The iconic Pseudo Echo frontman details the journey thirty years in the making (and a few close calls) to the release of the new album '1990: The Lost Album Demos' on this week's episode of 'The Green Room'.
In an era where analogue and rock'n'roll reigned supreme, one Aussie band emerged, blow-waves and synthesizers at the ready, to upset the status quo and shape the burgeoning new wave movement of the 1980s.
Flourishing electro pop with a distinctly stylised ethos, Pseudo Echo were certainly a breath of neon air in the landscape ruled by glam metal and fellow Australian pub rockers like INXS, Midnight Oil and AC/DC to name but a few.
And while these electronic maestros catapulted from relative anonymity to outright superstardom in the blink of an eye, thanks in part to a prolific appearance on Countdown in 1983 and the 1986 smash cover of Funky Town, it wasn't all sunshine and lollipops, with the group's sudden disbanding in 1990 on the cusp of a planned fourth album; an album that had actually already been demoed but, unexpectedly, lost to the void.
Fast forward just over three decades, and the album that never was seemed all but lost, with the original master tape missing in action. Or was it? Appearing on this week's episode of The Green Room with Tiana Speter podcast, Pseudo Echo frontman Brian Canham unpacks the journey to releasing the band's latest full-length, 1990: The Lost Album Demos.
“It’s quite an experience because... I’d given up on it," Canham mused.
"Back in ‘89, I was requested to send in some tapes... they were initially written for the fourth Pseudo Echo album, but then because there was a surprise element in our last meeting where the band just dispersed - that was the end of that."
Canham's collection of demos would go on to be considered for a potential solo album to capitalise on the resounding adoration for Pseudo Echo and their bouncy wiles at the time. But when Canham went to duplicate his one master tape - fate had other plans.
"To waste no time, I just grabbed my one and only master tape - I don’t know why I only had one," Brian smiled ruefully.
"I rushed it into the office and said ‘Look, can you guys duplicate this, but it’s my only copy: do NOT lose it’. And I was reassured it wouldn’t be lost. But after a few days when I tried again to get the tape, I was sort of fobbed off a bit. And then weeks, months... and literally years, I was still calling every now and then, but then I just gave up on it. It was just gone".
Soon moving on from performing and sliding into the world of production, Canham left the glittering realms of Pseudo Echo and his unfinished opus behind him; but the pull of these lost demos continued to haunt him, with wife (and manager) Raquel Canham inadvertently breathing hope back into the project.
“Occasionally I would remember some of those songs, little bits. I’d just be on the piano and I’d start playing it... and Raquel with her manager ear would always be going: ‘What’s that tune?! That’s a great song!’. And I’d say, ‘Oh, this is one of the ones that I’ve been telling you about that was lost. I can’t remember the rest of it, I don’t have the lyrics written down'.
“So this went on for a while, and then one day, there was another song I was playing... and then we got talking about the tape. And Raquel said: ‘Are you sure you didn’t back it up?’. And I said: ‘Look... I didn’t back it up, because I would have it now, and the songs would be with me’. And then she said: ‘What about that big box of tapes we found while we were moving?' There were a lot of cassettes in there," Brian laughed.
"Ironically, lots of them were master tapes, they were labelled with the word, scribbled on in terrible handwriting: “master”, and not much else. So, when you find twenty tapes written “master tape” - you’ve still got a bit of a challenge ahead of you. So, we got an old tape deck, hooked it up and then for the next few weeks we went through songs. And then just one day, one of the songs that I wrote, the first song, I think it was called Just Your Day came on, and I just went: ‘Oh my God! This is the song!’"
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With the long-lost and lurking master finally found, Canham initially baulked at the notion of releasing the demos, concerned about the time it would take to re-record everything. But with his wife firmly in his corner, the seemingly wayward tape would evolve into a brand new album for Pseudo Echo to release in 2021; but in extremely late '80s fashion, 1990: The Lost Album Demos was nearly lost for a second time.
"Raquel says: ‘You have to release this, it’s gold! It’s a time capsule of your band’s history!’
“Meanwhile, the tape is rewinding at this stage, the cassette. And that’s all good. But all of a sudden I look at it, and I see one of the spools stop. And the other one’s still going...that’s not a good sign, to look at a cassette deck, they should go together," Canham laughed nervously, gesturing in the air.
"So, I quickly hit stop, and ejected it. And the tape was basically ingested into the machine. It was an old machine, I didn’t even service it before I played it, I just grabbed it. We managed to painstakingly get the tape out, used the old pen method, and scroll it, get it back into the cassette without any creases or breaks.
"It was a miracle that we saved it, I can’t believe we did... it’s a very fragile tape. So we pretty much straight away got it digitised and didn’t take any more chances with the cassette deck! And... that’s it! We just remastered it to get the level up and get it all consistent. We didn’t change anything, we couldn’t mix it because it was already mixed.
"They’re rough but they’re highly produced rough demos, it is what it is!
"It was meant to be, this album was just searching to be released.”
Listen to the full The Green Room podcast episode with Canham on Spotify, Apple Podcasts (below) or wherever you usually grab your favourite podcasts.
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