What A Lovely Day For A Drive

November 1996
Interviewed by M. Johns

Beautiful blue skies and bright sunshine greeted the drivers in the annual London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, held on 5th November 1995. This event, jointly sponsored by the RAC (Royal Automobile Club) and Tindle Newspapers, draws large crowds in its celebration of the first ever Emancipation Run - the abolition of the 4mph speed limit. Horseless carriages were allowed to travel at a maximum of 12mph without a man walking in front of the vehicle carrying a red flag.

Only cars built before 1st January 1905 are permitted entry, and it is also worth pointing out that it isn't a race - the cars are limited to an average speed of 20mph and the only reward for a successful run is a bronze RAC medal (awarded to all who reach Brighton before 4.30pm). The event starts at London's Hyde Park at 7.30am (the oldest cars leave first), and the first car is expected to arrive at the finish line on Brightons Madeira Drive from 10.30am. Cars are entered from all over the world - this year including Australia, the Czech Republic, Hong Kong, South Africa, Turkey and the USA, as well as all over Britain and other European countries. Alongside other car fanatics and celebrities, including Lord Montagu who owns the famous motor museum at Beaulieu, Nigel Mansell, and Stirling Moss, was everyone's favorite drummer, Nick Mason.

Putting in an excellent performance, Nicks 1901 Panhard et Levassor (car # 116) crossed the line in third place, at 10.50am, a matter of a few minutes behind the first two cars which finished together. Interviewed on the finishing line, Nick was asked if he'd received a lot of encouragement on the way down. He replied No, I thought it was quiet! I think it was so early that most people had not got out of bed yet!. After renewing old acquaintances, things went from slightly monosyllabic (due to the fact that Nick was rather cold and tired) to a bit more expansive...

MJ: Did you enjoy the run today Nick?
NM: Er yep - triffic.

MJ: It seemed a bit cold out there today.
NM: Hmm. Not excessively.

MJ: Are you intending to carry on doing the run? It's the 100th year next year.
NM: Yeah - I hope so.

M : If you can do it, because I believe there's a tour next year?
NM: (SHOCK and SURPRISE)

MJ: (continuing unabated) Beginning April/May in New York, according to Columbia, running for 74 dates.
NM: Well, no ones told me!!

MJ: (Both laughing) OK, well, is that par for the course that plans are made initially and then you are told....
NM: No, absolutely not. That would be ludicrous. It's not the case.

MJ: (Quick change of subject!) One of the things I was interested in actually, was that you were doing some work on a film called Mon Ami Mate, about Mike Hawthorn? Did anything come of that?
NM: (Searching memory banks) Oh...er...no, it didn't. I mean, there are always lots of film projects floating around, which one waits to see if they ever happen. But there's nothing happening with that one as far as I know...

MJ: So are there any other films that you may be working on... or solo work?
NM: No - I have no plans for anything specific at the moment.

MJ: What about the band? Are there any plans...
NM: No, I mean there are no plans for anything at the moment (laughs)

MJ: So you are just going to take it easy for a while are you?
NM: Erm...I don't know. But I mean we just haven't made any plans yet.

MJ: Are you pleased with the way that the last tour went?
NM: Yep.

MJ: And Pulse, are you happy with the way that turned out?
NM: Yep. Very happy. Very happy

MJ: You sound quite contented.
NM: (Upon reflection) Yeah, yeah...

MJ: Are you spending more time with the cars now?
NM: No, not really because a number of things...

(Distracted by noisy car passing by)
NM: ...nice to catch up on - you know, just have time with the family, just do a few things...

MJ: Are you enjoying your new house? It looks a very nice place!
NM: Yes... yes it is.

MJ: (Change of tact) If you were going to go on tour again, do you think it could be the last one? I know that there has been talk in the past about a final tour, but I know that you've said...
NM: When has anyone ever said that it was the final tour?

MJ: No ones said that it's going to be the last tour.
NM: Hmm, yes. Well I think if we ever do a final tour then we'll probably announce it, yes, as that.

MJ: I recall that last year you said that if it was going to be the last tour then you'd...but you've no intentions then to do one last tour - you still want to carry on playing the drums..
NM: Oh yes, well I think if there's some reason why we should finish then doubtless well make some announcement, but...

MJ: But you're perfectly happy with it at the moment?
NM: I can't see why we would want necessarily to finish anything at this point...

Matt: If, for instance, the other members of the band decided they didn't want to do much more, but you wanted to carry on, would you maybe join up with someone else, do some more...
NM: What, Roger you mean, or Syd? (laughs) All that sort of stuff is conjecture. I don't want to read an interview where I'm saying: oh, if the rest of the band left I'd....It's make the decision when the time comes.

MJ: Oh exactly. One thing I was interested in is that I know that you've been working on the book, but I understand that it has been stopped?
NM: No - its been delayed. But it's rolling along.

