Floydian Slip (FS): First off all, let me say that I've done this show for a long time and I long ago resigned myself to what I thought was the fact that I would never get one of you guys from the band to join me on the show, but here you are. I also didn't think I'd ever talk about a new Pink Floyd album, but that's happening at the same time, so it's been a good week for me. Pigs are flying somewhere, I guess. "The Endless River" goes back 20 years. Why don't you tell us the backstory.
Nick Mason (NM): Well, the basis ... the starting point for it was that when we made "The Division Bell" that we planned to do a double album. And basically what happened was we ran out of time. We got to the point where we had a tour coming up which we were committed to and we simply didn't have the time to do the second record that we'd intended to do. So we actually had this material unsorted — it was something like 20 hours of tape — with loads of ideas on it. Most of them unfinished and needing a lot more work. So over a 20-year period, this has sort of been sifted through and the best is picked out. And then in some cases developed and in some cases we've taken one element and then added more drums or removed drums — done whatever was necessary, we thought, to make them into complete pieces.
FS: Recently, you've been working on this for, what? About two years, is that right?
NM: Well, on and off for much longer than that. Probably at least 10 years ago there was a starting point. I suppose in the last two years what happened was we began to see what we could make from it. And I think this was exacerbated by the death of Richard (Wright). And there was a realization it was really important to get some of this music actually out. And I think really we spent a lot of time really working out if we thought that there really was a record there, or whether it was destined to be something else. So, as I say, it all really came together in the last year or so.
FS: How is it that you managed to keep this a secret? You're probably aware that there's an immense amount of interest in anything that you guys do.
NM: Curiously it was never intended to be secret, actually. We were never committed enough, I think, for a long time. And there was no point in talking about something that maybe was never going to see the light of day.
FS: When the news actually broke on July 5th, I gathered that that was unexpected and you folks weren't really ready for the news to be released.
NM: No, because we hadn't finished working on it, I think, around then. Maybe it's not a bad thing sometimes, to have pressure. But in some ways I think having waited 20 years it seemed a bit odd to have to suddenly rush a bit after that. But, having said that, I think it's great to have it out now, rather than waiting until next year. Particularly (because) David wants to get on with his solo album and stuff like that. So it kind of needs to be done now.
FS: You said that this album is really kind of a tribute to Rick Wright. How do you mean?
NM: Well, I think we've all sort of felt that. We're not saying that is the focus of the album. But we think it's a great opportunity to recognize that maybe Rick was slightly the unsung hero of the band. He did produce this extraordinary sort of melodic approach that's so much part of our sound. And what's great about these tracks is a lot of them really showcase that talent of Rick's.
FS: When Rick died in 2008 fans at least, or at least myself, were surprised. We didn't know he was ill. I'm wondering if he shared that news with the members of the band.
NM: Yes, he did. But Rick always was a very private person. And I think the last thing he wanted was for people to make some big fuss. So I think he used the time he had left to the very best advantage — enjoyed his boat and some music. I think he didn't want it to turn into a big thing.
FS: No tour for "The Endless River," correct?
NM: I don't think so. I mean, David has said he doesn't really want to tour again. Or not at the size of Pink Floyd. He definitely wants to do his solo projects. But I honestly think with the absence of Rick, it's almost impossible. Because if we're going to tour this music, this music is based on playing together. And if we're missing 30 percent of what's necessary, I just can't see it working. As I say, I think there's a double thing there: It's very impractical, plus you'd need a committed David. And David's made it very clear he doesn't want to do it.
FS: So David's working on a solo project and he's said, I think the way he's phrased it was, he plans on doing an "old man's tour" to promote the album. Is that something, the tour or the album, that you might participate in?
NM: I don't think so. I think the problem is as soon as I get on stage with David, we've got Pink Floyd sitting there. He has asked me if I'd play on the record, which I'd absolutely love to do. But I think, essentially, he'd like to just go and do something a little more low-key, which is really just about his music, and not get involved in the whole sort of full-on Pink Floyd staging, films, lights and all the rest of it.
FS: Roger Waters has also said that he's working on a new solo album. I'm wondering if you know anything about that?
NM: No, I don't. I mean, Roger's got about seven projects going at any one moment. I think he's still got plans for a movie of "The Wall." He's probably got a Broadway or West End show that's he's talked about. I haven't actually hooked up with Roger on this trip, so I don't quite know where he is on all of that. But I've never known Roger when he hasn't got a number of projects on.
FS: We were really excited over the past couple of years to get boxsets for "The Division Bell," "The Dark Side of the Moon," "Wish You Were Here," "The Wall," and whenever we get that kind of stuff all we want is more. So I will ask you: Is there any more in the vaults?
