The "I Hope I Go To Heaven" single is slated for early April at this stage, with the double CD to follow in May. The planned March dates have also not materialised as yet, but rest assured Pseudos will get to you eventually! Melbourne and Geelong fans have less time to wait as the band plays the Mercury Lounge at Crown Casino this Saturday night and The Lyric in Geelong on March 18.
Thanks to Karen McAlister
Pseudo Echo were a Melbourne based electronic band that broke away from a scene in the early 80's known as the Electronic Music Club (EMC). The EMC was loosely based on a collection of bands who used the primitive electronics in 1983 to produce both experimental, dance and music which was a mixture of the two. The club opened on the 16th of May (Monday nights) with Human Backs, Donno Detti and Modern Jazz. Pseudo Echo made their first appearance with the club on 6th of June along with a band called the Ides of March (unfortunately I had to leave at the end of their sound check and didn't get to see them until they had well and truely broken in Australia). Soon, after they were discovered by a prominent local music personality and after presenting demo's of 'Listening' and 'Dancing Until Midnight', they became extremely popular with their first two albums and a string of hit singles in Australia. They lost direction with the release of the disappointing third album presenting a marshmellow metal approach which was not very well received, after the easy success of the first two albums the they found it hard to accept defeat and gave up.
What happened to the other EMC bands? Many released excellent demo tapes and a collective tape, a compilation album was released in England called 'The Signal to Noise Set'. Released by Only a Revolution with the serial number Only 2, it was 'Part 1 of OaR's great cities of the world music series', I don't know whether there was a part 2. Some bands released various singles and albums but never acheived commercial success.
- Brian Canham - Lead vocals, Guitars, Keyboards
- Pierre Pierre - Bass instruments, Keyboards, Vocals
- Tony Lugton - Keyboards, Vocals
- Anthony Johan Agiro - Drums, Percussion
Later Tony Lugton and Anthony Agiro were replaced by James and Vince Leigh.
Today most of the members are still in the music industry. Brian Canham produces and is back-up guitarist for Chocolate Starfish as well as producing a new Melbourne band called Magnetic, he also does some advertising and jingle work. The Leigh brothers play in Tina Arena's backing band after forming Bainsy Leigh which met with little success. Piero Gigliotti works in a restaurant in the Melbourne subrbs and plays bass in a local cafe band called sofa. Initially after leaving Pseudo Echo he played in a Bowie cover band called Dogs, then one called All The Young Dudes. Of the original members, Anthony Agiro plays in Red Texas and Tony Lugton works in a local music shop.
The latest news thanks to Jason (25/1/97)
Brian Canham is now playing in a band called 'Brill' which is sort of jangly and raucous. The Leigh brothers along with a third Leigh brother have a band called Vertigo which is soon to release some material. He said that Vertigo had an 80's sound to them and sound something like Babylon Zoo.
New from Brian Canham (29/4/97)
Brill have their own page:
Looks like Brill will be touring Australia from June on. And our new Album scheduled for June 10 release exclusively through BRASHS....
- Listening / In Their Time (Oz) 1983
- Listening / From the Shore (UK) 1984
- Listening / Lonely Without You (US) 1985
- Dancing Until Midnight / Scripts 1984
- Stranger In Me / Turning the Pages 1984
- A Beat for You / Autumnal Park (Oz) 1985
- Don't Go / Living in a Dream 1985
- Love an Adventure / All Tied Up 1986
- Living in a Dream / Loose Ends 1986
- Try/Lonelt Without You 1986
- Funky Town / Lies are Nothing 1986
- Fooled Again / Take On The World 1988
- Over Tomorrow / Wings 1989
- Eye of the Storm / Don't You Forget 1989
"Unfortunately the first album ('Autumnal Park') was never relesed on CD. The 2nd album 'Love An Adventure' was released on CD, both here and overseas. There are 2 versions of the 'Love An Adventure' CD, with the OS version bearing a different cover art (Pseudo Echo's famous sunset portrait) and a couple songs from the first album, which were remixed, ( or should I say destroyed ! )...
Anyway all I can do is give you the catalog number of the " Love An Adventure " CD.... CDP 7 46257 2."
