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Alan Parsons is a sound engineer who received his start in the music industry helping work on The Beatles' Let it Be and Abbey Road albums. From there he became a Grammy-nominated engineer for his work on Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. He has gone on to garner more Grammy nominations, work with many musicians, and even put out his own work under The Alan Parsons Project, during his long, illustrious career. TheCelebrityCafe.com got the opportunity to talk to Parsons about his first big gigs, who he is working with now, and the current state of the music market.
TheCelebrityCafe.com: How did you get that first big gig working on The Beatles' Abbey Road album?
Alan Parsons: Just by being on the staff. I was essentially interning at that time. The very first encounter was on the Let it Be album and I was set down to the Beatles' own studio in central London. It was just a new assignment through my employment. It was all through EMI, which was the company that owned Abbey Road studios.
TCC: How did it feel to be nominated for a Grammy for your work on Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon?
AP: Stevie Wonder won it that year, or the engineers that worked on his record did. I think I hold the record for the most number of Grammy nominations without ever winning. It was great to be nominated though. I was sent over to L.A. to attend the Grammys and at that time I met Ambrosia. That started a two-album long relationship with them.
TCC: Describe going from sound engineer to musician with The Alan Parsons Project.
AP: I was not really considered a musician on The Alan Parsons Project. I was really a producer. I did some performing and I was certainly involved in the music composition. It wasn't really such a huge change. We had a lot of good sets and I was always grateful for that. I was pleasantly surprised with each release that we continued to put out.
TCC: Why did you launch The Art and Science of Sound Recording? Can you tell me more about it?
AP: It's a full-blown video series based on everything you ever wanted to know about sound recording. It can be bought as a 3-DVD set or downloaded. We're actually planning to put it on USB memory stick. I'm looking to inspire others and I think the inspiration of the program comes from other sound engineers. A lot of it is contributions from other engineers through interviews. It's not like being in school classroom. It's mostly demonstration. We've been backing it up with real in-studio sessions, which have been very well-received.
TCC: With all the legendary acts you've worked with in the past, are there any artists you are currently working with?
AP: I just finished a record with an amazing musician. His name is Jake Shimabukuro. He's the virtuoso of the ukelele from Hawaii. He's become sort of an internet sensation for that. We've done an album together, partly with a band, rhythm section, and some with orchestra as well. It's called the Grand Ukelele. The ukelele has become tremendously popular in the past few months and I have high hopes for this project.
TCC: Are you working on any music right now under your own name?
AP: I have no plans to release anything under my own name. It's just production and engineering stuff for now, but I think there might be an EP with my name on it. I've actually got two tracks ready to go and if we just do one more, we might have an EP. It's a very different market these days. You don't have to make an album anymore since people only download one tune. I think we'll try to focus on one song and put out an EP.
TCC: That's a perfect segue to my next question: How would you describe the state of music now compared to when you first started out.
AP: There used to be a time when people would go and pick up their shiny new vinyl record and take it home and turn down the lights. They would listen to the whole thing from start to finish. There's too many distractions in this day to do that. It also seems that high fidelity sound has been quietly forgotten. We're all listening to ear buds on iPhones and MP3s and digital downloads. There's still the audiophiles who understand what hi-fi is, but people are listening to music on laptops. It's criminal. They think laptop speakers are good enough.
TCC: There needs to be more audiophiles.
AP: Yes, and we need to rise above the poor sound quality of MP3s and we need to get people interested in a slightly longer download time in return for a hugely better sound experience.
TCC: How would you describe a sound engineer's work on a record?
AP: It's interesting that modern musicians are expected to be computer savvy in sound engineering production strategy as well. Nothing has actually changed though as musicians are still musicians and engineers are still engineers. It's just that the areas are crossed over into each other. Everyone has a computer that technically makes them capable of being a sound engineer. Musicians continue to attempt to make their own recordings without the experience one such as myself has. That's one of the reasons we made the Sound Recording DVD to educate people that just can't turn on your laptop and plug in the mic to expect to know what you're doing.
The Art and Science of Sound Recording can be read about more on its website at http://www.artandscienceofsound.com/
Photo couresy of Alan Parsons' official website