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Alan Parsons talks ‘Eye in the Sky,’ ‘I Robot’ and new music soon

Alan Parsons talks ‘Eye in the Sky,’ ‘I Robot’ and new music soon

Alan Parsons talks ‘Eye in the Sky,’ ‘I Robot’ and new music soon
June 01
08:12 2018

As Alan Parsons makes his way to Phoenix on a tour celebrating the 35th anniversary of “Eye in the Sky,” he recalls his first impression of the title track, which would go on to become his most successful pop hit.

This is after being asked if there were songs that ended up becoming hits that caught him and his partner in the Alan Parsons Project, Eric Woolfson, by surprise.

“I was never allowed to forget the time that we recorded ‘Eye in the Sky’ and I was ready to drop it,” he says with a laugh.

“I said, ‘This isn’t working.’ It was only when we found the right feel for it that I started to like it. I did actually say, ‘Let’s try something else. This song is not happening.’ ”

Parsons began his career as an assistant engineer at Abbey Road, where he worked on the Beatles’ albums “Abbey Road” and “Let it Be.”

After engineering Pink Floyd’s multiplatinum masterpiece “The Dark Side of the Moon,” he decided it was time to reinvent himself as a recording artist.

The Project was properly launched with the 1976 release of “Tales of Mystery and Imagination,” a conceptual album whose songs had been inspired by the poetry of Edgar Allen Poe.

In 1980, the Project scored its first of four Top 20 hits a single called “Games People Play,” which was followed by “Time,” “Eye in the Sky” and 1984’s “Don’t Answer Me.”

Here’s Parsons on the latest tour, the promise of new music and how he managed the transition to a live performer.

Question: I hear you’ve been working on a new record, a concept album. What can you tell me about it?

Answer: Not very much because I’m keeping it a secret. In fact, the title of the album is going to be the secret. Over several years, I’ve never really disclosed what the album is about until just before it’s released. I find that it creates a better impact at the time of its release because nobody knows what was coming.

Q: Are you happy with the way it’s turning out?

A: Yes. It’s still got a long way to go. I’ve been doing a lot of gigging and traveling so I’m looking forward to getting started again. But it’s certainly underway. There are about three or four tracks already and I’m collaborating with other writers, trying to assemble material.

Q: And you’ve got a story mapped out?

A: It’s not a story, per se. It’s a subject.

Q: So the songs are thematically linked without having a narrative?

A: Exactly.

Q: And you’re recording in the studio you built?

A: Yes. It just got completed a couple of months ago. We’re still furnishing it and hanging pictures. But it’s nearly there. And it’s much better than the studio I had at home. It’s the real thing with a proper console. The other studio was functional, but this one is much more suited to bands coming in and I’m hoping to rent it out commercially. Ultimately. The main thrust now is to get my album done.

Q: Will you also be producing other artists?

A: Yes. I’ve got a couple things lined up already. An Austrian artist who’s a big name over there, Virginia Ernst, she’s hoping to come. And I’m also hoping that this female duo called the Sisterhood might come. We did a show together in Santa Barbara, a fundraising event for the firefighters, and they expressed an interest in recording at my place.

Q: Are there particular types of artists that you find lend themselves to your production style?

A: Anybody who doesn’t use drum loops and electronica. I come from the old-school.

Q: What inspires you as an artist at this point?

A: It can come from real-life events. It can come from TV shows. It can come from listening to somebody else’s music. I don’t think about that subject much. But inspiration often comes more easily when there’s a deadline. (laughs)

Q: This show in Phoenix is billed as the “Eye in the Sky” 35th Anniversary Tour. Are you doing anything special in relation to that anniversary?

A: We’re certainly playing songs from “Eye in the Sky” but it’s actually more likely that we’ll do more of a feature on “I Robot,” which turned 40 last year. We’ve been playing the entire record start to finish.

It’s fun to play and we’ve always played various songs from it. We’ve played “Breakdown” ever since the beginning of touring, I think. “I Wouldn’t Want to Be Like You” is another one we’ve always played.

It’s nice to do it as it was conceived and this is a rare opportunity to do that.

