Interview: Alan Parsons shares 'The Secret'


Alan Parsons, 'The Secret' album art.
Alan Parsons, 'The Secret' album art. (Frontiers)
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In an interview for our Music News podcast, Alan Parsons, a legendary engineer (Dark Side of the Moon, Abbey Road) and hit-making musician ("Eye in the Sky," "Don't Answer Me") talks about his storied history and his new album, The Secret.

Let's start right off talking about your new music. The Secret is coming out. It'll be your first album in 15 years, if I'm counting correctly. What brought you back to the studio, and what can fans expect from the new music?

It returns to the style of the Alan Parsons Project. I knew that the concept was to be based around the art of magic. We just set to work to write as many songs as we could based on the idea of magic and magicians and the way magicians might think, what their ideals are and stuff like that. Everything actually came together pretty quickly once I got the record deal from Frontier. Having some money in the bank to make an album made a big difference.

So even in this streaming era where singles seem to be king, you're still dedicated to the concept of an album around a coherent concept.

Yeah, believe it or not. I know I may be fighting a losing battle because we live in a three-minute download world these days and the world of iTunes and Spotify and so on. The encouraging thing is that vinyl is undergoing a renaissance, so that's an indicator that people are ready to sit down and listen to thirty, forty minutes of music continuously.

One of my most treasured pieces of vinyl is an original copy of I Robot.

We released I Robot with impeccable timing at exactly the same time that Star Wars came out. It was literally the same month. Interestingly, there's another connection to I Robot: the last song is going to be featured in a biopic about a young man who was hugely influenced by Star Wars and Close Encounters and the science fiction movies of the bygone-era as it were. He worked with Douglas Trumbull, the Star Wars special effects guy. His name is Patrick Read Johnson and the biopic is called 5/25/77, which is the date of Star Wars. This movie is featured in our promo video for the song, and the song's called "I Can't Get There From Here." It's actually the closing song on the album.

You're one of those rare figures who is just as appreciated for your work behind the scenes, or behind the board more specifically — you've worked with artists such as Pink Floyd and Ambrosia — and your own music on stage and in the studio. When you see attention being paid to people like Giorgio Moroder and Nile Rodgers and yourself, do you think people are increasingly appreciative of the work being done behind the boards by engineers and producers in the classic rock era?

I think rather more so in the classic rock era because I think people accept that many records these days can be literally done in a bedroom. So I think engineers were considered to be more important back in the day. I trained, I went through the motions of working my way up from the bottom and just watching other people work in the studio and stuff.

Let's talk about your live shows. I understand that you didn't really play with the Alan Parsons Project right up until 1990, and now you've really jumped into it with both feet: live albums, orchestras, you're in the middle of a tour right now. It seems like you've really embraced live performance.

Yes, and obviously we're working a little harder than we might normally do because of the album and we wanted to give the album its very best chance and promote it as best we can.

What would you say people can expect from the show you have on the road right now?

Well, we are of course playing the hits, as always. I always joke that if we didn't play "Eye in the Sky" they would go to the box office and ask for their money back. It's essentially three or four songs from the new album, and the new album material seems to be very well received. And there's a possibility because of the magic concept of the record that we might incorporate some magic illusions in the show. Maybe I'm going to disappear or something. I don't know, we'll see.

Was there a moment when things really clicked for you, where you just sort of nailed one moment and something came together and just sounded perfect, and you were like, "I think this is going to work"?

I think that happened countless times. I mean that's the beauty of the music business, you instinctively know when something's right and you seize the moment. It's a wonderful experience to know you've created something of greatness.

Transcribed by Lydia Moran

Audio sampled in podcast
Jahzzar: "Comedie" (CC BY 4.0)
James Scott: "Frog Legs Rag"
DeBarge: "Rhythm of the Night" (live at the Apollo Theater)
BoxCat Games: "Against the Wall" (CC BY 3.0)
Drake at the Billboard Music Awards)
L7: "Stadium West"
Vampire Weekend: "This Life"
The Felice Brothers: "Undress"
Rhiannon Giddens: "I'm On My Way"
Alan Parsons feat. Jason Mraz: "Miracle"
Taylor Swift feat. Brendon Urie: "ME!"

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