May 2006 - KulturSPIEGEL, Germany
Written by Simon Rosenberg (translation)   
Tuesday, 30 May 2006

(Mit 17 hat man noch Träume is a series of interviews in a journal called KulturSPIEGEL, which is a supplement to the famous SPIEGEL-journal. Every interview starts with the question “Mit 17 hat man noch Träume. Erinnern Sie sich?” which roughly translated means “At the age of 17, you have dreams. Do you remember yours?”)

“Rock music is no nuclear physics“

KulturSPIEGEL: Do you remember the dreams you had when you were 17?

Nick Mason: I counted every day until I finally got my driving licence. I also decided to study architecture so that I was able to dream a little longer.

What’s dreaming got to do with architecture?

In 1961, I did not know yet what to do with myself. And architecture is an extensive study. Therefore, it offered me seven years of peace. But I also learned essential things about mathematics and art. As a matter of fact, architecture offers a very precise view of the world. I always profited from that. Also, I got to know Roger Waters and Rick Wright at the university.

Did Pink Floyd also profit from architecture?

More than you may think. I believe that we got a feeling for knowing how to translate strange ideas into reality, especially concerning our pompous stage designs. But I also believe that we always knew what kind of ideas would never work. The fact that we knew a lot about architecture was a great advantage.

You are the only musician of Pink Floyd, who was constantly a member since the beginning of the band. Does humour help to cope with the mad everyday life of a successful rock band?

Possibly. But on the other hand it is important to think in relative terms about our success. Surely, many people enjoy the music of Pink Floyd. That’s great. Still, it is just rock music. No nuclear physics, no world politics. There are much more important jobs on this world. All in all, rock music is like Hollywood: If you are successful, the nice things outweigh the strenuous moments, and you should never take yourself too seriously. That’s how you survive.

There were long bitter struggles between your collegues Roger Waters and David Gilmour. Did you have to take sides?

Finally it was impossible not to. When an old marriage breaks apart, it’s difficult to act in a right way. Even if you are not affected by it directly. I was still torn apart: Considering the legal suits I was on Dave’s side. On the other hand, Roger is one of my oldest and dearest friends. A very complex situation.

At the pinnacle of punk rock in the late 70's, when Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols was wearing a shirt saying “I hate Pink Floyd”, you produced an album for the famous punk band “The Damned”. How did that come about?

That was a funny misunderstanding. As a matter of fact, they wanted Syd Barrett, who hadn't been with us for a long time then. But our publisher simply said: “Syd won’t happen, but Nick might be interested.” That’s how we got together, and I had great fun. Recording four tracks with this band was faster than setting up the drum kit for Pink Floyd. I always said: “Do you want to work on that track a bit?” and they always answered: “No thanks, that’ll do!” This uncomplicated approach most probably affected me as well. I believe that you can see this influence on our “Animals”-album: the production was less pompous.

Are there parallels between punk and the psychedelic rock of swinging London, a scene in which Pink Floyd grew up in?

I do believe so. Both were attempts to try something radical new. And both attempts created some exciting music.

Pink Floyd is among the biggest brands in the history of rock music. Are you able to go shopping in peace?

Of course. I can stroll down London’s Oxford Street without being bothered. Just like any architect. That’s another reason why I can cope with supposedly being a rock star.