Gary James' Interview With
The World's Greatest Pink Floyd Tribute
They are called "The World's Greatest Pink Floyd Tribute".
Ian Cattell is the bassist / vocalist for Brit Floyd. We talked to Ian prior to Brit Floyd's appearance at the Landmark Theatre in Syracuse, N.Y.
Q - Putting together a Pink Floyd tribute act is unlike putting together a Beatles or Stones tribute act. This tribute act takes a lot of money to put together. So, who put together that money?
A - Well, it happened through a number of factors. Brit Floyd came out of another band called The Australian Pink Floyd Show. They built themselves up over the years. So it was a combination of just gradually building and adding to the show over a number of years and then when the band took on the management of Chas Cole of CMP Entertainment, he allowed the band to tour a much greater part of the planet really. They started touring more extensively in Europe. The band was based out of England at the time. They started touring the United States in 2004. It was kind of a combination of both, of the band just gradually adding to its ability to hire a road crew and lights and then finally getting to play for someone who was interested in putting together larger tours.
Q - Since Brit Floyd is an outgrowth of The Australian Pink Floyd Show, does that mean Pink Floyd has a lot of fans in Australia?
A - Yeah, there certainly is. The Australian Show started in 1988. They started from just a group of people wanting to play Pink Floyd music and playing relatively locally. They grew to touring through Australia up until 1993, at which point they emigrated to England. So, ever since 1993, they've been based in the Northern hemisphere. Brit Floyd consists entirely of people who previously played in The Australian Pink Floyd Show. There was just a decision by the three Australians in the band to go their own way and we've gone ours.
Q - Do you have a lot of competition?
A - I would say that Pink Floyd probably has the most tribute acts playing their music. It seems like every town has one. Previously when we were with The Australian Pink Floyd Show, we didn't run into too many bands playing the same size venues as us, but now that there's Brit Floyd, there's a split there. Roger Waters is touring. There are other bands such as The Machine and Pink Floyd Experience. We find that there's room enough for everybody. Some of us take different approaches to the music and we play different venues. A band like Brit Floyd will only play in a particular city about once a year, whereas the band I came from in Syracuse called Childhood's End, and is still playing, they'll do quite a number of shows within a certain range for the same market. Hopefully when we come in, we're not taking from a band like that. Hopefully, we're maybe sort of adding to the Floyd experience and visibility. Hopefully that helps everyone.
Q - I believe Childhood's End performed at an outdoor amphitheatre in Baldwinsville, New York. You're playing a 3,000 seat theatre.
A - They played The Palace Theatre in Syracuse and another theatre over in Utica. They started out, when I was playing with them, in bars. But they've raised their game up to playing theatres in the area as well.
Q - Who came up with the title "The World's Greatest Pink Floyd Tribute"?
A - I think it's kind of a marketing thing. It may be a bit tongue in cheek. I don't quite know what to say about that. I wouldn't deem to announce to the rest of the world, "yes we are," but hopefully the fans would agree with it after seeing us. That's the best way I can put that.
Q - How many people does it take to keep Brit Floyd on the road?
A - There's nine people onstage and twenty-four bunks between the two buses. That leaves about fifteen crew that we bring with us, including managers. Then there is local crew that we utilize at every venue and that varies by the size of the show, anywhere from half a dozen to maybe fifteen local crew. So, it takes quite a number of people to keep it rolling.
Q - That would mean you're probably working three to four nights a week.
A - We do on average about five or six actually. This has been quite an aggressive tour. When we finished the gig in Boston a few days ago, we had just finished a run of thirteen shows in fourteen days, covering eleven cities.
Q - Is there anything in your background that prepared you for that?
A - I did go to music school where we were required to practice long hours every day. As far as the musical concentration and the stresses obviously, sleeping in a bunk in a moving bus for four to five nights a week. (laughs)
Q - There's a big difference in playing in a local band and then being on the road, isn't there?
A - Well, I have to say we have it pretty good right now. I toured extensively in the '90s essentially living in a fourteen foot box truck. Six of us crammed in there with all the equipment. That was a take off and come back three months later kind of tour that we would do often times. The tours we have now, we have a comfortable bunk to sleep in and we have hotels on our nights off. It's a difficult life, but I can say it's a step up from what I used to do.
Q - Were you there when Damian Darlington (also of Brit Floyd) met Dave Gilmore?
A - That was before my time. I started with The Australian Pink Floyd Show in 2005 and I believe that happened in 1996.
Q - So, have you ever met an original member of Pink Floyd?
A - I have not. Damian has met everyone except Roger Waters.
Q - What do the guys in Pink Floyd think of a group like Brit Floyd? Have they ever caught your act?
A - Well, David Gilmore has come to a number of gigs of Aussie Floyd where Damian has been present. But going up until about 2002 or 2003 might have been the last time it's happened. It seems that David appreciates what we do and certainly Roger Waters' people are aware of us. They're not interfering with what we're doing, so rather than an endorsement, I would say it's sort of a tacit approval of what we do.
Q - So, how do you keep the material that you're performing every night, fresh for yourself? You're performing basically the same material every night, aren't you?
A - Generally, yes. Occasionally we'll have a venue where we'll play more than one night and we try to mix the set up. It's a very technical show with all the lights, video and the way everything flows. So we try to keep the set list pretty much the same during the tour. You just put your gig game on and you go and play. Generally I would say it feeds off the crowd. The crowds are generally very receptive and it's always fun to play for people who are enjoying themselves.
Q - So, you never find yourself thinking, "oh no, I gotta play this song again"?
A - (laughs) Obviously there would be a benefit of having a wider variety from a purely selfish point of view, saying "I want to play..." But I wouldn't be in this band if I really didn't appreciate Pink Floyd in a very big way. I do love their music. So that certainly helps.
Q - When you're not on the road with Brit Floyd, do you have any other musical projects you're involved in?
A - I play at home. I was a trumpet player in music school. I do try and get out and do other projects, although my schedule makes it a bit difficult. There is a project in Syracuse called Vinyl Album Live which is headed up by Robyn Stockdale and Bob Kane and they do a certain number of concerts a year with a concept of doing an album in its entirety. I was in the inaugural performance of that a couple of years ago where we did "Led Zeppelin IV". They've done many other projects since. I'm kind of slated to do another one in September (2012) as soon as we figure out when is good for everybody. So, there's that. I'm also working on original material that I hope to be able to take out in the Syracuse area within the next year.
Q - There's no group like the original Pink Floyd performing today, is there?
A - I would say there are groups that kind of maybe tickle the same part of my brain as Pink Floyd does on occasion, but I think for most people of a certain age there really isn't anything to compare. Not to say there isn't good music these days, but it certainly doesn't scratch the same itch. That's one thing we do have going for us. It's always great to see the variety of people out at these gigs. There's people in their 40s, 50s, 60s. Certainly that would be the main target group of the people that were around when Pink Floyd was making their music. We see them bringing their kids and lots of people in their 20s coming to these shows. It's a perennial favorite on college campuses as well.