- A Beat for You, See Through, From the Shore, Stranger in Me, Dancing Until Midnight
- Listening, His Eyes, Walkaway, Fast Cars, Destination Unknown
Love An Adventure
- Love an Adventure, Don't Go, Try, I Will Be You, Girl
- Living in a Dream, I Ask You Why, Lonely Without You, Lies Are Nothing, Tell Me
Long Plays - 83-87
- Listening, A Beat for You, Stranger in Me, Don't Go
- Love an Adventure, Living in a Dream, Destination Unknown, Funky Town
- Fooled Again, Over Tomorrow, Caught, Imagination, Don't You Forget
- Runaways, Searching for a Glory, Take on the World, Metropolis, Eye of the Storm
Best Adventures reviewed by Cameron Adams from Melbourne's Beat Magazine.
If nothing else, Best Adventures proves just how wrong things can go. In under an hour (and in the course of just three albums), Pseudo Echo go from sounding like Visage to Van Halen, all in the pursuit of credibility.
Their debut album Autumnal Park made them accidental popstars, although it had pure pop songs like Listening and A Beat For You it was generally filled with moody electronic soundscapes heavily influenced by the likes of Japan (Brian Canham had the David Sylvian drone down pat), Roxy Music and Duran Duran. In fact they soon became Melbourne's own Duran Duran, the popstars you could bump into if you went to the right clubs or shopped in the right places.
By their second album Love An Adventure the dark cloud had lifted and they enjoyed their status as pop stars. Love An Adventure remains one of the best pure-pop albums released in this country, during recording each track was worked on as if it was to be a single, and as a result, most of them were. The naggingly catchy Don't Go was a hit by design (Brian Canham now makes jingles probably using much the same method), Love An Adventure was their epic pop moment, while album track Try somehow escaped selection as a single, it's funky grooves strangely recall The Bomb by the Bucketheads in places.
Living In A Dream introduced rock to the equation, with screaming guitar punctuating the mix. And from there it was a short step to their de-discofying of Funky Town, a national number one for over two months (no mean feat) and top ten in both the UK and US.
It was touring for that hit, and the constant accusations of being a hairdresser band, that led to their demise with album number three, Race. Half the band thought they were in Van Halen, and as Canham states now, the original mixes (ala Funky Town) were sent to LA for poodle-rocking.
So Best Adventures is at least chronological, highlighting the rise, the peak and the fall, but is not as comprehensive as it should be. Singles are missing (Stranger In Me), key album tracks are absent, and there's nothing as simple as a 1995 remix of one of the older tunes to hang this collection on. Still, it serves as a lesson to anyone who's ever picked up a guitar. Or a synthesizer.
Beat magazine, sometime in 1989
Pseudo Echo are back but they never really left
Three years after the release of the successful Love An Adventure album, Pseudo Echo are proud to announce that their new record, Race is even better than their last. Everyone, including the band, would certainly hope so. Meeting and chatting to bassist Pierre Gigliotti in the spacious boudoirs of EMI, Nik Garifalakis enquired as to why rock-gods such as Pseudo Echo still feel they are running a race.
"Back in a minute," were the first words uttered by Gigliotti, as he rushed onto York Street to move his white Porsche. "The last thing I need is a parking ticket today." Although tired, he looked exceedingly bubbly as he rushed back upstairs to conduct yet another in a string of interviews scheduled perhaps a week too late considering that Pseudo Echo finished their Melbourne stint last Sunday. But gigs aren't the only thing on the line right now. The Pseudos' latest record is about to be released and you can tell that a few people are nervous. It's a step away from the sound which made them distinct and subsequently popular in the early 1980s moving away from the synthesizer and focussing more on the raw talents of each band member.
"There's no sequencing on Race," Pierre thoughtfully says, "no machines whatsoever. Love An Adventure was absolutely flooded with machines and very little of us as musicians were involved in it even though we programmed the things ourselves. It was a very dance-oriented album that had to compete with other dance tracks of the time. We had to take it from a club point of view. We couldn't have a dance track which had sloppy playing on it because once you play it next to an overseas dance song, then the difference would be obvious. It was a good album for its time though, just as Race is a good album which suits the times now
"The three year lull has also been good because we've had time to develop as musicians. The most important thing for us and any band is to play live. Play as much as you can. Because of this we didn't need any guest musicians on the new record. It's just the four of us."
