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A Quarter Century of Lasers, Lights, and Pink Floyd: An Interview with Steve Monistere

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Steve Monistere is the producer of LaserSpectacular presents the Music of Pink Floyd, a multimedia light, laser, and video show set to the music of the iconic progressive rock band.  The show hits St. Pete tomorrow night, Saturday June 22nd, at the Mahaffey Theater.  Tickets are still available for $22-$29, and the show starts at 8 o’clock.

 

SB: I saw on your website that you were originally approached by a light company to do this show.  At what point did you decide you wanted to use Pink Floyd and their music as your inspiration, or was it always Pink Floyd?

 

SM: Yes, I was doing concerts at a theatre that I had, and I was approached by a local laserist, a guy who does laser shows, and he had already had something together with the music of Pink Floyd.  I wasn’t really familiar with laser light shows, much less laser shows set to the music of Pink Floyd.  I really didn’t know what it was at the time; I was doing live concerts.  But we had some open dates, and we gave it a shot and sold out both of those nights.  That was what got my attention.  You have to remember that this was in 1986, so the technology back then wasn’t really that advanced.  So we took the show after that and, as technology advanced, we improved the show to where it is today.

 

SB: Speaking of laser technology, what new developments have made it easier to do cool things in recent years?  What’s the most significant technological advance that has pushed your show to the next level?

 

SM: Well, of course, the advent of Windows was really what did it.  I mean, before that we were using computers, but we would actually have a chip that we would have to burn the information onto.  You make a chip and you put it in a burner and the information is burned onto the chip.  You take the chip out this device and put it into this computer, and that’s what ran it.  It was pretty primitive.  Once Windows came along things started getting smaller and faster.  That was the most significant advancement and, of course, that’s kind of an obvious answer because computers have changed everything.  Outside of computers, I would probably say that the integration of the lasers and the lights and video and synchronization and being able to make everything match up perfectly was the biggest change.

 

SB: When were the special glasses added?  When did you decide that that would add to the overall production?

 

SM: I think, probably, right away.  It might have been the first or second show we did back then.

 

SB: When do you and your team get the inspiration to do a show like yours?  Do you look at other shows that are similar to yours, or do you just play with the technology?

 

SM: What we don’t do, what we’ve never done, is draw inspiration from any other show.  We were the first to do this the way that we do it, so we’re the cutting edge; we were the originators of this type of show, so many, many others draw their inspiration from the way we create our show.  I’m not going to say that every idea is original, because really there are no original ideas any more, but we just use our creativity in the multimedia fashion to bring together the lights and the lasers and the video and the special effects to get the point across and tell a story.  The inspiration is the music and what we see in our mind’s eyes when we listen to it.

 

SB: Would you say that there are other shows that are doing what you do, or that you guys are one of one, or one of a few?

 

SM: There are a few shows that are kind of similar.  If you go to a rock concert, you’ll see a lot of the same type of things that we do.  But, this particular show, without a band onstage, is pretty unique because we’re able to entertain an audience for several hours without a live band.  That’s a pretty amazing thing that a lot of people can’t really grasp until they come to see the show.  In that sense, we’re really the only ones doing this.

 

SB: How often would you say you make a change to the show? 

 

SM: We often make little changes.  In fact, we’re constantly making little changes to it, but as far as totally revamping the show, every few years we totally break it down and start all over, keeping some of the elements we like the best and adding to them.

 

SB: With today’s mass media culture of video games and high tech movies, would you say that crowds are harder to impress than they were, say, 10 or 15 years ago?

 

SM: That’s an excellent question, and the answer is yes.  Every few months it gets harder because their expectation levels are just so high.  With video games and movies, though, it’s pretty one-dimensional, and even though it’s very fantastical, the effects that go on in video games and whatnot are still on a screen.  When you come to our show, it’s live, it’s 3D.  It’s an experience with a few thousand other people surrounding you with the music in concert-quality sound.  So, in that sense, we have an advantage right away over a video game or a movie.  In comparison with the audience’s expectation level when going to concerts or going to clubs and seeing lasers and lights and things like that, this is a synchronized show to the music of Pink Floyd and everything is synchronized, it tells a story, and in that sense it’s something you’ll don’t see anywhere else.  Because of that, we’re able to meet their expectations.

 

SB: I think it’s really awesome that you guys have managed to last 25 years.  What has been the most important part of keeping your show not only relevant, but in keeping it functioning as a team and a creative work?  25 years is a very long time.

 

SM: As far as functioning as a team, we’ve kind of become a family, so as long as we keep fighting and insulting each other and stay friends afterward we’ll stay together.  It’s like an Italian family.  The longevity of the show is a testament to the music of Pink Floyd.  The music is very high quality, strictly from a musical viewpoint.  These guys were real composers and artists, not just a fly-by-night flash-in-the-pan progressive rock band.  Kids nowadays who are coming up and discovering that rock music is what they like, they all have Dark Side of the Moon or The Wall.  It’s kind of a rite of passage for any 13- or 14-year-old, you know.  You’re not really a certified Rock & Roll person if you don’t have Pink Floyd material.  It’s the music that’s as good now to the young folk as it as when it first originated in the 60s and 70s.

 

SB: So you would say that Pink Floyd is still relevant and popular with today’s youth?

 

SM: Absolutely.  Pink Floyd’s music still continues to sell at an unbelievable pace for a band that hasn’t been together in twenty-something years.

 

SB: Would you ever consider doing a show like this with the music of any other band or artist?

 

SM: We’ve done, in the past, some other artists, like Zeppelin and some other bands from the classic rock era, and it works.  It works great, visually and whatnot, but really the staple of this show is the Pink Floyd music.  We’ve succeeded with Pink Floyd in the past, so we’ve just stuck to it.  I produce other shows with other types of music, but they aren’t like this.  As far as the LaserSpectacular, it started as being married to the music of Pink Floyd and that’s the way we keep it.

 

SB: What do you want every person who comes into your show to know and feel? 

 

SM: If you haven’t seen the show before and you’re coming or thinking about coming, basically you need to know that you’re going to see something you’ve never seen before.  It’s a new experience, not something that you’ve done before.  It’s like getting on a roller coaster for the first time.  You’ve got to get on and do it to really know what the sensation is.

 

 

 

 

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