For those that might not know, what is PIGS all about?
PIGS is an odd name for a band, unless you’re Canada’s most authentic Pink Floyd tribute, then it all makes sense.
The five member band, which tours with two additional musicians, will make one stop in Southwestern Ontario at Olde Walkerville Theatre on April 11.
Guitarist and vocalist Josh Szczepanowski spoke with 519 about the band.
We’re all about bringing a lovely Pink Floyd experience to everybody. Our jam is all about being really as authentic as we can. Sometimes it’s a little bit like going to see people do karaoke and it doesn’t have that rock and roll authenticity. We’re trying to be authentic and as much of a rock and roll show as possible. This is accomplished by having one person doing each character, if you will, instead of a whole bunch of people doing whatever they want.
We try to use all of the right equipment that we can, we try to make song choices that are logical and make sense. We try to put on the whole show the way that it would have been in the late seventies including playing songs in the same live format as they were at the time. So we’ll do different arrangements and live arrangements. It’s not like just sitting there listening to the album. It’s the way it would have been if you went and saw them.
Do you guys stick close to the original 1977 In The Flesh Tour experience or is it more of a career-spanning Pink Floyd show?
Well yes and no. That’s the touchstone for us, sort of artistically. The arrangements we like to use have the look and feel that we go for. However, if we’re totally honest with ourselves, if you listen to any bootlegs from that tour, they were not played very well. If we played the songs exactly the same as on that tour, everyone would think we were terrible. So we start from that and spruce it up a little bit.
In some ways Animals and the In the Flesh tour was the last of the original 1970s magic. The Wall came next, which brought the band over the top. And incidentally, this year is the 40th anniversary for The Wall. I bet it could easily be known as The Wall tour if you wanted.
Well sure, absolutely. We thought about doing that. But to be perfectly honest with you, it wasn’t all that long ago, five years ago, six years ago, that Roger did his big Wall tour and he did 192 shows and people were probably slightly tired of just hearing The Wall. So just playing the wall would have been a bit boring. But what we have done to pay homage to that anniversary and that era is to lean into the Roger side of things a little bit. People who come to see us are going to be hearing a little bit more of things from Animals and The Wall and the final content.
Why did you guys choose PIGS out of all the Pink Floyd songs?
I used to blame this all the time on our original Roger who was with us for the first six years of the band because he chose the name. But now he’s back actually for this tour so I can’t really give him a hard time about it. But basically it was that it would look good on posters. We want things to be right and I think sometimes tribute acts get their names from lyrics and they just get out of control so this is very simple and straight forward.
Here’s the full unedited interview.
Have you personally seen the original pink Floyd in concert?
No, I don’t think any of us in the band have actually seen them. We’ve seen their various members at different times on tour of course over the last 20 odd years. But you know, they stopped touring almost 25 years ago now. And unfortunately, with most of us being in our mid-thirties, we just weren’t old enough. I think I was in grade 10 when they did their last tour and I did not manage to go
There are a lot of Pink Floyd tributes aside from the Australian band, they all seem to capture the band late in their careers. What makes the 70s Pink Floyd so important to you guys?
Well we just thought it would be more interesting, because as you pointed out, the two biggest ones in the world, the Brit Floyd and the Australian one, which, as far as I understand were actually one band originally split apart. They very much went for the modern recreation of Pulse and the Division Bell era of Pink Floyd. And that’s great. You know, everybody likes that stuff and it gives you a chance to have big fun with a bunch of lights, but it doesn’t really cut to the original rock and roll spirit of Pink Floyd, and so we thought we would go for the 70s way instead. We still have plenty of lights and lasers and a big screen and all the rest, but we’re going for, like I said, the way they were in the mid-seventies.
Actually when they were doing their original Dark Side tour, they were playing a bunch of theaters and things that were very similar in size and everything else as the ones that were playing on these tours. So we’re trying to make it as similar to that era and that feel. It’s just a different feel, more rock and roll. It’s a vital loud rocking show instead of an easy listening show with lights.