Having played with frontman, Brian Canham since his high-school days, Pierre helped formulate and make popular the band's signature synth sound. When Pseudo Echo began making an impression on industry heavies and the public, they were a basic three-piece, new-wave band consisting of two synthesisers, a guitar and a drum machine.
"In those days we had the best places to play. We were very alternative when we started off - we had to be - and there were places like the Venetian Room, The Club and Macey's. If we weren't playing at Macey's on that Friday night, we'd be playing there on the Saturday and because we weren't at the Venetian Room that Saturday we'd be playing there the alternative Saturday. We basically lived in those places. Us and Kids In The Kitchen. That's how the whole thing started."
The later addition of brothers James and Vince Leigh on keyboards and drums saw the introduction of the new, heavier sounding Pseudo Echo. They emerged as a sound four-piece, totally capable of pro-ducing the goods without outside help.
"After recording Love An Adventure we came out of the studio and played the songs live and they lacked something. They were clinical, sterile and over-produced, so our live enthusiasm gave them a sharper and harder edge."
Seeing the band live reinforces this whole attitude. Gone are the days when seeing new wave bands meant acting cool and pretentious. Nowadays Pseudo Echo go for that sound and show which brings to light their true rock'n' roll roots. Pierre, Brian and James wow the crowd with sex, power and head-banging whereas Vince on drums sits, stands and plays, half-naked and with an energy derived from an unknown yet constant and unfailing source.
"Our shows now are pretty basic," Gigliotti humbly admits, "focussing mainly on the band, you know...a coupla lights, that sort of thing."
But it was the band's trip to America which saw their live experience develop from average to unshakeable professionalism. Even though Love An Adventure sold in excess of 350,000 copies and Funky Town hit the pop charts at No. 6 and the dance charts at No. 1, the band were largely untested in the States.
"Airplay is what really gets the Americans. You can play at any club but once they hear something like Funky Town or Living In A Dream they turn around and say: 'Weahll, that's who this baind is', and you've got them. The best thing about America is that it's the same size as Australia but has a million more cities in it so you can play at lots of clubs. We didn't do any major supports when we were over there but a lot of small headlining dates. One night we'd play to 60 people with two lights and the next we'd play to 600 people with 40 lights. That's the way it works."
As a result of their American visit, the Pseudos had one of their songs included on what Pierre calls a "Surf Porno Movie".
"l dunno....it's called North Shore and one of our songs is on it. It's available at your local video store I'm pretty sure," he laughs.
With the imminent release of Race, Pseudo Echo seem to have taken a great step away from the sound that made them famous. Perhaps some people think that it is too big a step, preferring to view the band as a memory rather than a living, working thing. Pierre credits this to the long time between albums.
"There has been a gradual development and all development is for the better. People look back to what they were and what they sounded like three years ago and they see a change. If we released an album during this quiet period then everyone could see the progress slowly developing. Instead we have two documents which reveal a large step for the band. The major thing now is that we're back and that we're playing live again. We want to get the album across as a live thing. We want to show the people that this is our album and that we're gonna play it live".
As the race is about to begin, Gigliotti has demonstrated a unique combination of urgency and calm. He seems the complacent professional and eager amateur at the same time. Perhaps it has to do with the gold circle around his finger he unknowingly played with during the interview and the gold circles he and Pseudo Echo are going to make for their record company.
Juke magazine, 29 March 1986
'I Played Styx At 78 r.p.m And Saw God!'
Shock confession from Brian Canham of PSEUDO ECHO as he melts away in the deep heat of North Queensland
By Christie Eliezer
Pic: Tony Mott
Ahhh, the deep North! Tropical palm trees lazily moving against the gorgeous blue skies, giant floating bikes, red lobsters and fresh pineapple for lunch, Moke rides on Magnetic Island half an hour away, brown-skinned girls, underwater fishing...
Alas, not for Brian Canham. Flying into Townsville from Cairns with the other Pseudo Echos to play a show at the Dean Park ampitheatre with The Divinyls, the harsh, op-pressive afternoon heat thumped him like a boxer.
While The Divinyls wasted no time organising a boat for a cruise through the nearby islands before the show, Canham was resting in his air-conditioned motel room, drinking copious amounts of iced tea.
Although Pseudo Echo insists there are no leaders in its unit, much of the interview work is left to Canham.
