An interview with Brian Canham by Jason
Part One | to Part Two
On Saturday 29th April, 2006 I finally interviewed Brian Canham of my favourite Australian band Pseudo Echo. Pseudo Echo got their big break in 1983 appearing on Countdown performing a demo version of "Listening". "Listening" ended up going Top Ten in Australia and they released their amazing debut album, "Autumnal Park" in 1984 with another hit "A Beat for You". Other fabulous singles included "Dancing until Midnight" and "Stranger in Me".
In 1985 the album "Love and Adventure" spawned the hits "Don't Go", "Love an Adventure" and "Living In a Dream". In 1986 came the massive hit and cover "Funky Town" originally recorded by Lipps Inc. "Funky Town" was not only a hit in Australia but also went Top Ten in the US and UK. By the end of the '80s the release of "Race" saw a big change of direction as Pseudo Echo turned into a rock band. Pseudo Echo will always be remembered for their brilliant, catchy and fantastic synth pop and Australia's pioneering New Romantic band who took a risk and were creative in the early 80's Australian music scene.
Brian: Did we support Psychedelic Furs did we?
Jason: Yeah you did Brian: Ah, that's great
Jason: Did you feel being an Australian band at a time when OZ bands were more or less pub rock with the exception of a few compared to the UK scene a great opportunity to be recognized and maybe change the direction of what Australian music was at that particular time?
Brian: Yeah I think when we started; you've got to remember we started really back in high school kind of with the ultimate plan.
So yeah, which we were just like a funny kind of rocky sort of daggy band like any band in the 70s, and then we sort of went a bit New Wavish. Then by the time the 80s came around we were always trying to find what the new thing was and we didn't really like just being like the local bands, we just thought oh no, we were a little bit better than that.
Jason: Yes, true!
Brian: So in the 80s we were sort of this new wave band and I think we were called "Secret Agents" or something silly like that and we met John Justin from you know John Justin!... Yeah, and John kind of got us some breaks and he said your band should open for mine or something like that. We saw his band and we were blown away and thought that's the coolest thing we've ever seen. He also had a band called "The Modesty", same band but just a different keyboard player then they changed to "An Affair". And I remember just thinking that was the coolest band ever and being in awe of John and his presence on stage and so you know, probably an extreme influence by John. So the pub rock thing yeah, was definitely a bit scary because we decided we're going to be this hip European thing and it was really airy flairy with the make up and no big power guitar and it was all artsy fartsy and everything was sort of different.
We definitely thought that was it, and we just said this is the sound and this is going to work. And we thought if we could hold a band together, because that was our hardest problem with Pierre and I as members were never that dedicated, they'd leave. We would have a drummer and he would go its great then he would say "Oh, I've got a day job and I'm going to be cook or something".
Brian: So I think by the time we got Pseudo Echo and we found Tony and we thought you know, we just thought we reckon were onto something but we always thought that!
Jason: Then in 1983 Molly Meldrum spotted Pseudo Echo playing a gig in Melbourne. Do you remember where that gig was held?
Brian: That was "The Jump Club"
Jason: Okay, was that in Collingwood?
Brian: Yes, Smith Street Collingwood. I think it's still there maybe
Jason: And in 1983 Molly decided that he would put Pseudo Echo on Countdown. Did you think "WOW" appearing on a show like Countdown without even having a record deal was a big opportunity?
Brian: You've got to remember Molly came along to a gig and he sort of knew us because we used to go to this club that he DJed at so he just knew our faces because we were regulars and we used to go every week and check out the scene, you know. So when somebody said come and see this band he kind of went "Oh those guys" like you know, I know these guys. So he was kind of a bit excited that he knew us and we looked all of about 13 and I think he was really surprised that I was a singer and you know, having this confidence on stage because when he knew me in the club I was like a little mouse you know. I was sort of the shy guy in the corner, so I think he was just blown away saying "I can't believe you're the lead vocalist and you're up there like a rock star doing your own thing."
So he was really impressed and he said you've got great songs and we were in awe just meeting him in the gig thinking 'Molly Meldrum's at our gig, how cool'.
Jason: Yeah, true
Brian: And it was only about a couple of weeks after that. The guy that was looking after us who was managing us called and said "Oh I've got you another gig, you will love this one! And then we said "Yeah, what is it?" and he goes "How about Countdown?" and we're like, we just went, 'What do you mean?!'
Brian: He said "You're going to be on Countdown" and we were just like WOOOOOOAH! We were pretty like, just blown away because you know we used to watch the frickin show religiously.
Jason: So were you a huge fan of the show?
Brian: I wouldn't say a fan, but I used to watch it. I maybe used to pick on it perhaps (laughs) and just go oh that's crap. Oh you know, you learn and go ah we can do that, and that looks good and he's great and that's crap. So yeah, youâre learning from it more you know. But it was really exciting! But it was kind of, it wasn't exactly like being on the show when we did it
Jason: Yes, because it was a pre recorded video thing in the studio of the Listening demo
Brian: That's right, yes, yes. So we weren't really sure. So we walked in and there were all these things in the studio and they made this big sort of set.
Jason: Yes with the circles
Brian: Yeah, they made that especially for us. You know, they were really cool! Like Molly was like I found this band and their just great, you know - so they were soooo nice, all the crew. They were just like, we were there little pet project they found so they went all out and made this clip. And then they put it on the show and it made history you know
Jason: For sure! So getting signed. Did that lead from the Countdown studio performance clip?
