From The Vault: A 2005 Interview With Brian Canham

dj.rflmldgr.170x170-75Back in 2005 I had the opportunity to interview Brian Canham on everything music technology. It was meant for Australian Macworld magazine, but I’d obviously not communicated that clearly, as Brian wasn’t a Mac user at the time. The interview was unable to be used, and has sat in my email inbox the past nine years.

Psuedo Echo launched a new album in April called Ultraviolet (get it here) but I only discovered the fact this week. It reminded me of the shelved interview. So here it is in full. Enjoy!

DH: You’ve been heavily involved in music composition and production for nigh on 25 years now. What’s changed in your approach to creating music over that time?

Brian: I guess these days I am a lot more analytical … and having the benefit of hindsight I like to have a “vehicle” in mind first. The home computer & music software have been the biggest changes in creation for me. Now being able to be completely self sufficient means I can produce a finished product without the limitations of a budget. Time permitting of course….

DH: A lot of readers will primarily know you as the front-man of Pseudo Echo. All your albums relied heavily on technology, none more so than “Love and Adventure”. Can you describe what technology you had at your disposal when making that album?

Brian: Love An Adventure was demoed quite modestly on a cheap (even for the time) analogue 4 track recorder (Akai..?), though we had some nice keyboards e.g. Roland JP8, Yamaha DX7 & RX Drum machine, Korg Poly61. But once actually in the studio (Platinum – aka Sing Sing 3, Melb.), there was no expense spared. We recorded & mixed on an SSL 56 channel console, with up to 3 24 channel Studers synced together.

Additional keyboards used were: PPG Wave terminal, Fairlight, Roland MKS-80 & JX3P, Sequential Circuits Prophet 5 & Pro 1. Oberheim OB8, as well as an Oberheim DMX, Roland 808 drum machines, and the famous Simmons electronic drum kit.

Outboard gear (FX) we made heavy use of the prestigeous AMS rack units, dominantly the delay which could be used as a sampler (since this was just pre-sampler keyboards). Also units like the legendary Lexicon reverb, as well as banks of Roland, Yamaha & Korg digital delays, verbs and choruses.

Guitars were fairly conventional, as were traditional string sections (MSO), and brass.

DH: Stepping forward a decade, you were pivotal in the success of Aussie rock group Chocolate Starfish. How did your approach change when producing the two albums for them?

Brian: Basically substituted all of my keyboard production ideas for guitars! Ironically, I recorded both Starfish albums at the old 301 Studios on an old valve Neve console – the very same one that we recorded Pseudo Echo’s debut album on!

The preproduction wasn’t as seperated from the actual recording stage with Starfish, and I worked through all of the parts, sounds, and vocals with all of the guys in the band, whereas with Pseudo it was basically two of us writing, pre-producing, programing etc. Then virtually just pushing the “go” button once in the studio.

DH: Your latest project Origene, is a different ballgame again for you musically. How did it come together and what would you like it to achieve?

Brian: It’s weird because Origene almost feels like Pseudo Echo again, except without me having to be in the limelight – 2 of us in the studio together, writing , programming, recording etc. Though one main difference these days with Origrene is that the writing , recording, mixing etc becomes one big blurred process, as opposed to distinctive processes.

We pretty much are mixing all the way, from the first drum groove we lay down, so we sometimes spend as much as a month or so mixing a track compared to the old school way of mixing a song a day ( or two days if you’re lucky ).

Musically I play keyboards with Origene, though Ben Grayson will play all the tricky technical stuff since he IS actually a wiz bang player!

We are currently on the verge of signing a new record deal directly for the US, Europe, and possibly Japan, so I’d like to see our dream come to reality and do a complete album of pure indulgence, not just stomping club tunes.

I’d really love to pick up where we left of last year with OS touring too. Hopefully this year we’ll get to tour the NY club scene as was planned.

DH: When did computers first become a creative tool for you, and do you remember what model it was?

Brian: Well I bought my fisrt computer solely for music early in the 90s. It was an Atari 1040ST

DH: What software do you use currently use to create music, and why have you chosen it?

Brian: I use Steinberg’s Cubase SX, since I started off using the original Cubase (version 2 ) over ten years ago when it was just a high end midi sequencer.

I was introduced to it by a musician friend (Chong Lim), who showed me how intuitive it was to use and basically sold me on it. I’ve never looked back. I have grown with the program over a decade and now use it to write, program sounds, record, and mix, from start to finish with final release quality.

DH: What are your thoughts on digital music downloads, including operations like the iTunes Music Store?

Brian: Something has got to give. I mean, I’m all for technology advancements but hopefully there will someday be a happy medium, where consumer and artist are both happy, though the BIG corporates may not be so..

DH: What do you hope to achieve musically in the next five years?

Brian: Would ultimately like to score a film, with mixed modern/traditional approach. Develop my own record label, and make my mark in A&R development, finding “real” artists, and music.

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