"Well, it's easier because I write the songs, so I can talk about them," he shrugged. "Besides, I've had the most practice at it, so I know what to say and what not to say. Sometimes you can just babble away and then it looks really horrible or stupid and you come across like a twit. So, you soon learn how to think before you talk."
Most touring musicians' rooms have the same accessories. Canham's room has its smattering of rock magazines, guitar cases, dirty socks, etc but does NOT have a tape recorder or cassettes.
"I don't take cassettes on tour, I generally don't like to listen to music. On the road you're in that environment where you're always exposed to music, so you try to get away from it except for the time that you're onstage."
Much, much later in the interview, when he'd opened up a lot more, he would shyly reveal that one of the reasons he tries not to listen to too much pop music (he is a fan of classical music and explains it's got as much power and energy as heavy rock) is that he is so obsessed about creating a "unique" sound for Pseudo Echo that he doesn't want to be "distracted" by too many external influences.
Brian Canham is a nice guy. Not "nice" as in that awful showbiz 'howya-doin' man' phoniness. Not "nice" in that wimpy, twerpy sense of the word. Just "nice" in the sense that he's earnest, believes quietly in his talents and that of the band, and doesn't even bitch back about those people who think that he and his band are a load of crap.
"I don't really care. I really don't," he shrugged. "I mean, if people thought Pseudo Echo was rubbish and no-one went out and bought the records or came to the shows, then I'd take it to heart. But if I was reading something like that when 'Love An Adventure' was No 1 in Melbourne and we'd just done a sell-out show the night before, who could take that seriously?"
Pseudo Echo is, of course, a POP band. By which (I mean) it's all about mass appeal, about being fashionable, being young, being cute, making music that's not supposed to make you reach down into the very deep black psyche of your soul. His criteria: if you hear it and you feel happy, that's all that's important. Which is not how a lot of people would view their rock music, but is that their or Canham's fault? In any case, the notion of being screamed at by young females is not something that appeals any more to Canham. He talked about shoving image into the back seat, of gaining credibility as musicians and writers. Now, a lot of pop bands tend to talk like this and end up taking a quick jump down the mine-shaft. But Canham, earnest young thing that he is, is adamant that the Pseudos have the musical clout to pull it off.
"Vince, for instance, is a great drummer - his father is a drum teacher; there's nothing that Vince doesn't know about drums because he's been playing them since he was very young. He's 100 per cent into the music, and his father taught him all about professional standards. And James is acknowledged by other musicians who know him as something of a whiz kid on keyboards."
"I can't really value myself as a guitarist, I probably don't rehearse enough. At the moment I'm going through a period where I'm gaining more and more security as a player because when we were working with Mark (Berry, the New York producer who worked on their current LP), he kept saying to me 'let yourself go a bit more because you've got the knack for it', and I'd never been encouraged like that before. At the moment I'm in limbo because I'd like to get another guitar player in, because I can be free half the time to handle the singing and half the time to work on the guitaring."
What Canham would like to see change around Pseudo Echo is the audience, widening from just a girls' crowd to a girls'/boys' crowd. And just these recent Queensland dates have proven to him that it is possible to have guys digging Pseudos music too.
"The furthest we've played up north is Noosa, although we've had hits up here, the LP went in the charts first week in around the Gold Coast and Brisbane area, for instance, and we've been playing to full houses in those areas. But the nice thing is that we're playing for the first time in places like Cairns and Townsville, and there are as many guys as there are girls in the audiences. And that's been gratifying for me because I want to be appreciated for my songs and for the way I play rather than the fact that someone might think my haircut's OK. I guess a lot of people in Melbourne and Sydney have been pre-conditioned to believe that we're just a stupid hairdressers band with no talent. But, when you have that opportunity where guys do come and see you, they DO enjoy what we do. The image is something I don't worry about. I mean, I haven't dyed my hair for a year now."
Onstage, Pseudo Echo's show is basically craftsmanlike if, at times, lightweight (although more recently the shows have got more thud to them). Which is fine by Canham, because that's his definition of pop, anyway, UsualIy their cover for the night is the old disco smash '(Won't You Take Me To) Funky Town'. If they get dragged back for a second encore, they pull out a Bryan Ferry-oriented rendition of 'Let's Stick Together'. Canham's music vision seemingly came from the clubs.
