Interview: Alan Parsons

Alan Parsons had a successful solo career with his band The Alan Parsons Project in the 70's and 80's, but is also very well known for being the man behind the music on classic albums like The Beatles Abbey Road and Pink Floyd's Darkside of the Moon, which he contributed to as a brand-new engineer. Parsons took a few minutes to tell us about how he got his start in the music industry as well as his latest release Eye to Eye - Live in Madrid.

You started producing at 19. How did that come about?
It really semts from my passion for music and passion for technology. I actually began engineering at 19, and I didn't actually produce until I was into my twenties.

So you did you have an internship or something like that?
Well, it wasn't classified as an internship, that's the way Abbey Road engineers trained. They just went straight into the deep-end, on the job; they operated tape machines and learned from the [other] engineers. We were "tape-ops", or second-engineers, and we just watched and listened and learned. That was formal education in those days.

Were you aware of the kind of artists that you would be working with? 
Well I knew the Beatles had a history at Abbey Road, but when I got the job there I didn't know I would be working with them within six months of starting work [laughs]. That was quite a day.

Can you walk me through what that day was like?
Well, I was sent down to the beatles own studio, at Apple, where they had just built their own new place, and they supplied it with equipment that didn't work. Abbey road engineers were brought in to loan them equipment that did work.  They were in the middle of filming the Let It Be movie. They hadn't actually taken on a tape-op for their own studio, so they asked Abbey Road to send one and that was me. So I ended up tape-operating on the Let It Be sessions, and that included the roof-top sessions at the end of the week.

Even being so young, you were obviously able to bring a lot to the table when working with established artists like the Beatles and later on, Pink Floyd. What sorts of things did you learn about music from the people that you produced?
It was a constant learning process, really. Every day you leanred something new; something about engineering, or something about sound, or somethng about musicians, something about guitar playing or whatever. It's constant learning.

So for example from working with David Gilmour [of Pink Floyd]..
Yeah I picked up some guitar technique from him. I had been a musician when I started working at Abbey Road, but I kind of let that lapse as I became more enveloped in the engineering arts.

Do you consider yourself a pioneer of Progressive Rock?
I wouldn't say that. That would be for you to say.

What do you think about music today. Are there any current artists that you like?
I'm liking Coldplay, Radiohead, Sheryl Crow.

What do you think about the record business as it is today, with the advent of the internet and the ipod and that sort of thing?
Well, it's made life for songwriters and artists quite difficult. Perhaps it's good for up and comng artists, because they have a new means of promotion. But for someone who was used to selling large quantities of their catalogue on a constant basis, that's certainly changing.

Tell me about your new album. What can we expect from Eye 2 Eye – Live in Madrid?
It's a concert recorded in Madrid. It's coming out both as a CD and as a DVD. Thanks to technology of today we were really able to capture the sound of the old Alan Parson's Project.

If you werent doing music what do you think you would be doing?
Probably another branch of entertainment; maybe tv or radio. I think entertainment is in my blood, it's in my heritage as well. My mother was an actress, my great grandfather was a famous actor. His name was Herbert Dearborne Tree. He was a contemporary of Oscar Wilde.

Anything else that you'd like to get across to your fans?
I've got another current project called 'The Art and Science of Sound Recording' It's a documentary which I have been working on for two years. The website is www.artandscienceofsound.com. It's a documentary all abotu recording. It's about 7 hours long and that's coming out on DVD in April sometime and is already available for donload on the website.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting interview. I wish you would explain how you get some of these folks to talk to you! Did you email him? Call him? Meet him in a bus station restroom?