Floyd-Flouting Aussies a "Tribute" Act Like No Other

While they are technically a "tribute band," there is nothing amateur, half-assed or untrue to the source about the Australian Pink Floyd Show.

In fact, these Down Under Wonders put on such an eerily accurate PF experience, they were asked by none other than David Gilmour himself to play his 50th birthday party -- though they probably went light on the Roger Waters tunes that evening.

Rocks Off spoke with co-founder and keyboardist Jason Sawford about the current tour, his most challenging song to play, and what he remembers about his brother's teenage girlfriend.

Rocks Off: Tell me a bit about this year's show. I know in the past you've concentrated on specific albums.

Jason Sawford: This one is sort of a greatest-hits [show] in a sense. We try to focus on a balanced show with Pink Floyd's music from the early psychedelic days to the latest albums. We did revamp some of those older numbers like "Set Controls for the Heart of the Sun" and "Astronomy Domine."

But we do stuff from Animals, Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, The Wall, The Division Bell [and] The Final Cut. And we've got some new video and film and new animation and lighting effects.

RO: It's a challenge, I assume, to create a set list that appeals to the general Pink Floyd fan as well as the hardcores.

JS: They wrote so much material and the songs are so long, yes it's a challenge. But we try to look what we have to play, like "Comfortably Numb," "Another Brick in the Wall," "Wish You Were Here," stuff like that. But there's plenty of gaps where we can vary it up with some of the more unusual songs.

RO: What was your first personal experience with the music of Pink Floyd?

JS: Oh, when I was in my teens. I was into a lot of classical music, but my brother's girlfriend was a massive Pink Floyd fan and would play their music constantly. She was a real hippie, would walk around in bare feet and paint her fingernails blue or something like that! (laughs)

But it was this one record, Atom Heart Mother, that started off with this orchestral bit and I thought it was great to put that together with the rock. And I became interested in Pink Floyd after that. Then I met some guys who wanted to start a Pink Floyd band, and that was that.

RO: As you know, Roger Waters has been touring The Wall around the world for a couple of years now. As a spectacle, the show is unparalleled in their catalogue. But how do you rate it musically?

JS: It has some great tracks, famous numbers. But there are also filler tracks that maybe don't work for an album, but do for a musical. So it's obviously a dramatically conceived piece that won't appeal to everyone.

We did The Wall on tour once, about 100 times. And when we got to the end of it, I was happy not to have to play it anymore because it's such a dramatic and depressing record! (laughs) It's so intense! But it's more of what Roger Waters is about. Pink Floyd is more Animals or Dark Side of the Moon.

RO: I know you probably don't do a single interview without being asked about playing David Gilmour's 50th birthday party. How did that booking come about?

JS: Well, we met him when he was doing The Division Bell tour and he turned up at one of our gigs unannounced, sitting in the audience. So after the show we were backstage having a beer and there was a knock on the door and suddenly, a face turned around the corner and it was him!

So he said he enjoyed the show and it was fun and did we want to play a party at the end of the tour. That didn't happen because of some red tape, but two years later, we played his birthday.

RO: As a keyboardist, do you have a favorite song or one that's the most challenging?

JS: The good thing about Floyd is that it's a great band for a keyboardist. For a challenging number, probably "Sheep." It's very busy. But one of my favorites is "Shine On You Crazy Diamond." It's lovely. It takes you to another place.

RO: Finally, why do you think Pink Floyd's music has lasted so long and continues to attract new fans? I mean, you're not doing the Australian Pretty Things Show...

JS: Because it's good music. It has a quality that lasts. It's engaging, it's between pop music and sort of nerdy music. And it seems to touch a lot of people, sort of a universal chord.

The Australian Pink Floyd Show performs 8:30 p.m. Saturday, October 6, at Bayou Music Center, 520 Texas Ave (Bayou Place).

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