Pink Floyd has a following that inspires other bands to build their fan base. Included in that following is Damian Darlington who created Brit Floyd after a long stint in another Pink floyd tribute band. Playing the role of musical director, guitarist, vocalist, and more, Darlington helps breathe new life into these classic tracks with precision and care that only a true fan and artist can. With the band starting up their 2017 Immersion World Tour in Pittsburgh this past weekend and just before they roll into Detroit at the Detroit Opera House on MArch 14 and later this month in Toledo, OH at Huntington Center, we were able to get Damain on the phone to chat about the new tour, the process of pulling together a show like this, and much more.
Toddstar: Good afternoon. How are you Damian?
Damian: I’m good. Thank you.
Toddstar: Thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule today, I really appreciate it.
Damian: It’s no problem.
Toddstar: Brit Floyd is coming back to the US and bringing the Immersion World Tour 2017.
Damian: Yeah. We’re back in. It’s our second show in. Sorry, third show in tonight.
Toddstar: How is the new tour and the new stage show being received so far on the first couple of days?
Damian: It’s great. It’s a wonderful, wonderful reaction. We’ve done two nights in a place called, the Benedum in Pittsburgh and the audience loved it. We’re very pleased.
Toddstar: What is it about this show, you feel the need to constantly evolve and recreate something, when a lot of that blueprint has kind of been laid out for you?
Damian: We do try and sort of change things up every year. We are trying to evolve the show, improve it all the time. Even though we’ve been doing this for as many years as we have, there are still Pink Floyd’s tracks we’ve never performed, so this year we’ve brought tracks into the set that are new for us to play and also some we haven’t played in some years. There is room to sort of, change the show up every year and that’s what we very much try and do.
Toddstar: It’s great for the fans that you do that. You’re bringing something that they can’t get anywhere else. Is that something you keep in mind when you’re putting together a set list, or putting together a stage show? Are you looking at it more from a performer’s side or you looking at it as a fan, “What would I want to see? What would I have wanted to see?”
Damian: Obviously we are looking at it from what we think the audience wants to hear from us. There are certainly certain tracks that we will play every year, or most of the time year, but tracks such as “Another Brick In The Wall,” “Money,” “Comfortably Numb,” “Wish You Were Here,” et cetera. Outside of that, we do sort of want to play songs that people, fans may not get to hear live, anywhere else, or even back in the day when Pink Floyd was still touring themselves. We want to keep it interesting for the fans, keep it interesting for ourselves, as people performing this music, and change things up from year to year as I mentioned earlier, as much as possible.
Toddstar: You mentioned things even Pink Floyd may not have played. Are there songs that you really wish you guys could through into your arsenal that you just can’t pull off live? Are there signs that you had tried to nail down, but can’t?
Damian: To be honest with you, I think it has gotten to the point where there isn’t really a Pink Floyd track we’re afraid to tackle. Quite often, the more difficult stuff to do is the older stuff, in some respects. To do it faithfully, and authentically and make it sound exactly like it did back in the late 60’s or early 70’s. That can be more of a challenge than the newer material. If you’re doing something off of Ummagumma or Atom Heart Mother perhaps, that can be more of a challenge. Plus, you have to be careful. You have to acknowledge there aren’t as many Pink Floyd fans out there that are quite as familiar with the older stuff as sort of, Dark Side Of The Moon. But we do sort of feel it’s important to represent that here in the set list, all the same.
Toddstar: You guys have such a staunch following and luckily, we get to see you here again in Detroit in a couple of days at the Opera House. What’s it about a city like Detroit that you guys enjoy coming back to time and time again?
Damian: Quite simply, the fact that there are so many passionate fans of the music there. That’s what got the appeal for ourselves. If there’s people who want to experience this music live, we’ll sort of do our best to bring the show there for them. And Detroit is one of those places where there are lots and lots of Pink Floyd music fans, so it’s a lot of fun for us to play there. We enjoy it hugely, playing there.
Toddstar: What’s the biggest change with this tour? Again, the Immersion World Tour in 2017. What’s the biggest change for you aesthetically that you made consciously?
Damian: Last year we decided on a different lighting design where we sort of moved away from using an arch shaped lighting design. This year we’ve sort of gone back to that, so that’s a change for people who saw the show last year. Plus, we are generally trying to improve it. We’re investing in the production. There are more lights, better lights. A lot of new video is being created for the show. Improved video for songs that we were playing previously or brand new material for the new songs we’ve brought in, so as we touched on before, we’re constantly evolving the show and trying to improve it.
