MCTS Santa Barbara-A Regular Recording Session 3

Dishwalla tears it up at Band Recording Day
A live tracking session and more produced by Alan Parsons.

Group pic at ParSonics Studios
Date: March 8, 2020
Country: USA
Venue: ParSonics Studios
Event: MCTS Level 3
Producer: Alan Parsons
Engineer: Noah Bruskin
Artist: Dishwalla
Event Manager: Terry Shields
Event Producer: Julian Colbeck


At what seemed like dawn on the third day of this long weekend of Master Classes, the band arrived, hauling an impressive amount of gear out of several vehicles. Indeed the clocks had 'sprung forward' on Sunday so a 9AM get-in looked and felt pretty darned early.

Fortunately, Dishwalla is both local and very accommodating so within a half hour and cup and a half of Joe later everything was largely in place. In ParSonics' live room the drums sat in the center with bassist Scot Alexander to drummer George Pendergast's immediate left and keyboardist Jim Wood tucked into the corner to George's right. Guitarist Rodney Browning Cravens on guitar completed the instrumental picture while singer Justin Fox was set up in the main iso booth with two mics - a MikTek CV4 and a Slate Digital VMS LM-1 - placed head to head, ready and waiting for a mic shootout.

Live band recording sessions are busy, bustling affairs with lots of cabling, setting up and general banter, all of which attendees got to see and be part of.

Alan first introduced the band and then asked to hear demos of what was on the day's menu. Justin Fox handed over a USB stick to engineer Noah Bruskin and thirty seconds later we were all listening to... an airy, lilting number; something about Sade? No one said anything but one could sense a little unease as it would appear this once edgy alt rock band had mellowed considerably over the years.

Fox soon began to giggle, then dissolved into a fit of laughter! Hahaha, guys. OK you got us. It was a nice ice-breaker joke they'd just cooked up before we got to hear the actual song for the day, King Of The Mountain, a snarling 148 BPM homage to Carlin Dunne, the iconic motorcycle champion who died tragically in 2019 at Pike's Peak and who was a close friend of Fox's.

As has become customary on these sessions, Alan talked over the arrangement with the band, shortening this, switching this part with that, deciding what was the chorus or the bridge! And so onto miking: an extended tour around the drums followed by a discussion on DI versus miking with Scot, a choice of two mics on Rodney's guitar combo in the second iso booth, and then how best to capture Jim's mix of ancient and modern keyboard rich that consisted of an actual ARP Quadra (in his possession for more than 30 years) and MicroMoog, supported by a full cast of software instruments on his laptop, driven by an M Audio controller.

The tracking session itself was captured impressively quickly and with only the most modest of repairs needed before we adjourned for another sumptuous lunch provided by Santa Barbara Wood Fire Catering, complete with an actual wood-fired pizza oven parked outside the studio.

Glen Keith and Alan at ParSonics StudiosOverdubs and vocals followed lunch. More tracks of guitar, plus some nice textural keys and lines from Jim Wood. Both Quadra and Micromoog were in great shape in spite of some physical battle scars.

Justin Fox delivered a bravura performance on vocals, demonstrating power and range. The Slate VMS works post recording so a shootout can take place without a shoutout involving the singer having to sing over and over again. Alan had been, understandably for a man whose entire professional life has been spent lovingly handling arrays of physical mics, a little skeptical that the VMS could live in a world of actual Telefunkens and Neumans. But in next to no time Alan was engaged and calling out mic choices and settings to engineer Noah. Differences from one great virtual mic to another were often very subtle, as one might expect, but the process and the results were beguiling and impressive.

With no disrespect to Friday's winner, the MikTek CV4, the Slate VMS took honors on the day. But, of course, the final decision as to which of the LM-1's mouthwatering offering of vintage large capsule condensers would make a final mix would not have to be made until later!

ParSonics Studios Montage

What's A Masterclass?

Nowadays, when everyone's a self-proclaimed expert, YouTube star or Instagram influencer, it's almost mandatory for every instructor to be called a master. A 90 minute whizz through a piece of software by an expert with the gift of the gab is not a masterclass. That's a training seminar and very useful they are too.

A masterclass is where you get insight as well as instruction, and from an acknowledged master of their art or craft; someone who's consistently reached the top of their profession. Engineering such a landmark album as Dark Side Of The Moon is probably enough of a qualification by itself. But with Alan you can also throw in dozens of hit records as an assistant engineer, engineer, producer and artist from The Beatles, to Al Stewart, Pilot, Ambrosia and of course The Alan Parsons Project.

At this masterclass you'll first get to see how Alan interacts with the artists and see just how important that is. From listening to a demo to assessing the arrangement, routining, miking drums for a live tracking session (just as he did when engineering Dark Side Of The Moon), advising when the band has reached its peak performance during tracking, to making a decision about how a guitar solo should end or whether this or that style of lead vocal needs double tracking.

Good chemistry between the musicians and the producer is vital in creating a successful 'band' recording session. And it's not just about the basic personalities, it's also the approach you take.

Alan's recording master classes are rare and special events. They are especially useful for project studio owners, engineers looking to develop into producers, producers and engineers who work in the box, who want to develop tracking engineer skills, and also musicians who are in a position to record themselves. If you've been considering attending one, take the plunge. If you've attended before, you know why!

