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The Pure Pop Radio Interview: Dan Pavelich’s Lost Hits of the 80’s Now Found

dan pavelich
Dan Pavelich

lost hits of the 80s(If Dan Pavelich, music critic at the Kenosha (Wisconsin) News and creator of the sweet comic strip Just Say Uncle, were a big top performer, he’d be the guy who, in clear defiance of all of the laws of physics, is happily juggling a bushelful of brightly colored balls through the air, never dropping a single one.

Through the years, Dan has been juggling quite a few balls in the air, many of them musical in nature. In addition to his writing and cartooning duties, he has been the rhythm guitarist in the Bradburys, and the producer of three volumes of the much-loved Hi-Fi Christmas Party series of CDs, benefiting research on Von Willebrands Disease being conducted at the Blood Center in Milwaukee. Dan’s 2014 solo project, released under the clever and catchy name The Click Beetles, produced a fun album called Wake Up to Music!
This year, Dan remembered songs he liked from the 1980s and decided to whip up an album’s worth of original numbers that paid homage to that decade. Hooking up with musician friends who could help him bring his ideas to life, he created fictional bands to make his songs come alive (like Frampton, kinda sorta).

Lost Hits of the 80’s plays like the fun soundtrack to a movie about a decade that produced good songs, and, it must be said, lots of big hair. Imagined groups, such as Atari Hand Cramp, Pest Control, and Asmatics UK, are brought to life with the help of such talented collaborators as Pop 4’s Andrea Perry, Lisa Mychols and the Well Wishers’ Jeff Shelton; highlights of the record include Redd Roxx’s poppy “No Regret,” sung by the Waking Hours’ Tom Richards; the steady, rocking “Camera Shy” by the Vaporizers; and the Images’ slowed down, impassioned take on the Romantics’ “Talking in Your Sleep,” the only cover on the album.

Below, Dan talks exclusively to Pure Pop Radio about his inspiration for Lost Hits of the 80’s. Lost Hits of the 80’s is available from CD Baby, Kool Kat Musik, JAM Recordings, and Amazon, and is highly recommended. You can win one of three signed copies of Lost Hits of the 80’s by clicking here or on the link at the bottom of this page.)

Dan Pavelich: Last summer, my local theater ran a series of classic ’80s movies, and for the first time since the ’80s, I was able to see them on the big screen. I wasn’t prepared for the way that reliving my youth would affect me. It sounds cliche, but I really felt like a kid again. The music, especially, knocked me out in a way that it hadn’t in years. For the first time since the ’80s (high school for me was ’82-’85), I didn’t hear the music as simple pieces of nostalgia. Underneath the electronic drums, synths and chorused guitars, I heard really great songs. Frustrated that most “Best of the ’80s” CDs available had the same song selection, I opted to write new ones, in the spirit and style of the decade.

It soon became clear that because each song was so drastically different in style, I couldn’t release [the album] under just one name. I’d have to pretend that each tune was done by a separate band, which would explain the wide variety. I asked some of my favorite singers and musicians to help out, and everyone said “Yes.” Several commented that they’d always wanted to do a period project like this, but never had the time or resources.

My recording career began in 1985, when I, along with Bradburys drummer John Goodman, released a vinyl 45 under the name the Images. Unfortunately, recording was incredibly expensive then, as it was years before home recording was common and affordable. Most of the songs I wrote during the ’80s went unrecorded because of that. Now that I have a home studio, though, I’m no longer held back by $50-and-up hourly studio rates.

I don’t think I’ve ever had more fun recording than I did with Lost Hits of the ’80s. I spent many hours searching for just the right keyboard patches and drum sounds, but it all went by in the blink of an eye. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s purely a vanity project. I had no expectations that there was even an audience for it, beyond the folks who sang and played on it. I always wanted to record a full album in the ’80s, and at the very least, now I can finally check that off my list.

Pure Pop Radio: What kind of mindset did you have to adopt to make the songs you wrote for this album sound authentic? Or was your aim to bridge the gap between the sound of ’80s music and what’s current?