MJ: Is it coming out at some point next year?
NM: (A most definite) Yep!

MJ: And what sort of format is it in? Is it...very much narrative?
NM: (laughs) Book format mainly! Words and pictures - words and pictures.

MJ: A lot of pictures that no one has seen before?
NM: (Genuinely) Oh I hope so - we're still collecting pictures, but hopefully...

MJ: Good, good! And I understand you've been working on a video anthology of the band as well, or have been for a while now...
NM: (Surprised) Oh, er, what? No.

MJ: A lot of people have been under the - misapprehension presumably - that you've been working on that.
NM: Not at all. All we were doing was cataloging what we've got.

MJ: Is there a lot of stuff there that could potentially come out in the future or is it not of sufficiently good quality?
NM: There's some stuff - there's some stuff a lot of which is pretty naff, and some stuff that's...sort of...to transfer...We don't have...I would not say that they were particularly good archives. There's some stuff there, some of its quite good.

MJ: I think there's some quite good stuff in some of the European countries - the TV stations have some good material...
NM: Yeah but some of the best of it is sort of missing and there's some good and some quite funny things - odd things that aren't particularly good for the period but nothing that I sort of...Erm, its not brilliant.

MJ: That's a shame really. It would be nice to bring out something: a representative record...
NM: Well, I don't know. I think when you are going through the history, the actual music tends to sound pretty...a lot of it sounds dated now in a way that - recordings tend to be quite well done. The best of the best tends to be very acceptable, but I'm not mad about the live shows from 1969, things like that. I think I can live without those!! (laughs)

MJ: (Also laughing) So you're not keen on some of the bootlegs that are around as well?
NM: I hate bootlegs. I absolutely disapprove of bootlegging. We should be allowed to make the decision about what of our work we will put out.

MJ: That's right. And also the way you used to do the new album [live] before releasing it.
NM: That's right - obviously all that's gone out the window. Which is a shame.

MJ: That's right - because albums evolve.
NM: Yeah - absolutely. I agree. I'm opposed to bootleggers generally, and I'm not very sympathetic to that particular cause. I think that if you want to run things like the Grateful Dead do, that's fine and that works very well. If the band makes a conscious decision about how they want to operate, then that's fine. So I'd say that from my point of view, I'm not very keen on it, and tend to take a rather jaundiced view when people want to get their bootleg albums autographed! (laughs)

MJ: It must be very galling for you!
NM: It's not very galling, it's just irritating!

MJ: You were saying that the quality of the videos is not sufficient...how about some of the old tracks that never came out, demos, etc.
NM: Well there aren't...(big intake of breath) erm...lots of old tracks that never came out. Nearly everything that we worked on eventually came out.

MJ: I know that a lot of people are keen for Scream Thy Last Scream and Vegetable Man to come out.
NM: (chuckles) I think nearly everyone's got a bootleg of those anyway in pretty fair quality!!

MJ: Things like Household Objects - it would be interesting to hear what was completed for that.
NM: (Raised eyebrow) Yeah...or not as the case might be! I think it's of interest to the...what one might call the trainspotter, but I don't think it's of great interest to the majority of people in terms of music. From a historical point of view it's probably interesting. Exactly. So if you're a musical archeologist OK, but for anyone interested in music... put it this way, I wouldn't buy it myself!! (laughs)

MJ: OK - last question. Thirty years of the band. Any particular outstanding moments that you can remember - or any low points, or high points...
NM: No - absolutely fuck all I'm afraid. Nothing happened at all -thirty years just gone - WHOOOOSH!! (laughs)

MJ: Just flown by...
NM: Yep - just flown by - nothing happened. One starts one day, next day - (laughs) thirty years!! No, of course there are, but nothing... er...

M ...that won't be in the book!
NM: Yep. They'll be in the book.

MJ: A good trailer for the book!
NM: (laughing) All those stories you've always wondered about!

MJ: Will it lay some of the rumors to rest? Some of the famous tales?
NM: (Ponders briefly, laughs) No I don't think it will. Hopefully indicative that there is still a LOT of confusion about a lot of the stories. Everyone has a different version of the stories and tracking down some of them has been extraordinary. I mean - yes - there will be a few things which will hopefully be either exorcised as being nonsense, or if they're true, perhaps shown as they REALLY happened, from the horses mouth of whoever they happened to...I've hoped to achieve one or two things, particularly relating to Syd. But it's not an exposť - apart from anything, the rest of the band are bigger than I am!

MJ: Has Roger seen any of the book yet? If so, what has he said?
NM: No, but I have communicated with him. Well, actually, that's not true. He has seen a copy...he's seen - I haven't finished it. I've just been in contact with him.

MJ: Is the relationship er...getting easier between him and...
NM: We're just good friends! (laughs) No - it's better now...