Pink Floyd have to be one of the most important and influential bands of the last half-century, and their legendary drummer Nick Mason is headed to Malta to give an already sold out concert with his band on the 10th of July.
Before his Valletta show with Saucerful of Secrets, we caught up with ‘The Heartbeat of Pink Floyd’ to find out what he knew about Malta, his thoughts on prog music in 2019, and why he named a song after Malta back in the 80s.
The Heartbeat of Pink Floyd is coming to Malta for the first time – and he’s keen to see the island
“I know very little about Malta, really,” Nick smiled ahead of his massive concert. “I think this is an opportunity to explore the island a bit – and all the people who have been over and performed there have told me it’s great.”
On tour with Saucerful of Secrets, Nick is currently exploring some of Pink Floyd’s earlier work – and a new generation of fans are getting introduced to his particular style of drumming for the first time.
Indeed, he still hasn’t gotten fully used to being known as the ‘Heartbeat’ of Pink Floyd
“It’s sort of flattering really, it’s been my life for the last 50 odd years now,” he said. “What I’m really enjoying now is going outside that, and working with these other guys and doing something slightly different than what I’ve ever done before.”
With Saucerful of Secrets, Mason has been able to experiment and push the boundaries of the some classic Pink Floyd recordings.
“It’s music that I’m familiar with, but we are trying to play it with the spirit with which it was written instead of slavishly trying to recreate every note and beat that was on the record,” he said. “In fact, in a lot of ways, there’s a lot more space to experiment on the early work than there is just trying to do another version of Comfortably Numb or Money.”
It’s this new space to experiment that has led to such rave reviews of Saucerful of Secrets’ current tour
Above all else though, Nick wants the crowd to come to his show with an open mind, ready for anything.
“Hopefully, quite a few fans will be quite surprised with some of the earlier Pink Floyd music. For the superfans who have been through the entire catalogue it is fine, but what we’ve found is that a lot of people told us afterwards that they had never even heard some of these songs before,” he smiled. “But they are very much a part of the Pink Floyd history, and in some cases were maybe the gestation for later albums or songs.”
There are even some surprise tracks that Nick is excited to play live.
“One of my favourite tracks of all is Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, which is a song Roger wrote in 1968,” he explained. “We played it live until about ’73 or ’74, then it sort of got lost and was swamped by Dark Side and The Wall, so it’s great to unravel that.”
“But more extraordinary is the song called Vegetable Man, that was never actually released by Pink Floyd,” he recounted. “It was written by Sid but we never actually finished it, so we’ve done a version of that. It’s never been played live by us, but it was bootlegged for many years so some people may have heard it.”
Hilariously, even though Nick has never been to Malta, he has a song called Malta
“Why we called it Malta I’m afraid to say I can’t remember,” laughed Nick when reminded of the 1985 track.
“There was some connection,” he continued. “By the time I visit Malta I’ll have researched it. It was named after the island, but for what reason… I had not been there, maybe Rick Fenn had been.”
Nick Mason’s drumming influenced a generation of progressive drummers – and he’s been keeping watch
Seeing the music industry so much over the last 50 years he’s been active, Nick knows the challenges new musicians are facing.
“I think prog is alive, but it’s not entirely well. Music’s been through hopefully it’s most difficult period in the last 15 years, just because its become so devalued. It’s not because the musicians aren’t good,” he said. “The whole onset of web pirating and music for free has destroyed the value of it, and it’s such a shame because it’s become impossible for young musicians to make living.”
“However, the resurgence of vinyl has made people understand the importance of listening to high-quality music,” he said.
Ahead of the highly-anticipated show in July, Nick has a message for all his Maltese fans
“First of all, I’d like to say please come and see us,” he laughed, before getting serious.
“What I really hope is that they enjoy the spirit of what we play. We try to have as much fun on stage, enjoy ourselves as much as we can on stage – and I hope they do as well,” he ended.