Brian: Look I think it definitely you know, it put a bug up. But there's no doubt because you can play around in clubs forever in those days and no one knows about you. It's all about opportunities and then the people who are going to sign bands just need to know about you, and they didn't know about us. We were just this little band supporting another little band you know, and that's what we did so I think going on that. Definitely Molly going you know look at your record companies and you better wake up to yourselves because you have got this great band. But record companies are very cool about the way they get excited; they donât like to show they're excited; they don't like to show each other they have a vibe on that.
Because at the end of the day one of them is going to get it and the others don't. Like being in an auction, they all pretend they don't want the item so they sit back and let somebody make a move and that's kind of what happened. So it wasn't inundated with record companies.
Jason: So with "Autumnal Park" John Punter produced the album that had also previously produced Japan and Roxy Music.
Jason: How did that come about and were you excited by working with someone international who had a history with such great bands?
Brian: Yeah, that came around. I think Peter - the two Peters at EMI, Peter Dorkins and Peter Carbon - at the time um, I think they could see...
Jason: See the direction
Brian: Yeah, they said oh this band they've got this and they've got that. We need to get someone like that to pull it all together, and so they used there contacts to get a hold of John Punter. And so when they said you know we've got this guy, I mean they could have said we've got Humphrey Bear producing the album and we would have gone great, you sort of get excited regardless. So the funny thing with John, I think when we met John we were really surprised because he was way older and UN cool (Laughs)
Jason: So uncool, really
Brian: Oh yeah, so unfashionable. Like he was wearing a Hawaiian shirt
Jason: Oh really
Brian: And he kind of had a beard and was balding and glasses and we were like oh right, this is John Punter? Okaaaay. He was like about 50; you know and were just going oh Jesus.
Jason: That's funny
Brian: Because I remember we met Rupert Hine, I don't know if you have heard of him?
Jason: Oh yeah, "Misplaced Love".
Brian: Yeah, Yeah. We met him just before the album and he was one of the contenders. He probably would have been better I reckon.
Jason: Yeah, he's a great producer, he did Howard Jones
Brian: Did he. I don't know why we didn't because he was wrapped, he was excited. I remember he said you guys sound like Japan, Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran and Roxy Music put in a blender
Brian: And we were going "Ah, say some more"! (Laughs) We were just loving it!!! You know, obvious rip offs, obviously but you know. Um he just loved us I remember, he was just raving about us and he obviously wanted the gig but I donât know what happened, maybe he wasnât around or wasnât available but John came up somehow. John was kind of an unusual producer though, he was more like the headmaster than our producer you know
Brian: And also the first single was produced by Peter Dorkins, who was also like a bloody, they're way too old! Like I mean, we learnt from them, but yeah.
Jason: And were you happy with the result?
Brian: Yes and No
Brian: I think I expected a whole lot more. You know what I expected? I expected what I do to a band when I produce them, that's what I expected
Jason: I see
Brian: That's why I became a producer
Jason: But I guess at the time you all were young...
Brian: Oh yeah, at the time I didn't have a clue. I mean I had a clue but I didn't really have experience at it so at least I had sense enough to shut up and listen even though he said "Oh we're doing this and we're doing that" and I definitely just went hmmm okay, we'll chop that whole section out!... Alright? Okay, yep
Not sort of overly joyed about some of the things.<
Brian: But I definitely learnt from them and look I got results. The album's worked and so you can't deny that.
Jason: And you recorded that here in Australia not overseas, yes?
Brian: Yeah that was recorded here
Jason: Yeah in Sydney, in 301
Brian: Yeah, in 301. It wasn't you know really that legendary studio. It's still got the same name but it's not the same studio anymore.
Jason: And in the early days when the lyrics were much more mysterious and darker, where did you get the inspiration from writing wise?
Brian: I think nowhere, I think just my own head. Because I actually till this day, I'm very ignorant to lyrics and I'm a bit embarrassed about it. It's a bad thing but then again sometimes a good thing.
Brian: For some reason I don't listen to words, I can't listen to them. I don't understand what they're saying. I hear the sound, the texture of the voice and I hear everything about the music but I don't hear the actual words. It's like when I look at books I look at pictures and I don't read the words
Jason: Yes, I tend to do that too
Brian: I've got a million books that I don't know any words. I mean I've got books about this and that and all I know is the pictures. Occasionally when I'm really bored I'll read the words so with lyrics it's bizarre, you know. And like I said it's not a good thing, I don't think it's good. I'm a bit ashamed of it almost and I feel like I should have read and I would have understood a whole lot more, I feel like I've just lived half of my life with my head in the sand almost. It's like wake up, this song is about this and you didn't even know, you know? It's bizarre!
Jason: See I feel the the lyrics on Autumnal Park are quite brilliant actually!
Brian: Well I'm glad to hear! I always thought they were shit!
Jason: Oh really!!!
Brian: Yeah, sort of looking back I think what the hell am I saying here, you know
Jason: Okay, see to me take a track like Walkaway. I think when you listen to the lyrics there is definitely a story behind it
Brian: Yeah. But you know? there's not! None of them really say much at all.
