The last time The Machine was in State College was 2012 and Joe Pascarell was the lead singer. Later that year, the co-founder would announce his retirement from the band, leaving a hole where his spot-on Roger Waters/David Gilmour vocals helped to make The Machine one of the world’s best Pink Floyd tribute bands.
After a string of auditions, the band’s remaining members — keyboardist Scott Chasolen, bassist Ryan Ball, and drummer and co-founder Tahrah Cohen — found what they were looking for in Adam Minkoff. They positioned him at bass and lead vocals, moved Ball to guitar and continued on their way.
“Originally we were looking for two new members, two distinct voices to do David Gilmour and Roger Waters. Joe sang both personalities,” Chasolen said in a recent phone interview. “We were doing video auditions online to narrow it down that way. As it turned out, we never found the fifth person.”
“If we had someone who could sing like Waters and Gilmour, we would have more a split personality, so to speak,” Chasolen added. This was Minkoff.
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With recent history established, Chasolen was free to discuss performing with The Machine.
Weekender: Would you say it’s harder to play Pink Floyd note for note or to be able to improvise with your fellow musicians?
Chasolen: I think when you’re improvising, you’re able to infuse a little more of yourself in the music, whereas note for note, you’re trying to capture something that’s already been created. The balance of both is what made PF so special, which is what we are trying to do.
W: So as a tribute band, what was more important — the voice or the musicianship?
C: The are equally important in the way we approach the music. We do more improvisation, we don’t exactly play the way the record sounds. That was the spirit of Pink Floyd.
W: How did you come to perform in a band dedicated to re-creating the sounds of Pink Floyd?
C: The Machine was around before I joined the band. I just always loved Pink Floyd.
I had not played much PF before joining, but I knew the songs from listening. ... It’s almost like I didn’t have to learn the songs. But it was challenging to create all the sounds.
As a keyboard player, the textures and sounds are very important and more challenging. It’s like having every instrument in an orchestra but on a keyboard, so you have to create them yourself. I also run all the sound samples.
W: Would being in a band that plays material strictly from a set catalog seem restrictive as far as creativity, or is it more of dream job, getting to play/do what you love?
C: I mean, I love being in the band. I’m always excited about playing.
W: Do you have side projects, other bands, own songs that you do on the side?
C: We all do a lot of different things. I work in New York City as a hired pianist and side man, and I write my own music and do gigs with my original band, too, so I keep busy. We all have a lot of other gigs to do. Ryan runs his own recording studio.
I think the projects where I’m playing original music gives me a chance to be more creative. But the improvisational portions of The Machine performances are also being creative. For me personally, I need to have all those things happening to feel satisfied. It all works together.
W: Pink Floyd has 14 proper studio recordings alone. How do you guys decide what to put on the playlist for a two-hour show?
C: We try to cover every era in every show, unless it’s a special show dedicated to an album. We primarily draw from the big four, as we call them: “Dark Side of the Moon,” “Wish You Were Here,” Animals” and “The Wall.” But we do stuff from early recordings, including Syd Barrett and post-Roger Waters Floyd. We have a wide range. Every set list is different.
We make the set list at the venue. We like to see what he venue feels like and what the stage is like and decide that night.
W: The Machine also is known for its visuals. Instead of a laser Floyd-style show when deciding on presentation, you went with a full-blown light show.
C: The visuals have evolved. We have some new stuff on stage that is new this year. We have a mix of different things, video projections. Visually, it’s very stimulating.
W: A college friend once said that Pink Floyd made her want to commit suicide. Why would you say PF isn’t for everyone?
C: I think there’s a depth to their music that not everyone is able to access.
I understand what your friend is saying, there’s a darkness to it as well. But that’s life. Life isn’t always bright and shiny, and I think the music captures that.