Pink Floyd drummer says ‚we should have toured The Dark Side of the Moon for longer‘ | Music | Entertainment

Nick Mason’s Saucerful Of Secrets playing

Nick Mason’s Saucerful Of Secrets, with Guy Pratt and Gary Kemp, play live in Canada (Image: Getty)

Those early albums encompass the music of Pink Floyd’s first singer, Syd Barrett, who left in 1968, dropping out of music altogether four years later. A reclusive figure until his death in 2006, it’s unclear exactly why Barrett walked away from music.

„When Syd wrote for the band, the first six months of Pink Floyd were very happy,“ reflects Mason, now 80. „Then it got very sr sad, as Syd more or less dropped out. The problem is, we’re still not 100 per cent sure what happened.“

Barrett experimented heavily with LSD, which is believed to have contributed to his departure. Mason ponders: „I think LSD is definitely a part of it. It’s possible Syd took a particularly strong form of LSD, which affected him permanently. Also, something that seemed unthinkable to us is that Syd had maybe simply had enough of being in a band. He’d originally come to London from Cambridge to be a painter and he wanted to get back into painting instead.

„We couldn’t believe anyone in a successful band wouldn’t want to carry on being a part of it, and that played some part in Syd’s unhappiness.“

Mason firmly believes Barrett’s misery would have been handled a lot differently today, saying: „No one really used the expression ‚mental health‘ 55 years ago. We just had no idea how to help Syd out. As Syd became more unhappy, our solution was to take a day off – and that was it.“ Following Barrett’s departure, guitarist David Gilmour and bassist Roger Waters became Pink Floyd’s joint lead singers.

The band’s career soared, but the two musicians‘ relationship became increasingly tense until Waters quit in 1985. They’ve fought a bitter war of words ever since.

Mason remains friends with both Gilmour and Waters, with the latter joining Saucerful Of Secrets onstage at a New York show in 2019 – „A very special moment,“ he notes – while Gilmour gave the drummer a box of old Pink Floyd demo and effects tapes to help get Saucerful Of Secrets reacquainted with their earliest music.

Of his old bandmates‘ enmity, Mason says: „It’s a shame, but maybe that strife is what produced good work. Without that strife, maybe those albums wouldn’t have got made the way they did.“

Nick Mason Saucerful of Secrets

Nick Mason’s current band is Saucerful of Secrets (Image: Jill Furmanovsky)

One of rock’s undeniably classic albums, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon has been lauded as a masterpiece since its 1973 release. From its iconic sleeve of a refracted pyramid onwards, it was immediately seen as a landmark album and has sold an incredible 45 million copies.

Yet there’s one aspect around Dark Side Of The Moon that Pink Floyd’s drummer would change: Nick Mason wishes the band had toured it for longer.

Wanting to keep their creative chemistry flowing, the four-piece went back into the studio just eight months after its release,to focus on 1975’s follow-up album, Wish You Were Here. Having released the acclaimed concert film Live At Pompeii the year before Dark Side Of The Moon, Pink Floyd also failed to make a movie of the concerts celebrating their 1973 classic.

Even to this day, it frustrates Mason, who tells the Daily Express: „We should have toured Dark Side for longer.What we should also have done was to film that tour. Given what we did with the Pompeii show, it would’ve been great to film Dark Side in the same way. We almost rushed that album, because we wasted a lot of time getting Wish YouWere Here into shape.“

Today, Dark Side remains their most famous recording, and Mason is a calm, clearheaded authority about Pink Floyd’s place in rock lore. With their famously turbulent history, the drummer is the only person who played in the band from their first psychedelic adventurers in the mid-1960s until they stopped touring in 1994 after their final, grandiose album,The Division Bell.

Pink Floyd were one of the first bands to play stadiums, but Mason admits: „At a stadium, you’d always have a group of people at the back who were either on drugs or playing Frisbee. We loved playing anywhere exotic and some of the big shows in America were really exciting for us.

„We’d always had a great French fanbase, so the French influence in Montreal made shows there something special.“

Those enormous shows are a contrast to the drummer’s current Floyd-related band, Nick Mason’s Saucerful Of Secrets.

