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Q&A with Pink Floyd tribute, Gilmour's Breakfast Print E-mail
Written by Ed Lopez-Reyes   
Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Gilmour's BreakfastIn the latest of our interviews, we turn our attention to one of the Pink Floyd tribute bands treading the boards at the moment. There are a number of bands out there, and we thought it might be interesting to find out more about the background to such an undertaking: what takes a musician down this particular path? What pressures, issues, or struggles do they face?

Gilmour's Breakfast, a New England Pink Floyd tribute band, consists of Rob Taylor (Lead Vocals), Martin Stewart (Guitars, Lap Steel Guitar), Dan Whiteknact (Guitars, Vocals), Matt Swanton (Saxophone, Vocals, Keyboards, Acoustic Guitars), Harry Lawton (Keyboards, Vocals), Bob Cooper (Bass), and Pete Dayotas (Drums). A group of Worcester, Massachusetts musicians, they kept running into each other through a number of music endeavors. They shared a passion for Pink Floyd given the band's 'influence in their playing and approach to music.' For them, "it only seemed natural to work as a Pink Floyd tribute band paying homage to their childhood idols." We sat down with guitarist Martin Stewart to learn more about the band.

Before moving to the United States, Martin was an electronics buyer for a prominent Scottish Hi-Fi company that included a record label producing acts such as The Blue Nile, Hue and Cry, and Martin Taylor. Having left that job, he was quickly summoned by American colleagues for opportunities. After considering two different job offers, one in Long Island, New York and one in Danvers, Massachusetts, Stewart took the position in Massachusetts; running an office for them in Scotland. After a few visits to the United States, Stewart eventually resigned his position to move there permanently in 2001.

Why the name Gilmour's Breakfast?

The name Gilmour's Breakfast comes from Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour and from "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast", on the "Atom Heart Mother" album. We didn't just want to use a song title, like a lot of tribute bands do: we wanted something Floyd fans would get but that those who didn't could piece together like a puzzle.

Is there a challenge in being an American Floyd tribute band?

I'd say there is a challenge in being in a Floyd tribute band no matter where you're from. There are a lot of them all over the world, given the band's popularity. Some good and some not-so-good: depending on where you're from, over-saturation is a possibility.

What sets you guys apart?

Not sure if there's just one thing that sets us apart from other tributes, that's difficult to answer. We're a tribute for sure but we also play the music with a powerful live energy that some tributes, in our view, lack. I've seen Floyd live about six times and they're a pretty dynamic and powerful band.

There are an awful lot of tributes out there that are so focused on playing exactly like Floyd did that they lose that raw edge to their sound. They become almost sterile and flat-sounding, we try to avoid that and put some of our selves into the delivery. We're not trying to be Pink Floyd, simply play in a way we think they'd approve of.

We're doing a 60's Floyd show tomorrow, in fact (at point of writing); we'll do an entire set comprising song from "Piper" and "Saucerful" with the oil projections etc. We'll even dress in sixties style clothing just for the fun of it. I don't know of any other tributes out there that have done this. Most just seem to cover the FM hits.

Where can fans catch Gilmour's Breakfast?

People will be able to see us play around New England: Connecticut, Rhode Island… occasionally in New York too.

So far - what do you consider your most ambitious project as Gilmour's Breakfast?

This is a tough question. In terms of venue size and scale of the event, that would be the Stadium Theatre in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. However, there is a small venue in Southbridge, Massachusetts called The Cannery Music Hall. This place is like a small theatre/club. They are designed purely for music – it's not a bar that is open all week-round. We produced our 40th anniversary show of "The Dark Side of the Moon" there; we themed the room out with lots of Floyd décor and used all the multimedia effects, etc. That was certainly one of the best shows we have done so far, in my opinion.

Did you guys get to see "The Wall Live" and would you ever endeavor to put together a tribute version of that live project?

I saw the original "Wall" shows in 1980, in London. It was my first trip to the big city. I went two nights to see the show. Tickets were approximately $12, can you imagine?! I've also seen the Waters version of the "Wall" a couple of times. Bunch of my friends went to Berlin to see the "Wall" back then too, but I decided to stay at home (Scotland) for that. We currently play quite a few tracks from the album but have never done a full show. We have decided to do "The Wall" in April of next year. It will have a different twist from the Waters or Floyd versions. We are going for a performance art angle on this, with video… and the soundtrack will be based on the movie, not the album format.

What made you decide to do "The Wall": did you get the backing you felt you needed or are you giving the show a twist that allows you to work within a different parameter than you had anticipated?

We have zero financial backing other than our own money – which is a shame due to the band's potential. It blows my mind as to what we could do given the proper backing. Necessity is the mother of invention so we came up with a production concept and a team of people who can help us make it a reality. Perhaps not on the scale we'd like, but it will be a very entertaining show.

You mention you are going for a performance art angle on it - can audiences expect something that focuses on the more abstract concepts of "The Wall"?

It's a work in progress that will probably be tweaked as we go. We are hoping to have a little bit of theatre in it, maybe little acting scenes as prequels to certain tracks – plus we also hope for some limited audience participation if possible. Obviously, I don't want to give it all away, but we hope to surprise the audience with what we have in mind.

