Who are the Pink Floyd Experience?
Stan Gratkowski (Lead Vocals, Acoustic Guitar)
Founding member of The Pink Floyd Experience, Stan is also known to many people as the singing drummer from Wellington’s legendary Turbo Rats. Stan has always loved music and Pink Floyd was just one of the many bands that had a profound effect on Stan deciding what he wanted to do with his life. Stan recalls that while still at school he had his own ‘Roger Waters’ moment. Asked what he wanted to be when he left school he immediately said ‘a rock star’ and was promptly told that he was dreaming and to ‘get real’ (“Absolute rubbish laddie! Now you get on with your work.”).
Stan started to learn the drums at the age of 15 and a few short years later was to be found in a bar band working most weekends for the next twenty plus years. Little did he know then that he would one day be fronting New Zealand’s largest touring show and travelling to other countries while doing what he loves. While possessing incredible talent, Stan is also incredibly humble and is one of the most easy-going people you could ever meet. Working with him is a sheer pleasure.
In his downtime Stan can usually be found in some South Island river panning for gold or looking for hidden treasure.
Glen Ahearn (Keyboards)
Glen finds it hard to believe that The Pink Floyd Experience has been a part of his life for the last 20 years. “When we started out ‘glasses’ were something to drink bourbon out of” he says. ”Now they help me see (if I can remember where I last left them).”
Glen says that so much has happened during his time with The Experience. He remembers that he was once charged with booking accommodation in Auckland for the band and crew and arrived at said destination to discover that it was a graveyard. Yes, some trying times... what else happened? Oh yes, numerous pranks, Monty Python and Glen’s own staple diet of side splitting comedy. Of course, the connection between the Pythons and Pink Floyd is well known to diehard fans. Even Glen’s daughter knows and she’s only eleven. Playing a game of Cricket, Tennis, or Netball with his daughter is a great way to get Glen away from keyboards and computers (he hates computers) and out into the fresh air. The added bonus is that it keeps him focused on how unfit he is.
Writing and performing songs has always been a part of Glen’s life. It even got him onto T.V. once! There he was on the 1984 Television New Zealand Telethon at 4am in the morning... yes, you heard it right, 4am! Glen bets that you didn’t see it. He knows he never got to.
Glen has played in a number of bands before he was lucky enough to become a founding member of The Pink Floyd Experience. Of course ‘lucky’ is a relative term... since then he has spent hundreds of hours every year programming keyboards to replicate ‘The Pink Floyd Sound’, as heard on their albums. Despite that he has always been a Pink Floyd Fan and says that to be a part of presenting their music live to other fans is the best experience ever.
Darren Whittaker (Guitar/Lap Steel Guitar)
Darren is the third founding member of The Pink Floyd Experience. He’s played in bands since he was about 21. He’s a big music lover, especially classics from the 1970s. Daz likes to play everything from Pink Floyd to Deep Purple to ZZ Top to 70s funk & disco. In fact he claims he likes anything with good guitar. While he can still be caught playing in a bar band now and then his real passion is Pink Floyd and The Pink Floyd Experience. Pink Floyd has been a huge part of his life and he says it’s fitting to end up in a band that just plays Floyd.
There’s much more to Daz than just music. He’s married with ‘a few’ kids (and is rumoured to have some grandkids hidden away somewhere), and he likes rugby league, hitting the gym or blobbing on the couch. When he’s not doing music you’ll find him making a bit of furniture, carving wood, doing a bit of artwork or ‘some arty project’, hanging out with his kids or ‘doing nothing’. He admits he quite likes ‘doing nothing’!
Martin Mitchell (Guitar)
Marty is a veteran of the Auckland music scene, having spent 25 years dragging his sorry ass around the pub and club circuit in New Zealand, finally finding a home in The Pink Floyd Experience. In hindsight it really seemed inevitable when you consider his main heroes and influences are David Gilmour and Pink Floyd. In fact Marty is a longtime stalker of The Pink Floyd Experience. As he has spent so much time following us around over the years we thought we’d better give him something to do!
Since moving from the Big Smoke to the beautiful Bay Of Plenty six years ago Marty has filled in the gaps between tours doing a solo gig under the name Stratman. www.stratman.co.nz
Ken (Rumblefoot) Te Tau (Bass)
‘E nga mana, e nga reo e nga karangarangatanga maha, tena koutou katoa.’
’Tis Rumblefoot that controls the bottom end of the Pink Floyd Experience sound spectrum. The bowels of the earth beneath rumble and shake as the boom of the bass notes reverberate and resonate from the stage. ‘‘People feel and fear the touch of my pervasive presence, internal organs vibrate and quiver in unison to the rhythm of my deep tonal voicings.”
*(from the legend of Rumblefoot part 1)
Ken says that The Pink Floyd Experience has been an amazing journey for him, the unique character of Floyd’s music continues to flow from his fingers almost 20 years on. “The music of Pink Floyd captured the hearts and souls of a bygone generation, and yes, it captured mine.” he says.