Toddstar: Once again, you kicked this off Friday night, I believe in Pittsburgh. Is this something you guys will try and stick to, the formula you’ve created for this tour, or will this evolve as you’re going through a couple months here in the states?
Damian: We tend to have fundamentally on the set list that we decide on for the tour and for the most part stick to that. It’s a very complex production, lighting and lasers and all the visuals and so tie that in to make all that synchronize with the music is, sort of can remove the opportunity to change things up that much. But, having said that we do have some of the songs, rehearsed up that week and sort of bring in for the set list, you know, alternate a few tracks here and there. If people come to multiple shows there is a good chance to hear some different tracks along the way.
Toddstar: I mentioned that because Tuesday you are in Detroit, but then near the end of the month on the 29th, you guys are in Toledo, which isn’t too far. You’re playing Huntington Center there, so I was wondering if fans would have a chance of possibly getting something different here and there.
Damian: Yes. Certainly. There’s a chance that they will.
Toddstar: Damian, you do this so well. I’ve been lucky to see you with Brit Floyd so many times. The work and effort you put into this and the talent you have behind you. When will fans of Damian be able to get maybe some Damian originals or is this your focus?
Damian: I’ve certainly been involved in doing the music over the years. Being involved in writing original material or producing some of my own things. To be quite frank with you, more recently this has become sort of all consuming. We do so many shows around the year and around the world. It is difficult to find the time to do something else outside of this. But I certainly don’t rule it out in the future. I do have some urges here and some desire to do some of my own stuff at some point. You never know. Maybe in the next few years, or something. I’ll get the chance to do something.
Toddstar: You change up the cast slightly from tour to tour. I’ve seen a couple different guitarists along the way, but you tend to keep the same band with you. Is that more of a dedication to the music, to the effort, to the process?
Damian: There are certainly some people I’ve been working with for over ten years, doing this one way or the other, but not everybody can carry on doing this forever, so we do sort of need to change the personnel occasionally, along the way. We had a new guitarist, it’s almost two years ago now. Edo Scordo joined us. He’s worked out very, very well. There’s a couple of backing vocalists who’ve changed. That sort of thing. Fundamentally yeah. People come along to the show they will see a lot of familiar faces, who’ve been doing this for some years now. It certainly does take dedication to do this for the years and to do this the level that we do this.
Toddstar: And you mentioned the guitarist. You do so much upfront. It is fun to watch you where so many different hats. At what point did you think to yourself, “Okay. I can do this, but I’m going to need another guitarist. I’m going to need another vocalist, or two, or three?” At what point in the process, when you first started this project did you think, “Okay this is going to be more than a one man show.”
Damian: If you listen to the original albums, it is actually impossible for one guitarist to do, excuse me, to do everything that you know. Certainly from about Meddle onwards. David Gilmour was overdubbing a lot of guitar parts in the studio, so if you want to recreate these tracks faithfully, then you have to have two guitarists. And obviously when it comes to the vocal part of things, you have two very different voices with Roger Roger Waters and David Gilmore and occasionally Rick Wright as well singing on a couple of things. You’ve got to recreate this sort of Pink Floyd soundscape. You do need a lot of musicians on stage to do it successfully, because they were such a creative band in the studio and they weren’t afraid to expand their sound when they had the opportunity to do so.
Toddstar: You’ve done live releases, DVDs, CD’s. Is that something where you guys are just getting hounded time in and time out on the different tours? How can we get this? How do we get your version? Was it more of a necessity for the fans or was it something you guys just wanted to do for you?
Damian: It’s a bit of both really. We certainly wanted to do it for ourselves. When it comes to DVDs it’s certainly been very helpful for us to sort of shoot very high quality DVDs, because we work very closely with PBS stations around the US, who run pledge drives by using access from our concerts. Yes, there are fans who very much want to hear our renditions of these songs. They’ve sort of, in a sense, they’ve bonded with us as individuals playing their favorite music, in a way. It’s very flattering when you get people saying that they’ve listened to our versions of the Pink Floyd songs, rather than the original version these days. It’s very cool to hear that.
