Talking to an icon: a Q&A with Alan Parsons 

Alan Parsons Live Project hits Clearwater with symphony and lasers this Friday.

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You discuss how to produce better recordings in your Art & Science Of Sound Recording. What's the most important piece of advice you can offer to a burgeoning producer?
One of the most important things is documentation and keeping track of everything you do. Make sure everything's named properly, and all the notes and any sort of documentation or file folders that go with it are included. There's nothing worse than coming back to something that was done six months ago, or somebody else comes to work with it, and they don't have the information they need, which is incredibly important. A lot of mistakes are made because of insufficient records being kept. You can end up with an entire computer drive full of stock files, all called 'Audio 1,' and that's a nightmare, of course.

You’ve likened your role in the studio to that of a director in a film? Does this still hold true?
I think the two are very similar. I don't why we weren't called ‘recording directors’ rather than ‘recording producers,’ because a film producer is normally associated with the guy doing a desk job and keeping the tabs on finances and budgets. We have to do that as well (laughs), but we are ultimately responsible for the way the record turns out, the performance of the artists, the selection of the material, and so on.

Some producers are more assertive with their ideas than others. I like to think that people work with me because I can contribute something.

What about putting together your own records?
When I'm not only the producer and engineer, but also the artist, I obviously have total control of the situation. But it's a bit of a misconception that I play a big part in the performance of the record. I really don’t — I leave it to people who actually do a much better job than I do when it comes to performing. I'm no virtuoso by any means...

Alan Parsons Project never performed live during your heyday — was this simply a matter of not being unable to produce the sounds you’d created in the studio, in a live setting?
That was pretty much the reason. Since then, the technology has improved, sampling came along, which hadn't happened at the time of the APP.

What was it like the first time, presenting your music in a live setting?
It was wonderful. Once we had hit the road, I said to myself, "Oh, wow, we should have done this five years ago." But I really don't think we could have pulled it off until the ’90s.

Tell me about the current symphonic tour.
Actually, Clearwater is the only symphonic show on the tour, so I'm looking forward to it enormously. We always have a good time with an orchestra. It's the best possible representation of the music, because it was real orchestra on the record, and when we don't have orchestra we have to emulate it.

Does this change the setlist?
Yes, it will change, particularly a song called “Silence and I,” which we’ve never performed without orchestra. It’s a long epic piece from the Eye in the Sky album.

Tell me about working with Jake Shimbakuro.
Oh, he’s wonderful. I sort of discovered him in a little theater in Santa Cruz, California, and I asked to meet him and his manager. Jake and I got together, and we talked about the possibility of making an album together and Jake was all for it and we made it at the end of last year. It was released in the summer, it's called The Grand Ukulele, it's a combination of ukulele solo, ukulele with a band, and ukulele with orchestra. It was all recorded live, which was very satisfying for me…he is a super guy, incredibly talented.

What else do you have coming up?
There's a band out of UK called Electric Litany, I'll be working with them starting next week. And I just finished an album with Steven Wilson from Porcupine Tree. That was a fun album to make. He approached me because he wanted an engineer who had lived through the ’70s, and we did it in a very ‘70s way — everybody playing together, all the instruments in the studio as opposed to being plugged into the control room. The only thing missing was a tape machine. I might release an EP of tracks under my own name this year, but I don't think I'm ready to do a whole album just yet. And we live in a download world, a world of one song being featured. People don't have the attention span, to sit down, turn the lights down and listen to an entire album these days. It's just a fact of life, unfortunately.


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