“Incredibly Floyd’s ageless music still continues to captivate audiences, both young and old. Floyd were undoubtedly pioneers in the music industry, their signature guitar solos, keyboard swells and thought provoking lyrics are woven permanently into the fabric of space and time. It has been an absolute privilege and honour for me to replicate the music of these awesome and legendary musicians, to be a part of a band that has kept the heart and soul of Pink Floyd’s music alive and live on the world’s stage.”
“So have a good drown, as you go down, all alone, dragged down by the stone”. Pink Floyd: Dogs
Roger Rangitaawa (Sax)
Mai I te Koopuu ki te Urupa Ka ako tonu (From the abdomen to the cemetery we will continue to learn).
Ko Ngaati Maniapoto ki te marae o Kotahitanga.
Ko Ngaati Kahunugu ki Wairoa
Ko Te Atiawa ki te Paa o Parihaka
Ko Te Atihaunui a Paparangi ki Hiruharama aka Patiarero te rohe.
Roger Poropiti Rangitaawa is a Multi-instrumentalist. He first joined the Pink Floyd Experience for our performance of The Wall – being a vegetarian he didn’t eat his meat so he didn’t get any pudding.
Among his many talents Roger is a jazz rhythmic guitarist and a Latin percussionist playing conga and timbale rhythms. But his main love is his assortment of brass musical hardware; saxophones, trumpet, flugelhorn and flute. He also plays clarinet and the digital Ewi 5000, and is an exponent of traditional Maori instruments nga Taonga Puoro. With such a wide range of musical skills Roger also teaches music. He also loves to play and sing his original songs and waiata Maori.
Roger has played many styles of music from country to rock’n’roll, taking in gospel, big band and show band (with Rim De Paul and the late Sir Howard Morrison), Reggae groups 1814, House of Shem, Home Fires Burning, Under the Sun, Ranea and Ruia Aperahama, Osmosis Blues, Private Eye, The Untouchables, Senators and The Blues Brothers Show. Daryl Cogger (Count Me In Band) and Chris Gunn are both longtime friends. He has also appeared on TVNZ’s Good Morning show and Maori TV, and has performed in outdoor concerts with Eddie Raynor (of Split Enz, Crowded House, Space Waltz, etc.) and the NZSO.
Roger is the founder of the Wainui Jazz, Blues and Poetry Club in Wellington. He also supports many different artists; Clazzmatic Boogie Orchestra (Whanganui), Angela Crawford Jazz Connection (Whanganui), the Kapiti Coast and Rotorua Jazz Clubs. Afro Beat Sam Manzanza from Congo Africa and the talented pianist and guitarist Eddie Petersen from Cape Town, South Africa. Roger enjoys sharing his music talents through Hospice, The Wellington Health Board, Healing Conferences and Music Foundation at local schools. He has been with The Pink Floyd Experience since 2001.
Rob Ju (Drums)
Having first shown an interest in drumming when he was about 6 or 7 years old, as a kid Rob would jam along with his favourite songs on a cardboard box with his mum’s knitting needles. Now a few years older he has nearly 40 years of drumming experience behind him. He acquired his first real drum kit at about 12 years of age and has never looked back since. He was playing in bands at High School by the age of 15 and since then has played in some of Wellington’s finest cover bands. The pinnacle of it all would have to be joining the Pink Floyd Experience in 1998.
People say that Rob is very talented as he has an uncanny ability to learn any instrument really easily. Musically his tastes range from Rock and Blues to Jazz to Afro Cuban to Dub and Reggae. He’s also a very accomplished vocalist, but his other talents are far more diverse than many would realise. This is reflected in his love of fine wood and the many forms of woodworking from carving to furniture making and yes, he makes his own line of high-quality drums! He is also successfully selling drum kits to professional drummers and getting back rave reviews. You can hear him use a couple of his hand made snares with The Pink Floyd Experience.
But there is still more to Rob than just woodwork and music. He is a devoted father and husband with a beautiful wife and daughter and, after a personal experience about 15 years ago, he became a Christian. Since then his faith has also played a huge part in his life, helping him navigate his way through.
His other interests include surfing, free diving and fishing.
Jeremy Fitzsimons (Percussion, Keyboards, sound effects)
Jeremy has been freelancing as a percussionist in Wellington for the last 25 years. Now principal percussionist for Orchestra Wellington, he has also played regularly with the NZSO since 1993. He has recorded CDs of marimba and percussion music with Gareth Farr and John Psathas, toured as marimbist with Chamber Music NZ, and was a founding member of Strike Percussion and Gareth Farr’s Drumdrag. Other projects include being a guest soloist at a marimba festival in Portugal, as an ensemble soloist with the APO, and performing in many international shows including Wicked, Mary Poppins, and Les Miserables.
A 1996 Fulbright Scholar, Jeremy has a Bachelor of Music with First Class Honours from Victoria University of Wellington as well as a Masters and an Advanced Performance Certificate from Northwestern University in Chicago where he studied with Michael Burritt, James Ross and Paul Wertico. He is a graduate of the Leigh Howard Stevens International Marimba Seminar in New Jersey and the Music Academy of the West in California.
