Although he tended to be overshadowed by bandmates Dave Gilmour and Roger Waters, Pink Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright, who died on Monday following a battle with cancer, was a vital part of the group’s sonic explorations. He also co-wrote several of the Floyd’s strongest songs, including “Us and Them,” from 1973′s Dark Side of the Moon. The day after Wright’s death, EW talked to Floyd drummer Nick Mason about his colleague and friend of more than 40 years.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How important was Rick to Pink Floyd?
NICK MASON: The reality is, like any band, you can never quite quantify who does what. But Pink Floyd wouldn’t have been Pink Floyd if [we] hadn’t had Rick. I think there’s a feeling now — particularly after all the warfare that went on with Roger and David trying to make clear what their contribution was — that perhaps Rick rather got pushed into the background. Because the sound of Pink Floyd is more than the guitar, bass, and drum thing. Rick was the sound that knitted it all together.
More on Wright’s musical style, and what he was like on a personal level, after the jump…
That seems to have been particularly true in the band’s early, musically adventurous, days.
Yeah. He had a very special style. He probably did more than I did in terms of notworrying too much about tempo, to the point where eventually we didproduce arrhythmic pieces. That was, I think, probably rathergroundbreaking in 1967.
What was he like on a personal level?
[Laughs] hewas very like…Rick! Really. He was by far the quietest of the band,right from day one. And, I think, probably harder to get to know thanthe rest of us. But after 40 years, we probably felt we did know himquite well. We were just beginning to make inroads, perhaps.
Would this be an example of the British stiff upper lip at work?
Well,we did talk to each other. But we spent an awful lot of time sort ofteasing each other, really, and winding each other up. It’s thatcurious thing. You form a gang. And so, to the outside world, you mounta united front. But four guys in a car, you spend an awful lot of timearguing and bickering and not being very creative.
Do you have a particularly fond memory of Rick?
I have tosay that I think a number of our memories have to do with the ways thatwe all dealt with money. The first meeting with Roger I wouldn’t lendhim my car and Rick wouldn’t give him a cigarette. And really we justcarried on exactly like that for the next 40 years.
And Roger’s been punishing you ever since.
Yeah, absolutely. But he’s beginning to get over it, we think.
Can you remember the first time you met Rick?
Well, it was’62 because we were all [studying] architecture together. He lookedlike an architect, but he had no interest in architecture whatsoever,and within months, as far as I remember, he was off to music college,which is exactly where he should have gone in the first place.
What was he like back then?
Exactly the same. Of course,with the people you really know, no one changes that much. Roger was arather sort of forbidding presence in 1962, and he hasn’t changed atall. He’s just got a bit more grizzled. And Rick was the quiet onethen, as it was throughout.
He also wrote a fair amount of songs for the Floyd.
Somethinglike "Us and Them" was absolutely a Rick piece. It’s almost that GeorgeHarrison thing. You sort of forget that they did a lot more thanperhaps they’re given credit for.
Well, you have our condolences, and sorry to bother you at a time like this.
No, it’s absolutely fine. I’d rather talk about him, I think, than not.
For more on Richard Wright and Pink Floyd, check out our remembrance of Wright, coverage of Roger Waters at Coachella this past spring, a review of Saucerful of Secrets: The Pink Floyd Odyssey and of the 1995 music documentary Pulse.