Brian: Like they're just really emotional, just spurning out words and then pushing them into a story. But there always very, there actually more literal that metaphorical and most people read them as metaphorical
Jason: What about something like "Lonely Without You" from Love an Adventure, was that a real situation that happened in your life or was it just basically a love song
Brian: Just made up, yeah made up just shmaltzsy. I guess you know, I was travelling a lot and I used to think about that. Like leaving your girlfriend behind and you write words. But that album is a lot more literal, all the lyrics are
Jason: The second album?
Brian: Autumnal Park is very artsy fartsy
Jason: Yes, and that's why I love it! Brian: But I do like it, but I think like songs like "Listening" sometimes I'll listen and I'll be going "oh god" you know I'm doing Dale songs and David Sterry songs and I'm listening to them and I go you know, these guys have got some real lyrics and there's a message here and I go look at all these crap words in my songs
Jason: No, sorry. No, No, No! You have it all wrong Brian. Pseudo's lyrics were brilliant, especially on Autumnal Park.
Brian: Look there's no real messages that's the thing I'm a bit spewing because I think when you've got that moment you should embrace it and you should really have something to say
Jason: But see this is how I feel. You may say that about Boom Crash Opera or Real Life and how they had more of a message. But you can say that because you are the one that wrote these songs and recorded them. But I think from a listener and fan point of view I actually think that the stuff you wrote was more darker and I actually feel that on Autumnal especially that you're lyrics have more of a message behind the songs than what they did. Though Real Life had great lyrics as well.
Brian: They weren't calculated or anything if you know what I mean. They were very much what I was at the time
Brian: And like my daughter writes very similar lyrics
Jason: Oh does she
Brian: Well she used to but I don't know if she does anymore. I haven't looked through her books for years
Brian: But she used to write all these great lyrics. And my wife and I would be looking through them and would be thinking, what is this? This dark storm of a cloud brood over the... And I'm just going its very poetic but I think she sort of writes how I used to. It was kind of almost literal, she's really thinking about what she's actually saying.
Brian: I don't think I was very metaphorical by any means but they probably do sound that way. But I think at the time I was really saying what I said like "Living in A Dream" or any of those ones that sound wacky. They just were wacky
Jason: But they worked
Brian: Yeah, look that's what the 80s were all about wasn't it. It was almost more about the sound of the phrase than the meaning. That's how I mainly wrote lyrics. They had to sound kind of cool.
Like I never said the word love until the second album. I just thought it was uncool to say, I just didn't think it was appropriate. I don't think I ever said baby or of that like "yeah baby". You know there was just none of that.
Jason: See this is why I think the lyrics on the first album are quite intelligent because it's not like a typical kind of "You're my baby and I love you" and all that nonsense.
Brian: Hmmmmm. Yeah that's right, there's none of that. I would have never got that personal in that side of it. They were much more kind of gothic, yeah...
Jason: Yeah, well I guess being a synth band. The bands that you basically modelled yourself on didn't really talk about that love stuff either on their early work till later.
Brian: No, no that's right. It would be way to sort of the wrong scene.
Jason: Now, I don't know if you can remember this... I hope you can! When you performed "Stranger In Me" on the 10th Anniversary show of Countdown do you remember girls chucking confetti at your mouth and you looking somewhat annoyed and maybe pissed off by it, may I add rightfully so!
Brian: I didn't know if I was pissed off
Jason: Whenever I see that performance I just laugh and think what were those girls thinking?
Brian: Yeah, I remember that though. Look I've got to say at the time when we were doing all that stuff I was really never contented with the reaction to the band and the young screaming chicks and all of that. It was just so not what I wanted
Brian: I wanted adults to like our music or people of my own age. Look they probably did but it just took 10 years to realise it or whatever
Jason: But I guess Countdown was more, you know
Brian: It was a kid's show, and I hated that about the band. I hated the fact that we just appealed to young little girls. Which is why I probably enjoy so much touring now because all those little girls are now grown up. And the guys and girls speak to me like an adult and don't go youâre so cute and I want to kiss you. They say hey, I love your music and that's the reaction I wanted back then
Jason: Okay but I guess those fans still love your music now so obviously the music was a part of it
Brian: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. It was a part of their life, like The Wiggles would be with somebody now
Jason: I guess also at the time you were good looking young guys who appealed to teenage girls
Brian: Oh look I can see that
Jason: Because I guess the girls that thought Duran Duran were cute thought Brian Canham was the Australian version that was cute
Brian: Oh I guess that's why sometimes I possibly looked a bit you know, like Jesus. I'm singing a song here and we've done all this production and I'm really into it and no one is really giving a shit. You just think we're cute and chucking your undies at me, you know. So I was always a little bit cynical about it. Look I really raced it though, I really did. I knew that it was part of it, and it was part of the course to where I wanted to be eventually. So I didn't ever be a dickhead and one of those anti heroes and you know, tells everybody to fuck off or anything like that. It just wasn't me to do that, but I know insight I was never really happy with that. So that's possibly why that sort of reaction would have been happening.
Jason: Now after Autumnal Park was over and Pseudo Echo went into the next phase being "Love an Adventure" Tony had left the band. And even though Anthony Argirio played drums on the album "Love an Adventure" he too left the band after the release of "Don't Go". What led to Tony and Anthony leaving the band?
Brian: Okay um, Tony... we kind of just out grew him really. He was kind of chucked out.
Jason: Oh really?
Brian: It's a really mean n way of putting it but of course, yes he was.
Jason: Why was he chucked out?