"When I was 18, I used to go down to The Croc (large club/disco in Melbourne - the Croxton Park Hotel). I never used to dance because I didn't think I was very good at it - even now I hate to see myself on TV because I don't look comfortable - but I used to watch and remem-ber the records that used to get the people dancing - Chic, The Bee Gees ... y'know, countless records by people whose names I can't remember, but they were just great songs which made you dance, which you felt good about. They were not art songs, they were just pop dance songs."
When it came rime for Canham to create a band, he merely took these values and translated them into flesh and blood. As luck would have it, Blitz and Duran Duran exploded in London, bringing with them the concept of flamboyant white disco music (remember all those bands like Midnight Oil who used to burn disco records, when they used to be made by black artists?). The Blitz movement took off in a big way in Melbourne, too, and sprayed up its own heroes. An Affair was THE blitz band, and a young Canham could often be seen watching and learning off them. But what sort of music had he listened to as a kid though?
"WelI, I used to like Styx."
A short moment while the writer recovers from the fact that not only would someone who created poppy dance music acknowledge liking those horrible US pomp-rockers, but would actually admit it in public!
"My brother's girlfriend used to work in a record company, and she used to get him Styx records. I saw one lying around at home; I was intrigued by the cover, put it on and I absolutely loved it. It was so polished and well crafted, and I liked that. I've got every Styx record ever made."
Who came after that? Bowie?
"No, no, I've never been into Bowie's music, never! What I liked was Ultravox music, 'Vienna', things like that."
Canham, of course, met Ultravox's Midge Ure when the latter came out to Melbourne as part of the E.A.T. concert 18 months ago. Although his friends say that Canham was ecstatic about meeting Ure and almost swooned at the possibility of writing an E A.T. song together (it was supposed to be recorded by all the top Aussie pop stars, but somehow got shelved), he now looks back at it in an almost distant, downplayed manner.
"It was nice to have met him, I suppose," he said coyly. "It was a brief meeting, and he seemed a bit jetlagged after getting off the plane from London. But, basically, he was coming to play with a whole host of musicians he hadn't met before, so I went out to the airport to meet him, so when he came to rehearsals he'd actually know a face, and he wouldn't be so uncomfortable." He seemed distinctly more excited when I mentioned in passing once having lunched with French synth-master Jean Michel-Jarre: Canham has all his records, and thinks he's peachy-keen.
The first Pseudo Echo LP was, of course, nothing more than a pale Ultravox re-hash. Canham instantly agreed.
"You start playing because you hero-worship somebody and, yes, when we recorded the first album we were at that stage where we were still hero-worshipping Ultravox. But if you listen carefully to the second LP, you'll see we're getting away from that, we're finding our feet as musicians who want to say something of our own. But in the circumstance we were in, that couldn't be helped. One minute we were playing the clubs, suddenly we had 'Listening' out on the charts and next minute we were in the studios. Of course it has a destabilising effect on you. Now all that has calmed down, and we can get on with making the music we WANT to make."
Of course, fame was to change Canham's life forever. Shoved into the spotlight, he could no longer be Mr Earnest Nice Guy. He was a star. The critics and progressive audience naturally hated him because everyone had their pet faves who they considered should have been selling records and grinning from TV. Of course, the Pseudos came at just the right time, when a new pop audience was looking for its young, flamboyant idols. Alongside Kids In The Kitchen and Uncanny X-Men, the Pseudos became pinup poodles. More so, there were those fans who took it to extremes. Like the ones who pestered him so much and forced him to change his telephone number a number of times before having to move out of the neighborhood to a new one… only to have the new address discovered by the end of the first week!
"There's a group of girls who call themselves Charlie's Angels who're snooping around the house or sending me letters. God knows how they discovered my address. They sent me a telegram in Cairns to my hotel room - and I can't for the life of me work out just how they discovered my hotel all the way in Cairns when they were still down in Melbourne. But that's definitely one of the most unpleasant aspects of this job - you completely lose your privacy. I can handle it when I'm on tour, because you're with the band and you're basically 'on duty'. But when you're out for a quiet dinner with your lady or want to be alone with your family and you get hassled, then it all becomes too much."
But isn't that the price you have to pay?
