New Nick Mason newspaper interview published
Written by Matt   
Monday, 06 December 2004

A fascinating new interview with Nick Mason, following the release of his new book "Inside Out: A Personal History Of Pink Floyd", has been published. An extract from it has been used in a number of other parts of the media, without quoting the source. The complete interview is an absorbing look at Nick's life and career from the Camden New Journal, a London local newspaper.

Nick Mason: "I’d love to tour with Floyd again"
After decades of beating out rhythms for legendary band Pink Floyd, Nick Mason tells Jane Wright his side of the group’s famous splits, the future of rock ‘n roll and his current career as a collector of classic cars.

The citizens of Cambridge may dispute it, but there’s a strong argument for claiming Pink Floyd as a north London band. It is true that bassist Roger Waters, early front man Syd Barrett and lead guitar David Gilmour all hailed from the university city on the edge of the Fens.

But the seminal album of the legendary rock group, 1973’s Dark Side of the Moon, which is owned by an estimated one in four households in Britain, developed out of a band meeting round a kitchen table in St Augustine’s Road, Camden Town.

The group’s original sound emerged from rehearsals in a shared house in Stanhope Gardens, Highgate, in 1963 and they took part in the first ever rock gig at Chalk Farm venue the Roundhouse in 1966, returning numerous times through the 1970s. After recording many albums, including Dark Side, Atom Heart Mother (1970) and Wish You Were Here (1975) at EMI’s famous Abbey Road studios in St John’s Wood, the band eventually bought their own recording space in Britannia Row, Islington, round the corner from Roger’s then home in the New North Road. Here they laid down Animals (1977) and 1980’s The Wall, with help from the choir of Islington Green School. All this I know from Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, owner of the afore-mentioned kitchen table in Camden Town, and whose new book, Inside Out, is subtitled A Personal History of Pink Floyd.

But he’s probably biased. Nick was brought up in Hampstead Garden Suburb, then Hampstead, and despite failing to impress his bank manager when Dark Side became the number one album in America, subsequently moved from St Augustine’s Road, via Highgate, to his current home in East Heath Road, back in Hampstead again. But he bids me meet him in King’s Cross, where he now works in a back street off the Caledonian Road.

Here his company Ten Tenths supplies cars for films and TV, such as the motor racing scene in last year’s Bright Young Things, set in the 1920s.

"My wife was the stunt double for the girl in the Bugatti," Nick says proudly.

Pink Floyd was named by Syd Barrett after blues musicians Pink Anderson and Floyd Council on the spur of the moment in 1965, when the band turned up to play a gig and found their original name, The Tea Set, was also being used by another group on the same bill. Similarly, the name of Nick’s car company requires some explanation. He says: "Ten tenths was an expression used by (motor racing champion) Stirling Moss to describe feeling absolutely in harmony with his car and driving flat out."

Like music, cars were an early passion and Nick only became friendly with Roger Waters, a fellow first-year architecture student, along with keyboard player Rick Wright, at Regent Street Polytechnic (now the University of Westminster), when Roger asked to borrow Nick’s car, a pre-war Austin Seven.

Nick continues: "When the band became successful, I didn’t have to sell one in order to buy the next, so I became a car accumulator." He’s now got 35.

Nick Mason, who turned 60 this year, clearly remembers that first Roundhouse gig. "The warehouse floor had only just been cleared and they had to bring the only 13-amp plug in from next door," he says. But he has changed from performer to fund raiser for its current conversion into a "brilliant" arts centre for deprived youngsters.

He also laments today’s lack of independent shops in Hampstead and wants some of the cheap leather jacket stalls around Camden Lock to make way for a farmers’ market.

But this grey-haired, grey-clad, middle-class businessman, the son of a man who made films for Shell and raced vintage Bentleys, has not come up with an entirely opposite persona for the aging rocker than stadium tour-addicted Mick Jagger.

He says: "Rock ‘n roll always used to be perceived as ephemeral; a young person’s game. But now the industry has a much broader spectrum. The Stones are the biggest rock ‘n roll act in the world, I’d go and see Bob Dylan play today and I’d be very happy to go touring again myself. In fact, Pink Floyd could do better shows now because the technology’s better. But there isn’t enough money in the world to make David (Gilmour) go on tour again, and you can’t force these things."

Indeed, explaining the different viewpoints in the band, some of which led to serious splits, was one of Nick’s main motivations for writing Inside Out. He says: "I wanted to write stuff people haven’t read before about being in a band and the transition from transit van to stadium show. Outsiders can’t ever understand why, when you’ve got it made, differences develop between you. People are still confused about why The Beatles broke up. But you form a band because you’re show-offs, not to make money. That’s for stockbrokers."

Initially, he says, being in the band was the major, "levelling" element, which kept him sane among all the drugs and the groupies.

"At times we all behaved badly - no, that sounds too middle class - I mean, we had fun," he says. "But you can’t get away with too many things, or the others quickly slap you down. Being on stage playing music together can teach you an awful lot about getting on."

But eventually, splits emerged. Syd Barrett developed psychological problems and was left out of the band from 1968.

Nick says now: "We still don’t really know what went wrong with Syd. It looks like an acid casualty bringing out schizophrenia. But I don’t think we could have done that much about it."

However, the bitter 15-year rift with Roger Waters, Nick’s oldest friend in the group, was a different matter, after Nick and David decided to make a Pink Floyd album without him in 1986. Nick says: "The main thing a band needs is a good songwriter. We had Syd, then Roger. Fleetwood Mac and Genesis also succeeded because they had more than one writer. But then Roger began to feel resentful, that he was carrying the whole band on his shoulders, and a split became inevitable."

He adds: "Up to Dark Side of the Moon, I wouldn’t change very much at all. But after that, I wish we’d talked about things more."

However, meeting again by chance, the pair made up their differences two years ago. Nick says: "I suddenly had an ending and the book I’d been thinking of doing for 10 years got written." But he adds carefully: "I’ve made it absolutely clear this is my version of events. David and Roger both think some of my stories are wrong or unfair."

He feels the success of Dark Side of the Moon, which still sells well, typifies that of the band as a whole. "It’s our most complex album. Roger’s lyrics about the pressures of modern life still seem relevant. Pink Floyd pushed the whole intellectualism of rock, developing the idea that a song didn’t just have to say ‘gotta gotta get you babe’ and be two and a half minutes long."

On the low esteem in which drummers can be held compared with other members of a band, he professes to "love that thing about a band being three musicians and a drummer". And sticking with the true confessions, does he feel Pink Floyd would still make it in the music business if they were starting out now?

Nick Mason considers. "Probably not," he says. "We were there at a really easy period when, if you had long hair, some record company would probably sign you. Now it’s very difficult to get a deal. It will get easier, when the first band comes through from the internet without a record company at all. But to get signed now, you probably have to be the type of band I wouldn’t want to be in."

Our thanks to Lee McLoughlin for letting us know about this interview; the complete article can be seen here.