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The OU meets Pink Floyd

Updated Wednesday, 24 April 2019
Dr Sean Williams of The Open University talks to Pink Floyd's drummer Nick Mason about his drumming concerns and career.

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In an exclusive interview, Nick Mason discusses the evolution of Pink Floyd's equipment and the difficulties of using delays in music. Click on the image below to listen to what Nick has to say. 





The main change that I’m conscious of is the way that drum kits now are so much heavier weight. They’re built to be played in a far more ferocious fashion actually. When you look back to the first kit I had, or any of the vintage kits that fascinate people now, the drums themselves are terrific, but the fittings are absolutely appalling, and small wingnuts and so on to hold the whole thing together; whereas now everyone uses a sort of scaffolding framework to hold things on. The development really is, apart from strength, it’s also the ability to move things round, to be able to set them and then keep that setting so that every time you set up you can exactly match the way you like your kit set up. That’s what I’m most aware of.


And what about your own evolution with your, with what you’ve selected to use, because I mean there’s the quite famous picture on Ummagumma with all the kit and so, you know, did you really expand and contract or has it been you’ve gone in waves or have you settled into something?


I think we always expanded. We never went back. Really the thing I’m conscious of and the Ummagumma picture at the time was sort of state of the art in terms of equipment. Everyone looked at it and went wow! Whereas now you look at it and you think yeah I’ve got that in my backroom.


In terms of the use of delay, that was fairly consistent from the Binson Echorecs all the way through the TC devices, and I’m really fascinated to know whether that impacted your performance practice as with the rhythm because you’ve got this sort of inbuilt delay.


Yes, because of course with those sort of delays the tempo is set by the Binson rather than by the drummer. I was never a great fan of click tracks. I’m more comfortable with them now. The biggest problem is that it tends to lock the arrangement in, which means there’s no improvising. And I hate, you know, I say hate it, I really, doing this thing with my own band at the moment, and there’s almost no click track at all, ever. Because the idea is that you should always be able to go, you know, do another verse, do another chorus, now the guitar solo, whatever, and not be locked into, not locked into the arrangement. I mean I also do believe that it’s better if you can have just that little leeway to pull things back or push a bit in the louder part of whatever. But I was speaking to someone who cringes still when I listen to some of our early work and I can hear myself absolutely speeding up beyond belief.




You know, the track starts at one speed and ends up flat out. It’s almost as though it’s a race.


Any particular tracks you care to mention?


No, I’m certainly not going to.


Image acknowledgements for the audio stills

00:00 - 00:09: Image of Nick Mason - copyright of the BBC.
00:10 - 00:19: Close of man drumming - creative commons by stocksnap on
00:20 - 00:34: Drums and microphones - creative commons by tonischerrenberg on
00:35 - 00:45: Close up of drum kit - creative commons by huskyherz on
00:46 - 00:54: Close up of drum kit - creative commons by Skitterphoto on
00:55 - 01:08: Close up of an amplifier - creative commons by dmaland0 on
01:09 - 00:26: Pink Floyd graffiti - creative commons by marcela vitoria on unsplash.
01:27 - 01:37: Mixing desk - creative commons by Grooveaddicted on
01:38 - 01:46: Mixing desk - creative commons by timeface on
01:47 - 02:06: Mixing desk - creative commons by alexanderstein on
01:56 - 01:37: Man playing a guitar - creative commons by free-photos on
02:07 - 02:13: Guitar laying down - creative commons by pir04d on
02:14 - 02:22: Rock band playing live - creative commons by fradellafra on
02:23 - 02:34: Guitars lined-up - creative commons by pexels on
02:35 - 02:41: Man playing guitar - creative commons by StockSnap on
02:42 - 03:01: Darkly light drum kit - creative commons by nadine_em on
03:02 - 03:10: Nick Mason and Sean Williams - copright of The Open University.



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