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Guest DJ Nick Mason On Pink Floyd's Early Years

Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason performs live in Denmark in 1971. (Redferns)closemore
Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason performs live in Denmark in 1971. (Redferns)

Today marks the release of a gigantic box set featuring the music of Pink Floyd.

All week long, we've been thinking Pink: talking with Joe Boyd about the early days of Pink Floyd, and talking to Roger Waters about the future of his music and the music he loves. We've had memories on the site from you, while I've recalled seeing Dark Side Of The Moon live, long before it existed as an album.

Today, we get to talk with drummer Nick Mason about his years with Pink Floyd — especially those early years that inspire this box set, The Early Years 1965-1972. Mason also plays DJ and picks music he loves that isn't Pink Floyd.

We begin by discussing his role in putting this mammoth 27-disc collection together. You can hear the full interview using the play button at the top of the page, or read edited highlights below.



How Nick Mason helped piece together the massive new Pink Floyd box set

"My main role in this was the archiving of video and stills, because it was a project I started really quite a long time ago. And to some extent, it's been a sort of curious journey, because quite a lot of it is work done by Lana Topham, who's worked with us on film over many years. But it's not only what have we got, but it's where other pieces of material are, and she's done a fantastic job of trolling through the news channels and so on who were around at the time and took movie footage. Back in the day, we didn't have an iPhone with a capacity to record sound and video. You know, it wasn't something that was deemed worth keeping for posterity."


On recording the band's first single, 'Arnold Layne'

"We recorded it at a studio in Chelsea with an engineer called John Woods and Joe Boyd producing. The interesting thing is, I have to say, listening to it, you think 50 years later, how high the standard of recording was in that period. You know, if it were 50 years before that, it would have been a gentleman shouting into a megaphone attached to a wax disc or something. But 50 years later from there, I'm still thinking actually it's a really clean sound and it's well-mixed and balanced. But ['Arnold Layne'] is a snapshot really of England at the time. And Syd [Barrett] would have brought the song to a rehearsal and would probably have played it live a number of times, not quite to that arrangement. But pretty well set up. When we did get into the studio, it was pretty well-formulated, both from length and the different parts."

On being considered a psychedelic band

We were advertised as being a psychedelic band. It was a hell of a launchpad for us. But actually, in terms of being a psychedelic group, I think apart from Syd we weren't at all. In fact, we were relatively straight and ended up, you know, the first year the psychedelic label could be applied to us, but I think after that we ended up heading down a completely different track — but, years later, still seen as being part of that movement. And I certainly think we exploited that element of it, if you like, in the fact that we run a light show and the lights with the theory that this was sort of re-creating a trip and so on."

On developing his own drumming style while fitting in with the popular sound of the era

"I don't think there was ever any sense of having or feeling that I had to try and play something different to what was played before. In fact, probably the opposite. I wanted my drumming to sound as alike to any of the bands that were prevalent at the time. I sort of listen to it, and I think one's sort of conscious of the way that a studio can affect the sound. I mean, let alone the part, but the drums sound so sort of in a way muted and controlled. I mean, I think it works perfectly well, but it's interesting because it's so different from a live performance."

On Pink Floyd's early live shows and finding a home for the band's unusual sound


"The venues were very different. In the U.K. anyway, there were really... by '68, I guess, there was a whole new world ending up of student unions with the universities, which for us was the savior. Because before that, we were either in London, where we had our own crowd and that was great, or out of London, where we were sold as a band who'd had a hit record and been on television. But playing this weird, freaky music that was really not what they wanted to hear at all. And what's sort of remarkable to look back on is how often the audience hated us, but we didn't just — we didn't give up. We somehow felt we were right and they were wrong."

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