Jeremy joined The Pink Floyd Experience in 2011 for the PULSE tour. He enjoys the challenges of supplying percussion and sound effects for the Pink Floyd catalogue while avoiding becoming the target of our notorious tour pranks.
Kirsten Te Rito (Backing Vocals)
Kirsten Te Rito is a vocalist, songwriter and producer from Wellington, from Ngati Kahungunu and Rongomaiwahine iwi.
Sydney Morning Herald called her vocals ‘spectacular’, and that’s no exaggeration. In 2016 Kirsten’s sophomore album Aiotanga was a finalist at the Vodafone NZ Music Awards, won Best Maori Pop Album and Best Maori Urban Album at the Waiata Maori Music Awards. Her song Tamaiti Ngaro was a finalist for the APRA Maioha Silver Scroll Award.
Kirsten has lent her vocals to many bands and projects including The Little Bushman, NZSO and the Auckland Philharmonic, WAI – with tours in Europe and gigs in NZ, Tui Award Winning Jazz Album Resonator by Reuben Bradley, an album and gigs in the USA with Maori female A Capella group Whiri Te Aka, the Royal New Zealand Air Force Band tour 2017, Australian Hip Hop group Bliss n Eso’s album and Australian tour Circus in the Sky. Her vocals will also feature on Bliss n Eso’s upcoming 2017 album release.
Currently Kirsten is working on two new original music projects of her own; a five track Te Reo Maori EP - Kaitiaki and an English language album titled Mother’s Garden due for release in 2017.
Wini Baxter (Backing Vocals)
Wini loves her family, she loves her food and she definitely loves being on tour with The Pink Floyd Experience!
Having toured with The Pink Floyd Experience since 2009 Wini has found that they truly are the ‘ultimate whanau’, especially on tour. As for the naughtiness and pranks, her motto is ‘what goes on tour stays on tour, right?’
Music has been a BIG part of Wini’s life for at least 40 years though she swears that she is still 21 (go figure!). She will sing anytime, anywhere, for anyone. This has led her to work alongside talented NZ singer/songwriter artists, i.e. Ria Hall,Iva Lankum, Hollie Smith, Sasha V, Rosita Vai, Bella Kalolo and TJ Taotua. She also joined Reggae group Revolution with singer/songwriter Wiremu Barriball and opening for artists such as Katchafire, House of Shem, Spawn Breezie, Fiji and JBoog.
In between her multiple singing engagements Wini somehow managed to have some (that is to say, seven) kids and get herself an awesome husband who she describes as a ‘music guru’. Wini and her husband also formed Jazz duo TOUCHE ‘to pay the bills’ and still perform together today!
Bella Kalolo (Backing Vocals)
Hailing from Christchurch, this Samoan, Tongan and Maori (Ngati Porou) Soul Sister has been handpicked to work with artists as diverse as Mos Def, Ciara, Renee Geyer, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Dave Dobbyn, Hollie Smith, the NZSO and more recently soul legend Chaka Khan. Her reputation as one of NZ’s most entertaining performers has earned her spots at Glastonbury, City Of London Festival, Sydney Festival, Java Jazz Festival (Jakarta, Indonesia) and, closer to home; Tauranga Jazz Fest, Waiheke Jazz Fest, the Parachute Festival and the huge Waitangi Day celebrations at Flatbush, Manukau.
With acclaimed releases Without the Paper (2011) and Time and Space EP (2013) under her belt Bella was awarded Best Pacific Female artist in the Vodafone Pacific music awards in 2012 and 2014.
After Bella’s performance at the Sydney Festival Launch January 2014, soul legend, Chaka Khan asked to meet her, inviting her to perform I’m Every Woman at with her at a free concert at The Sydney Domain on Saturday to an audience of over 60,000 people.
Bella was also honoured to be included on the programme Soulfest (New Zealand’s first soul festival held in October 2014). The lineup included D’Angelo, Maxwell, Common and Angie Stone who also invited her on stage to sing backing vocals to her famous song Wish I Didn’t Miss You.
Bella is one of New Zealand’s most exciting artists and has worked extensively as a vocalist for the last ten years performing and/or recording with Don McGlashan, Dave Dobbyn and the NZSO. She is also resident singer for TVNZs Dancing With The Stars, Nathan Haines, Sammy J and Aaradhna. Her role as a backing vocalist to the latter gave her the opportunity to extensively tour the USA in July/August 2013 alongside international Grammy nominated reggae artist J Boog and Reggae favourites, Katchafire.
Bella’s movie and TV credits include Sione’s Wedding, Matariki, The Orator, Jandals Away and Fresh TV. Musical theatre credits include Disney’s The Lion King (Pioneer Cast, Sydney, Australia) and The Auckland Theatre Company’s productions of Hair, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Little Shop Of Horrors.
Bella loves cooking, laughing and being a clown and she always loves to tour with her Pink Floyd Experience family!