"But what has that got to do with anything? You walk down the street and someone calls out your name loudly, so everyone in the street turns around, or you're in a shop and they start singing one of your songs. It's so embarrassing. Some people might think it's nice to be in that position, of being forever the centre of attention, but it's not very nice at all."
Like going on Sounds and letting Australia know that no, you're not married?
"Wasn't that so humiliating!" He cringed at the recollection, and became vehement. "I'd referred to my lady in one of the glossy magazines as 'the wife' - which she more or less is, because we've been going out for eight years - and there were all these rumours going around and someone in the Sounds studio asked me about them. But I remember, when I answered the question on TV, thinking to myself 'what has this got to do with the songs I write or the way I play my guitar'?"
Yes, but being a pop idol is not just about the music; it's about someone else's fantasy.
"Well, I'm not sure it should be that way." Pause while he deliberated a point. "Do you remember the movie King Of Comedy, about this fan who became so obsessed with a celebrity . . . all my friends thought it was a really funny movie, but I didn't. I wasn't amused because all the way through I kept thinking to myself 'but it's too true, it's too true'. Being obsessed with someone you don't know is a very unhealthy thing."
On the other hand, had the Pseudos ever been picked on by jealous guys?
"I normally don't have that problem, because I think I'm pretty much down to Earth, like the other guys in the band. We don't put on airs or antagonise people. But, once in Tasmania, there was this group of rough looking guys who thought we were too weird looking and started mouthing off to me. I was going to punch the guy out, because I was so mad, but the rest of the guys dragged me off."
Canham, along with James and Vin Leigh, want to get their own home studio together. The idea is, when a song idea comes at four in the morning, then one needs to be able to get it down on tape.
"Funnily enough, I've got a theory about songs. That is, if you have a riff running through your head and then you forget it, then it couldn't have been much of a riff anyway. But it is nice to have a place where you can experiment and put down your ideas. Some you use, some you store and, hopefully, use another day, some you discard."
Is there anything he wanted to say to the world through Pseudo Echo?
"We're not a statement band, but I think lyrics are important. I hear most of my music on the radio, and I guess it's shaped the way I think. To me, music is a happy, celebratory sort of thing. That's exactly what Pseudo Echo music and lyrics are. We don't pretend otherwise. The situations we sing about are people in safe and happy situations. There's nothing offensive about our material - and I think that seems to annoy people. I don't know why, but it does."
They expect more depth in music, maybe?
"Do they think being offensive gives you depth, then? Maybe I have different criteria. But I like catchy lyrics, I like the way one line rhymes with the one above it. I think it's creative when one line flows into another while rhyming; there's a knack to that."
So, he listens to the lyrics first when he hears a piece of music?
"No, surprisingly, I hardly listen to the lyrics! I listen to the melody, I listen to the feel of the music."
There will, of course, always be a difference between Pop and Rock. Pop is infectious, happy, probably lightweight. Rock is more meaningful, deeper, less attuned to mass success. When you get down to it, there's probably as much of an art in creating great Pop as there is in creating great Rock, except different tools are employed. The problem, though, is that critics generally tend to come from the Rock school of appreciation. Aside from Sydney's Glenn Baker and Murray Engleheart and Adelaide's David Sly, I can't really think of any other Oz critic who understands the working of Pop and gives it an iota of credibility. Pseudo Echo, of course, aren't thinking about Super-Credibility. They know the hip critics don't like them and probably never will. They see their success in terms of records that are blasted out enough times in the clubs, which make people happy enough to buy them and get them into the charts, and then come and see the shows. They see their ultimate success in those very people coming up and acknowledging they like Pseudo Echo because they play well, rather than because they have the sort of faces that are imprinted on pillow-cases and over bedroom walls.
I asked Canham if he realised there's a hostility coming to him from Juke and much of the Australian rock press. I gave him the chance to fight back, to name names, and, of course, give myself some good copy.
Strangely, he didn't bite.
He paused for a minute and said, deliberating, "Not really. There have been some interviews where they've really torn into you, but that's okay. They just think differently from me. But I only get annoyed when somebody deliberately writes untrue things about us. Like, there was a guy in Adelaide who reviewed our gig and said we were awful and terrible, and we were only doing old material, blah, blah. I don't mind if people think Pseudo Echo played terribly, or that our songs are all rubbish. I really don't. But I don't like it when they say we don't play new songs because we hardly play any of the old stuff, and most of the set is new. That's what annoys me."
