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An Interview with Alan Parsons

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As digital technology has enabled some of the most innovative musicians to redefine the means of composition, so too has it facilitated record producers and engineers in broadening the possibilities of how music can sound. One of the foremost authorities on such matters, Alan Parsons chronicles the modern recording process in a three-DVD, nine-hour instructional series, The Art and Science of Sound Recording.

“The program is really designed to cover every aspect of recording,” he explains, “from the acoustic properties and design of the studio right through to the final mix of a record.” It’s a culmination of sorts for Parsons, who has invested more than 40 years as a producer and engineer as well as an artist, along the way playing an integral role in shaping some of most seminal works of the pop-music era.

An assistant engineer for EMI Records in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, Parsons served his apprenticeship at Abbey Road Studios in London, acquiring the formative skills of his craft in album sessions for the Jeff Beck Group’s Beck-Ola and the Beatles’ Abbey Road, among others.

His stature grew exponentially when he produced and engineered Pink Floyd’s dystopian masterwork, 1973’s Dark Side of the Moon. The album has not only endured as a landmark achievement, but in many ways has also loomed over everything he’s done since.

“I’m never allowed to forget it,” Parsons says with a laugh, yet he acknowledges, “I do regard it as a milestone, a significant milestone. I’m always proud of it. There’s nothing I would change. The only slight thing is that I didn’t get rich off it. I was paid a studio-staff salary.”

Nonetheless, Parsons affirms that the experience afforded him the opportunity to pursue his own endeavors as a recording artist. “The Alan Parsons Project would not necessarily have happened,” he says, “had it not been for Dark Side of the Moon.”

Along with vocalist and co-writer Eric Woolfson and a cast of rotating musicians, the Alan Parsons Project enjoyed a successful run throughout the ’70s and ’80s with albums like I Robot and Eye in the Sky, both of which reached the Top Ten.

With a reputation as one of the foremost producers and engineers in the music industry, Parsons went on to work on such albums as Paul McCartney’s Red Rose Speedway and Al Stewart’s Year of the Cat. Also, indelible radio singles like Pilot’s “Magic” and The Hollies’ “The Air That I Breathe” bear his deft aesthetic.

Asked what inspired him to produce The Art and Science of Sound Recording, Parsons says, “I know there are people out there [who] have the same curiosity about what happens in a recording studio that I had when I was in my teens. I just felt it was time to give something back.”

In doing so, Parsons recently issued his first new solo single in six years, “All Our Yesterdays,” along with the B-side instrumental, “Alpha Centauri,” the latter serving as the theme song to the series.

Not only for professionals and audiophiles seeking such step-by-step instruction, the program should also prove enlightening to music fans interested in learning about the recording process. “I’ve interviewed a whole bunch of celebrated engineers, producers, and artists to get their particular perspective on certain aspects of recording as well,” Parsons says. Altogether, what’s presented is a comprehensive tutorial on subjects that insiders seldom reveal in such detail or with such consideration.

“Most recording studio videos that you see are basically bad miming in the studio against a track that they’ve finished,” Parsons says. “Pretty much everything you see in this video is as it actually happens.”

About Donald Gibson

  • http://emm-media.blogspot.com/ Emm

    Eye in the Sky is one of my favourite albums of all time. This is a fantastic interview and full of so much that I did not know about Alan! I had no idea that he had worked on Dark Side of the Moon, for example. Eye in the Sky is as close as it gets to the perfect album, in my opinion and I imagine that he is in a perfect position to tell the music industry how to do it.

  • Thesmophoria

    Eye in the Sky had a few good songs, but I Robot, The Turn of a Friendly Card, and the grand epic Freudiana are Parsons’s best albums.

  • http://www.clorechronicles.com John Clore

    Donald, good stuff here man. Thanks for the interview.

    John Clore