Shine on you Aussie Diamonds
Martin Hutchinson talks with the world’s top Pink Floyd tribute ahead of their Guild Hall visit
The expert Antipodean purveyors of excellent Pink Floyd music – The Australian Pink Floyd Show – are undertaking their annual tour of Britain throughout February and March.
This year’s tour ‘Welcome to the Machine’ alludes to a track off the follow-up to ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ – ‘Wish You Were Here’, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.
In the past, the Aussie tribute band has performed the Floyd’s 1973 magnum opus in it’s’ entirety, and this time, it’s the turn of 1975’s ‘Wish You Were Here’.
This album is probably best known for the track ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’, which was Floyd’s tribute to their founder Syd Barrett.
On release in 1975, ‘Wish...’ shot straight to the top of the UK Album chart (something that ‘Dark Side…’ didn’t quite manage.
Some people at the time thought the album was only successful on the coat-tails of its predecessor, but Jason Sawford, founder member and keyboard maestro of The Australian Pink Floyd Show (TAPS) doesn’t think that at all.
“I personally think it’s a great album!”
“Obviously ‘Dark Side…’ is Pink Floyd’s absolute masterpiece, but ‘Wish…’ comes a close second.”
He laughs. “For one thing, it’s got some great keyboards.”
The Melbourne-born musician continues.
“There’s a coherence to the whole album; it has a very original opening and of course the lyrical content features madness (a common theme with Pink Floyd) and the music industry.”
With the 40th anniversary, I wondered whether TAPS will perform the whole album.
“Yes we are, as well as drawing heavily from ‘Dark Side…’ and ‘The Division Bell’.
“We’ll also be touching on ‘The Wall’ as well.”
And there are a few surprises.
“That’s right,” says Jason.
“We may do a number in tribute to Syd Barrett, probably ‘Astromony Domine’ as it works well in the set; and we may have a go at a song from ‘Endless River’ (Floyd’s last album, released in 2014).”
As well as faithfully recreating the sound of Pink Floyd (Floyd’s drummer Nick Mason has gone on record saying the Aussie outfit are probably better than Floyd ever were), the show boasts some of the best visuals in the business; including films, lasers and inflatables.
“We have new animations, produced especially for the show and we’ve updated all the visual aspects.”
Performing note-perfect recreations of known songs can be difficult as Jason explains.
“I’ve got to programme all the correct sounds into the keyboards and while I’ve done a lot of it in the past, it can still take weeks to do.”
“We have to create the exact sounds and it sometimes depends on the piece of equipment we’re using.”
Is the band ever tempted to do a song a different way?
“Well, the music is always faithful to the albums, but Floyd used to improvise early on and we listen to all the various versions to make it sound like Floyd improvising, and not like another band.”
“Finally, you have to have a certain mindset. For this music you have to be focused and disciplined – it’s much like being a classical musician.”
The band’s line-up has been stable for some time.
“Yes, we’re a band that gets a lot of work and every working musician likes that. Plus you get a chemistry and we try to retain the unity.”
The band has been performing the music of Pink Floyd for nearly 30 years now, does Jason still enjoy the job?
“Well, it IS a job and I’m no longer a young man, but I still enjoy playing and of course it’s great music to play – and there’s the audience reaction which is always great.”
And there could be more to come.
“There’s loads more I’d like to do from the Floyd catalogue,” admits Jason.
“The ‘Obscured By Clouds’ album has some lovely songs.”
“There’s a lot of scope.” He concludes.
The Australian Pink Floyd Show will be at Preston Guild Hall on Tuesday March 17.
Tickets £28.50-£39.50 (subject to booking fee) from box office (01772 804444) or at www.prestonguildhall.com/