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Things I Have Learned

Colin Wilson: Things I Have Learned About Being In The Aussie Pink Floyd
Mark Eglinton , June 9th, 2009 10:31

I don't always like prog rock

I’ve always enjoyed playing music but haven’t always been in bands. In fact for a while I had actually stopped being in bands. In 2005, I actually took some time out of being in the Australian Pink Floyd too. I listen to a lot of different material too and surprisingly find prog rock a little less interesting. AC/DC and the way they sounded early on was pretty inspiring and Bon Scott was such a charismatic figure. Having someone like that fronting your band certainly helps give your career a leg-up. Although, I live in the UK now, I have an awareness of Airbourne and what they do and by the sound of it they are basically like AC/DC.

We got into this by accident

The idea to come together as a tribute band was actually an accident. We were always big fans of Pink Floyd for sure but not just them. So as a band we really just played the music that we liked. We played initially a mixture of covers but also came up with a few originals of our own and then we started to try and recreate the Pink Floyd sound. People liked it a lot and the response at our gigs was positive so we thought we’d develop the idea further. Being in Adelaide however, the momentum was extremely slow because it’s a little off the beaten track I suppose; so basically we just took any gigs that came our way but in the beginning there is no doubt at all that getting recognised was something of a struggle. Also, playing Pink Floyd stuff to what was basically a pub type audience instead of a Pink Floyd orientated audience made things harder.

Australia is a rather big place

One thing that I think helped us throughout was the fact that we are Australian. Around the time when we were starting, Australia and all things associated with it were going through such an explosion in popularity. Neighbours was huge in the UK on television, everyone was drinking Fosters and Castlemaine XXXX beer. On the whole there was a fair bit of intrigue about the country and that was definitely in our favour when trying to get off the ground. Another factor which helped is that in area and logistics, Australia is such a massive place; so getting between major cities for bands touring is a far bigger undertaking than in other countries. So much so in fact that a lot of bands (Pink Floyd included) were actually by-passing here on tours. That all helped and we felt that if Pink Floyd themselves weren’t touring there, we had an audience for our Australian Pink Floyd show, and that definitely proved correct. If people couldn’t see the Pink Floyd live, they could see us.

The remoteness has helped other Australian bands

Other bands had benefitted too. In fact the Australian Doors are another good example of a tribute band that made it work. Bjorn Again as well have made it and continue to be a worldwide success but all of that was definitely helped by the fascination with Australia during that period.

Relocation, relocation, relocation

Because much of our fan-base was not in Australia, as a result of successful tours in the 1990s in the UK, it made a lot of sense to be based here and that’s how it is. If we’d been based in Australia, the scale of our production combined with the huge transport costs involved would make it incredibly difficult to get a viable tour going. So since 1993 when we left Australia to come over for some of our first UK shows, we’ve been over here and living in the UK full-time. Obviously, to relocate to another country was hugely risky and involved a lot of upheaval but it was probably essential to the future success of the band. Also, in terms of being accessible to touring in the States which we obviously wanted to do; it was going to be far easier from a UK base than one in Australia.

You'd be surprised who can be in the audience

Having played several well-received shows in the UK, we were due to play a gig at Fairfield Halls in Croydon of all places, sometime during September of 1994. As it turned out, Dave Gilmour who had a night off from Pink Floyd’s own Division Bell tour, flew back from Paris to come to the venue. It’s apparently a place they themselves had played many years previously. Anyway he knocked on our dressing room door afterwards and told us he’d never actually witnessed an Australian Pink Floyd Show before. He really was such an ordinary guy and he said he was impressed by how much we put into our performance. At that time our production was really small compared to nowadays so we relied on putting a lot into the musical side of things and I think he really understood that. During that evening, he raised the issue of us playing at Pink Floyd’s own end of tour party at Earls Court. Obviously we were really excited about that idea but weren’t really that sure whether it would actually come off or not. Later, as Floyd’s tour was ending, we hadn’t heard any more and assumed that maybe nothing would happen but then I got a message on my answering machine from Dave Gilmour who said that the actual gig which ended the tour was cancelled because of something to do with noise restrictions at Earl’s Court, but the party would still be going ahead. We got our invitations and went along and it was a fantastic night with all kinds of musicians and celebrities there.

It's strange how things turn out

That wasn’t the end of contact with Dave Gilmour either because a couple of years later we got a call from Pink Floyd’s people wondering if we’d we interested in performing at David Gilmour’s 50th Birthday party celebrations in Fulham. Obviously we were really excited about the whole thing and we were told not to leak anything about the night to the press or anyone else. As it turned out, the night was incredible. We ended up playing to the guests a selection of songs selected by Gilmour himself and towards the end of our performance we were joined by some real Pink Floyd members which was frankly a pretty surreal experience. I think at that time we realised that we had come a very long way and also the fact that we had been given what was basically the stamp of approval by Pink Floyd and the resulting PR has really helped in terms of getting shows and making the public aware of what we do. It’s not just that we play the music, we look upon the whole thing as a performance. Roger Waters has been less forthcoming but apparently he’s a charming guy. I think he just developed Pink Floyd “issues” after them being together so long. I believe he is aware of what we’re doing though and I am told he attended our show at the Royal Albert Hall in 2007.

We had to put on The Wall

Our decision has been to put on this show where we play the album in its entirety; with a second half which is basically a greatest hits set. And this was obviously a very challenging concept. The equipment involved is extremely complex and in fact at one time we had a very similar set-up to what Pink Floyd used for their own production but technology in these terms changes so quickly it needs to be constantly updated and improved. The shows have been sold-out every night and while appealing to existing fans, we’re also getting our performance out to new people. There is no doubt that undertaking a performance of this kind is difficult and I think we were surprised how challenging it all was.

The Australian Pink Floyd play The Big Top stage at this year's Isle Of Wight Festival