You mention it will be based more on the movie than the album - this sounds like an interesting approach: how do you feel this will impact the show and do you feel audiences that saw Waters' recent version of "The Wall" will feel this is quite different or will they perceive it as a natural evolution from that show, just going in a specific direction that needs to be explored?

This will be very different; obviously we can't build a 30' wall onstage so we had to come up with something we felt was executable, somewhat original, and yet as you say: a natural progression. We also really like the soundtrack to the movie, some different songs and slightly different arrangements… this in and of itself will hopefully help set it apart from what people are used to seeing.

Where do you plan to stage this and will it require a special type of venue, or is your approach pliable enough to fit any type of venue?

The show will be performed at The Cannery Music Hall in Southbridge, Massachusetts on April 12th, 2014 with a possible matinee show on the 13th if we have enough demand. We have collaborated with this team before and have had really great results. Their sound and lighting team are excellent and the manager of the venue really cares about the audience and the band: so very different than even larger places we have played where you are just another band, playing there to make money for the venue.

This is a labour of love for these guys and it shows: in the care they take to theme the rooms, etc. We will have to limit the ticket sales due to the fact that they will expand the stage for us; where else would you find this? I would encourage any bands or artists out there to check this hidden gem out. They are giving us the night before to set up and do a full dress rehearsal, as well as to make sure the lights and sound are just so. That is what makes it viable, mainly. It's paramount for us to present this as professionally as possible. The staff at the Cannery recognizes this and we are so grateful to them.

What do you feel is the most challenging part of emulating the Floyd sound?

The most challenging aspect of playing this music is the 'feel' of it. Anyone can play the notes with enough practice but 'feel,' well, that's the challenge. Speaking as a guitarist: that is Gilmour's genius.

There are tons of shredders out there who can spew a hundred notes in ten seconds and it's impressive for just that long!! Gilmour can rip your heart out with just one note and cause an emotional response from the listener that most guitarists don't get close to. The same thing translates into the whole band. As I said, you have to be careful not to sound sterile or flat, the trick is to go through the emotions not just the motions as it were!

Do you make a conscious effort to give your music a unique sound?

No, I don't think so. I have been listening to Pink Floyd from around age 11 so it's almost part of my DNA. The rest of the guys in the band have been life-long fans too so it's all pretty natural in terms of how we reproduce the music.

Do any Boston accents come through in your vocals at all?

Being Scottish, my Boston accent doesn't come through at all – (laughs). Our singer, Rob Taylor, does very well and I have to say I haven't really noticed it sounding American as such. If fact, he even does some of the accents for the voice effects pretty well, he's kind of a chameleon that way!

Is there a particular track you have had a real difficult time cracking? Something that is just really hard to play as Floyd did in its original form?

I'd have to say "Dogs" is probably the most demanding song we've tried so far. Mainly because it's detuned from concert pitch, so you need to have a guitar for just that track. Also there are just so many different parts to cover. You really need about three guitar players and two keyboard players to do it right, we do what we can and do a pretty good rendition in my opinion.

"Delicate Sound of Thunder" turns 25 this year. Thoughts?

Wow, 25 years… I remember going to Manchester, England in the back of a Ford Transit van with some friends to see the show. On the way home, I stopped in Glasgow to purchase my Mesa Boogie MK3 amplifier. I flew it over to the United States and use in the band to this day.

What do you feel is the most misunderstood thing about tribute bands?

The most misunderstood thing about tributes, I'd say, is that some people see us not as real musicians but merely copycats; there can be a certain snobbery towards us. We're just a collection of guys who have been in bands and around the music business for years. All of us have at one point or another become jaded with the idea of getting signed (which, in fact, isn't all it's cracked up to be) and now we just want to have fun and play music we love and hopefully build an audience to play to.

Do you play original material as well?

No, we don't play originals. We have all been in original bands but nothing along those lines lately – other than maybe the occasional track here or there with friends. Sometimes I will get asked to contribute to a recording session. I know Rob, our singer, writes his own songs but we have not performed any as a band.

What other musical projects do your band members work on?

A few of the guys play in other cover bands – some do recording from time-to-time.

If you could jam with just one member of Pink Floyd, and only one... who would it be and why?

If I could jam with one member of Pink Floyd? Ask me a difficult question, will ya (laughs)?! That is very tough as they are all great. I am torn between Richard Wright and David Gilmour. Rick's keyboard sounds were incredible; he is such a great player, vastly underrated. I guess as a guitar player though, I'd have to pick Gilmour; yes, David Gilmour would be my choice. His tone and feel are instantly recognizable. Like all of the greats: Jeff Beck, Hendrix, etc., Gilmour has that stamp to his sound, you just know it's him. I would be thrilled to play a song or two with him. The other guys in the band may pick someone different but he's my choice.

You can follow Gilmour's Breakfast at www.gilmours-breakfast.com. Our thanks to Martin for spending the time explaining life in a Floyd tribute band from his perspective!

 
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