Thursday, November 15, 2012

Parsonic Reality

Ever since I was a kid I was a fan of Alan Parsons. I bought every great rock record I could get my hands on and read the liner notes (anyone remember those?). I knew Alan recorded Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon which was fascinating to me. I had all of the Alan Parsons Project albums as well which I thought sounded great. One thing I could relate to even back then was the idea of a band project not having only fixed members. Certain bands like APP and Steely Dan had a few core members and then a variety of session players which varied from song to song. Being a keyboardist and the guy with the recording equipment that sort of idea appealed to me even back in the 80's long before you could work with a variety of people outside of your hometown let alone across the country or world like you can now. You were lucky to find anyone who would put up with your picky home studio production standards... and kids resent being directed by other kids! They'd say "Who do you think you are? A producer?" But that's exactly what I thought I was.

(No there was no "Squids" back then, just kidding with the title.)

I had visions of having my own "Dave Kerzner Project" (except I didn't use my name in my mock up album artwork... I had all sorts of other "cool" names for it at the time. One of them was "Dark City Project" because I liked city lights and that was a very 80's thing... sort of glad now nothing was released under that cheesy name! haha). Here's a shot of me trying to look rock n' roll on the side of Hollywood Hills High School in Hollywood, Florida. I made a little cassette "album cover" out of this shot and the tape had all sorts of misc 'demos' of unfinished ideas... I had hundreds of those tapes! Not all of them had little album covers but some of them did... something creative to do while you're supposed to be studying math (my grades suffered so I could practice being in the music industry!).

Look at the difference between the studio equipment I worked with back in those days vs. today with Alan Parsons: 

Yesterday with my Tascam 4 track cassette studio in the mid-80s

Today (although ironically the gear I'm in front of is the mixing console used on Dark Side of the Moon in the 70's but I didn't have access to such a thing until many decades later).

A kid has to start somewhere though and all those days I spent in REAL garage bands (not to be confused with Apple's recording software of the same name now) helped pave the way for some of the things I'd eventually be doing. Interestingly there are a few things that this young version of me was foreshadowing. One was that I would eventually have a band project that is made up of guest singers and session musicians. It's called "Sonic Elements". Another was that I'd eventually work with Alan Parsons. What a trip! But when you know what you like at a young age, whether you realize it or not, you're putting things into motion in terms of your desires. All those times scribbling band names on your notebook at school actually means something as do all the demo tapes you make and all that lofty dreaming which will eventually manifest into quite an interesting reality if you allow it to. It's all a matter of how things unfold and what life puts in front of you based on the path that you take. 

Pictured here with Allen Sides (who I worked with on Ocean Way Drums) and Alan Parsons

So I'll tell you how I first met Alan Parsons. We'll have to flash forward past a lot of things but this blog skips around. It was 2008 (I think... somewhere around then) at a NAMM show party. Alan was there and I came up to him to introduce myself. I told him I ran the sound development company Sonic Reality and not long into the conversation he said "How come you never asked me if I wanted to do a sample library?" and I said "Well, I never met you before until now! DO you want to do a sample library?" and he replied "Yeah. We could do that" and then I said "Maybe we could recreate some of the iconic sounds from Alan Parsons Project albums?" and he paused for a bit and then said "Sure. We could do that." and then I thought I'd go for the big one and said "We could even recreate some of the classic instrument sounds from Dark Side of the Moon and capture the way they were recorded using the same equipment you used at Abbey Road in the 70's" and then there was an even longer pause... major internal Squids suspense... did I maybe go too far???? That was mighty bold to suggest! How many times has he heard this and that about DSOTM for decades? Here's yet another person wanting to talk about it but also suggesting he go deeper into the days of his recording past than almost anyone has asked before (I say "almost anyone" because my friend Julian Colbeck went far down that path into the whole art and science of recording with Parsons with their powerful educational DVD package). Anyway, after the long pause which only seemed long in my head he said "Sure, we could do that too."and that's how the whole thing started. As simple as that first conversation. 

Over the course of 4 or 5 years we did various sessions in different parts of the world from London to LA to NY... it's been bit by bit taking advantage of certain opportunities like being in the same place at the same time. There was a session at Mark Knopfler's British Grove Studios after a Frankfurt Musik Messe (a tradeshow like NAMM that's in Germany each year). We were both already at the AES (Audio Engineering Society, another tradeshow) in NY so I booked Jungle City Studios which is Alicia Keys' producer's studio who happens to own an old EMI TG mixing console similar to the one used on Dark Side of the Moon at Abbey Road. Here are some videos from that adventure:

This is me at Jungle City Studios in NY on a break practicing a version of Us and Them that I'm planning to do that has a little hint of "Beatles" and "Sigur Ros" influence mixed in there... and some inspired piano noodling around which is something I love to do. 

I asked Alan some Dark Side questions while we were in NY

Part 2

We also did sessions at my friend Simeon Spiegel's studio called "Blue Forrest" which is in Sherman Oaks. There we recorded all sorts of stuff with Alastair Greene of the Alan Parsons Live Project as well as members of the Floyd tribute band "Which One's Pink?" who Alan had worked with before. I had also worked with guys from a Florida-based Floyd tribute band called The Floyd Experience. I explained to Alan that these days I not only produce sample libraries but my project "Sonic Elements" (which ironically has a similar approach as the Alan Parsons Project in terms of guest musicians and singers) does actual MUSIC as well, putting Sonic Reality sound libraries into musical context... because that's half the fun of making the sample libraries and it also lets people hear these sounds in action. It also makes it a rare thing that you can listen to a full song that you actually like (as opposed to some quick demo for 30 seconds) and as a musician you can purchase interactive versions of the sounds you're hearing that you can use in your own music. That's mind bending if you think about it. How cool is that? I don't even know what I would have created as a kid if I had the tools people have today in their computer-based recording set ups! 

Here's Alastair Greene doing a guitar solo take on the song "Money" by Pink Floyd

Since then Alan and I have expanded working together to include a session on Nick Mason's own sample library SR is doing as well which I blogged about a few pages back. We did tons of great interviews in London and New York but earlier this year in Sherman Oaks, Keyboard magazine's Robbie Gennet caught up with us to do a video interview with Alan Parsons and myself. That's just now been made public and that's what prompted me to make this blog post so you could get some background on how this fascinating "Alan Parsons Sample Project" started. There will be a lot more about it in coming posts but if you're a Parsons or Floyd fan (or Pilot fan!) this video has some interesting factoids to share about the past, the present and the future of how certain 'vintage' sounds are being 'preserved' and recreated now for musicians to be able to use in their own music. These are useful whether musicians want to play authentic sounding covers or write their own songs mixing up the sonic flavors. It's a virtual reality experience to just jam with inspiring sounds as if they were in the studio with Alan Parsons! It's something that I've been personally very fortunate to do and my company's mission is to bring a taste of that experience to cutting edge music technology from IK Multimedia, Propellerheads, N.I. and more so that others can share in that experience and create with deluxe sonic 'tools' that would otherwise be extremely rare and difficult to get. 

Alastair Greene, Squids, Alan Parsons

Me with Natalie Azerad and Dan Johnson

The long version of the interview has me asking Alan questions as well. The Keyboard Mag version is mostly Robbie asking Alan and I questions about the new SR sample library in the works, the 
"Alan Parsons Sample Project"


Click here to read the article and watch the video blog of me, Dave Kerzner, and Alan Parsons with Robbie Gennet

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