A Saucerful of Secrets, The Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals, The Wall, -- Pink Floyd and its albums are so world-renowned and integrated into pop culture that even if you don't like their music you can't help but have a level of respect for it. And if you don't for some reason [talking to you, Sex Pistols fans], then you should check out the Australian Pink Floyd when they float through town this Sunday.
Because whether you're a die-hard, candy-flippin' fan or just want to know what they were talking about in Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon, this tribute band does way more than just, well, pay tribute.
The Aussie Pink Floyd have sold over three million tickets to concerts in 35 countries, and are so good they were even asked by David Gilmour to perform at this 50th birthday party. Since 1988, this group of Floyd fans have honed in on what makes Pink Floyd's music so loved: the pure, visceral feeling behind it.
Up On The Sun talked with vocalist/bassist Colin Wilson about his favorite Floyd album, being one of the first bands to use 3D on stage, and the future of touring hologram artists.
What is your favorite Pink Floyd album and why?
Personally I think it would be Animals, since it was the first Pink Floyd album I ever bought. I'd heard of Pink Floyd before I bought it, but it was the first in my collection. It is slightly harder, more of a rock album than the other ones. It's the one that originally appealed to me, the one I still love to listen to and I also love playing the songs from that one.
That is a great album. What is the most challenging thing about representing the band as a whole, and your individual character, even after honing skills since you joined in '92?
I think in the beginning the most challenging thing was convincing people that we could actually do a good job of recreating Pink Floyd music. Then further down the road, it's always been a challenge to put on a big show. Pink Floyd fans expect to see a big show. Before, it was a challenge because of the money it takes but also if you're playing in smaller venues it makes it hard to set up on stage. I think now, we have the luxury of employing really great people who worry about that for us. But as a band, the going challenge is to get the actual feeling of the music correct. It's not that difficult to get the notes right or the arrangement of the songs, but it's quite hard to get the feel of the music correct, which is a big part of Pink Floyd, and a big part of what the audience needs to hear.
What do you think is more important for a tribute band: keeping the legendary performance and music alive for the old fans, or garnering new fans?
I think there's a responsibility on us to help new fans of Pink Floyd to hear music they haven't heard before, you know, some of the old stuff that new fans haven't heard, so spreading the word of Pink Floyd. But I also think there's an obligation on our shoulders, for the older fans, to fulfill everything they're looking for. They come to see us for a lot of nostalgic reasons, to recreate memories of seeing Pink Floyd years ago or memories of when they first heard those albums. It's one of those where as long as we fulfill that, the audience will keep on coming back to see us, which is why they've been coming to see us for twenty-plus years now. I'm sure once we get it wrong, people won't come to see us anymore, and there won't be a market for us anymore.
When you personally are performing, do you try to get in the mindset of Roger Waters, or do you just see yourself as completely paying tribute to him and the band?
I don't think any of us really try to hone in on the persona of the Pink Floyd band members, but we do get completely absorbed in the music and that's getting back to the thing about the feel of the music. You can't play completely off of the motions and expect it to sound right, you kind of need to lend yourself to it and get completely absorbed. I've spoken to other tribute bands, such as Led Zeppelin 2, and it's interesting because they are so set on completely taking on the persona of the musicians.
Yeah, I mean, it is a different thing too though. The Pink Floyd band members were not necessarily known individually so well, especially going back into the old days. They were more known for the music and the overall production and the light show. The band members were almost invisible within that, so we don't have the problem really of having to look like anybody or move like anybody, so it is kind of convenient in one way for us, but harder in another. Because obviously if you're in a tribute band where you need to look like someone, say Robert Plant, then you're kind of already halfway there. We never have had to have that comparison; it's all about the sound and the show. But on the flip- side, it's easier that we don't have to try and dress, act, or move a certain way.
Do you still design a lot of the artwork used by the band?
Yes, absolutely, I try to get involved in that as much as I possibly can. The artwork we used for commercial and advertising, but also some of the projection stuff that happens on the screen on stage.
So do you guys recreate the past graphics and light shows that Pink Floyd has used before, or do you create those completely new?
In the past we've kind of looked at what they did and used those things as a platform to go from, um, but actually more and more now --and this year more than ever-- we've been more creative ourselves and thought well, instead of actually using something Pink Floyd used, or copying something they used, we've tried to create new things that look like they could be Pink Floyd created. What's happened so far this year on tour, is people telling us that it still looks and feels and sounds like they're at a Pink Floyd concert, but then they realize they're watching things they've never seen before. It makes it more interesting, and gives us a way to be creative outside of the music.
You guys have a stereographic 3D on this tour, correct? And isn't Australian Pink Floyd is the first ever band to do that?
That was last year, actually. I think this year at the beginning, we had a look at it again and felt that we could go further without the show being 3D. 3D was kind of an interesting effect and worked really well with certain things, but was limiting others. So this year, it's not 3D but it's far more impressive. The other problem we had with 3D is we had people not really wanting to watch a rock band with 3D glasses on, and it could be confusing. So there was a gray area, because do you want to even have the glasses on? And others kept them on for the entire show, even though that wasn't necessary. This year we feel that the movies we project work far better without it.
There's been a lot of talk this past year about creating holograms for music tours, like Elvis and Tupac. What is your opinion on that, and if there was a possibility that the original lineup of Pink Floyd could be created, how do you feel about that?
You know, we've talked about that as well. For example, while doing a guitar solo, we could have a hologram of David Gilmour from 1971 standing beside our guitar playing, playing the solo. I think it's a really interesting idea, but at the moment, it isn't possible to do it effectively. And I think also it would work better for shows that aren't touring, like in Vegas. There are a lot of limitations of it--it depends on how dark the stage is, where the audience is sitting, etc. Those things can get in the way of holograms, and 3D. But it is definitely something that we've got one eye on. If it becomes something that's viable and works, it's something we may look at.
Do you think that the possibilities of those holograms though, take a bit away from the legend and the romance from those types of musicians, like Pink Floyd?
Yeah, I think it totally depends on how you use it within the context of the show, whether it's an appearance within a set or used throughout the whole show. Sometimes these things are so expensive that the temptation to use them throughout the whole show to get your moneys worth, whereas an actual time span, like two minutes of the show, works better as the climax of the show. I think it comes down to how tastefully you go about it.
As one of the only Pink Floyd tribute bands to have such success and tour all over the world, is there a particular place where Pink Floyd fans are crazier, or more abundant, then others?
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[Laughs]. Yes, you know, we've noticed that Pink Floyd audiences are pretty similar everywhere we go--they really are fanatics. A Pink Floyd fan is really a fanatic. But the audiences express that in different ways. So, any audience that has Latin blood tends to be noisier [laughs]. You get some audiences in some parts of Europe where they are very reserved, but at the end of the show, they are really over the top because of the pent up emotion and energy that comes pouring out. I think actually, the States is a great place for us to play, because the United States has the biggest group of Pink Floyd fans, a main fanbase. And it doesn't matter where we are there, we get the same type of response, a really good response. We look forward to it every year. You know, it's incredible how wide-reaching Pink Floyd music was and is, and new fans coming in. Kids coming with their parents...it's not something that's disappearing.
Australian Pink Floyd is scheduled to perform Sunday, September 30, at Mesa Arts Center.