NM: There's no more in the vaults. We're really fortunate in having been able to make a proper album out of "The Endless River." And that would be asking a lot to find any more undiscovered material. There's almost certainly some other anthologies to do. It'd be great to do something on the early years, which is a project I'm quite keen on. And maybe something involving more film and video material. Because I think there's very little of us out there playing. Apart from Pink Floyd at Pompeii. If we could put together something from the early years, I think that might be exciting.
FS: You'd mentioned in an interview that there was some unreleased early stuff from the Syd Barrett era. What type of stuff is that?
NM: Really very, very basic stuff. Sort of demos. There are a couple of tracks available as bootlegs, and it might be nice to see if we could clean those up and make something more audio-acceptable out of them. But certainly there's not some casket of trasures waiting there.
FS: You wrote a great book about Floyd about 10 years ago called "Inside Out." It's got a load of information and tons of details in there. So I'm wondering: Did you take incredible notes over the last 40 years? Or do you just have a great memory?
NM: Neither. I certainly don't take copious notes and I certainly don't have a great memory. I think the great thing is, there are various ways of sort of teasing information out. Sometimes it's talking to other people, but sometimes it's photographs. There's nothing like a photograph to remind you of what happened and where it was and so on.
FS: What kind of participation or, for that matter, resistance, did you get from the other guys in the band when they knew you were writing a book?
NM: It was rather mixed really. Because initially we talked about trying to do something together. And then it became more and more obvious that that was never going to happen. I was very keen to do this myself anyway. And eventually what I agreed to really was I was going to write my version, which is not the definitive band version, it was my version, and, consequently, they were entitled to write their own memoirs whenever they wished to. So reactions were ... well, I have a couple of lines on this one which is to say the book was almost universally acclaimed. And when I say that, there were two people on the planet who weren't very fond of it. (Laughs). I think there were elements they absolutely agreed with and so on, and others that they disagreed. But neither were game to stop me doing it. I think probably my approach and the way I describe things and talk about things is maybe a bit flippant for David's tastes. What I felt I did was I put down what I thought happened and if that's wrong, that's wrong. And the others are perfectly entitled, as I say ... it'd be great if they wrote their own books so we could sell them as a boxed set.
FS: There was supposed to be a huge Floyd exhibit open in Milan this fall called "Their Mortal Remains." I know you participated in collecting material for that, but then it got postponed and now apparently it's not going to open in Milan. Is it still going to happen?
NM: It's still going to happen. The whole Milan thing was sort of all sorts of complicated business reasons. It just didn't get off the ground. But we still have all the materials. We still plan to do it. Whether we'll get it back to Milan or whether we'll actually open somewhere else, I'm not sure. But there's still enthusiasm to do it. In fact, we've just been talking about it recently. I think in 2015 you'll see it happen somewhere.
FS: So is this the sort of thing that might open in one place, but then might move around and tour?
NM: Oh, that would definitely be the plan ...
NM: ... Wherever it opens that will not be its only resting place.
FS: What are the odds of seeing the remaining member of Pink Floyd on stage again someday?
NM: Very, very unlikely. As I've said, David's made it absolutly clear he's finished on that one. Having said that, the only thing I could envision, I suppose, is another situation like Live 8, where there was a good enough reason to ask us to do something above and beyond just our own interests — to do something that would make some sort of difference to a lot of other people. That, I think, would be the one way that would bring us together again on stage.
FS: So this is my last question, and it takes a little bit of a set up, so bear with me. I was reading an interview with — I think it was John Cleese from Monty Python — and he was sort of questioning whether he had spent his life doing what he should have been doing. Which floored me, as a fan, to hear him say that he sometimes wonders if he shouldn't have gone into a more respectable field like medicine or law. So my question to you is similar: You're part of a huge piece of rock history. Pink Floyd is legendary. There will be Pink Floyd fans forever, I think. And your music will go on forever. But I'm wondering for all of your success, if you feel satisfied? If you're happy?
NM: Well, an interesting question. The first thing, of course, is to point out to John Cleese that whatever he's done it must be better than being a lawyer. The second part of it — yeah, absolutely. I think of being part of something that is far bigger than I could have done on my own or, essentially, in any other walk of life. If I hadn't been in the band, I was destined to go into architecture. I think I'd have enjoyed it and found it fulfilling but it'd never have been twice to the adventure that I've actually experienced.
FS: Thank you so much for talking with us, this has been great.
NM: OK, good!
FS: Take care, Nick.
NM: Alright, and you.
Recorded Nov. 3, 2014
Aired Nov. 10-16, 2014
Interviewed by Floydian Slip's Craig Bailey
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