Brian: Oh well okay. Firstly he was 8 years older than us and not a real groovy 8 years older than us. I mean I'm 15 years older than Ben who is playing with us now and we seem to still you know. I mean I know I'm an old fart compared to him so I don't try to get to hip with him.
Jason: How old are you now?
Brian: I'm going to be 44 in July
Brian: So Tony was a fair bit older than us and he just acted like an older guy. He was a bit older in his ways, you know he'd get the gear on and heâd look like a New Romantic but he really wasn't
Jason: Laughs!!!... Was he a good keyboardist in your opinion?
Brian: No, he wasn't very good, he was a guitar player. He meant well and we really helped us immensely with our first sound. And just the way that he knew how to rip off riffs, and he could sort of get the sound like Japan or you know, just play riffs a bit like them. When I listen back now probably, possibly a bit too close but you know. That was his thing. He's bringing the kind of sound to us so we really are eternally great full for him but we just out grew him. When we changed direction to "Love an Adventure" I'm writing all these keyboard parts, like a great example is "Love an Adventure" the title track. Like the parts that I wrote on that, I just had them in my little 4 track studio and I remember writing these kind of wacky kind of bendy chords and all of this and Tony couldn't even play it.
Brian: He was really struggling because he wasn't a keyboard player. But as soon as it went outside of what he knew he was going oh shit. So we did it a few times live and it was just full of clangors and even a song like "Living in a Dream". He couldn't get certain bits right, and he just couldn't play anything. And it was just a physical thing, he just wasn't cutting it. He was making a lot of mistakes, a few is alright if you laugh it off.
Jason: So Tony was still involved in the very early beginnings of writing for "Love an Adventure"?
Brian: Yeah I'd written a couple, the ones I wrote on my own.
Jason: Okay, like "Living in a Dream"?
Brian: Yeah, "Living In A Dream" and there might have been another one too. But there was a couple that we tried with him and I remember they were like, shit what are we going to do?
Jason: "Living in a Dream" was written even before Autumnal Park wasn't it?
Jason: An did Anthony Agirio leave basically because of the pressure, what was the real story there?
Brian: Yes. Yeah, yeah.
Jason: Because he was one seriously great drummer!
Brian: He was a great drummer and we loved him, he was a great guy. I'll tell you what happened... Anthony being the individual that he was. That real sort of asexual sort of vibe
Jason: Yes and how I loved that about him
Brian: Yeah he was and I love him. I reckon he was, he added so much to the band
Jason: Yeah definitely
Brian: But you've got to remember Pseudo Echo was under extreme pressure to cross over to the mainstream
Jason : Yep okay, the usual story
Brian: You know, our sales were· You could see it was going to double and it was going to be big because we had this appeal but we were sectioning off our appeal by being to camp and to yeah
Jason: Well especially because you were in Australia, as Australia has the habit of being closed minded at the best of times unfortunately!
Brian: Oh totally! Because we were stuck here. But in the UK who cares?!
Jason: Yeah exactly, true
Brian: So we were screwed because of that. So you know, managements pushing us "You know, you've gotta listen to this new band" at the time white ass band that's a rock band and we're going blah blah blah, oh it's all happening and you know. So we were sort of under this pressure and every artist wants to be successful and sometimes you drop a bit of your art you know, for the challenge
Jason: Yes, I know exactly what you are saying, believe me!
Brian: Because the challenge is still good even thought it's a bit more mainstream but it's still a challenge. You'll be going well wow I would love to be able to sell double the amount of units or whatever. So your still sort of spurt it on and youâre still liking it. And that's really what happened with Anthony, he was just the odd guy out. Anthony was still out there wacky, you know hair here and shit coming out of here and there and where and all that. And he was out there as a personality, he was crazy you know. And we had this straight management company you know, Weatley organization and all that and they were just dead straight
Jason: Though your look in the very beginning was still stylish and out there for Australia
Brian: Yeah but I was a very sort of straight guy.
Jason: Yeah, I guess Anthony was a lot more camp which I loved
Brian: Yeah, like someone would sit down with me and have a business meting and I could look crazy but I was really straight. Where as Anthony would be out there with the fairies and he could say crazy stuff and the management would say this and that, you know. And I remember Glen, he was a prick for saying this but I remember him getting us aside
Jason: Glen Wheatley?
Brian: Yeah, saying "You know that bloody Anthony, you know mate I could introduce you to anybody and I'm proud of you and I know you'll be good and you can meet the head of this agency and I'm confident you will say the right stuff". But with Anthony I'm just scared all the time. And also the pressure of our success was really taking its toll on him
Jason: Oh okay
Brian: He didn't like it, he just DID NOT like the way it was a phony scene and every wanker at the record company is going "Oh I love you guys". And you just feel like going you would have chucked cans at us a couple of years ago. You know Anthony could see, I mean we could all see it but you have to deal with it and Anthony didn't like dealing with it. He didn't like dealing with all that phony stuff and he just started losing it on stage, he was forgetting parts of the songs
Jason: Oh okay, poor lad
Brian: He was really starting to break down with his playing. And that's where I drew the line, if you can't really cut it...
Jason: So he basically decided to stop
Brian: Sort of yeah. I think he knew, you know. We'd been working a lot at James Leigh's house and we met Vince, and we discovered that Vince was so much more kind of on the level. We thought jezz he's a good guy, but we weren't thinking hey lets get rid of Anthony but I think Anthony just sensed it.