Toddstar: That’s awesome. When you’re looking at the crowd and you go to some of these shows you get some diversity in the age. But I mean, you guys are on the gamete. It’s amazing when I do see one of your shows that you’ll get people in their 60’s and 70’s. You’ll get kids in their early teens, if not pre-teens. What’s it like for you as a performer to know that the music that you love so much is going to live on for generations, because of this diversity in age?
Damian: It’s great obviously. On a purely practical level you think, “Well, I’m still going to have a job in ten years’ time.” Sort of leaving that sort of answer aside, it’s a testament to the quality of Pink Floyd’s music. That, and also an indication of the timelessness of it. Without that, whole new generations are still discovering it. It doesn’t surprise me, but I’m obviously very happy and excited about this fact, that you do get this real cross section of the generations coming to the concerts still. And so, long may it continue.
Toddstar: How many times, through the years, Damian have you picked up and said, “Okay, we’re going to try a different song.” You start learning something, you think, “What were they thinking with this?”
Damian: Pink Floyd went through so many stages of developing their sound. Certainly in the early days, they were being very, very experimental. Sort of trying to find out who they were as a band. If you listen to an album, such as Ummagumma, it’s very interesting and very creative at the time. But you perhaps wouldn’t want to attempt to play some of it live. It’s important to sort of recognize that era of Floyd and realize where they came from, particularly the Syd Barrett beginnings. Because there would be no Pink Floyd without Syd Barrett, but they did become a very different band really by the time they brought out Dark Side Of The Moon, so it’s an interesting to analyze it.
Toddstar: All things aside. I’m preferential to Detroit and I often come down to the Toledo shows, but are there any cities on your tour list, that when you see them you think, “Wow. Those crowds always set the night on fire.”
Damian: Yes. Certainly there are some memorable places that you know they’re particularly great, appreciative crowds. Detroit is certainly one of them, but I could list many, many others, but quite frankly when you come here and tour around the US they’re all good looking, in my opinion. There’s not that much that separates them, but there are certain, some highlights along the way.
Toddstar: How much different do you feel as a performer on your side of the stage the show is received here in the states as opposed to the UK or anywhere else?
Damian: Audiences have collective personalities that can vary from country to country. I think here in the US, people are perhaps, a little less inhibited about showing their appreciation, you know, let their hair down during the show. While in the UK, people can be a little bit more reserved in the way they respond to the music. I know that they appreciate it just as much. They just have different ways of showing it. Different ways of demonstrating it, so it’s interesting to sort of see that when you get to do what I do and tour around all of these different places around the world.
Toddstar: With everything you’ve done Damian in your career including building this legacy, not only for the current generation, but for generations that will come after us, if you could look back on anything, were there any moves you made that you felt were missteps, or that you wish you could redo?
Damian: I don’t think so. I can’t sort of think of a particular moment where something was, in hindsight, I thought something was a really bad decision in the context of doing these Pink Floyd shows. It’s just developed the way it did over the years. I’ve been doing this for over two decades, so I’ve seen a lot come and go in that period, in the context of putting a Pink Floyd show on. But I can’t sort of look back and think there was a particularly bad decision or something at some point that I really regret. It’s just the way it is. The way I see it.
Toddstar: On a closing note Damian. With all the music you’ve performed, are there any songs that when you see them coming up in the set list that gives you an extra kick because you can’t wait to play it?
Damian: It’s usually on a tour to tour basis, it can often be a new track that we’ve not performed before. There’s an instrumental piece we’re doing in the set at the moment from the A Momentary Lapse Of Reason album, which is called,” Terminal Frost.” And I’m particularly enjoying playing that. I’m particularly pleased with how that’s turned out and it’s a lot of fun. You get a real sense of achievement playing that track, when you feel that it’s sounding as good as I feel it is at the moment. That’s a particular highlight for me. “Dogs” is another one. That’s a 16, 17 minute long track and I’m really, really enjoy playing that one at the moment. In general something like, “Comfortably Numb” always does it for me. You know, a song I play every single show and getting to play an iconic guitar solo at the end of that is always an exciting thing for me to do.
Toddstar: Excellent. Again, I know you’re busy, so I’ll let you do what you do, but I cannot wait to experience, once again Brit Floyd and the Immersion World Tour 2017, this Tuesday in Detroit.
Damian: Looking forward to it as well.
Toddstar: Excellent. Thank you so much for your time Damian.
Damian: Okay. Thank you. Bye bye.
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