Like I said, Brian Canham is a nice, earnest guy.
Beat magazine, 1995
Article - A Beat For You
For a large part of the 80s, Pseudo Echo were one of Australia's most successful bands, as they journeyed from fairly successful New Romantic atmospherics to pure chart-friendly pop. And then it all ended virtually overnight. ANTHONY HORAN caught up with the band's driving force - and now successful record producer - Brian Canham.
Listening to the newly-released CD compilation Best Adventures, you can't help but marvel at the brief but brightly burning career of this often-forgotten Melbourne band. They recorded just three albums, but for a while everything they touched turned to record sales and chart positions - Melbourne's first pure pop stars of the 80s, at a time when the bulk of our pop fodder originated from England. Pseudo Echo initially modelled themselves on the New Romantic movement, slotting neatly into the Duran Duran mould with lead singer Brian Canham deliberately affecting his vocals in the manner of David Sylvian and contemporaries. When Molly Meldrum ran across the band and put their demo version of Listening on Countdown, all hell broke loose. The band found themselves signed to EMI and in the studio in no time, recording the released version of 'Listening' with Sydney producer Peter Dawkins - whose credit, incidentally, was inadvertently left off the new compilation.
"Oh, no... sincere apologies to Peter Dawkins for that," says a surprised Brian Canham. "I feel guilty about him, because I was an arrogant little bastard when I was young. I was a major upstart, I thought I knew everything. And poor old Peter Dawkins, he showed me a thing or two about producing let me tell you. I thought I knew it all. At least I had the sense to shut up and listen."
The resulting single was an almost instant hit, the first of several from the band's debut album Autumnal Park - which has never been released on CD, the five tracks included on Best Adventures marking the songs' digital debuts. For the Autumnal Park album, single success meant a bigger budget and a high-profile overseas producer. The man who eventually made the trip to Australia to take on production duties was renowned Roxy Music and Japan producer John Punter. While the results were state-of-the-art for the time, Canham and Punter didn't get along entirely well...
"He was a schmuck He was an idiot. I reckon that the producing skills I have now have been learnt from the bad producers we've worked with. I think I've learned some more about what I shouldn't do. I mean, talk about no tact - they come in with their drum machine and start doing things to the album without even telling the band about it. I still, on that album, probably played a big part in the production myself, even though it was unofficial; looking back now, I was doing the same thing then that I'm doing now. I just remember John being like George Martin would have been with The Beatles, he was like your dad or your headmaster. A bad vibe, definitely. He was recommended to us by the record company; we wanted somebody like Trevor Horn or (Duran Duran producer) Colin Thurston. John was just an old grump, we used to have conflicts all the time; but there were still a few good things, but I still think now when I look back that all the major arrangement changes that we did with those songs were my ideas. He was more of an engineer. You really need someone who's got a bit of a vibe, a bit of personality. These guys also weren't musicians, which was a bit of a drag."
Canham doesn't have much to say in favour of Autumnal Park, though listening to it today, over a decade after it was released, this product of a unique time still has a lot to offer to pop fans rediscovering the music of the early 80s.
"It sounds like shit, I reckon," Canham, now a fully-fledged producer and advertising jingle composer, says quickly. "On the CD it sounds OK, I have to be honest. But I was listening to Autumnal Park recently off cassette and it sounded like shit, so little and with all these echoes stuck all over it. But listening to the tracks on the CD compilation, It does sound a lot better - the cassette I have is pretty old."
For the second album, Love An Adventure, many changes were to take place. Keyboardist Tony Lugton departed before recording commenced and drummer Anthony Argiro left just after it, to be replaced by brothers James and Vince Leigh respectively. And the New Romantic influence was summarily dismissed, replaced with a more accessible style of pure pop.
"I think we were influenced by a couple of our friends' bands," recalls Canham. "Bands like The Venetians, Kids In The Kitchen. I kind of liked the way that they were getting a bit more of a broad audience than us. I didn't think any of them were great bands, but I liked the way their music was a bit broader in appeal, where ours had been too narrow, dark, minor key. The stuff on Love An Adventure had a funkier groove; I'd gotten a taste of the other stuff that was around, and it was more challenging for me to write songs that would potentially be hits."
