"The answer is that I feel very happy" - Nick Mason
Written by Jos√© Abell√°n   
Thursday, 01 October 2020

Nick Mason's Saucerful of Secrets: Live At The RoundhouseOne of Brain Damage's friends of many years is Jos√© Abellán, who runs the Animals PF Magazine. Jose is also contributor to the Spanish music magazine This Is Rock. To coincide with the release of Nick Mason's Saucerful Of Secrets: Live At The Roundhouse, Jose chatted with Nick back in February, pre-lockdown, and he has kindly shared a translation of his full article and interview that appeared in the April issue of This Is Rock:

Nick Mason's Saucerful Of Secrets: Live At The Roundhouse is on sale from Friday, September 18, worldwide in several formats: double vinyl, 2 CD and DVD, and Blu-ray. Its release was originally scheduled for Friday, April 17, but due to the pandemic, it was postponed, a delay of five months. In February and April of this year, two interview sessions with Nick Mason were held in London and New York. The appointment in London was on February 11th and 12th (my birthday) and I was able to choose the 12th… you can decide if there was good or bad intention in my choice. As a contributor to This Is Rock magazine, I was able to interview Nick in my role as journalist that morning at One Alfred Place in London.

Live at the Roundhouse is different to any other concert of "classic" Pink Floyd. It's the closest you can get to a time machine, transporting you back to the band's early days. Nick Mason, the only member of the band to have played on all of Pink Floyd's studio albums, returns to the group's early albums, alongside Gary Kemp, Guy Pratt, Lee Harris and Dom Beken.

Saucerful of Secrets, Nick Mason's band, brought drumming back to clubs for the first time since 1967, then to theatres and halls across the UK, North America and Europe, playing only music from his old band, recorded previous to The Dark Side of the Moon. The result is the release of this double album, 2CD / DVD and Blu-ray. Seated for an hour face to face in a spacious office, only Nick Mason and I, we talked about this release, the future tour, his time in Spain, Pink Floyd and the future of this band and Pink Floyd...

It is the first time that a member of Pink Floyd plays music from the band's early years, which has never been officially played or published post "Dark Side", and now Nick Mason's Saucerful of Secrets brings it together in this release. Why did you choose this repertoire instead of the most famous songs of Pink Floyd?

I chose this repertoire because I think that in a way it is more interesting for me and the Saucers because there are many tribute bands that play the later ones, and David and Roger play them very well. People expect them to sound exactly like they are on the records. The phenomenal thing about the early music is that I don't intend to play them exactly the same, I only want the spirit of the compositions to be there, and it allows us to improvise; we want the atmosphere to be correct, but the pieces are free from ties, and thus work well. They are 50 years old, we can adapt them. It's how we and the band like to do them. I think that, live, they work precisely because of that, because they are different and unusual.

When Nick Mason's Saucerful of Secrets started to play, it was like a gathering of friends who did this without any commercial approach. What made you take the decision to release this concert officially?

Yes, in fact, I see it as a gathering of friends; there were no auditions, only four people who wanted to do this, finally five.

The instigator was Lee Harris but before contacting me, he called Guy Pratt because if he had called me direct it is very likely that I would have declined the proposal. Being Guy I thought that if he saw it had value, for sure it would be a good idea, at least, to try.

When Gary Kemp showed interest I thought it might really work because someone from Spandau Ballet would be an unexpected fan. Being such a good musician and knowing the songs so well (I don't know if you know he's a big fan of Syd Barrett), the musical part was already covered.

There has always been a commercial element to the project, I never would have wanted to do this out of vanity and pay to carry it on. The rest are music workers so they have to think about commercial viability so we first organized three concerts to try to make it work; and, if not, to go for something else.

Nick Mason with Jose AbellanIs this release intended for people to rediscover the beginnings of Pink Floyd?

It is not specifically about making people rediscover the beginnings of Pink Floyd, it is that that material has not been used as much as we should have, therefore it has not been listened to much. It's not anyone's fault, just that over the years we published other albums, from Dark Side onwards, and there was a lot of material with Wish You Were Here and The Wall so the older was being put aside because there was so much to include. You always promote the latest album. So the most grateful thing was to allow people to listen to what they have been able to hear less. Some people never heard this repertoire, others remember it very fondly. The most pleasant thing has been hearing people tell me that they would never have thought they could listen to these songs again, so it is not necessarily rediscovery but also nostalgia.

Has there been fear of the live audience's response at some point of the tour?

There has been some fear at concerts with a larger audience throughout the tour. There's always some fear when thinking about whether the audience will enjoy what you're going to play, particularly for us because with a career like Pink Floyd's, people know what they want to hear because that's how we established it at Pink Floyd, over the years. This is like starting all over again so this is the set whether you like it or not (smiles).

The setlist of the tour makes me think of a concise version of the Pink Floyd Early Years 1965 - 1972 box set. Is it the intention?