Jason: I have to say though I think Anthony was a better drummer than Vince in many ways
Brian: Oh he was a much better drummer by a million miles. Anthony's kind of like Darren who has been playing with us the past few years. That's what I love about Darren, he reminds me so much of Anthony.
Jason: Yeah, Darren really plays in the same vain and is definitely a great drummer for sure.
Brian: Yep, they are really similar. But um, yeah Vince was never as good a drummer but he could remember the parts. And to us then, because we weren't that experienced we probably didn't notice it
Jason: But did Anthony remember the parts before the pressure more?
Brian: Yep, yep. He was fine. Once the pressure was on he was just hopeless
Jason: So once Tony left James Leigh joined through a newspaper add
Brian: Yeah, we put an ad in Juke maybe or one of those and I think Karen still has it.
Jason: And how many guys auditioned till you decided James was the one?Brian: We got a lot of applications. We had to be fairly brutal, you know we had to say send us your picture and set us a set of you playing and tell us a bit about yourself
Jason: Because James was really young at the time!
Jason: Yeah 16, wow
Brian: So we got a lot of applications and our manager used to sort of look through them. You know he would say he looks like this and he's too fat and he's too tall and you know. I mean you're talking about a band that's already got a gold record and has a swag of fans.
Jason: And yes, a top ten hit
Brian: You can just go oh yeah were going to get the big fat guy in or the guy with the funny haircut, they had to look right.
Jason: Because James ended up becoming a popular chap
Brian: Yep, he just became the band.
Jason: Yeah, totally
Brian: And sometime you would go "What if we fix that or do that?" And so James kind of got on the list, it was really funny because all the guys we auditioned to take over Tony's place were all really cool looking, they were really groovy. I remember just going "Oh please be a good player" and they were all crap!
Jason: But James looked cool and could play so that was good!
Brian: Yeah. They were all that school of their fancy programs. Knew all about their DX7s and knew all about this and that's all great. But how about play some chords, and can you play some scales? And they were like no, they were just tragic.
Jason: Well for James to be a 16 year old he was rather good
Brian: Oh James just walked in. He was the funniest looking guy and he came in with his attempted Pseudo Echo style on and he had his dad with him (Laughs)
Jason: Really, how funny!
Brian: Brian cracks up laughing
Jason: And Pseudo Echo as a band also won an award. Was this exciting and were you thrilled?
Brian: Yeah it was!
Jason: And didn't you win over Michael Hutchence by memory?
Brian: I did, oh poor Michael I love him
Jason: I love him too, he is amazing
Brian: He was so cool. He made me feel like an absolute klutz, he was so cool
Brian: Honestly, if you ever felt slightly cool and you met Michael Hutchence, you just realised how cool you were not. He was just the coolest guy ever! When I won that award, I remember the best man to my wedding - who was our manager, he was just before Wheatley - he kept saying to me "Mate, you're the most popular guy in the country" or something like that, and I was like "For god sake Shut Up, Stop it"! And then we were just thinking we were God and going out clubbing and saying "Oh look he let us in and you know". And we ended up at this club that was this really legendary club in Sydney called "Benny's"
Brian: It was this sleazy old you know, old rock stars went there to pick up. It was seriously just full of old sleazy rock stars and whoever was in town would be there, it wasn't a dance club it was more like a bar. And you know, all the INXS guys used to always go there and hanging out and rubbing elbows with everyone and that night we went back to Benny's after the party and Michael was there. I didn't really know Michael that well, I knew all the other guys in the band pretty well. I knew Andrew really well and Kirk I know really well too, I went to school with his wife and his wife's best friend
Jason: Oh really
Brian: So I hardly knew Michael, but he was a really nice guy and there was some photographer and journo there carrying on and said "Oh can we get a picture of you know, the reigning star".
Jason: Oh no, in front of Michael!
Brian: You know, like the new and the old, sort of.
Brian: And Michael's just like... He just turned around and looked at me and he goes "It's yours, take it, good luck!". Laughs!!! And he was just... he was really, really graceful and very cool. But you know he was older, so he didn't really care!
Jason: But obviously you were happy about that night and how all went
Brian: Oh I was really happy, I didn't actually believe it and I never really agreed with it but it was just timing wasn't it. And getting the band one was good to though we never really got that award. We don't know where that ended up; I still have my one in the studio.
Jason: So you never got the band one?
Brian: No, the band one was in the office with the management for a while then we split and we never saw it again
Jason: Fair Enough!... Now obviously when you look at a video like "Living in a Dream" you went from the video of "Love an Adventure" to "Living in a Dream" and you could tell by the video of "Living in a Dream" that the look was totally changing
Brian: Yeah, Yeah, Yeah
Jason: And then you went to Funky Town and you ended up just wearing just a T-Shirt with jeans and it was kind of like okay where is this going. But then when 1988/89 arrived, being a huge fan of Pseudo Echo myself I remember watching The Factory and they said here's Pseudo Echo. I was of course freaking out and all excited as it had been over a year and a half since you guys had released anything. And I remember hearing this cock rock guitar solo which was the intro of "Fooled Again" and seeing stone wash tight jeans and really long hair and leather. I have two questions regarding this, was this change a Vince Leigh idea and also how did you think Pseudo Echo fans that you guys had would react to this totally new Pseudo Echo?
Brian: Well at that point of our career we were screwed either way I think
Jason: Because music had so changed, yes?
