GQ Magazine have published a great new interview with Pink Floyd's drummer Nick Mason. The interview was conducted by Jason Barlow and an excerpt is given below:
GQ: So, The Endless River. A new Pink Floyd album, and the biggest advance order on Amazon this year. Bigger even than One Direction…
Nick Mason: I was surprised how well it was received. We spent so long on this thing, it was slightly startling when we actually finished it.
How did it come about? You managed to keep the project impressively secret.
It started in 1992/'93. The Division Bell was originally going to be a double album, half songs, half ambient, as they used to say. But we had a tour booked, and ran out of time. When Rick died [in 2008], there was a realisation this was the last of what we had, and a bit more effort was put into it. David [Gilmour] suggested bringing in Phil Manzanera, then Youth came on-board, and it really began to take shape. A couple of years ago Phil and I went to see the Wachowski siblings, and it could have become the soundtrack for their new film, Jupiter Ascending. When you see the film, though, you realise it wouldn't have been right. But that experience focused our minds.
It's almost a love letter to a player in the Pink Floyd story who's perpetually under-rated. It has a warmth, but a haunting quality, too.
There is an element of that. If ever there was an opportunity to showcase what Rick does, and did, this is it. In the 21st century, more and more bands are dealing with this. Queen, The Who, Michael Jackson - the place is now full of ghosts and holograms. The question is, do you do it, or do you not do it? In most cases, people decide, let's do it…
Pink Floyd's dysfunctionality has almost defined the band's work, and allowed for an unusual alchemy. Is that fair?
I think it's very fair. In years to come, treatises will be written about the curious dynamics of bands. Chaos creates great rock music. People often say, 'it's such a shame Roger left, it would have been great if you'd stayed together'. But if we'd been the sort of people who'd stayed together, we wouldn't have made the records we did. A lot of bands need an element of conflict.
Couldn't you have popped out another few albums, though?
[Laughs] We should all be really grateful we got this one out! I was surprised we were able to craft what there was into that shape, and that it engaged David sufficiently to do it. It does revive the usual questions about the band getting back together. That's something David wanted to avoid, so actually releasing a new album is a process that brings with it some substantial baggage.
Because of the internet music has been devalued. But maybe it was over-valued previously
What did you make of the U2/Apple debacle?
It's been interesting seeing how badly that went down. Let me be completely clear about my position: if Apple had come to me and said, 'Nick, we want to release your album in exchange for £50m', I couldn't have thought of a better idea. [pause] Radiohead did something similar a few years ago [2008's In Rainbows], and it worked. But this has backfired. It's made everyone think again about how they want their music delivered, given or sold. Look, U2 are a great band, and Bono's an extraordinary individual, so this isn't an anti-U2 tirade. But it highlights a vital aspect to the whole idea of music in the 21st century. What's also interesting is that Apple seem to have got off scot-free. No-one's blaming them. Apple has done great things, but it has also contributed to the devaluation process. That said, iTunes is already beginning to look rather passé, and instead it's Spotify that looks like the future. What we need is another two or three billion people using it, then it would make more sense for musicians. At the moment, the pay-out, particularly for unknowns and only slightly-knowns is… pathetic. Pink Floyd is certainly not saying, 'we won't do it like that'. We'll stream, but we'll stream with higher quality audio, and with a lot more video, or other graphic interfaces that will make it part of a fuller entertainment experience.
I watched Peter Whitehead's brilliant film Tonight Let's All Make Love In London recently, which includes footage of you playing the legendary UFO Club. I'd forgotten just how far-out Pink Floyd were in the early days. When did you last watch it?
Oh, about 40 years ago. [laughs] It's not something I can watch easily. I have enough trouble with Pink Floyd At Pompeii. One of the things that has surprised me about The Endless River is how much people have enjoyed the references to the early albums. I usually cite 'Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun' as my favourite Pink Floyd song - it's fun to play, and has interesting dynamics. I know exactly where it came from in terms of the drum part, which was Chico Hamilton playing in a film calledJazz On A Summer's Day. He does a drum solo played with mallets. It's beautiful, and so different to any other drum solo. I'm all in favour of technique, and would encourage any young drummer to practice and learn the basics. But so much of rock drumming is about what not to play. It's about the space in between.
Are you saying Pink Floyd were all secret jazzers at heart?
No, we weren't. Rick was, and I went through a period of being interested in jazz. But then I realised you need to have far too much technique, so I moved on… When I watch very technical drummers, I still find myself thinking, 'I wish I could do that'. And I probably could if I put my mind to it, and stopped messing around with cars.
To read the full interview go here: