Reset The Controls…
Nick Mason unveils the new band he’s formed to play early Pink Floyd material – fronted by Spandau Ballet’s Gary Kemp!
“Our version of ‘Bike’ is one of the more difficult things we’ve tackled” NICK MASON
Those wishing to see Pink Floyd’s music performed by the men who recorded it are generally resigned to frequenting enormodomes. Credit, then, to Nick Mason. The Floyd drummer is poised to revive the group’s rarely heard early material in pubs and clubs, not arenas. Nick Mason’s saucerful of secrets is a band designed to appeal to early Floyd heads, featuring the music of 1967 to 1972. And there’s one other staggering thing about this news: in one of the most unlikely pieces of rock HR management since Yes merged with Buggles, the role of syd Barrett is to be played by… spandau Ballet’s Gary Kemp.
“Gary’s not quite taking the place of syd,” Mason contends. “It was to do with who had the enthusiasm for it, and Gary did. The fact of the matter is that as long as someone liked the music, it didn’t matter if they had been in Bananarama, spandau Ballet or Led Zeppelin.”
Joining Kemp and Mason are longtime Pink Floyd/David Gilmour bassist Guy Pratt, keyboard player Dom Beken and Blockheads guitarist Lee harris, who had the original idea for the project in 2016.
For now, it’s four London shows – one at Dingwalls and three at The half Moon in Putney, though Mason expects there to be more. “I just felt that we needed to see how it went before deciding what to do. I have no intention of world tours in stadiums, but we will move out of pub gigs into something bigger.”
Fans shouldn’t expect epic sets (“I’m too old”). Instead, the band have been working up a nine- or 10-song set based on The Piper At The Gates Of
Dawn and A Saucerful Of Secrets, featuring tracks unperformed by Floyd since the late ’60s, and some that have never been played live, including material from More. “I hope different elements will appeal to different people. something like our version of ‘Bike’ is one of the more difficult things we’ve tackled. And then there are things like ‘set The Controls For The heart of The sun’, just because it’s one of my favourite things to play.”
And, yes, “Interstellar overdrive” will feature – the band have been working on a version combining elements from live recordings and from the Piper version – but Mason’s hope is that the band will get to the point where they can improvise like the original Floyd did. “We’re not a tribute band,” Mason says. “It’s not important to play the songs exactly as they were, but to capture the spirit.” he’s discovered, too, forgotten complexity in some of the old Floyd songs: “It’s extraordinary, the construction of some of the songs. something like ‘see emily Play’ is broken up in an unusual way: it’s not just verse-chorus-versechorus-middle-eight-verse-chorus. And some of the songs are even more bizarre in their structure.”
The show comes with the blessing of Gilmour and Roger Waters (“I don’t think it was necessary to ask permission – they’ve never asked me – but it was good manners and they were both really supportive”) and Mason is happy for anyone to speculate that one or other of them might make an appearance, before adding that remark is “for the benefit of ticket sales”. For now, though, Mason is wrapping his head round the problem of how to fit a drum kit the size of a small european principality onto pub stages. so remember: careful with that pint, eugene.
into overdrive: Pink Floyd at a press conference in London, March 1967
See Gary play: Kemp and Mason in rehearsal