Brian: There was no way around it. We could either stay as Pseudo Echo and get called a bunch of old fuddy duddys and dags and poofs and it's all over and you guys are dated. It wasn't going to happen, that music was so dead in the water in Australia. You've got to remember, we in this country have the smallest focus on music, it's only even in the last decade that it's slightly broadened. But it's always been a fine line of what's in and what's out. So we were screwed, unless we moved to the UK. That's probably in hindsight what we should have done, but we're all mummies' boys and we had family here. And not at all was it a Vince Leigh thing, if anything it was probably my idea, it was once again management. You know, Glen Wheatley would be like "Oh have you seen this band Bon Jovi"... And what was the black band who did "Walk This Way"
Jason: Oh Areosmith with Run DMC
Brian: Yeah, Run DMC. You know, that was sort of getting a bit rock, tongue in cheek but still rock and Aerosmith had a bit of a comeback.
Jason: Well as far as I am concerned 1986 onwards was so losing it and it was shocking.
Brian: Oh, yeah. Shocking. I think 1987/88 was just the worst part of music
Jason: Oh yes, I think so too
Brian: It was just music in confusion as to what's in and what's out.
Jason: So how did you guys as a band agree on this new direction?
Brian: Well Pierre and James really just followed and that's the problem. There was never a real a natural progression so it always looked completely contrived. Because one of us would do something so the others would go "Oh, that's what we've got to follow". So they would all wear bandanas and they would all cut off their sleeves and they always would take everything to the extreme.
Jason: But I guess up to a point, that is what you do when you are changing image and music.
Brian: Oh, but it was just so full on. I mean James never knew when to quit with image, I mean his hair got bigger in the 80s and it got bigger and bigger.
Jason: Oh see I always loved that about James
Brian: I mean as soon as we got a bit on the rock tip it wasn't just like I will switch a little bit
Jason: So James was into doing the rock thing?
Brian: Oh yeah, that was partially why the band broke up. Because by the third album Vince had joined and then the two Leighs were starting to kind of like "oh let's write some songs" and then they got their other brother who wasn't even in the band
Jason: Yes, the one from Dear Enemy
Brian: Oh he might have been. Gerry
Jason: Yeah Gerry
Brian: And he was always a bit weird with me and always resented me and everything. He had a weird problem with me always - even to this day he still does. So the three Leigh brothers started writing songs presenting them to me or not even to me, to the record company.
Jason: I was thinking though the rock thing was back in fashion in the late 80s a lot of dance music was in then and I would have thought you may have gone in that direction?
Brian: I think when we did Race, the original interpretation that Julian Mendelson and I did. It was probably closer to something like Loverboy meets ZZ Top meets Frankie Goes to Hollywood. So it was king of like Funky Town still
Jason: Okay so it had more edge but still had some link to Pseudo Echo sound wise
Brian: But the thing with record companies is that they want to remix it and fix it. And they just stuffed it all up! You know, they took out everything and they just made it really bland and rock. And the sound of it is such an inferior mix, I mean Julian and I were just horrified. Because we mixed the version that never saw the light of day and we don't even know where it is till this day. It was pretty good as it was more like Pseudo's but just the mix in itself made it sound so not Pseudo Echo, it's like with the reverbs they used and the types of effects and everything was just pure bland rock and not Pseudo Echo. We didn't do that, ours sounded lush. It was rock but it sounded lush and had a techno vibe.
Jason: One of the only songs I really like on the album which I think is great would be "Over Tomorrow".
Brian: Yeah, that's a great song.
Jason: I thought that was really cool and I think your vocals on it were really good too.
Brian: Yeah, it's a bit out of my range but yeah. At least that song suited me a bit where as a song like "Fooled Again" I hated that stuff!
Jason: And the funny video in the car with all the fans
Brian: Oh, fancy doing that. At that point I basically called it a day and I said I'm not doing this anymore, see ya. I just wish I had more confidence back then in the studio and I would have made a record of Pseudo on my own.
Jason: In the case of Pierre, was he also wanting to break up the band?
Brian: No not at all
Jason: So it was basically your primary decision?
Brian: It was my call, yeah
Jason: I have to say I am glad you guys called it a day because another heavy metal album would have really destroyed the Pseudo Echo legacy.
Brian: We actually still had another album deal. I couldn't believe it as not many bands have that much loyalty from a record company.
Brian: I mean the album did okay but it was pitiful sales. But EMI said well we will take the option for another album which is just miraculous. But we were all so up our own ass about how successful we had been I think we all just thought we can do that again later on when we're ready.
Jason: I can kind of see that maybe you and Anthony Agirio were probably the centre of what the music should be and the real passion behind it and how you were going to sound and the real creative ones.
Brian: Yeah, definitely. Yeah that point where we split was basically due to the fact that the Leigh brothers were trying to push to many of their songs. And I wasn't happy about it as I didn't like the lyric content and I didn't like the way they rhymed and I didn't like the way the melodies jumped around. It wasn't me, so that really stuffed up the whole thing about that third album, and then when they went and had a meeting I was sort of border. I wanted to call it a day and I wanted to get into production and I had enough of being a rock star but I also think I was the one with the sensible head always because everyone was going "Oh, whatever another album, who cares". But I thought "hmm, it's probably a thing we should not overlook too hastily", but the Leigh brothers were so confident about the next project they were going to do. They said "we're not going to take the next album project and we are going to do our own thing".
