“I’ve been talking about Pink Floyd for 40 years and I think it’s time to stop now…I realized that it’s the 40 anniversary and everything, but they’ve made millions and I haven’t.” – Alan Parsons
Alan Parsons shut the door on “The Dark Side of the Moon” with one sentence. Not many artists can turn their back on a chapter in their life that includes one of the best selling albums of all time, but there aren’t many artists like Alan Parsons.
His earliest gig took him to Abbey Road to work with The Beatles. “The Dark Side of the Moon” is one of many projects. Parsons is proudest of the Alan Parsons Project.
Parsons chose Vinyl Music Hall in Pensacola, Florida as one of eight venues for the 2013 Alan Parsons Live Project U.S. tour.
One month before the Pensacola concert, I called Parsons as part of my feature for the Pensacola News Journal. We talked about life, music and his career. His upcoming tour was billed to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the release of “The Dark Side of the Moon”, but Parsons would have none of that.
AP: You’re in Pensacola, right?
MS: Yes, sir. Pensacola, Florida.
AP: And it’s a newspaper?
MS: Yes, sir. The Pensacola News Journal. I’m a music columnist. We’re honored to have you. I know that there are only eight select cities that you’re doing the Alan Parsons Live Project. So I do appreciate that. Thank you.
AP: No problems, no problems.
MS: Alan Parsons Live Project is a special treat for music lovers. What are you most excited about sharing during these special performances?
AP: We’ve been doing this about as long as you might think and only since 95’ that I’ve been playing live and, considering we made our last album in 87’, that was quite a wait. We’re there to entertain; we’re there to share the hits with people who haven’t heard them live. It’s a very different experience having the hits in a live situation instead of a recorded situation. We’ve had really good reactions in general to the live shows. Although, I’m sorry to say that Pensacola isn’t one of them, we’re doing a show in Clearwater, Florida with a symphony orchestra which is going to be really fun. In fact that’s a real opportunity to recreate some of the (phone cuts out)
MS: 40 years, “The Dark Side of the Moon.” What is the greatest memory you have from that ambitious project?
AP: Too long ago. Sorry. You know what, I hate to be boofy on this, I’ve been talking about Pink Floyd for 40 years and I think it’s time to stop now.
MS: That’s fine with me. You have a body of work that’s amazing.
AP: I realized that it’s the 40 anniversary and everything, but they’ve made millions and I haven’t (distinguished English laugh)
MS: In a recent interview you stated that you really weren’t considered a musician on the Alan Parsons Project, but with all of the titles you’ve earned; engineer, artist, musician and now actor as well, how do you consider yourself?
AP: (laughs) The acting thing is just an amusing side, I don’t know if it will go anywhere. My wife gave me a couple of acting lessons for my birthday. I’m excited about it. I’ve had a couple of small parts in movies. I come from a family of actors; Oliver Reed is my cousin, my great grandfather was Sir Herbert Beerbohm celebrated contemporary of Oscar Wilde and both my mother and uncle were…it’s a new sideline.
MS: With everything you’ve been through; your experience, what would Alan Parsons of today tell a younger Alan just starting out?
AP: I think I was probably predestined to be in recording because I was always interested in recording. I studied piano. I was a recording enthusiast amateur when I was young. I did have an enthusiasm for recording from a very early age. I kind of went on a quest to find out more and bid my way through school towards a job in a recording studio.
MS: As far as recording, decades after you started in this industry, Dave Grohl and his band the Foo Fighters won a Grammy for their album recorded on tape. How do you see this affecting the recording and engineering of records now?
AP: It is different. You don’t see tape machines anymore. Everything is recorded to computer like most things computers have completely taken over the world and recording is just like anything else. I still use essentially old school techniques and I don’t sit at a computer, I still sit at a console and work with music and performances and I leave them.
MS: This is a crazy question; do you ever have friends come over and say, “Alan, I just got a new studio system or home system. Can you check it out and tell me if it is good or not.” Do they ask you that?
