Drummer Nick Mason talks Pink Floyd’s ‘amazing’ exhibit in Toronto

There are 350 artifacts from the band’s storied five-decade career

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There’s a lot to absorb at The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains given the 350 artifacts assembled from the British prog-rock band’s five-decade career.

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But for Pink Floyd drummer and exhibit collaborator Nick Mason, 79, there’s one really remarkable object at the 20,000-square-foot exhibit at Toronto’s Better Living Centre at Exhibition Place with an open-ended run.

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“The most bizarre item probably was the cane that was used to punish both (Pink Floyd bassist) Roger (Waters) and (frequent Floyd album art collaborator and graphic designer) Storm Thorgerson when they were school boys at Cambridge and that arrived with a punishment book,” said Mason down the line from London where he was rehearsing for the next leg of Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets tour in Europe.

“I don’t know who had it. It’s one of those things where it sort of appeared and someone said, ‘Well, this is amazing. Put this in the show for sure.’”

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Cane and punishment book from Cambridgeshire High School for Boys circa 1950s. (Jane Stevenson/Toronto Sun)
Cane and punishment book from Cambridgeshire High School for Boys circa 1950s. (Jane Stevenson/Toronto Sun)

More sentimentally for Mason was the discovery of his 1972 drum kit.

“I’m probably more of an archivist than any of the others but I’m not committed to it,” he said. “(Former Rolling Stones bassist) Bill Wyman kept absolutely everything. In fact, I very nearly brought the whole crumbling thing to a halt because the then director of the Victoria & Albert Museum (in London) suggested it to me and I said, ‘Nah, we couldn’t do it. We haven’t got all the stuff, the memorabilia.’ By then I’d been see the Bowie exhibition where all the costumes (were) all carefully annotated with dates and all the rest of it. And as far as I was concerned, we had one big coat and a couple of shirts, that’s about it. What was great was I was wrong.”

When Pink Floyd was first formed in 1965 by Mason, bassist-vocalist Waters, singer-guitarist Syd Barrett and keyboardist Richard Wright, they never could have imagined being on display in a museum-like setting.

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Their Mortal Remains — the show’s creative director is Aubrey ‘Po’ Powell, who formed album cover design company Hipgnosis with Thorgerson in 1967 — has welcomed more than 500,000 visitors worldwide since opening in London at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2017.

It’s travelled to Rome, Madrid, Los Angeles, Montreal, and Dortmund, Germany.

The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains. Paul Ducharme photo
The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains. Paul Ducharme photo

“I come from a generation where even the Beatles’ working life would be limited and Ringo was planning to open a hairdresser,” said Mason. “I just think we all assumed it would be a year or two and then we’d go back to college and do something. No one, at that point, had sort of been around for long enough to suggest rock music was here to stay.”

Still, the timing couldn’t be better.

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The Pink Floyd exhibit’s arrival in Toronto comes on the heels of the 50th anniversary of the band’s iconic 1973 album, The Dark Side of the Moon.

“I think it’s the ‘it meant so much to so many people’ that’s striking,” said Mason of the classic disc.

“To some extent, it’s a bit humbling. When we made it we were proud of it but we had no idea it would actually still have any relevance, I suppose, in the 21st century. And although he can be very annoying, Roger is a terrific writer when it comes to writing verse that’s relevant to a 15- or 16-year-old, as well as a 23-year-old, (the latter being) how old he was when it was written.”

The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains. Paul Ducharme photo
The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains. Paul Ducharme photo

Otherwise for Mason, it’s old home week working with exhibit co-producer and Torontonian Michael Cohl, the latter who promoted Pink Floyd tours, most memorably 1987’s A Momentary Lapse of Reason — the first trek without Waters — which rehearsed in Toronto before eventually playing multiple nights at CNE Stadium.

“The great thing was that we were actually in Toronto for really quite a while,” said Mason, who also worked with Cohl on last year’s Saucerful of Secrets tour.

“We did all our production and music rehearsals out at the airport. And so we actually got to know Toronto, I won’t say well, but we spent quite a lot of time and really enjoyed the whole business of being out at the airport, which was sort of perfect because we could make more noise than the aircraft and no one complained.”

Exhibit tickets are on sale at pinkfloydexhibition.com.

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