Nick Mason of Pink Floyd Talks "The Wall"
Tue, 21 Feb 2012 07:34:32
With The Wall, Pink Floyd didn't make just another record.
Given The Wall's grandiose story, film, and stage show, it was always intended to be something more than the 26 songs comprising it. Over the years, it's rightfully grown into a timeless journey on par with classic works of art even outside the realm of music.
It has a scope matching J.R.R. Tolkien and philosophical implications on par with the best work of Stanley Kubrick. In essence, The Wall is the greatest concept album of all time. It's an epic tale and the ultimate example of the brilliance of Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Richard Wright, and Nick Mason.
On February 28, 2012, listeners will be able to enjoy this ride like never before with the release of The Wall "Immersion" box set and "Experience" edition. The "Immersion" box set includes the original recordings remastered, unreleased demos, Is There Anybody Out There: The Wall Live, "Behind The Wall" documentary DVD, exclusive photo book, tour ticket and backstage replicas, and more. Meanwhile, the "Experience" version boasts unreleased demos and the remastered recordings.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, legendary Pink Floyd drum maestro delves deep into The Wall, reveals some memories, and even talks his first drum kit…
What instantly comes to mind when you think of The Wall?
Generally, it was quite an enjoyable process because once we had moved out of the UK to record the album in France there was a real sense of getting on with it. Actually, it was a really nice environment to work in. I have surprisingly happy memories particularly working in Super Bear up in Berre les Alpes. It was the first time we'd ever worked in studios outside of the UK. It was a good experience.
How much did the setting influence the music?
I don't think very much. First of all, the skeleton had been lined up well in advance in terms of Roger's demos that were done a lot earlier. We'd already done some working demoing how the thing was going to go. In a way, once you're in the studio itself, you're very unaware of the world outside so I don't think there was ever a Charles Aznavour element of French-ness creeping in there as far as I'm aware.
Was there always a cohesive vision for The Wall?
I'm not sure whether the music went exactly where Roger thought it was going to go. Inevitably, there was an element of input Bob Ezrin, David, and Rick indeed. Musically, it probably developed beyond Roger's initial vision. In terms of the fact that it was always intended to be much more than a record, that was a given. That was decided very early on. We were working on the show while we were in France. The technical design of The Wall itself was being done with Mark Fisher along with the record. It was also pre-computer animation where every cell was hand-drawn. That's a slow process.
Is "Run Like Hell" a special song for you?
It's special because it's fun to play live. That gives it a hell of a twist. That's true of anything which is a live favorite. I know we did a demo of that in England in a very open space, and that ended up being the sound used on the record itself.
How important were the segues between songs?
They were very important. They hark back directly to The Dark Side of the Moon where the segues aren't necessarily entirely musical. They're sometimes done with the sound effects. In order to keep the listener's attention, we tried to make sure the music did flow seamlessly. I think that's partly thanks to the efforts of Michael Kamen, the arranger. He did some great stuff with strings which disappear and work as the way of carrying things through. One of the few things a computer never seems to able do are proper crossfades. There's something great about good ears listening to something the levels. You're really listening to one thing disappearing and something else appearing.
Were the shows supporting The Wall more challenging?
They were definitely more challenging than anything else we'd ever done. The timing was so important. Because of the building of The Wall and trying to make the thing fit properly, there were very few opportunities to either extend or shorten the music to ensure the very last brick went into the very last hole on the very last note of the very last song. Now, one would approach it a completely different way with timing, click tracks, and so on. Everything had to be done in a very specific place. That was not normally the way we operated or were used to working. In fact, even when we working with film, which we did quite a lot, we tried to ensure that there was some room for maneuvers.
What was that like for you as a drummer?
It took quite a lot of concentration. It didn't take extra practice so much. It was more a matter of paying attention and remembering what does come up and when.
At the time, were you guys reading a lot or watching many movies?
I think we were probably reading. We were in France, and we didn't necessarily have access to movies being released. I suppose what influenced us most was other music going on at the time. When we were working, there would be a lot of music being played. There was always music around.
You did something completely different though.
It still influences you. We didn't do anything like Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band but we all listened to it avidly. I remember listening to it the day it came out.
What was the first drum kit you got?
Well, it wasn't really a kit. It was a handful of assorted drums that became a sort of a kit. There was a very cheap bass drum. The whole package cost me about 12 dollars [Laughs]. I had the bass drum, snare drum, hi-hat, and tom-tom. It was truly dreadful, but it was a start. I didn't keep it and I have no regrets on the museum level.
What's your favorite song on The Wall?