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The Ominous, Heavy Sound of Think:X

by Ed Lopez-Reyes

Pink Floyd alumni Scott Page and Roberta Freeman, along with Kenny Olson, Norwood Fisher, Stephen Perkins, Will Champlin, and Paul Samarin take on Pink Floyd's legacy, creating a dark, heavy expression of the band's music, drenched in a surroud visual, immersive experience. Tonight they play the National Assocation of Music Merchants (NAMM) in Anaheim, California.

Pink Floyd – the creative unit that has existed in one form or another for almost 60 years (57 to 59, depending on your source) – has corralled its creative resources from three spaces: full members, touring members, and studio musicians.

Those have been neatly separated into three silos across most historical narratives, but the truth is always a bit more complex; the three categories have overlapped: e.g., keyboardist Richard Wright navigated each of these three planes at different points in his career and some studio and touring musicians added significantly to Pink Floyd’s output, unwittingly furrowing around the most hallowed of the silos – that which has been reserved for “full band members”. These silos have also spawned several interesting permutations.

Over time, Pink Floyd members have built very successful solo careers. Roger Waters steadily grew a following, starting in the 1980s and eventually rivaling Pink Floyd’s audience in scale by the time The Wall Live tour came along, between 2010 and 2013. David Gilmour had growing success as a solo artist in the aughts and oneties – after solo releases in each the seventies and eighties that were eclipsed by Pink Floyd itself, his last two solo albums ushered an era of sold-out arenas for the guitarist and vocalist. Richard Wright’s solo work – in 1978 and 1996 – was critically successful though his live efforts outside of Pink Floyd were focused on collaborations with Gilmour on the guitarist's successful solo tours. Nick Mason’s solo work was limited to one album in 1981 – but this can be deceiving: his work with Michael Mantler and Rick Fenn was ample (not to mention production credits), and his Saucerful of Secrets band has been very successful.

Studio and touring members have also explored the band’s music in interesting ways – remember Guy Pratt and Jon Carin’s performances nearly 10 years ago – as Pink Floyd and Beyond? The McBroom Sisters have covered some of the band’s music too – and re-interpreted some of its elements.

Recently, Scott Page, who was part of Pink Floyd’s studio effort for A Momentary Lapse of Reason and its corresponding touring band, has partnered with a team of well-known musicians to explore Pink Floyd’s music – not just sonically, but also visually.

Page’s Think:X (sometimes stylized Think:EXP), which has developed a residency status at Los Angeles’ Wisdome – an immersive art park that provides audiences with a 360-degree experience – has put together a team that includes Pink Floyd and Guns n’ Roses veteran Roberta Freeman, Jane’s Addiction’s Stephen Perkins, Kid Rock’s Kenny Olson, Fishbone’s Norwood Fisher, The Voice's Will Champlin, and Paul Samarin of Which One's Pink?.

Their take on Pink Floyd music is quite unique: heavier, more ominous, and at times bluesier and jazzier. Additionally, the band has taken the concept of a stage-centered light and projection spectacle beyond its typical perimeter – creating surround visuals that move in tandem with the surround sound.

Earlier in the spring, the band experimented with a cubed lighting and projection show at a venue in California’s Ventura County. It attracted Pink Floyd, Jane’s Addiction, Kid Rock, and Fishbone fans equally, and their response was universally enthusiastic. By exploring a darker side of Pink Floyd’s music and synthesizing it with bright visuals that are all around the audience, the band has tapped into a unique niche: the band’s experimentation with a cubed version of the dome might be the perfect catalyst to get this thing on the road.

In Ventura County, the crowd could be overheard commenting about the impressive lighting and animation that brought the cube to life. As the band played, an artist painted Pink Floyd inspired pieces (later purchased by audience members) and food trucks offered local culinary art. Think:X is not treating the concept of “immersive” lightly.

Click for slideshow

Musically, Freeman’s vocals show impressive range – and lead the balance of vocalists (Champlin and Samarin) in the band into an ebb and flow of tracks colorfully: the band’s approach brings Pink Floyd’s background vocal brand to the foreground, creating a soulful center of gravity. Norwood Fisher’s ska, punk, funk, and rock bass-playing style fuels an assertive rhythm section that responds perfectly to Freeman’s vocals but ushers Pink Floyd’s legacy into a completely new musical territory… which brings us to Stephen Perkin’s drumming – easily one of the most distinctive elements in Think:X.

One of the most dramatic departures from Pink Floyd’s original sound – one of the most pronounced re-interpretations in Think:X – is Perkin’s drumming. While Nick Mason’s drumming made ample use of space and was distinctively orotund on the band’s productions and live performances, Perkins moves in a completely different direction – responding to Freeman’s depth and Fisher’s bass-playing with distinctive punch, sharpness, and a plethora of fills – the contrast between his playing and Freeman’s vocals, bridged by Fisher’s style, drives the listener into new territory for those who are used to hearing Pink Floyd’s music – including its solo act iterations and even tributes. A huge part of Think:X’s appeal is watching Perkins sail through these tracks in demonic style – it’s just a powerful expression of Pink Floyd’s music, a catalog of work that owes much more to Mason’s footprint than most ordinary fans realize. In many ways, Perkins pulls this experiment together.

This doesn’t diminish Kenny Olson’s work: Olson’s customized Fender Stratocaster delivers a thick wall of guitar sound – he plays guitar melodies with Gilmour’s finesse but adds a layer of heaviness and volume that gives the tracks a genuine heavy metal edge. Page, who guides and directs the entire production, amplifies the saxophone’s role in Pink Floyd music during the performance – reminiscent of his work with heavier acts like Gorky Park and Jane’s Addiction itself: it’s the diversity of Page’s work that informs the new paths Think:X is journeying through, fueled by the combination of styles band members bring to the table.

It will be interesting to see how Think:X puts their show on the road – at the moment, the show is grounded in the surround experience Wisdome facilitates but is also experimenting with different ways to bring this full dimensionality to other venues.

You can read more about Think:X by clicking here. You can follow Scott Page here, Kenny Olson here, Robert Freeman here, Stephen Perkins here, Norwood Fisher here, Will Champlin here, and Paul Samarin here. For information on Think:X's NAMM performance, click here. Photography and slideshow by Marie Lopez Photography at Oceanview Production Studios in Port Hueneme, April 23, 2022.


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