AP: Almost every day of my life. Yeah. It’s one thing to be considered the next artist. I don’t think I often seriously help people in that problem. What I have done, I don’t know if it’s in the bio, but I did a DVD series about sound and sound recording. So that was an attempt to pass on some of my knowledge to others in a more general sense.
MS: With so much knowledge you have, I can’t even imagine trying to pass that down, but I have looked at the series.
AP: In ten hours of video you can get quite a lot of information across apart from going to someone’s house and saying, “Yeah, you made the right choice there and the wrong choice there.”
MS: Would The Beatles have survived in today’s music industry? Would they have “made it”, would they have succeeded in today’s industry?
AP: I think so. Had they never happened and they happened now, I think Beatlemania would be just as strong as it was. They really did have something that nobody else has ever emulated. So yeah, I think they would make it.
MS: Of all the artists you’ve worked with, who blew your mind like nobody else?
AP: There is one guy and he is perhaps less unknown to American audiences, his name is Roy Wood and he was one of the founding members of ELO and he was also in The Move, way back. He’s just an incredible musician and as a producer, he has every note in his head before he goes into the studio. He has such an amazing sense of what he wants to achieve in music. And he’s a great player too. He can pick up just about any instrument and play it.
MS: As far as your musicianship, how often do you practice?
AP: Oh, I don’t practice at all; I’m really just a rhythm guitarist in the back row. I have to do some practice with the tour coming up. My main role in recording is being an engineer and producer and I’ve been doing quite a lot of that lately with other artists. I just an album with Steven Wilson, if you know who that is, so yeah, I’ve been concentrating on activities outside the Alan Parsons solo efforts.
MS: With all the experience you have, what is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
AP: I think just the experience, I wouldn’t say the advice, just the experience of working with some of the best in the business and obviously the people in Pink Floyd and the associated producers and engineers were all incredibly influential on the way my career materialized and I’ll always be grateful for that, just having the experience of working with so many great artists and producers and engineers. You could hardly ask for a better upbringing than Abbey Road Studios, working with the greatest records of all times remains.
MS: What’s your fondest memory of Abbey Road? I can only imagine, so many things happened there, but is there one moment that sticks out in your mind?
AP: Not really. Every day was an experience. I just remember walking up the steps every day. I was on the staff, it was my job. Walking up those steps every day and saying “Wow. This is the best job that anybody could ever ask for. I just felt very blessed and very lucky to be there and being paid for it to boot.
MS: With your body of work-there are so many things that you’ve done-what do you feel is your greatest contribution to music history?
AP: I’m very proud of the Alan Parsons Project. In particular, the first couple of albums, I’d be happy to be remembered for those if nothing else.
MS: Do you prefer crunchy or creamy peanut butter?
AP: (laughs) You know, I like creamy. In the U.K. crunchy didn’t exist until I was probably 10, 11, 12, years old and I loved it then. And I like almond butter in particular. I think almond butter is better tasting.
MS: We have good food here. I hope you have time to enjoy the South here in Pensacola, especially because we have great food. We’re on the water so it’s…
AP: What’s the local specialty there?
MS: It’s seafood. Seafood is the biggest thing here, but there’s everything for you here. When you come downtown, there’s so much here.
AP: We’re big seafood lovers, my wife and I. My wife’s family used to-or still does own a crab restaurant in Pennsylvania.
MS: Oh wow. Then you’ll be right at home here. We have great seafood here. Do you still have time to shop for vinyl when you go traveling?
AP: I pretty much stopped vinyl, I have a record player, but I haven’t used it very often. But I realize that there’s an upsurge in vinyl sales and when we put out our boxed set of Alan Parsons in the summer, there might be a new release on vinyl as well.
MS: Mr. Parsons, my last question for you; is there anything you would like to add for the fans coming out to Pensacola, Florida to see you?
AP: Please come. I know that there are still tickets available. I’d love to fill the place. I’m sure, especially if they’re fans of the music, they won’t be disappointed with the live show.
– Michael L. Smith