This hot discussion topic has been a long time coming…
It’s a subject dear to my heart – mainly due to the serious amount of bullshit that surrounds it- particular in the wake of Grohls ‘Sound City’ and Young’s fucking ‘Pono

Analogue and Digital. Which is superior….? ”Oh man, the warmth, the warmth, the warmth!!!!

I feel lucky that I got to straddle both worlds (it’s the only thing I do get to straddle these days…) I grew up as an assistant and engineer using tape and made the transition to using Pro Tools in the late 90s and early 2000s.
To be honest, it took me a while to be convinced by Pro Tools. One of my main motivations for being an audio engineer was Steve Albini (Pixies, Jesus Lizard, PJ Harvey) who, still to this day, exclusively works in the analogue domain (for reasons I’ll discuss later…)

My first exposure to Pro Tools as a recording tool was a painful affair.
A producer who I was assisting (shall I name him??), who was a right boring bastard was spending literally ALL FUCKING day editing a keyboard part on his new Pro Tools system…. this producer (who is an amazing guitarist for an early 80s punky funky band) was nudging audio around by milliseconds. For me, this kind of anal manipulation stops being music and enters the world of model making- obsessive for the person doing it, but hell for anyone observing, and at the end of the day who really gives a fuck. (Oh boy- I just used “anal manipulation” in a sentence…. the Google search visitors are going to be mightily disappointed!!)

This Pro Tools experience tarnished me for years…. what I didn’t appreciate then was that Pro Tools is essentially a really fucking cool tape machine…. with an amazing feature…. APPLE Z.

When working on 2” analogue tape we were restricted to 24 tracks (23 really, as time-code was often striped on 1 track for automation or sequencer synchronisation.) One reel cost a couple of hundred quid for 16 and a half minutes of recording time.
Lets compare this with the 1 Terabyte hard-drive I just bought for $100 and compare the data storage!!!

Editing takes has always been possible. I.e. if an artist has recorded a few takes of a song and likes the verse from take 1, the chorus from take 2 and the banjo solo from take 3…if this is on analogue tape the engineer SIMPLY marks out all the respective regions using a white china-graph pencil and using a razor blade and editing block slices up the tape and re-arranges it the correct sequence sticking it together with some Sellotape, vinegar and brown paper…a major operation.

If upon doing this he realises he’s sliced a bit too much off the front of the kick drum or the reverb tail sounds odd, it’s MERELY a case of rummaging around in the offcuts and splicing back in a few centimetres of tape. This is clearly silly. This operation on Pro Tools would take a fraction of the time to audition…and there is always the wonderful UNDO function ☺

There is something romantic about the notion of being restricted to 23 tape tracks but in the cold light of day when the vocalist wants to sing 50 takes and compile from his greatest hits- digital non-destructive editing is clearly the winner.

“But what about the sound!!!”…

I always ask my students…”which captures the truest representation of the signal coming from a microphone…analogue tape or Pro Tools?”
Invariably they say analogue- but this is not true…
Analogue tape and in fact all analogue circuitry introduce a subtle distortion that is not present on the microphone’s signal…digital doesn’t do this. It’s a completely different argument as to whether this introduced distortion enhances the sound or not. Personally, I am a fan of this distortion- but I am a fan of most distortion. This addition of harmonic content can be replicated in Pro Tools using outboard FX or the multitude of plug-in distortions that do an pretty fucking good job of fooling me anyway. (Decapitator!)

“But digital is just a jagged approximation of the analogue sound unless you record at very high sample rates”

No sir- this is not true. 44.1Khz and 16 bit is actually fine as a listening format- there are arguments for recording and processing at slightly higher bit depths (and maybe sample rates) but I can point you towards the science if you don’t believe me…. crikey next you’ll be telling me the Nazis are forcing us to listen to music at 440Hz.

