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The five favourite drummers of Pink Floyd's Nick Mason

Nick Mason was a unique drummer in the world of 1970s British rock. As progressive music became spacier and more elaborate, so too did the instrumental flourishes and focus on technique. Prog masters like Bill Bruford, Carl Palmer, and even Phil Collins were throwing in highly-complicated meter and rhythm changes, but Mason was usually content with keeping his own patterns simple.

His uncluttered approach to the drums was a major factor in why Pink Floyd stood head and shoulders above the rest of the prog-rock pack in terms of popularity and accessibility. No matter how long or dense their arrangements became, Mason was the anchor that held everything in place. When his bandmates would explore, Mason would keep the ship going straight.

It might sound like a bit of a thankless job, but Mason seemed to relish his position, not looking to take on the major acclaim and notoriety that some of his fellow drummers did. That’s why it’s a bit strange that when Mason sat down with Music Radar back in 2010, the legendary stick man cited some of the flashier drummers of his era as key inspirations in his own drum style.

Here are the five drummers that Mason specifically made reference to when talking about the players who influenced his own style.

Nick Mason’s five favourite drummers:

Ginger Baker

There are stories that bounce around about bands that visited the Polytechnical college that the members of Pink Floyd attended in the mid-1960s. One of those bands was Cream, with drummer Ginger Baker making a major impression on Mason.

“Most of my icons are the people that were my heroes when I was kicking off. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for Ginger Baker. When the curtain opened at the Regent Street Polytechnic in 1966, and there was Ginger, Eric and Jack, I thought, that’s what I’d like to be, and that was it.”

Mitch Mitchell

Another critical act that inspired Mason to make music a full-time concern was the Jimi Hendrix Experience, who also visited Mason’s polytechnical college in the mid-1960s. Since Hendrix was a significant influence, it’s not surprising that Mason keyed into the jazz-influenced playing of Mitch Mitchell.

“In terms of style and rock drummers I like, it was Mitch Mitchell. Whether it’s behind the beat or not, it’s so lazy, but it worked perfectly under Jimi and that slightly jazzy thing. There’s no one else like him.”

Keith Moon

Mason doesn’t elaborate on his love for The Who’s Keith Moon, but Moon was an impossible figure to ignore during the mid-1960s when Mason was getting serious about music. Manic, flamboyant, and louder than anyone who came before him, Moon made rock drumming both a sport and an art form.

Perhaps more so than his actual playing style, it’s easy to see Moon’s setup and approach seep into Mason’s style. For one, there are the double bass drums and multiple toms that both Moon and Mason favoured. There are also the fills that follow the vocal melodies, a technique that Moon pioneered, and Mason surely picked up on.

John Bonham

Mason mentions that Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham came on the scene just after his most impressionable days: Pink Floyd had already released two albums by the time the first Zeppelin album dropped, but there was still room for Mason to gush over Bonham.

Of all the drummers on this list, Bonham and Mason seem to have a shared love of groove – while the other drummers here couldn’t help but add flourishes to their work, both Bonham and Mason could stay consistent and simple when they wanted to. Of course, Bonham had a penchant for flair himself, but the rock-steady rhythmic master is likely what connected with Mason.

Chico Hamilton

A bit of a left-field choice, it’s important to remember that Mason grew up a fan of jazz first and foremost. While the busier swing styles aren’t exactly in his wheelhouse, the experimental styles of Chico Hamilton certainly were.

Mason claimed to, “love all the be-bop drummers too. People like Chico Hamilton.” Indeed, as a jazz man who employed a cello as a lead instrument, Hamilton transcended traditional jazz genres much in the same way that Pink Floyd often refused to be pigeonholed into one distinct style.