According to his website, one of Gareth Parton's early jobs was as recording engineer on Fat Les' Naughty Christmas (Goblin In The Office). Well, quite. Luckily he's improved his clientele since, having produced, engineered or recorded the Beta Band, Spearmint (engineering the very song this blog is named in honour of), the Cribs, Ikara Colt, Piano Magic, the Cherubs and most famously co-producing brother Ian's Go! Team's Thunder, Lightning, Strike. He's recently been working on a couple of albums we've been anticipating, which we'll come back to. Sounds like the CV of someone we need to know more about...
How did you get into studio work?
I got into studio work via being in a band during the 90s. I'd just finished uni and fancied doing something different. Did a sound engineering course and started freelance assisting in some of London's big studios (Strongroom, The Church, Livingston) and then became inhouse at a studio called The Greenhouse (I went there cos I knew Steve Albini liked it but by the time I got a job there Albini preferred Abbey Road...) The Greenhouse is now called The Fortress and I still like to work there.
As laymen we're pretty much across the producer's role, but how would you sum up what the engineer adds to the mix?
I think a good producer needs a good engineer. The engineer will get the sounds that the producer is imagining. It's kind of making his vision a reality. The producer can talk in wishy-washy terms and the engineer will, if he has a good relationship and understanding with him, turn that into something tangible. I like to both produce and engineer most of the projects I work on these days.
At heart Thunder Lightning Strike is a ridiculously involved work - how much of it is sampled and how much freshly added?
There's a surprising amount of played stuff on that record. Ian builds a song and chord structure and fits suitable samples into it. Then he played drums, bass, guitar, banjo, recorder, melodica, percussion, piano and keyboards on top of the track. He's a clever little fucker. The only stuff that wasn't played by Parton junior was the extra horns and strings we added in the remake version of the album...
Would it actually have been possible to clear everything intended for the album? How much of it had to be ripped out and replaced for the second version?
Well, a few people said no to clearing samples. Some were cleared and a lot were recreated. The whole process was a bit gutting cos we were happy with the original but on reflection I think the new version stands up on its own (apart from Junior Kickstart which could have been better...)
With bands now making a selling point out of having recorded to analogue tape, is ProTools a blessing or a curse?
Tape and Protools are both ace in different ways. It's always great to get the inital takes onto analogue tape cos drums and bass sound so much better with a bit of analogue tape compression. But then 99% of the time I'll transfer into Protools for the flexibility of editing. There is no way a record like the Go! Team could be made without Protools.
We Are The Pipettes will be the next big release you've been involved with - how was it to produce in terms of replicating the aura of the original girl group sound?
The aura of the 50s/60s girl group era is pretty fundamental in their songs. I felt my job was to ensure it wasn't done in a straightforward way. The songs are intrinsically sweet. If you do a sweet song in a sweet way it can be pretty inpalatable so my approach was to smash things up a bit. Joe Meek and Phil Spector were no strangers to distortion so we cranked things up a bit. Andy Dragazis, the co-producer, arranged some superb strings and horns which helped with the Spector-esqe wall of sound illusion.
Who did you grow up listening to, and what have you liked recently?
My formative years were spent listening to noisy guitary shit. I happily bypassed metal and went straight for Sonic Youth, The Jesus Lizard, Big Black, Rapeman, Loop, Pixies, Spacemen 3, The Telescopes, My Bloody Valentine and stuff like that. Now I've completely mellowed. Twee indie/folky/pop shite. Architecture in Helsinki are pretty ace.
We're looking forward to the Victorian English Gentlemens Club album - what can you tell us about it? Anything else you can tell us about that's coming up?
The Victorian English Gentlemen's Club (or the Victorians for short) are a quirky three piece from Cardiff. 2 girls, one guy. Former artschool oiks who make a wonky cross between The Breeders and The Fall. They're more of an album band rather than a radio-friendly singles outfit but I hope this doesn't stop them being noticed. I really like them and hope they do well. The next big thing I'm working on will be more Go! Team stuff. We made a start on a new single last week - should be good...
Many thanks to Gareth, who has his own website and Myspace (the last friend comment as we type being from Gwenno Pipette - now there's swish.) We Are The Pipettes is released on 17th July, TVEGC's debut following on 14th August.