There is no intention of linking the repertoire with The Early Years, only that it is inevitable that they coincide because we cover exactly the same period and, therefore, material. When The Early Years was released this band was not even on our minds; it is by chance that it was published and we played it live.

Has this band emerged as an extension of the work to create The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains?

It's not an extension of exposure at the V&A, but it did play a role in what we're doing, in a way.

I really enjoyed working on the V&A exhibition, with Hipgnosis and Stufish (the stage designers), but something was missing, and what was missing was playing live, and that made me realize that while it was fun, the most exciting thing was playing live, and that was an important element in saying yes to Lee and Guy.

I went to London for one of your early shows of Nick Mason's Saucerful of Secrets (Half Moon, Putney, May 23rd, 2018) and I saw you much more comfortable, relaxed and "free" than in the mega tours where everything is studied to the millimetre and you seem to be more serious. Also on the DVD / Blu-ray about to be released, you are smiling almost all the time and in conversation with the rest of the band.

You are very right, the problem is that when you play with PF in a big stadium, with a big stage, you try to get as close as possible to a perfect show; so you depend on effects, videos, you play to a click track and you have to accept that it is almost impossible to make eye contact with the rest of the band because they are far away (Mason laughs when he says it), so this is a return to what it means to play in a band, together, sending messages, signalling to one or the other that a change is coming; and also you can improvise; with just one look you say that you want to repeat the chorus, or do anything else. So the answer is that I do feel very happy.

Dom Beken has impressed me pleasantly and his work is excellent especially in long themes such as Set The Controls and Obscured By Clouds. How did you make your choice for a keyboard player, thinking of Rick Wright's approach to playing?

There was no audition, we sat down to talk about who to invite. Don was an easy choice because he had worked with Rick outside of the Pink Floyd context, when preparing solo albums, so he knows his work, his music and his style very well. He's very good, not just with keyboards; he has prepared the intros used for the concerts and this live album.

When I heard that Nick Mason was going to publish a new album, I expected new compositions with the new guys and away from what is about to be released. Not that I am against this release but, is there any chance that the Saucers gather to compose and record new music at some point? Have you spent time jamming in a studio or have you talked about the subject?

At this point I don't think that we are going to compose. We have a lot of material that we haven't played yet. I never say no to anything, but at this stage it would be a distraction and a bad idea. We really enjoy what we are doing. Maybe next year, I'm not saying no, but it should make sense, in case we do.

"Echoes" is the name of this tour which will include that song as a new addition. Gilmour opted not to play it as a tribute to Rick, but you have chosen to include it on the new setlist. Why? Will the Saucers play Echoes in Spain?

Yes, we are trying to prepare a new version of Echoes because we intend to vary the set list slightly. I know David said he doesn't want to play it. My perspective is different, it is a great piece and we think we have to play it, so we will perform it in Madrid and Barcelona.

In the New York concert last year a "spontaneous" person took the stage to play the gong ... Is there any chance that the same kind of "spontaneous" person plays any instrument on this tour?

It was fantastic that Roger took the stage in New York. We had talked about it and he said he would do something, but we didn't talk about what he would do once on stage. It would be very complicated for it to happen again; it happened because he was in New York. It is unlikely to happen again.

I would love David to get on and play, I hope it happens at some point, but it's not easy; I hope it happens but the intention is not to bring Pink Floyd back together as a result of the Saucers.

I like very much the almost punk version of Vegetable Man that you have included in this release. Did you mean to make it punk or did the Saucers just let itself go?

Vegetable Man is a very particular case, it is an unfinished song, hence we have not published it, and it lends itself to being varied. Perhaps that is why it is open to various possible interpretations. We give it a punk air, which is how I remember we began to compose it, it is the anger in this song that makes it punk.

In 2016, Pink Floyd Records was formed under the direction of Mason, Waters and Gilmour. Has it been created to manage your catalog and keep all future publications under control?

I can't remember but the answer is that, like any band, we strive to be in control of everything we've created. Nothing can be done with it as we have the rights to it all (and there are many things). We want to regain the rights to those many things, because everything we can do with our work is fine, instead of other people taking advantage of it. I think it is beneficial not only for us but also for our fans.

Our thanks to Jose for sharing this with the Brain Damage community.

ORDERING INFORMATION:
You can order the various editions through the following direct links, whilst giving Brain Damage much needed help with running costs without costing you any extra. We really appreciate it too!

LIVE AT THE ROUNDHOUSE - Blu-ray:  Amazon.com  Amazon UK  Canada  Germany  France  Italy  Spain 
LIVE AT THE ROUNDHOUSE - 2CD/DVD:  Amazon.com  Amazon UK  Canada  Germany  France  Italy  Spain 
LIVE AT THE ROUNDHOUSE - DOUBLE VINYL LP:  Amazon.com  Amazon UK  Canada  Germany  France  Italy  Spain