Jason: What Vertigo? That was quite a while after
Brian: Yeah but there was another band in between
Jason: But the Vertigo thing, that was still rather synthy though
Brian: Yeah it went back. Yeah that period Pierre was hell bent on continuing and he was very upset, as the band was his life and all that.
Jason: Well since 1997 Pseudo Echo have basically been performing again around Australia, how did that all come to light?
Brian: That was just because of this guy wanting us to do a gig at Retro in Sydney. It was just a one off and he just offered us good money and I thought it might be fun because all the 80s stuff was coming back in again and it could be a bit of a boost for the ego. And I really needed that as I was kind of losing a lot of confidence, and it's just being in the background all the time. You've got to remember you get slapped around in the background, you know you produce an album for a band and no one pats you on the back. They just go, oh you got a lucky break there just like with the whole Starfish thing and that. I got so underplayed about what I did but you know you've got to take it like that.
Jason: But Chocolate Starfish were pretty successful in the early 90s
Brian: Oh it was huge and it was successful but for me as a producer it's all about the rock stars, so you do lose a lot of your confidence.
Jason: Did you enjoy doing the Brill project?
Brian: Yeah that was very indulgent
Jason: I loved your cover of "Ebony Eyes" with Brill
Brian: Yeah it was good. That was just me being indulgent finding another spin and doing something we thought we could do and having fun with it. It was never meant to set the world on fire.
Jason: And in the year 2000 "Teleporter" came out and there were 4 new singles except I suppose "I Hope I Go to Heaven" was written and performed in the 80'.
Jason: But that was a very good thing for us fans!
Brian: Oh okay
Jason: It was like YAY, new songs and it was Pseudo Echo sounding like the Pseudo Echo sound I fell in love with as a kid.
Brian: It was a pity it wasn't on a bigger label, they were absolute idiots those guys. They were just a disaster from day one.
Jason: When I heard "Teleporter" it was just all about "Lesson in Love". It rocked my world.
Brian: Yeah same
Jason: It's a great song!
Brian: The chorus, maybe the Motown beat could have been pissed off. That's probably the only thing I regret.
Jason: Very nice intro though
Brian: Yeah I love it; it's totally me in 80s. That dark sound, yeah that whole thing with the melody, the message and the lyrics in it. That's probably my favourite song I've ever written almost. I can remember writing it while I was away on holidays with my family and I was just obsessed about it.
Jason: I liked "1985" as well
Brian: Yeah, I liked that one too
Jason: And "The Future" was very um...
Brian: Well that's a bit kitsch
Jason: Yeah, I thought it was a bit Regurgitator
Brian: Yeah, look I was really into "Polyester Girl"
Jason: Oh, Regurgitator's "Unit" was one album I played everyday!
Brian: When I heard "Polyester Girl" I went "hmmm... I should have written that song". I think it was a cross between "Polyester Girl" and there was another song, you know Kaftwerky sort of, there was a couple of other ones.
Jason: Around that period of 2000, why oh why were those new tracks never performed live. Was it because it was mainly set around a nostalgia thing as I remember going to every gig waiting for "Lesson In Love".
Brian: Yeah we never did "Lesson In Love".
Jason: You did "I Hope I Go To Heaven"
Brian: Yeah we did that. That was okay, it went okay and we once did "Suddenly Silently" but that got taken off the album.
Jason: What's "Suddenly Silently"?
Brian: "Suddenly Silently" was a song I had a hit with Origin, the girl sung it. Matilda White was the singer of "Origin".
Jason: Hmmm, that song sounds familiar to me
Brian: It was really big, you would know it. It was around 2000. It had massive airplay and high rotation everyday. And it sold really well and went really well for us and that was our new thing Origin. It was Myself, Ben and Matilda and that song was on "Teleporter" and right at the last minute I took it off
Jason: With you guys doing it?
Brian: With me singing, yeah. Which is a cool version of it. I should get you a copy. There's a new version now, I'm trying to find the original copy which is challenging. But I think I've got it still, because I did a remix under another name and that became a hipper version and we kept messing with it. It sort of sounds like "Lesson In Love" and it's got a real Depeche Mode vibe about it which is quite epic and dark and it's got that typical Pseudo's sound.
Jason: So is there any chance that you will be doing more as far as releasing new material under Pseudo Echo or is it pretty much just doing gigs?
Brian: You know, I was really just considering this the other day
Jason: Because I think it could work!
Brian: Yeah, look it's a hard one.
Jason: Please do it! Anthony Agirio would never agree to do drums at a Pseudo gig again would he?
Brian: He possibly might, he went through a stage where he hated us and just despised us all and then as he got older he must have realized what we did was what we did and we achieved things and that's business. I bumped into him at a studio about 3 years ago and it was great. It was happy and we were friends and it was really nice, he does his thing now and we do our thing, you know.
Jason: With James Leigh recently doing some gigs with you guys did you approach him to do it?
Brian: Yeah I just called him up, because there was a bit of water under the bridge. There were a few fragile moments there. Because with "Idols of the 80s", we didn't really want it to be all about Pseudo Echo.
Jason: Was it all your idea to do the Idols of the 80s?
Brian: It was, yes. So yeah James obviously did the keyboards then jumped on the bass synth. Ben hates playing the bass synth, he says it's the most boring gig ever. I mean its stupid having Ben playing keyboards and James playing bass. But James is flawless; he's such a great player.
