressed his hopes that it would be resurrected and appear in other places. Now, obviously, you've been looking at the archives for the book. What are your thoughts on the exhibition, and also maybe a future for the exhibition? For instance, the Americans for example were desperate to see it, most of them weren't able to make the journey over [to Paris, France].

Nick Mason: It's a problem, because it's quite expensive moving these exhibitions about, and a lot of it is quite big stuff to rig, and so on. I thought the exhibition was fun. Fun, rather than of great import. You know, somehow to see a dodgy old Farfisa stuck in a glass box, is not quite like viewing the Elgin Marbles!

But there's something quite charming about it - it's efemeral, but quite fun. If someone came up with a plan as to how to tour it, I'd be very happy to see it move around. I thought it was really nicely done. It's not really a big project that we - the band - per se would want to get that involved with.

Q: Did you have much involvement with it, in the first place?

Nick Mason: No, not really. I think it was mainly left to Storm and Paula Webb to knock it into shape. And I've absolute confidence in Storm. And Paula. I mean, people like that - I trust them absolutely, to make sure its not some kind of ghastly mistake.

Q: The cover image of the book was designed by Storm? Or was it a joint design by yourself and Storm?

Nick Mason: No - I have to say that Storm just got on with it, and came up with a whole bunch of ideas, and if you note the inside cover [of Inside Out], there's quite a lot of Storm's ideas that were not developed.

Q: Do you know what the front cover actually signifies?

Nick Mason: Good lord, no! I find it much much easier [not to]... I mean, Storm is quite often anxious to tell me, but I find it much easier to ignore all that stuff! I love Storm's work but I certainly wouldn't wish to start trying to explain it!

Q: You are doing the Belfast Festival talk [on 1st November]. What are your thoughts on that event?

Nick Mason: I've no idea! I'm trying rather hard not to think too hard about it! I'm rather hoping it will be very much a sort of: interview question - answer. I have no intention of striding to the lectern to deliver a short homily to the Irish people. Rock'n'roll - I think better left to Bono and Geldof!

Q: Finally, then, will you be going racing again? Obviously, over the last year certainly at Goodwood, there wasn't much sign of you on the track!

Nick Mason: Absolutely none at all! I'd decided to dedicate this year to writing the book and then promoting it. And I enjoyed, ENORMOUSLY, having other people race the cars, [while] I had lunch in the tent! Fantastic! I've never done that in the last 25 years...

Q: Is that going to be the future...?

Nick Mason: [Laughs] No, I think I'll do some more racing, before I retire. A bit like the band, really. Not ready to hang up my helmet yet!

And with that, our time was up - many thanks to Nick for his time and honest answers, and to Michelle and Elizabeth for arranging this.

 
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