Vinyl records are a nice possession to own and file away alphabetically in an IKEA shelving solution- I have a collection myself…but….there were many many shit records made on vinyl. And plenty of good shit released on CD. I guarantee you that most people listening to vinyl in the 60s and 70s had appalling sound-systems (with stupidly thin vinyl cos the price of oil was so high…damn arabs)

So….Steve Albini and a few other analogue purists have an interesting argument with regards to the longevity of today’s digital formats. We could easily be saying in 20 years time…”A Wav…! What is a wav and how do I play a Pro Tools 11 session on my Samsung organic computer- does anyone own one of those old Apple things?” – but I guess we could argue the same against tape (it doesn’t last well unless its stored in the right conditions…)

To conclude- all I can say is, we are in an era when we can take advantage of both worlds. The filth and distortion and romance and nostalgia from analogue tools, but the convenience and flexibility and non-destructiveness and ground-breaking-ness of the latest digital audio workstations. Essentially – use both- do your research- and stop regurgitating arguments cos your favourite rock-drummer turned front-man releases a documentary….

Yo! Yo! Yo!

I’ve not posted round these parts for a while- all the action has been over at my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/GarethPartonProducer)- so follow me there if you want regular titbits.
It’s been a fine year so far…
Finished the Lowtide record which has now been mastered…coming soon.
Also getting close to finishing a new long player by former Candle records heartthrob, Anthony Atkinson & The Running Mates
I’ll be heading up to the hills of Sassafras again shortly to make a start on an album for a reincarnation of another Candle records band. I’m enjoying setting up to record in a house with portable gear as opposed to watching the clock in a recording studio…

My newish studio Los Bomberos (www.facebook.com/losbomberosmelbourne) is fantastic. It’s a collaborative space with some topnotch gear in a former Firestation. (Hence the name) It’s a mixing space that I’ve been craving after for a while.

The gear-minded amongst you will salivate at the equipment list which include- Neve/Api mic pres, Genelec/NS10 Monitoring/ 1176, Shadow Hills, Coles, Josephson etc…

Here’s a spooky 3D panorama.


Baptism of Uzi

Nice to see that Stray Current by Baptism of Uzi is getting a good airing on Triple J (and Triple R)
It’s the lead track off an EP I mixed for them…out next month I think. The other tracks are fine specimens too.

What a lovely snare sound!

In other news…Fire! Santa Rosa, Fire! are finally making Codebreaker available for download via iTunes. It’s on Spotify too.

Those punctuation crazy Adeladians “Fire! Santa Rosa, Fire!” have let loose the wonderful new track “Codebreaker.” It’s already been picked up by a very keen Triple J- added to their full rotation playlist. Yay. We tracked it at Melbourne’s Soundpark studios with a few extra parpy bits added by Eagle and The Worm’s horn section.
Check it out here.

New Releases…

Exciting stuff going down…

Big Scary released their debut album “Vacation” and the country’s gone nuts for it. Triple J made it their feature album and added the track ‘Gladiator’ to their playlist. Tom and Jo showcase their comedic acting talents in the video.

Fire! Santa Rosa, Fire! released the single “Panther Shrine”- it’s grouse. I’m looking forward to recording the follow up very soon.

So that’s two of my babies in the current Triple J playlist…woohoo. (I’m more of a Triple R man myself, but don’t tell anyone)

Big Sound 2011

I’m very excited to be on a few panels at this year’s Big Sound music conference at Brisbane. I was there last year as a punter and have to say it was a great few days.

The topics I’ve been asked to mouth off about are “The Song Is God” and “Making Records For The World”.

As a Militant Atheist I was slightly concerned when I first heard the title “The Song Is God”…

I guess the “Song” shares many qualities with this so-called God I’ve heard about. Both are mysterious, mean different things to different people. And many wise men have lost themselves searching for them. Though I’m not sure too many wars have been fought in the name of “Song” (Mods and Rockers, Brighton 1964 may disagree.)

What makes a great song? To be honest if there was a simple answer, life would be dull. I’m happy to admit there is NO formula. I’m a keen student of Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty’s book “The Manual- How To Have A Number One Hit Single”, in which they propose a step-by-step formula of how to construct a sure-fire number one. It is an entertaining and humorous read though of course it’s flawed- there are no GOLDEN RULES. The rules are constantly being re-written and what works today, will not work tomorrow. And that’s what makes music continually exciting.

My job as a producer is to ensure the song is served to the best of its potential.

With a great song, this task is easy. You can give a great song a million different treatments and the song remains a winner. Equally with a dog of a song, you will never succeed. Polishing the proverbial…etc etc.

