The Machine keeps the wheels turning for Pink Floyd fans

By Alex Avakian

From ‘Absolutely Curtains’ to ‘Your Possible Pasts,’ Pink Floyd cover band The Machine can… From ‘Absolutely Curtains’ to ‘Your Possible Pasts,’ Pink Floyd cover band The Machine can play you a Floyd song for almost every letter of the alphabet in order.

And that’s just what it does.

It’s just one of the many different kinds of shows that the band puts on for audiences around the world.

If it’s not A-Y, it’s recreating entire albums or playing with a symphony, and if it’s not those, it could be anything.

‘We try and recreate that whole Pink Floyd experience,’ said Joe Pascarell, lead guitarist and co-founder of the band.

The original Pink Floyd had a whopping 16-album repertoire, which has given The Machine a rather deep bag of tricks to reach into at any given time.

But beyond the music, The Machine tries to recreate the true Pink Floyd experience, which is what is generating positive reviews and has fans coming back over and over again.

For example, in its recently released The Machine Performs Pink Floyd Live in Amsterdam, a massive screen is displayed behind the band, with imagery of spinning planets and psychedelic textures surrounded by bright blue, swirling borders that change colors. There are also lasers throughout the performance, as well as fog rolling from the stage.

‘We try to incorporate all of that into our shows and bring that whole larger-than-life Pink Floyd experience into a smaller venue where it’s more intimate. We try and bring that texture and that mood to the music,’ said Pascarell.

And while many cover bands simply ‘cover,’ The Machine is not shy about letting its own musical ability and creativity shine through. While staying within the means of the original song, the band will often create its own solos, changing things up to recreate Pink Floyd in different ways each night.

‘The reason to do that is it really keeps us looking forward to playing the music. It’s a lot more fun when there is some room there that something might happen,’ said Pascarell.

And that’s also what Pink Floyd was like — very improvisational.

‘We’ve been playing the music for so long that I think we’re able to improvise a little bit, and it happens in a way that feels respectful to the original intent of the music. There is some continuity. It’s not a forced thing, like, these guys are now doing what they want to do. It’s a natural extension of the music. The idea is that you almost don’t notice that it’s happening. And that’s what they used to do.’

‘And I think it keeps the audience interested, too. I think that’s one of the reasons we have fans that have seen us a hundred times.’

Over the years, The Machine performed in Berlin, South Korea and Jerusalem, and has performed with the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra and built up a very solid fan base.

‘When we first toured internationally [in Jerusalem], the first time we got out of the plane there were press people there wanting to talk to us,’ said drummer and co-founder Todd Cohen. ‘We hadn’t experienced that before. Groupies plus the press, the enthusiasm was kind of startling.’

The Machine formed in 1988, when longtime friends Pascarell and Cohen formed a new band based exclusively on the premise of ‘playing songs they liked,’ in Rockland County, N.Y., 10 miles north of Manhattan.

As a kid, Pascarell describes himself as someone who ‘devoured’ new music. It was his older brother who took him to see Pink Floyd when he was 13. A huge Beatles fan, Pink Floyd’s influence was quickly overshadowed John Lennon’s.

‘It’s hard to imagine hearing that [Floyd] in context of what the current music sounded like. I had never heard anything, anything like it,’ said Pascarell.

While the band never met the real Pink Floyd, it says that its idols are aware of them. Norbert Satchell, a saxophonist who played with Roger Waters and now plays with The Machine, told Pascarell that Waters asked, ‘Why would anyone want to play our music?’

But that doesn’t discourage The Machine at all.

‘That sounds like something Roger Waters would say,’ said Pascarell with a chuckle.