Dan Pavelich: I think I have to give credit for a lot of the authenticity to my Roland Fantom synth. It’s jam-packed with sounds from the great Juno and Jupiter synths of the ’80s. You just hear those sounds and it puts you in the mood! I wasn’t aiming to sound current at all. For once, I just went in whatever direction seemed to be the most fun, without worrying about how I would sell it or promote it. It was purely for my own enjoyment.

Pure Pop Radio: Did you have specific, actual ’80s bands in mind while writing and recording these songs? Did you ever think, “Oh, that should sound like–“?

Dan Pavelich: I tried really hard not to do that, because I didn’t want to just copy any particular band’s sound. I wanted the songs and the fake bands to stand on their own, as individual songs from the era. The comparisons are inevitable, though, since it’s impossible to use the same sounds that Greg Hawkes used in the Cars and not have people think it sounds like them. I’m most pleased when listeners are a little confused and say things like, “This reminds me of a band, but I can’t think of the song, but that drum sound sounds familiar…,” but they can’t put their finger on it.

Pure Pop Radio: How did you pick certain singers and players to record these songs? Were there specific attributes that certain people had that lent themselves to them?

Dan Pavelich: At first, I tracked all of the songs with my own vocals, and it just didn’t feel right. I can do a couple of different things with my voice to mix it up, but there just wasn’t enough overall variety. It just didn’t make sense for all of these different bands to have the same singer. Luckily, I happen to know a lot of my favorite singers, so I just started asking them to do it. It’s pretty thrilling to hear people like Lisa Mychols, Jamie Hoover and Andrea Perry sing my songs. Everyone exceeded my expectations.

Two of my favorite moments are the guitar solos by John Scholvin on “I Don’t Miss You (Ghost Be Gone)” and Grant June on “Digital Wave.” They both nailed that ’80s rock style in a way that I never could have.

Pure Pop Radio: The band names you came up with are creative and could easily have existed in the ’80s. Atari Hand Cramp, Pest Control, Crab Rangoons and Broken China are evocative of the era in which they were supposed to exist. Was it easy to come up with these names? Were there names you ultimately rejected because they either sounded too authentic or possibly not authentic enough?

Dan Pavelich: It was really difficult to come up with the names. Initially, I started with a list of about 50, and started Googling them. Most were already taken! With the names, the fun part for me is seeing someone pick up the disc and look at the track order on the back. Atari Hand Cramp and Crab Rangoons both always get a laugh! That’s kind of the point here, to have fun and reminisce in a positive way.

the romanticsPure Pop Radio: The only cover on the album is of the Romantics’ “Talking In Your Sleep.” What was it about this song that called out to be included on the album, and were there other songs you considered tackling?

Dan Pavelich: Remember on the original Star Trek, how they’d validate a futuristic reference by lumping it in with others that are well-known? They’d say something like, “He’s a brilliant thinker…like Confuscious, Einstein, or Bleepo, from Magneto 8.” I was doing the same thing, but to a lesser extent. Also, I’ve always loved that song, but heard it in my head as being slow and slinky. It’s a little darker that way. I sent a copy to Wally from the Romantics to hear his opinion, but I haven’t heard back yet. I hope he likes it. There were tons of other ’80s songs that I thought about doing, but this one was the only one I thought I could switch up a little.

Pure Pop Radio: Are you thinking about other decades to recreate on future releases?

Dan Pavelich: I’d still like to do another ’80s project, this time letting the guest artists contribute their own tunes. I think that would be really interesting. Several of the people involved with Lost Hits told me that they’d been wanting to do something similar for years, so I think there’s some interest there to go a little further. Next up for me is a second Click Beetles album, and I strongly suspect that elements of this ’80s experiment will be creeping into that!

(Thanks to Dan Pavelich for talking to us about Lost Hits of the 80’s. Once again, the album is available at CD Baby, Kool Kat Musik, JAM Recordings, and Amazon, and is highly recommended. You can also win one of three signed copies of Lost Hits of the 80’s by entering our exclusive contest; click here to enter.)

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