Parsons’ advice for going into the studio is to “do the processing at the front end,” focusing on the playing and composition of the music rather
than the equipment.
It must’ve been a pretty big challenge to
balance the drums and bass and still have
them sound good when everything else
was laid on top later.
That was definitely a challenge [laughs].
It was, “Oh my God, I hope I’ve got this
right—because I can’t go back!”
Sometimes having limited options is
better than having too many options.
Looking back, do you think those limitations were somehow an advantage?
Oh, I agree with that totally. There are far
too many decisions that can be made later
now. I’m all for committing at the earliest
It’s been almost 40 years since Dark Side
came out, but it’s still regarded by many
as an audiophile master recording. What
do you attribute that to?
I don’t take all the credit. I mean, the band
members were experienced in the studio.
They arguably were the most technically
minded band out there. They knew what
a recording studio was capable of, and they
took full advantage. And they worked me
hard—they always worked their engineers
hard to push the barriers. There’s no better
band for an engineer to cut his teeth on,
What’s your advice for musicians want-ing to capture that quality of sounds in a
home studio or a project studio?
Just get the band playing. Use good mics and
good mic preamps and so on, and then leave it
alone. Do the processing at the front end—in
the playing and in the composition. For the Art
and Science of Sound Recording, we did a master
class at the Village Studios and we got the top
guys: Nathan East [Eric Clapton, Four Play,
Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock] on bass, Rami
Jaffee [Wallflowers, Foo Fighters] on keyboards,
Vinnie Coliauta [Sting, Allan Holdsworth,
Frank Zappa, Jeff Beck] on drums, and Michael
Thompson [master L.A. session guitarist] on
guitar. We laid down a track, and it sounded
great with no plug-ins, no special sound processing. Everybody was just making their own
good sounds. Nathan had his own little pedal
box and Michael had a rack full of gear, so they
made it sound good at the source and then
we just committed it to disk—and it sounded
great. There’s another general attitude that the
more time you spend experimenting and turning sounds inside out, the better it will get. But
it’s often the reverse that is true.
Any tips for guitarists recording at home?
The technology has evolved. You’ve got all
these Line 6 Pods and SansAmp devices
to get nice distortion out of. But you
know, there’s no substitute for a great lead
sound—like a vintage Les Paul through a
Marshall amplifier. I still think that’s a great
guitar sound—and hard to get any other
way. So much of it is in the playing, as well.
I’m not an electric guitar player—I’ve got a
rig here at home, and when I play it sounds
like utter crap—but when I get a guitarist
in here, he makes it absolutely sing [laughs].
So that makes a huge difference. The standard of musicianship, quite apart from the
other stuff, is such a huge contribution to
the way a guitar sounds.
Any final thoughts you’d like to add?
I’d just like to add one thing: Never be
frightened to add bottom end if you’re a
guitarist. I often do that. Electric guitars can
sound hard and thin, and rather than try
and remove that hardness, I add some bottom end on the console to smooth it out.
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