Crawdaddy!: Do you think the success of that album changed the band’s attitude towards making records?
Parsons: I don’t know. Our relationship ended for business reasons shortly after [Dark Side of the Moon]. I was certainly up to doing another record, but the business got in the way.
Crawdaddy!: But then you moved on to the Alan Parsons Project, and that obviously worked out.
Parsons: Yeah, it could certainly be argued that the Alan Parsons Project would not have happened if it weren’t for Dark Side of the Moon.
Crawdaddy!: Given how well you were recording in the analog world and how well you knew this stuff, what was the process like moving to digital?
Parsons: It was a slow transition. First came the boxes—the Eventide boxes, and you know, digital delay. And then there was pitch correction, which was previously just a nirvana, just an unattainable thing that people thought, “Oh, you’re never gonna be able to change the pitch on something.” [laughs] So that was pretty magical at the time. And then came the CD technology that allowed us to record digitally and put it on a CD. The sound of early CDs was remarkably gritty compared to how it is now. And at the time all we could concentrate on is how clean it was. You know, no crackles, no surface noise, and the actual sounds seemed to be secondary. And that’s what everybody said—“It’s so clean and so quiet.” And our ears got sort of tuned into [the digital sound] in later years as the technology progressed.
Crawdaddy!: On your DVD, it looks like Steinberg’s Cubase is your DAW [digital audio workstation] of choice?
Parsons: It’s certainly been the one I have spent the most time with. The unfortunate fact of life is that Pro Tools is the de facto standard.
Crawdaddy!: It is. For years it was overpriced for how it sounded and what you got. I don’t believe it ever lived up to its hype in the pre-HD era.
Parsons: I had some bad experiences with Digidesign. You know, I bought these huge systems and then found two months later that they were out-of-date. But I think they have done the right thing with Pro Tools by making it hardware compatible with everything. It clearly works, and I think it’s healthy to have competition.
Crawdaddy!: What kind of commercial music do you listen to these days? Do you listen to today’s music?
Parsons: Only by default, like on the radio or whatever medium it’s on. I don’t tune into radio stations that are playing chart music particularly. And I was embarrassed to look at the album charts just a couple of weeks ago, and I only knew two of the artists in the Top 10. And one of them was the Allman Brothers! [laughs]
Crawdaddy!: Interestingly enough, a lot of teenagers have turned to bands like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. I think that’s because there is a lack of good bands coming out on labels. It’s such a business now. All sizzle, no steak.
Parsons: There is a style right now that I don’t particularly like: Heavy auto-tune, heavy compression. It’s very stylized, and I don’t find it appealing.
Crawdaddy!: I think it’s a real problem that engineers over-compress and producers want it over-compressed. And then mastering engineers compress it again, and then radio stations compress it one more time.
Parsons: Yeah, and there’s nothing left at the end of the day.
Crawdaddy!: How do you get these people to stop? [laughs]
Parsons: Form a band and try to be different and try to be real. I mean, this can’t last forever, all this nonsense. It’s got to go back to musicianship. Hopefully a new wave of progressive rock.
Crawdaddy!: I agree, and I hope so.
Parsons: It’s totally manufactured now.
Crawdaddy!: I think part of the problem is that listening to an album used to be a special thing. You couldn’t do it on the bus. You couldn’t do it walking to work. You had to do it in a home or some environment where you’re focused on listening. Do you think the album is a lost format?
Parsons: Absolutely. It’s a thing of the past. We’re in an iPod world now. It’s three or four minute segments. It’s just the way they do it now.
Crawdaddy!: How do you feel about that?
Parsons: It’s disastrous.
Crawdaddy!: Perhaps that’s why vinyl records have made a resurgence. We’ve got two generations now who know little about the album concept—artwork, the production, the story.
Parsons: And part one and part two—side one, side two. That’s one of the biggest loses.
Crawdaddy!: When it comes to studios closing down on a daily basis, I think your DVD fills an important gap—in that, as commercial studios close down and of course the talented professionals who know how to operate them go with them—people are left with little choice but to go at it alone. So now we’ve got people recording in their bedroom who may know how to edit a registry in Windows or how to get real tweaky on a plug-in, but they don’t know the first thing about where to put a mic to record an instrument.
Parsons: And that’s something that people like me are likely to complain about. But I accept the fact that it isn’t necessary to do what’s going on now.
Crawdaddy!: I enjoyed watching your DVD. You seemed very accessible and a very good instructor. Was that hard for you?
Parsons: At every stage, we tried to make it better than it actually was through the editing process. [laughs] The early edits were very different than the final edits. We would literally throw out about 20 minutes, because it wasn’t quite right. It’s actually a miracle that we got it [down to] 10 hours—it couldn’t have been 20 hours long.
Crawdaddy!: So it’s kind of like making a record then?
Parsons: Yeah, absolutely.
Crawdaddy!: You seemed very comfortable talking technical to the camera. Were you?
Parsons: Well, I think that my camera presence is variable. When I see the program, I think, “Oh well, this is early on, and oh, this is when I’d been doing it for a few months.” I did get better at it. And it was all teleprompted and scripted.
Crawdaddy!: It looks great. It’s one thing to know this stuff works, and it’s another to be able to teach it. What are some of the more common mistakes home studio owners make these days that they can easily correct?
Parsons: I think a lot of engineers mic guitar amps too close, particularly live. There are live engineers, you know; they [mic] up against the cloth of the cabinet. I’ve never thought much of that technique. At least a foot away is where I like to put them. And acoustic guitars are quite difficult to record. One little trick I’ve always favored was to [put a] high pass [filter on] it. Get rid of some of the boominess. Really, there is no such thing as making mistakes. But guidance in the right direction is sometimes useful.
Crawdaddy!: It is clear from the DVD that recording is not a hard science. There is an element of art to it. And I thought the section on equalization was great. EQ is a bit of a mystery to many of us. Do you think it’s important to EQ everything in this world of canned sounds and drum loops?
Parsons: I think that EQ is now and will continue to be the most powerful tool for recording. I mean, you can turn a sound inside and out with EQ. And, providing you know the results you are looking for, it’s incredibly powerful.