For me, it’s those songs that lie in the middle that deserve my time. Tweaking a song that starts out with limited potential by making arrangement changes, edits and other production ideas and ending up with an improved record.

“Making Records For The World” implies that one should tailor ones songs for international success. I may play the devils advocate on this one and suggest that aiming for overseas success is a mistake- in fact aiming for any success is a mistake. The effort should be make the band as good as possible. Success will follow. It’s a small world these days- good shit gets noticed. A huge amount of money is spunked on prematurely sending a band overseas.


I’m heading back to London/Wales for a wee trip home very soon- I’m missing it quite a bit at the mo. I thought I should put together a list of  5 things I will miss about Melbourne.


I’ve taken to two-wheeled transport of late. I’d love to say it’s for green reasons- price of petrol, zero pollutant, fitness etc but lets be honest. It’s the best way to get back from the pub. I’ve absolutely never been one for driving under the influence but Melbourne’s cycle lanes, fairly empty streets and over-priced taxis all point to the modern penny farthing as the finest mode of transport.

2. Indie Schmindie Gigs.

This goes hand in hand with cycling. Jump on the bike and end up in a small venue somewhere in the near North (Northcote/Brunswick/Fitzroy etc) in a venue full of maybe 20 cross-legged indie kids. The entertainment is perhaps a touring international singer/songwriter who is sleeping on the promoter’s coach. Very Melbourne.

3.Fruity beer.

Fat Yak, Little Creatures, Mountain Goat etc.

4.Not having a TV.

I’ve lived for the last 6 months without a TV cos, lets face it, Australian TV is utter cunt. (Thankfully VPN means I can get BBC iPlayer and Spotify on my laptop…)


A terrible cliché but true. Melburnians make a decent beany brew. I’m looking forward to a proper cup of tea though (another cliché- well done me.)

Possibly the strangest thing that as ever happened (or will ever happen) to me in the recording studio, happened last week. I was sitting at the console, when “water” started dripping from the ceiling onto the desk- I was in Brisbane recording a splendid band called Big Scary. We were enjoying the Queensland climate, though there had been some heavy Autumn showers that day, so I immediately thought- Jeepers, the roof is leaking…and the desk is getting wet- I should protect it by throwing myself between the torrent and this precious equipment…

Hmmm….it was soon pointed out that, in fact it was not raining outside, and the “rain” was indeed YELLOW.

A possum was pissing on me.

Yes…A POSSUM was PISSING on me…in the studio…at the mixing desk.

I am quite certain I will never say this sentence again, but I thought I should share it with you as a form of psychotherapy.

A family of friendly, if somewhat bladder-happy marsupials were living in the loft-space directly above the recording console and the inadequate ceiling tiles proved scant protection from their golden showers.

The Possum Patrol (a funny little chap like a cross between Saxondale and Steve Irwin) was called and within 12 hours of committing the crime, the culprit was banged up behind bars (lured by the scent of a Royal Gala.)

I feel quite bad that the poor little fellow had to spend a night in the cage but Australian law insists that seized possums are released within 30 meters of their capture- so perhaps the next engineer to work at Airlock studios will have a similar tale. *

(*Actually- all holes in the roof were fixed and made possum proof. It’s an excellent studio- don’t let this yarn deter you.)

Myspace is dead to me…

Myspace is dead to me.

I’ve decided I’m not going to bother with it anymore. I’ll happily admit there was a time when I was addicted to it, but like a smug ex-smoker I feel disgusted at the slightest whiff of it these days.

My main gripe is its crappy pound-store appearance. It looks vile- it somehow manages to be both plain and corporate whilst displaying a disorganised spew of disparate buttons, banners, and animated nonsense. It’s like the body of a tattoo addict who’s gone way too far- one step away from the spider-web face.

As a music producer, it’s always been my first port of call when checking out a new recommendation- and it was truly revolutionary. The hours I would waste fishing for fresh blood, expanding my friend-list, updating my blogs etc… It sucked my soul for a good few years but it felt pretty special. It makes me wonder what else I will fall out of love with. Does everything we hold dear eventually lose its appeal? Will I wake up one day and decide I don’t like curry anymore? Or Quincy? Or God forbid, beer?