Since 2018, Mason has toured the band’s earliest music, up to 1972’s Obscured By Clouds album, with a band comprising Floyd’s longtime touring bassist Guy Pratt, ex-Spandau Ballet guitarist Gary Kemp, keyboardist Don Beken and Blockheads guitarist Lee Harris.

They are embarking on a tour of theatres, as Mason explains: „I’d be more than happy to play to 90,000 people and it’d be silly to pretend I don’t want to do stadiums anymore. But one of the great joys about playing a theatre is you can engage with an audience all at the same time.

„I get a real sense of deja vu with the Saucers, like it’s 1967 again, because I’m onstage with musicians who are all enjoying the same thing, playing to an audience all enjoying it simultaneously.“

Although he’d been happily retired, a Pink Floyd exhibition at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum in 2017 made Mason realise how much he missed being on stage.

„I really enjoyed working on that exhibition, but it was missing something for me,“ he says. „And that something was playing music, rather than talking about it. The five of us in t -t r n th o the Saucers, we’re like a very elderly version of The Monkees.“

Choosing to focus on playing Pink Floyd’s earlier music allows them to showcase the band’s more experimental side, including influential songs such as Interstellar Overdrive, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun and the 25-minute long Echoes.

Mason explains: „We’re in a position where we can play about with those tracks. There isn’t the expectation from audiences that we have to play songs as they are on the records, which I think you have once you get to later albums like Dark Side and The Wall. That earlier material is much freer.“

The feud, he reveals, has had its darkly comic moments, such as Gilmour’s good luck message to Mason before Saucerful Of

Secrets‘ first gig in 2018. „David’s message on that first night said, ‚Wish you luck, break a leg – preferably Roger’s,‘ “ he recalls.

Since the death of keyboardist RickWright in 2008, Gilmour and Mason can record together as Pink Floyd. In 2022, they made the single Hey, Hey, Rise Up! with Ukrainian singer Andriy Khylvnyuk, to support the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund following Russia’s invasion. Gilmour’s son Charlie is married to Ukrainian artist Janina Pedan.

Mason explains: „David really wanted to do something about Ukraine. He asked if I could play on the song, so it could be a Pink Floyd effort. I was very happy to help out.“

Despite being happy to support Gilmour, Mason considers the real end of Pink Floyd to have happened in 2005, when the classic lineup of Gilmour,Waters,Wright and Mason reunited for the giant poverty relief concert Live 8 at Hyde Park.

Mason admits: „Hey, Hey, Rise Up! was good, but I’d rather the end of Pink Floyd was Live 8 – all four of us doing something for the good of mankind.“

Describing himself as „a team player“, Mason’s neutrality meant he was often the calming presence in Pink Floyd. He’d dropped out of studying architecture when the band got signed, but laughs: „In the back of my mind, I thought we’d do the band for one or two years, then I’d go back to college. It was obvious we were on to something bigger once we broke America about five years in. That’s when it became apparent that, no, I wouldn’t be going back to college.“

American audiences‘ unfamiliarity with Pink Floyd’s experimental roots is another reason Mason enjoys touring Saucerful Of Secrets. „When you tour America, they almost assume Pink Floyd started with Dark Side,“ he says. „We were so underground, we were basically unknown there until 1972. Our earlier catalogue is extraordinarily varied – almost three or four bands in one.“

The drummer admits being uncomfortable with putting his name in Nick Mason’s Saucerful Of Secrets.

He reveals: „The general feeling was that it was important to have it there, to explain what and who we were. It was probably the right decision. Once people are used to us, we just call ourselves ‚The Saucers,‘ so you don’t have to keep shouting my name.“

Mason’s current band might even record brand new music, as he hints: „It’s something we’d look at, but not yet. Gary in particular is a great writer, so it’s something that might come up further down the line.“

That Mason is still looking to the future shows how far he’s come since considering his career options. „When I started playing drums, rock music was thought to be entirely ephemeral,“ he adds. „My oldest friends who went into careers like banking, they’ve all long since retired. It turns out bands can last a lot longer than you planned for.“

Nick Mason’s Saucerful Of Secrets tours from June 11 to 29. See for full dates and sales. Mason’s reissued solo albums, Fictitious Sports, Profiles and White Of The Eye, are out now.

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