Before Pink Floyd got comfortably numb and launched into space on a rocket ship of slow, steady rock-grooves, blissed out guitar solos and all-time best selling records they were a very different band indeed.
Led by their charismatic and blazingly inventive frontman Syd Barrett, the group were exhilarating and wild, pairing Barrett's whimsical songs about cats, gnomes, astronomy and having a nice bike with experimental guitar freak-outs, dark, lengthy improvisations and outrageously catchy short blasts of LSD-pop that sympathised with transvestites (Arnold Layne) and acid casualties (See Emily Play).
Despite its genius and startlingly originality it's an era of Pink Floyd that's not widely known outside of band devotees.
But this is the era that Pink Floyd's drummer Nick Mason is reviving with his new band, Nick Mason's Saucerful of Secrets. The band has released Live at the Roundhouse on vinyl and CD and video on DVD and Blu-ray.
"Relieved," Mason answers over the phone from the UK when asked how he's feeling now it's out. "It's been about a year since we actually recorded this thing."
The original release date was tied into the band's extensive touring plans but the covid-19 pandemic meant that all came to a screehing halt. A devastating blow for Mason who says getting out and playing was the "raison d'être of the whole thing".
You see, he had a unique problem. Mason, who is 76, was a musician in one of the biggest bands in the world, but one that also hadn't toured in almost two decades and had sailed off into the sunset with their last album The Endless River in 2014.
"There was something missing," he said. "And that bit that was missing was actually playing music. You felt you were becoming part of history rather than living in the present day."
That all changed a couple of years ago when long-term Pink Floyd concert bassist Guy Pratt and his mate Lee Harris of group Talk Talk knocked on the door and said they wanted to form a touring band that only played material from Pink Floyd's trippy early days.
"I thought, 'well they're obviously deranged and need help,'" Mason chuckles. "But no... I worked with Guy for 20 years and thought if Guy's prepared to do it then I should give this serious consideration. And I'm very glad I did."
While Pink Floyd are associated with extravagant live shows full of spectacular props Nick Mason's Saucerful of Secrets are back to basics; just a band rocking out cracking tunes in small venues.
"When we first went on stage in front of an audience the feeling was so exactly like it was in 1967," Mason said. "That feeling of really being in a band, eye contact with everyone on stage and an audience that, even at the back of the room, were very engaged with what we were doing."
It's east to see why, the setlist is absolutely stonking. It's filled with Barrett's magical psychedelia like Vegetable Man and Bike, trippy rarities from the period following Barrett's acid-caused breakdown and removal (The Nile Song, Green is the Colour) and spacey freak outs like Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun and Astronomy Domine.
"Syd was the most delightful, cheerful engaged person. A terrific frontman for the band and very inventive guitar player and singer," Mason says. "That collapse, almost certainly due to too much LSD, that's where he turned into something very different. But initially he was a delightful character."
"But we really didn't very often play that material live," Mason continues. "It was so quickly overtaken by the records we were making, whether it was Meddle or Dark Side of the Moon. That whole catalogue just got shunted back to the back burner really."
Now its front and center. As is the quietly unassuming sticksman who now finds himself the center of attention.
'If you spent 50 years as the man at the back of the band to suddenly be on the front cover... it's rather warming," he grins. "But it's not what I'd say is the most enjoyable part. What I really like is the reality of being in a band and playing music together."
Once covid blows over and normality returns does he think the group might land here to play some music?
"Oh I'd love to," he enthuses. "I love New Zealand. I was there a few years ago. My wife and I came over for a car event and we spent time in both the North and South. We absolutely loved it. We're very keen to get back."