Jason: Now late last year the immaculate "Autumnal Park" and "The Demo Sessions 301" plus the live "Autumnal Park" were released on CD through the American company Almacantar Records. Was that your idea?
Brian: Yeah, it was just a one man show and just demand.
Jason: Because "Almacantar" has also released other 80s Australian bands on CD like Geisha and other things.
Brian: Yeah, he's kind of a bit of an obsessive 80s fan.
Jason: Yeah, sounds like me to a tea! The thing which I like is the fact that he is releasing a lot of Australian bands on CD. Because the thing that is very annoying about Australia is they don't appreciate their music history the way that the UK does.
Brian: No, they don't, yeah.
Jason: So with "The 301 Demo Sessions" involving the demos, what was to be on it and the art work. Was that all your idea?
Brian: Yeah, all my stuff.
Jason: And are they all the demos you have, or do you have any left overs?
Brian: There might be a couple more. Is there a song called "Painted Faces" on there?
Jason: No, that sounds great!
Brian: Yeah there's two songs Glen has and he runs "Dirt Cheap" that's his company. He used to be a shop owner in the 80s and really support our band and do all the in stores then and he's a real fan. And he said you left off this and that, but there was this really cool song and it was called "What You're Dreaming" and I remember when that band Basement Jaxx did that track "Where's Your Head At".
Jason: Yes, and they sampled Gary Numan in that track
Brian: Well that sounds like the song that we had because it was that riff. We probably ripped it off Gary Numan too actually.
Jason: Why didn't that track make the CD?
Brian: I mustn't of had the demo anymore. We mustn't of demoded it for the album. Basically the majority of those songs are demos for Autumnal Park during the session. That's why it's called "The 301 Sessions". Now it's a bit confusing because people will think there's 301 songs on there maybe!
Jason: I have to say when I hear "Good Times" I heard early Simple Minds all over it like "Love Song".
Brian: That was a song we jammed with James in the original audition that he auditioned for.
Jason: James Leigh?
Jason: So this was after "Autumnal Park" was released?
Brian: That song is, yes.
Brian: Oh hang on, no you're right. I'm getting my eras mixed up here. No, but it was! Because it didn't make the album, but when James came to audition for the next album we still had it kicking around and we said "let's try this song" and I remember he was playing all this great stuff on it, and we used to do it live in the 80s.
Jason: Oh did you? it's just so Simple Minds
Brian: Yeah, well the way I'm singing on it
Jason: Yeah it's great; I love it with a serious passion!
Brian: I loved Jim Kerr
Jason: Oh he's great! And they're touring soon
Brian: Really? Bullshit! I don't even know what's going on. I spend too much time in the studio! Is the line up still the same?
Jason: Unfortunately no!
Brian: Ahh, that's what people must say about us when they come and see us going oh. But I hate that.
Jason: Well here I go again, I was the same when Pseudo started doing gigs again and I wanted Anthony on drums. But I have to say the drummer you have is so cool!
Brian: Darren's great. He's a real 80s guy too, we all grew up together.
Jason: Was he is Roxus?
Jason: Because I remember going to Countdown Revolution in 1989, and when I saw him perform with you guys I was like "I'm sure he was in Roxus".
Brian: You've got to remember he grew up in awe of Pseudo Echo. We grew up in the same neighbourhood and went to the same school and he was 4 years younger so he used to really idolize us and knew all of our stuff so that's how I came to produce his band Chocolate Starfish.
Jason: And back to the demos... "Marching Feet" Such a damn good song!
Brian: That's a real early one. That was in the set list when we used to play in '82 / '83.
Jason: Do you have any video footage of you guys in the very early days that you just mentioned when you had the bleached hair?
Brian: Somebody would have but I don't know who. I've got some great photo's that are out there.
Jason: And they are from before Anthony joined when it was just the three of you.
Brian: Yeah. Before we had any drummer.
Jason: Did you get a drummer because the drum machine kept breaking down.
Brian: It was just stagnant, it was really sterile. It was terrible and it was really annoying, you know.
Jason: In the early days, were the people that went to your gigs basically New Romantics and Goths?
Brian: Total, white face crowd
Jason: Yep, white face crowd. How brilliant!
Brian: Oh totally, we used to love it. How it all changed, it's sad isn't it. Because you know I love it, I still love that scene.
Jason: Believe me I understand, I love it too. But you know that happened with a lot of bands. Even with bands like Duran Duran, by the time 7 And the Ragged Tiger came out the audience changed and it became so much more commercial.
Brian: I hated The Wild Boys.
Jason: Yes, me too. How are you with videos and things like that?
Brian: Yeah videos are okay. Videos are one thing but I hate talking on TV. Like when we did that "Where Are They Now" and they came over.
Jason: I noticed, you looked like you were over it.
Brian: But you know when you are on stage your doing your thing. That's the thing you know your pretty good at and when you're doing a video clip it's the same thing again. Like I always have a golden rule for video clips and I've broken it myself and at times contradicted it, but with bands and video clips is to never act unless you're an actor. You know how they make bands act
Jason: Yeah, you guys did it in "Dancing until Midnight"
Brian: Yeah, I was alright in that I suppose, but as a rule just don't act.
Interview conducted by Jason Grech, Copyright © 2006 www.countdownmemories.com