We all saw it coming didn’t we…

The moment Murdoch’s name was linked to it, we should have bailed out then. How could someone responsible for Sky News really understand this community? The answer was- they obviously didn’t. In it for a quick buck and the kudos they quickly realised the only way to monetise it is was by plastering animated ads (for shit I’m never going to buy). And don’t even get me started on the spam….

So good-bye my old friend. I’m not going to delete my pages (I have 3…) I’ll just let them lie dormant- rotting, as the nettles and weeds grow through the cracks, the rats move in and tramps use it for a khazi. Maybe I’ll pop by in a few years to see how the old neighbourhood looks, but for now, I’m leaving town….

So where to now for decent music communities on the interweb? Let me know…

Soundcloud? Yeah, good for sharing files but not really the all-round razamatazz –‘arent my band great.’ showcase thing that Myspace once was.

Bandcamp’s not bad but it feels a bit like an internet start-up company run by a couple of students…

Then there’s this little website called Facebook that sounds like it might be going places. It’s taken over every other aspect of society – why should music be any different?  Now I just need to decide if giving my private information to the CIA is any better than Murdoch….mwah, we’re all doomed.

The Melbourne Summer

The Melbourne Summer …..I was promised eternal sunshine, an umbrella-free existence, a diet of barbecues and endless ice-cream….hmmm. I think I was sold a dud.

So it’s January, I’m here on a drizzly grey day, waiting for a break in the downpour. I’ve been here for 11 months now, and despite my bitching about the bleedin’ weather, it’s a splendid place to be. With a new year there comes all the obvious stuff; resolutions (I’m off the grog ‘til Australia Day); looking backward; looking forward; re-assessing; plotting and planning. It feels like 2011 is going to be a good one. Last year was a bit weird- very transitional- too much change, but now it’s all getting settled and nicely falling into place.

Looking back to 2010 for a mo. My end of year Top 5 albums is not particularly ground-breaking…And it’s not like anyone needs to read another list in their lives so if your life is too short for another nobody’s opinions, please leave now….go on, read a book or something, I really don’t mind………….are you still here?

Ok- My favourite albums were all by old(ish) bands. No debuts. And I’ve not strayed too far away from a lot of the other lists out there. Does that make me un-original? Or in-tune with the masses? Or are these just the best records? Anyway….

  • Number 1 – Arcade Fire :The Suburbs (after the average Neon Bible and seeing them do a lame Brixton Academy show, I really went off them. But this sucked me right back in).
  • Number 2 – Belle & Sebastian : Write About Love (again, I love them but their previous 3 albums left me cold. They’re back yay! And here in March).
  • Number 3 – Foals : Total Life Forever (despite having worked on their first couple of singles, I reckon I only listened to their first album a handful of times,  it was a let-down, a real under-achievement but this baby is another level altogether. Finally Yannis is focussing on vocals and melody. I think they are a band that will keep getting better- til their heads explode…)
  • Number 4 – LCD Soundsystem: This Is Happening (not their finest moment but pretty close. Their final album? Maybe?)
  • Number 5 –  Holy Fuck: Latin (or as 6Music like to call them, Holy F. A friend pointed out, if that’s the case, what does the M in Boney M stand for? I’d love to think they were really called Boney Minge). So there you go.

Other news….The end of January finally sees the release of the 3rd Go! Team record ‘Rolling Blackouts’ – some good reviews coming through already. It was one of the last things I worked on in the UK. There’s a preview teaser video here

Also Norwich sweet-hearts ‘Bearsuit’ have scheduled a release date (14th March) for their new album (Phantom Forest on Fortuna Pop Records). The first couple of singles ‘Please Don’t Take Him Back’ and ‘A Train Wreck’ have been getting plenty of attention from BBC’s 6music and Radio 1- they bloody deserve it. Top people.

Ok, the sun is coming out, I’m off to buy a brolly…..


ps. Anyone seen the new Cornetto advert on TV? I’m not normally one for product placement but I produced the music for it. Johnny Rock and The Limits – ‘Give You What You Need’ – now where’s my endless ice-cream?

pps. I didn’t even mention the cricket.