One of the problems with being an authentic Floyd show is that those shows became really big. What steps do you go through to bring that big stadium vibe to a theatre environment?
I think that’s part of why we have studied very carefully everything we can find from that era. It’s a more intimate feel. They are still reasonably large shows, but it gives us a chance to be a little bit more intimate. Once they got into their original, In the Flesh tour, they were playing some places that were 60,000, 70,000 people. And obviously this was the beginning of what caused them to write The Wall in the first place because they hated it and there was no interaction with the audience. No connection. So in some ways, it’s a real blessing to play in theaters that are 700 to 1000 seats because then you can actually see everybody. You can have a connection with the audience as well, which is pretty important I think.
With newer technologies – LED lights, lasers, screens and other effects now available, how do you mix the new tech with a classic show?
Well, I think it’s probably a lot easier than they had it. It’s still not super easy. It takes a lot of work. We have a very dedicated and eccentric lighting guy who works very hard to get the lights and lasers going. And I spend quite a lot of time either rebuilding or making from scratch, all of the footage that goes on the screen. So it’s a lot of work to put all that stuff together, but when it all flows, it can make for a really, really neat experience for the audience and if you’re bored by the music, of course, you can just watch TV on the big screen.
In some ways, this sounds like the show Floyd fans would have died to see in the late 70s – a smaller more intimate venue for a killer show.
Yeah, we don’t get a lot of complaints. I think people really enjoy it. I think the only complaints are usually from the three people that are sitting directly in front of my amps on that side. So if you’re going to get tickets, be careful in that one spot. But otherwise it’s a great show and everybody loves it.
You’ve got the task of emulating David Gilmore. That’s about as complicated as it gets. He used a lot of cool effects over the years and his guitar collection was massive. Tell me about your efforts to duplicate that.
Oh boy. Well, we’ve gone through many, many different stages of it over the years. It is quite difficult. It’s very hard to keep up with Mr. Gilmour because of course he’s a millionaire and I am not. But we’ve done our very best. This last tour that we’ve been doing, I went whole hog and did a bit of a cross between his late eighties set up and his Wall set up. So basically I’m playing with more or less his eighties set up at this point even though we’re not really playing a lot of those songs. So I built a big complicated rack system. I get pedals and things built by Pete Cornish over in the UK, who, of course, is the guy that has been building Gilmour’s things for many, many years. I mean, right down to the Evidence audio cables that I use, the same cables. We try to use everything that’s the same as much as we possibly can. But it is complicated. Yes, programming this whole system is very hard. I mostly have it right. But every once in a while, I’ll screw up something.
Gilmore played many different guitars, but much of that 70s stuff was recorded with Fenders, especially Strats. Is there one guitar you reach for the most?
For most of the show I’m playing of course, my David Gilmour signature Strat, it’s the black Strat that everybody knows. That’s probably the one that he’s obviously the most famous for and it’s the one that’s used for most of the things. So I’d probably play that for at least half the show. But of course, there’s also various other ones. I have another black Strat with a Rosewood neck on it because that looks more correct for when we do Animals tunes, even though really, I’m sure, I don’t even know anybody’s ever noticed, but there you go. And you know, a pile of different Telecasters and stuff. He actually used Telecasters quite often. I use a couple of those to do various songs like Dogs or Run Like Hell. So Telecasters and a red Strat, of course, to do a couple of modern tunes. I switch it up to basically just to follow the tunes. Whatever is correct for the song, that is what I’ll be playing. And that rule applies to everybody in the band, they will all play what is correct for what we’re doing.
This is a long tour of North America for PIGS. It started in September and you’ve still got a long way to go – you have one gig here in Southwestern Ontario in Windsor coming soon. It’s a grand old theatre with a big stage and ready for you Animals to hit the stage.
Well, I really hope so. We’re going to do our best, but it’s always wonderful when we can get to a nice old theater like that because they always sound and look great and the audience has always really enjoyed it too. It’s always a real pleasure to get off the stage afterwards and shake everybody’s hand and talk to everybody. So, yeah, I can’t wait.