Sounding close to the original - live
It’s an interesting thing trying to re-create an album in its entirety, especially if that album is as iconic as Dark Side of the Moon. Some would suggest that making all the instruments and sounds as close to the album as possible is the best starting point, another may say that rehearsing all the parts to near perfection is the way forward. In my opinion neither of these is as important as one crucial thing - having the feel.
Feel is an almost undefinable quality, yet it is the quality that musicians strive the hardest to obtain. You only have to listen to a generic chart-friendly pop tune that has been over quantised and tuned within a cent of its life to realise that something fundamental is missing, the human element or what I like to call excitement.
If you were to play Dark Side on your Hi-Fi, or in your car, or on your iPod, or indeed from a phone inside a plastic cup (I witnessed this on the tour bus last night and it boosts bass frequencies apparently) each version would sound different. Boomy, tinny, punchy, rounded, warm and cold are just a handful of the words used to describe sound, and all of these can be applied to Dark Side depending on the technology used to amplify the sound. This is where the argument that if you get your guitar sounds exactly like the album then it will sound right breaks down. It doesn’t matter what system you play Dark Side on, it always sounds like Dark Side regardless.
The same is true of learning things note for note. Dark Side is not a piece of music that is presented via the medium of a musical score and therefore should not be treated as such. Every time I listen to it I am drawn to how differently we do it in a lot of ways, but this does not worry me. You could listen to various versions of Dark Side performed live by Pink Floyd, from the Hollywood Bowl to the Empire Pool (Wembley Arena) to PULSE at Earls Court and one thing stays consistent, it sounds like Pink Floyd. They are all played differently, full of improvisation, different mixes, different technology but they all sound like Dark Side because they have the feel.
I have been to see the Aussie Floyd since 1997 and now I am a member so I can appreciate in a different way to others how much this band sounds like Pink Floyd not because of technology or over rehearsal, but because each member knows when to play, what to play, and more importantly when not to play. Yes, we do try to recreate the sounds, particularly the guitar sounds using whatever is feasible to tour with. Valve amps and amp modellers all feature in our guitar rigs along with lots of custom and rare pedals, because if we didn’t try to recreate the sounds it wouldn’t be right. There is only so far you can go, and different songs have different drum kits and I know what sort of response we would get if we tried to tour with different kits for different songs, so it is clear there is always a compromise.
I could sit here and type about how Steve slides a metal guitar slide down his guitar during On The Run to recreate the guitar down mic stand trick, or how someone on the side of the stage fires off samples at the start of money that we spent ages trying to make sound like the album in some studio many years ago, or how Mike plays along to Great Gig on the sax at the side of the stage to tune and warm up, but that would be giving the secrets away. Most of it is just down to a bunch of musicians that love Pink Floyd, have spent far too many years in altered states listening on many different systems and just get it, whatever ‘it’ is. This is why a completely different set of very talented musicians with exactly the same equipment would not produce the same result. We are by no means the most technical players in the world, but I think in some ways that is to our advantage.
It is nonetheless always a pleasure to hear someone say ‘I shut my eyes and it sounded just like Pink Floyd’, to which I always think, we’ve got away with it again!