Interview: Australian Pink Floyd keyboardist Jason Sawford

The Australian Pink Floyd Show is more than just a tribute band. Using laser lights, video screens and massive inflatables, TAPFS attempts to recreate the psychedelic Pink Floyd trip that much of the highly influential band's fan base is too young to have witnessed before. In advance of its two-night stint at the Fabulous Fox Theatre, keyboardist Jason Sawford spoke to Ryan Wasoba about the band's ambitious production of The Wall, the unfortunate passing of Richard Wright, and its trademark monstrous inflatable pink kangaroo. Tickets are $39.50 to $49.50, and the show starts at 8 p.m. both nights.

Ryan Wasoba: Word on the street is that you're going to be performing The Wall in its entirety. Is that the whole program? Jason Sawford: No, no. We're doing the whole album and we're doing a few extra numbers from some other albums, sort of a short greatest-hits set.

I understand you're doing The Wall to celebrate the album's thirtieth anniversary. That is one reason. I think the other reason is that we've done Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here and Animals; The Wall was the next logical step for us. We'd been talking about it for a long time and It's been about a year in the planning of it, so we decided to finally put it together.

Musically speaking, is The Wall harder to execute than some of Pink Floyd's other albums? It is a much longer record, first off. Well, it has its own specific challenges. I mean, it's not necessarily more difficult musically than any other albums, but there's a lot to learn and a lot to do -- and trying to get it all together in the time we had was very challenging. It's a kind of semi-theatrical production, and we're trying to tell the story the way we do it with animation and the theater and the whole show, it's been quite tricky.

Last time you came to St. Louis, I believe you were doing Dark Side of the Moon. That's correct.

Have you done Animals and Wish You Were Here in the States before? We've done Wish You Were Here in the States. We've never done Animals but we've done it in the UK. I wonder how Animals would go in the States. We've always found people didn't know it so well, so we haven't done it as much as say, Dark Side of the Moon, but it's a great album and we do like doing it when we get the chance.

Is that one of the challenges of your job? I mean, you guys are bigger Pink Floyd fans than most, I assume. Is it frustrating that there are huge sections of the catalog that you probably can't do? Do you feel like you can only do a certain amount of the catalog that people know? That's true, yeah. I mean, we are obviously Pink Floyd fans and there is a lot of stuff I'd love to play, but you can't go into a big arena and do A Saucerful of Secrets or something like that. I mean, it's quite strange music. It has a following, but people are more familiar with certain albums and that tends to govern a lot of what we play. And we try to do more interesting numbers when we can and we have done that from time to time.

So is it safe to say there are some albums you'll probably never end up doing? Probably. We like to cover material from some of those albums anyway, but doing an entire album of say, Ummagumma, we're not very likely to do something like that. But we are likely to do something like The Final Cut, which is more accessible to people but still lesser known. But we're doing The Wall, which is perfect for now because we've never done it before.

Has the passing of [Pink Floyd keyboardist] Richard Wright made an impact on this tour at all? Well, obviously it's something I'm very aware of as a keyboardist in a Pink Floyd tribute band, but the tour was planned over a year in advance and Richard Wright's passing happened so suddenly, we didn't have time to allow it to affect the tour. We have talked about doing some sort of tribute in the show, maybe playing "Wish You Were Here" in dedication or something, but at this point in time we're concentrating on doing The Wall.

So what's up with the big inflatable pink kangaroo? Yes, we have used the pink kangaroo on previous tours we don’t tend to use it so much on this one but we do use a big pig from time to time. At the moment, because we're doing a theatrical performance of The Wall, it's hard to find a place where to put the pink kangaroo because it kind of alters the set a bit. Often it's the venue that dictates where you can place things, so there's a lot of practical considerations on putting a show together with these inflatables. If the venue is big enough we'll use them.

Is the kangaroo kind of your symbol, being Australian and all? Yeah, it's sort of a visual pun, really. Pink Floyd used a pink pig so we use a pink kangaroo. It's become sort of our trademark.

So I suppose that's your way of individualizing yourselves. I'm sure it's hard to inject your own personality as musicians when you're exclusively covering the material of another band. Yeah, we have to put our own touch on things. We could just sort of play Pink Floyd and do it exactly the way it is, but sometimes it's nice to have a little of our own identity there. It sort of distinguishes us from a lot of other Pink Floyd tribute bands and it seems to work actually, this little combination of Australiana with Pink Floyd. It lightens the show a little bit because Pink Floyd tends to be pretty dark at times.

That's where the big inflatable pink kangaroo comes in? Exactly.

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