And then all hell broke loose, with the band recording a song that had been a feature of their live set for a while - a cover of the classic 70s disco hit by Lipps Inc., Funkytown. The Pseudo Echo version went Top 10 worldwide. It was to be their final hit.
"I think the choice of song was good, the timing was good, and around that time I was heavily influenced by Bananarama's version of Venus; that was very clever, and that was the start of it all for me. I'd always had this fetish about Funkytown, too - this guy, Steve Crosby, played it to me in the early 80s, and said it would be a great song to cover. We both laughed about it at the time, but that moment stuck in my mind. I really wanted to do it, and I just had all these ideas in my mind about what I wanted to do with it. When we learnt it, we didn't listen to the original very closely, so there are some chords that are different, and I sing the tune of the chorus with slightly different timing; I think that was the best thing about it - we interpreted it our way."
1989's Race album, though was a different kettle of fish.The Leigh brothers' desire to emulate US rock bands like Van Halen resulted in a record full of bombastic rock anthems, surprisingly co-produced by Pet Shop Boys mainstay Julian Mendelsohn. To compound matters, the entire album was remixed in the US before release without the band's approval; the original versions remain in the vaults. Race stuffed, and within months, Pseudo Echo were no more.
"I must admit, we were a pretty fortunate band," says Canham. "We were used to success, we were used to every single we released being a hit.You'd put out a single and you'd know it was going to be a hit. You were never nervous or worried about it. You'd just wait for someone to give you a call and tell you that the song was number 10 in the charts already. You got used to that happening. And then Race came along and debuted at some awful figure, and we were like, 'what's going on here?' We lost all our media exposure and everything, and I think we were pretty sore losers. We weren't used to not having success, so as soon as that happened we just thought we'd get out while the memories were good. EMI actually offered us another deal for another album, but James and Vince wanted to go off and do their own thing. Pierre was in there till the end, but I was in two minds. My business mind told me not to knock it back, but with half the band going off and doing their solo things, I wasn't really into it, and it just wasn't meant to be. So I went off on my production trips."
There is still talk of a couple of reunion gigs, as well as much speculation about 90s remixes of Pseudo Echo material. The former may still happen, but there's a major barrier to any new mixes appearing of any of the early Pseudo Echo catalague - no-one thought to keep track of the irreplaceable master tapes.
"The multitracks are lost, we don't know where they are. A lot of people have enquired about doing dance mixes of Love An Adventure and other songs, but the only way it could be done now is by me re-singing them. I've got all the sounds - between James and I we've got all of the samples from all of the songs that we made - but we'd have to do it all again. We could do it, though, we've got all the stuff… and I've still got the voice!"
Stay tuned for more live shots from the early days!
Apart from recording the gig for a projected "live album", we will most likely be performing a brand new song, and are currently talking to record companies with a new album in mind !
Brill will still exist as a side project (as it was originaly intended), but probably won't be doing any live shows until we release our album in America ( March ).
I would like to thank everybody for their continued support and I should mention that all the PE shows have been absolutely fantastic, a real journey into the past ( or should I say " a journey into my mind - woh oh, woh oh" )
Pseudo Echo, (Brian Canham & Pierre Pierre) along with Brill drummer & Bad Loves keyboard player, played a one off New Years Eve gig in Sydney at the Retro club.
The theme was based mainly on the original vibe of the early 80's PE,
complete with a Simmons electronic drum kit, Roland JP8 & Yamaha DX7 keyboards.
Just got back down from the cloud I was on and thought I should let you know how the PE gig in Syd. at the Club Retro went on New Years Eve.
Well it was absolutely faaaaantastic.
It was jammed packed with over 2000 people singing every word of every song from start to finish, ( what a rush ) it was like we were famous or something !
Tony Featherstone ( Badloves ) who played keys on the night, said it was the highlight of his music career !
The crowd was mainly people aged from around 25 - 35, including those who were always too young to get into our gigs in the 80's, so it was a great feeling all round.
Also among the the crowd various celebs were spotted, including Darren Hayes ( Savage Garden ) also a self confessed PE fan from way back and fellow Badloves guitarist - Jack Housden.
Anyway looks like were going to to more shows to cover every state now. I'll keep you posted with dates.
Have a great new year......