ParSonics Studios Montage

The Venue

ParSonics studio is situated on Alan Parsons' at his Tres Vientos Ranch in the hills above Santa Barbara. This state-of-the-art facility has a 32-channel Neve 5088 analog console, 5.1 monitoring through B&W 802 Diamond Loudspesakers and a selection of microphones collected by Alan over his 40+ year long career such as his Neumann U47 FET (Field-Effect Transistor) and British Coles 4038 ribbon mics as well as interesting newer items like the Neve RNR1 ribbon mic, personally given to Alan by Rupert Neve. Talk about bragging rights! The control room looks through to a generous sized tracking room with adjoining iso booths. The facility has its own luxurious green room and catering area; a spacious patio area overlooks the Pacific Ocean and can accommodate both dining and outside seminars. ParSonics was completed in 2018 and was used in the recording of Alan Parsons' most recent album The Secret, released on the Frontiers label May 2019.

The Artist

Artists for the session is the platinum-selling, award-winning band, Dishwalla.

The Santa Barbara five-piece alt-rockers have a career that spans more than 25 years, producing five big selling and critically acclaimed studio albums.

Dishwalla signed to A&M Records in 1994 and immediately began their successful launch into the music scene with a rendition of It’s Going to Take Some Time that was chosen as a single for The Carpenters tribute album, If I Were a Carpenter, a live performance on the Jon Stewart Show, and MTV coverage.

Dishwalla’s debut album, Pet Your Friends, lit up the airwaves in 1996 and their edgy single Counting Blue Cars was a smash hit, becoming one of the most requested songs of that year. The track earned them a Billboard Award for “Best Rock Song” for 1996 as well as two ASCAP Awards for “Rock Track of the Year” in both 1996 and 1997, driving Pet Your Friends to sell more than a million copies worldwide.

The band’s edgy, yet melodic, signature sound would become part of the soundtrack of a generation being featured in hit movies such as Empire Records, Blast from the Past, The Avengers, Stir of Echoes, American Pie, The Banger Sisters, as well as TV shows such as Smallville, The OC, NCIS, Charmed (musical guest), written into the plot of How I Met Your Mother on CBS, and recently, NFL football and the CW sci-fi series, Pandora.

After their 2005 self-titled album Dishwalla, produced by ASSR and MCTS host Sylvia Massy, the band took a short leave of absence, reforming in 2008 with a new line up featuring long-time friend, Justin Fox, singer of the Santa Barbara band Tripdavon, along with original members Rodney Browning Cravens on guitar, Scot Alexander on bass, George Pendergast on drums and Jim Wood on keyboards.

In the summer of 2017, Dishwalla released their critically acclaimed 5th full-length studio album Juniper Road through Pavement Entertainment/Sony, also produced by Sylvia Massy and recorded at Rock legend Eric Burdon’s retreat in Joshua Tree, CA.

Dishwalla continues to tour extensively and fans from around the world continue to stream their music at the rate of millions of times a month.

Consistently rated as one of the most exciting live bands on the scene, Dishwalla is also very much at home in the studio and very much on top of studio technology. Justin Fox is a fan of the Slate Digital Virtual Microphone System and is eager to A/B these with some of Alan’s physical prized mics from his past. Justin is also a recording engineer himself, who worked on Katy Perry's platinum album Prism. Meanwhile keyboardist Jim Wood will be bringing several interesting modern fun synths to support his extensive collection of virtual instruments.

The Producer

Alan Parsons was trained at Abbey Road Studios in London, working under the direction of Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick and Beatles producer George Martin. After working with The Beatles on Let It Be and Abbey Road Alan started working as a full-fledged engineer with Paul McCartney, Wings, George Harrison, and countless other artists who came to Abbey Road studios.

In 1972 Alan became the sole engineer working with Pink Floyd on Dark Side Of The Moon, a record which would go on to sell more than 45m copies. (Alan's legendary 'Quad' mix of Dark Side Of The Moon was finally included on the Immersion Edition 6 CD Boxed Set.)

Alan went on to become one of the most successful producers of the 1970s and 1980s, producing a string of hits with artists such as Pilot, Al Stewart, Ambrosia, Cockney Rebel, John Miles and of course The Alan Parsons Project, a concept created by himself and Eric Woolfson.

Post 'Project' Alan Parsons has continued to work as an independent producer with such artists as Jake Shimabukuro, Steven Wilson and Yes. Alan runs a highly successful touring band (The Alan Parsons Live Project).

In 2019 Alan released his fifth solo album The Secret, much of which was recorded and all of which was mixed at ParSonics Studio.


Sunday March 8th 2020

  • 09.30–10.00 Welcome, Registration. Coffee and pastries.
  • 10.00–10.45 Alan introduces Dishwalla, plays the demo(s) and sets goals for the day.
  • 10.45–1.00 Tracking session rhythm section.
  • 1.00–2.00 Lunch with Alan and the band.
  • 2.00–4.15 Instrumental overdubs.
  • 4.15–4.30 Tea Break.
  • 4.30–6.30 Vocals and a rough mix

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