Earlier this year, legendary drummer Nick Mason send waves of joy through Pink Floyd fans, with the debut of his new band ‘Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets’. The new group aims to cover the early experimental and highly improvised psychedelic era of Pink Floyd.
Saucerful of Secrets is a bit of a super-group, with guitar and vocals covered by Spandau Ballet’s Gary Kemp, The Blockhead’s Lee Haris on lead and the legendary session multi-instrumentalist Guy Pratt stepping up to the task of bass. In a recent conversation with Music Radar the group shared a ‘Saucerful of Secrets’ in recreating Pink Floyd’s pre-Dark Side of the Moon sound.
Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets aims to reconstruct the sounds of Pink Floyd’s psychedelic era. Here’s how the band is recreating the legendary tones.
Back on the Drums
Mason’s new tour is his first major embarkment since Pink Floyd’s 1994 support of The Division Bell, however, this new project harks back to Pink Floyd’s early sound, covering songs from Pink Floyd’s early albums, including 1970’s Atom Heart Mother, 1967’s A Piper at the Gates of Dawn and of course, 1968’s A Saucerful of Secrets.
Mason told Music Radar that the early Pink Floyd sound provides a fresh platform for his return to the drums, “I think when I was talking about a labour of love it’s not so much specifically those albums, although there’s a freshness to them that perhaps would be missing if we start raiding ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ and ‘The Wall’ and so on.”
“You head into tribute band territory with yet another version of ‘Comfortably Numb’. It’s more a labour of love in terms of me playing drums again, really.”
He also stated, that the key in recreating this sound was incorporating improvisation as much as possible, “What I’d like to do is recreate the idea of improvising; we won’t play the same thing again and again – we’re not planning to learn an improvised solo – if you see what I mean.
“That’s the backbone of it. Of course, there are some occasions when it will end up being fairly similar, but hopefully, we’ll be able to keep that alive.”
On the Tone Front
With Mason digging up the old grooves of Pink Floyd’s headier days, Gary Kemp and Lee Harris are the men given the task of recreating a smorgasbord of guitar tones, from the unbridled grit heard on Interstellar Overdrive to the more milder tones heard on songs such as Green is the Colour.
Kemp told Music Radar that a Telecaster was an important starting point, “I usually play Strats on stage but I had a ’71 Tele, which I have had for quite a while and it doesn’t really seem to have a space in Spandau Ballet, but was perfect for this. Obviously, Syd’s first guitar was a Tele and then David started with a Tele. Then, when we do the later stuff, we get into Set The Controls… and stuff like that, I use my Strat. But certainly, on all the Syd stuff, it has to be the Telecaster.”
In terms of pedal effects, Kemp prefers the digital wizardry of Strymon to cover modulation and reverb, stating, “I have three different Strymons which I use: Mobius is the modulation and then TimeLine is the delay unit and BigSky is the reverb unit. I usually set them all for different songs, through a Disaster Area MIDI Pedal.”
Something a little more obscure in his arsenal is an Electronic Orange Moondog, which Kemp says is “a copy of the Uni-Vibe pedal that David used in the 70s.”
On the drive front, he has a solid arsenal including a rare Butler Tube Driver as well as Pete Cornish Pedals, noting “David has been using Pete Cornish since the 70s anyway, although really if you were going to try and go for that original sound, you would end up with Big Muffs and things like that. But they just sound so thin compared to what Pete has built and I love those devices.”
And on the amp front? Of course, it’s got to be Hiwatt.
“Yes, a ’71 Hiwatt and the cabinet I believe is early 70s as well. What I like about the Hiwatt is you can stack up as many of those overdrives as you want, you won’t get strange harmonics that are distorting. It just is beautiful. It carries. It is a great workhorse for pedalboards, it carries the sound of distortion beautifully.”
Even Lee Harris went for a similar amp setup for lead, “Amp-wise I’ve got a Hi-Tone DG50, which is a Hiwatt clone. It’s a fantastic amp – for this, it’s absolutely perfect.”
He also found an interesting solution to covering the thick drive, verging-on-distortion from The Nile Song. Rather than sticking with the obvious fuzz solution, he found an answer in boutique builder Catalinbread.
“I’ve got a Catalinbread Karma Suture and we’ve got a song called The Nile Song that has a kind of overblown speaker sound and I was stacking two germaniums but it was getting a bit out of control. The Karma Suture is based on something called a Harmonic Percolator and that gives me a really good sound.”
Harris’ dedication can definitely be heard in his commitment to dancing all over his pedal board to get the perfect tone for the right moment in each song.
“In fact the reason that I’ve got so many delays and overdrives is that I’m painfully aware that David only played through one Binson – or maybe two – and a Fuzz Face, but we are covering everything from 1967 to 72 and all the tracks have got different settings and I can’t stand bending down and changing settings in between songs. Especially for the analogue delays – I think one of the Boonars is for only 30 seconds of music, but it’s integral.”