Interview: The Machine (Pink Floyd Tribute Band)

The Machine are a four-piece band based in New York and dedicated to bringing the music of Pink Floyd to concert audiences. Since the last Pink Floyd concert (not counting the brief Live 8 reunion gig) was in October 1994, bands like The Machine are one of only a precious few ways to get a fix for a live Floyd jones. And the group — founded in 1988 by guitarist/vocalist Joe Pascarell and drummer Todd Cohen — are very, very good at what they do. The group performs dozens of shows annually across the USA and Europe. The Machine live onstage One afternoon in 2009 I sat down with the group (Pascarell and Cohen plus bassist Ryan Ball and keyboardist Scott Chasolen) right before the sound check for that evening’s concert. Joe Pascarell explained how the band got its start: “When we started, it wasn’t our intention to have a Pink Floyd tribute band. We just got frustrated with all the crappy bands playing crappy music. We said, ‘let’s just form a band that plays the music that we like. I don’t care who’s gonna come…whatever.’ And we like Pink Floyd! So that was a lot of what we did. And you’ve got to remember, this was twenty years ago; not like now when there’s a tribute band for every band in the world. It was a unique thing.

“And,” Pascarell continued, “people would say, ‘Wow; you never hear a band play that music. Nobody else does that.’ So we learned some more. And some more. Eventually our set was like half Pink Floyd and half other stuff…and then this guy heard about us, and he said, ‘Learn more Floyd, and I’ll try and get you gigs as a Pink Floyd band.’ So that’s how it started; it wasn’t a conscious decision from the outset to do it. It grew out of the fact that we absolutely love this music.”

I asked the group if their initial Pink Floyd pieces were the more mainstream material, or if they launched their project by performing live versions of “Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast.” Pascarell punted. “Nobody’s ever asked us that. I have to think about it for a moment.” So Todd Cohen fielded the question. “The more mainstream songs. I don’t think we started doing the weird stuff until we were in a few years.” That jogged Pascarell’s memory: “Yeah. The catalog is so large, I think it was natural to start with the more well-known songs.”

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