Q: You said “As it was conceived.” You’ve always been a very album-oriented artist as opposed to singles.

A: Yes. And it’s an uphill struggle for me now because we live in a three-minute download world. It’s kind of tough to get them to sit down and listen to a whole record from start to finish. But you know, there’s nothing I can do about that. It’s the way of the world.

Q: There were singles on those albums that were hits. Were those songs ever written to be singles?

A: I think Eric Woolfson always felt that there was commercial potential in certain songs and he would encourage the label to concentrate on those. Clive Davis, who represented us for everything but the very first album, was always looking for hits, of course. And he did well, finding songs that were gonna do well.

Q: What kind of relationship did you have with Clive, with him looking for hits while you were focused on the album? Was there any kind of tension there?

A: No. That’s what Clive does. He’s a hitmonger, you know? He was always very gracious to us and I mean, on the face of it, we really were an unusual act for him because we weren’t really pop. We were firmly rock. He really didn’t have many rock acts.

Q: Not only were you rock, you were on the more progressive side of rock.

A: Yeah. We certainly tried to be anyway. There was a certain pressure not to be too progressive and lose the commercialism.

Q: Your first tour was 1995.

A: Yeah, the Alan Parsons Project as an entity never toured.

Q: What inspired you to start?

A: I made my first record without Eric in 1994 or ’95 and the band I made the record with, we decided we wanted to give it every possible chance. So playing live was one of the things we decided to do.

Eric didn’t really think that I could be part of a live show. And I mean, he had a point. I had established myself as a producer, not a musician. It might have felt odd to me to be featuring myself as a musician. But as it turned out, it was fine.

I actually improved enormously as a player through playing live. I started getting better at it, playing keyboards as well as guitar, and eventually started singing. When I was asked my occupation on a form for whatever reason, I used to say record producer. Now I say musician.

Q: What were those early experiences of suddenly being on stage after all those years as a producer and recording artist like?

A: It was terrifying. I was very concerned that it would not work. But we started in Germany. We did a show in Hamburg and it was very well received. So I was breathing again. I thought, “My God, they like it!” I’m still very comfortable in a recording studio but I’m equally comfortable on stage.

Q: There was recently a deluxe edition of “Eye in the Sky” and also “Tales of Mystery and Imagination.” Is there any plan to revisit other albums in the catalog?

A: I would love to at least do surround mixes of the other albums. I really enjoy mixing in surround and the new studio is all geared up for that. But we’ve kind of exhausted the possibilities of box sets and special editions now. We could possibly do “The Turn of a Friendly Card” as a box set at some point in the future but there are no plans for it at the moment.

Q: Given the streaming, download culture of the day, is it harder to get these sort of special editions out to the intended audience?

A: I really think it’s selling to the fans rather than to anyone experiencing my music for the first time. It’s almost a given that if somebody buys the box set, they’ve bought some version of “Eye in the Sky” previously.

There’s just no apparent opportunity for people to sit down and listen to anything. There’s video games. There’s countless TV channels. There’s smart phones. There’s the internet, email, Facebook. All these things are enormous distractions away from people sitting down and listening to music.

Q: Do you think the music has suffered? Or just the industry?

A: Maybe a bit of both. I mean, I haven’t heard anything that I’ve been really excited about for a couple of years now. There’s some reasonably good stuff out there, but stuff that I say, “Wow, that’s incredible music,” that hasn’t happened to me for a while.

Alan Parsons Live Project

When: 8 p.m. Friday, June 8. 

Where: Celebrity Theatre, 440 N. 32nd St., Phoenix.

Admission: $43.01-$97.31.

Details: 602-267-1600,

Source: Alan Parsons talks ‘Eye in the Sky,’ ‘I Robot’ and new music soon

About Author

Martin Nethercutt

Martin Nethercutt

Martin A Nethercutt is a writer, singer, producer and loves music. Creative Director at McCartney Studios Editor-in-Chief at McCartney Times Creator-in-Chief at Geist Musik President (title) at McCartney Multimedia, Inc. Went to Albert-Schweitzer-Schule Kassel Lives in Playa del Rey From Kassel, Germany Married to Ruth McCartney

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