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Pseudo Echo were one of the more prominent Australian music exports of the 1980s, making it on charts worldwide with infectious pop singles including Listening, Love An Adventure, Living In A Dream, and A Beat For You. Currently touring Australia, they’ve just released a new single in Suddenly Silently. Antonino Tati chats to lead singer Brian Canham about making music today compared to the way it was back when.
Hi Brian. What have you been up to these past few years?
I’ve had a lot of various things going on. Been doing lots of production, and I’ve done my first ever feature film score.
The film score is fully instrumental?
Yeah, it’s kind of folksy world music. The film itself is an arthouse black comedy. It was probably most challenging thing to do because of all the films I’d like to score, the last choice would have been a comedy. And a dark one at that. But it turned out fantastic, and I had a ball.
When you’re scoring a film, do you have to watch it over and over and over again to really get the feel of it?
Oh yes. This particular film goes for 90 minutes, and I had it cut up on my computer in about 30 sections.
How different is film scoring to, say, cutting a three or four-minute pop track?
[Laughs] It makes the pop stuff seem real easy! But I still enjoying making pop songs and playing with the band. A bit of diversity, you know?
Do you keep up with peers of your early era, the Eighties?
Definitely. I wouldn’t say it was a great social thing at this age because we’ve all got families and things to do, but we’re all good mates, and it’s a really good vibe between us when we do bump into each other. When we did our 30th anniversary at Crown Palms a few months ago, it was great to see the guys from Uncanny X-Men there, and Wa Wa Nee, Real Life… there were so many band members there and it was a really great feeling.
What do you think of all the retro that’s coming back? There are certainly a lot of revivals of Eighties and Nineties bands touring.
Well I thought it would have been a flash-in-the-pan thing, but it’s sort of hanging around. I love it, actually. And also, to see new bands being influenced by the older bands is fantastic.
What do you consider the main differences in making and delivering music today compared to in the Eighties?
It was a much more epic task in the Eighties. It was quite exciting because there was all this new technology around: synthesisers, samplers, drum machines, harmonisers… all this radically new technology that had never been seen before. And that technology informed a lot of the way we worked and wrote and made the songs. Music back then was recorded on analogue tapes: 24 tracks if you were working on a good, big system, or if you got carried away like we used to on a few of our albums, you might have had three of those things lined up. And it was just such a saga to work on even one song! I think what we take for granted now is the random access you can have with a timeline. You can, for example, say ‘Let’s go to chorus to’ and you just point to chorus to and you’re there. When we going back and forth, you had to rewind the tape, start playing it, get carried away, then suddenly realise you were in the wrong chorus! It was a longer, more laborious task back then, that’s for sure.
What about content and quality; do you think there’s a difference in structure of songs today to that of songs back then?
Undoubtedly. What’s happening now is that structure is giving way, which I really welcome. Which I think is good. You know, songs aren’t necessarily verse/chorus/verse/chorus/middle eight/chorus/out. There’s a lot of continual evolvement in the arrangement of songs these days. Probably not on the most ‘pop’ radio stations, but there’s a healthy dose of it around, and I find that really enlightening to hear right now. It’s a bit like classical music was in its day: just repeating sections in a different order.
What about image, and individuality versus homogeny on the music scene. I mean back in the Eighties, sure you were all ‘New Romantics’ but you could tell Spandau Ballet apart from Duran Duran and apart from Pseudo Echo…
I think there some homogeny going on today, but there are definitely exceptions to the rules. And thank god there are because there are some amazing artists out there. But you’re right, when you listen and look at the main Billboard charts in the US, it sounds like there’s five producers per hundred bands. They really do have a similar sound. Indeed, they use a lot of the same songwriting teams , same production teams, and same studios… for the manufactured stuff – your boy bands and your girl bands and that.
Do you miss the art of the remix?
Well the remix was hysterical how we used to do it. I wouldn’t do one now the way we used to do them. We used to have to roll the tape, set up different mixes on the console, pick which bit went with what, bounce that off to another machine, and you had to do that for every different sound you’d want. Then you’d go back to all the parts, cut them all up, stick them together – literally, with tape – and listen to it. And if it didn’t work, you had to undo the tape, record another bit, and make it work. And that would take days. You still spend as much time making tracks these days, but it’s so much easier. You just get a song, look at the screen and go cut/cut/cut!
What do you think of modern dance remixes?
The thing I find most amusing about dance mixes these days is that they spend most of the time building up to where the beat comes in, rather than cut to the bit where the beat is in. It’s all about the climax. It builds, and builds, and builds, and just when you think it’s going to go ‘bam’, it doesn’t!
Of all your discography, what would you say was one song that stands out as most appealing to you?
I have my current favourites, and my old favourites. I guess Love An Adventure as a track has always been significant, because it seemed to encapsulate everything about the Eighties in one song: samples, the use of traditional instruments with the latest technology, and even the [pop art] sentiment of the clip. And there’s a recent song, that you can only get as a bonus song on the digi-single of our latest single Suddenly Silently. It’s called Fighting The Tide and that is probably the band’s favourite at the moment. We all seem to have a vibe when we play that one live.
You’re touring now, yes?
Yes, we’ve played Melbourne and Sydney, currently in Adelaide, then Perth, and we finish up in Canberra in September.
Are your audiences quite mixed?
We’ve found that we’re really starting to get a broader cross-section. Predominantly late 30s to early 40s, which is great, but we’re just delving into the next generation and we get a kick out of having a somewhat of a younger part of the audience at our gigs now, too.
Pseudo Echo play the Governor Hindmarsh, SA on Friday 24 August, the Charles Hotel in Perth on Saturday 25 August, Eatons Hill Hotel in QLD on Friday 7 September, and The Abbey in Canberra on Saturday 15 September. Tickets are available through Moshtix 1300 GET TIX or www.moshtix.com.au or www.venuetix.com.au. The new single Suddenly Silently is available on iTunes and from JB Hi-Fi stores.
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