Anthrax Producer / Engineer Alex Perialas Interview – full in bloom Podcast – Metallica – Pyramid – Ithaca – Jonny Z
Engineer / Producer / Professor
The full in bloom interview with engineer / producer / college professor Alex Perialas is now available. LISTEN TO THE ENTIRE INTERVIEW VIA THE CLIP ABOVE, DIRECTLY ON YOUTUBE, or via the Soundcloud widget below.
Alex Perialas is currently the director of the Sound Recording Technology program in the School of Music at Ithaca College. He also is the owner, engineer, on-site producer at Pyramid Sound Recording Studios.
A short excerpt from our interview has been transcribed below.
A VERY Condensed Discography:
Anthrax – Fistful of Metal (1984), Assistant Engineer
Anthrax – Armed and Dangerous (1985), Engineer
Overkill – Feel the Fire (1985), Engineer
S.O.D. – Speak English or Die (1985), Producer (w/ Scott Ian), Engineer
Anthrax – Spreading the Disease (1985), Engineer
Nuclear Assault – Brain Death (EP) (1986), Producer
M.O.D. – U.S.A. for M.O.D. (1987), Producer (with Scott Ian), Engineer
Testament – The Legacy (1987), Producer, Engineer
Carnivore – Retaliation (1987), Producer, Engineer
Nuclear Assault – Game Over (1987), Producer, Engineer
Agnostic Front – Liberty and Justice For… (1987), Engineer
Overkill – Under the Influence (1988), Producer, Engineer
Testament – The New Order (1988), Producer, Engineer
Anthrax – State of Euphoria (1988), Associate Producer, Engineer
Anthrax – Penikufesin EP (1989), Associate Producer, Engineer
Testament – Practice What You Preach (1989), Producer
Vio-lence – Oppressing the Masses (1990), Producer, Engineer
Wrathchild America – 3-D (1991), Producer, Engineer
Listen to the entire interview via the embedded YouTube clip above or at this location.
full in bloom: Tell me about your teaching career.
Alex Perialas: The teaching part is pretty cool, I got to say. I have been at Ithaca College since 2003. First, I started working as a guest lecturer for two years and then I kind of stepped in and took over the recording program, advanced class work, in 2005-’06, and then 2007 is when I started there full-time.
full in bloom: I assume you’re working there Monday through Friday.
Alex: Yeah, actually I was there last night (on a Friday night), too. Students were giving recitals. If you taught English, and this is no disrespect toward English teachers, but if you were teaching in the liberal arts institution, so I can be correct here in my phrasing (laughs), you may teach two or three classes a week, maybe more than that. You do your normal business and then you go home. For us, in the school of music, because my recording program lives in the school of music, it’s a classical school of music, basically, with a jazz program and an education program, which most schools of music have. All of my students have to audition on an instrument, and most of them audition on a classical instrument. Kids who are interested in recording typically can play saxophone, or play trumpet, but they also play guitar, they play bass, they play drums. They want to record; they’re super well-rounded. Although their curriculum is based in classical repertoire, if you will, they all play multiple instruments. They have to perform at a really high level in the school of music. It’s a liberal arts college, a small private school. The college has around seven thousand undergraduates, not huge, not small. It’s not like an Ivy League school, or like Ohio State where there’s like fifty thousand undergrads.
full in bloom: As far as the students, do they typically continue as musicians or do they go into recording careers?
Alex: Most of my kids, believe it or not, get hired before they graduate. It’s a small program, so it’s not like a Full Sail or one of those programs, or like some of the larger programs that crank out 150 kids a year into a place where there’s only going to be X amount of jobs. Our program only graduates twelve to fifteen kids a year and basically they’re hired before they graduate.
full in bloom: In recording careers?
Alex: In audio careers of some sort. It could be some area of the industry that is not in a recording studio – live sound, mastering, film and television. A bunch of them go into product management at a major audio company, because they’re skilled end users. So my kids end up working in the software area, plugins and that sort of stuff. It’s kind of across the gamut. And then some kids choose to go to grad school to get a graduate degree in either music, or in audio, or in business. It goes across the board; it’s hard to say where they’ll end up. The ones that continue on in graduate studies typically have found a thing that really interests them.
full in bloom: And so you’re recording bands on the weekends?
Alex: Yeah, weekends and academic breaks, typically. I try to schedule stuff out. These days I try to work on things that I find interesting. I do a lot of mastering for people, so that’s kind of fun. I get to master a bunch of stuff, which has been something that’s been around now for fifteen to twenty years, which has been a blast. I was lucky enough in the major label days to work with the best of the best, so hopefully you learn from your experiences. That’s what I try to ingrain into kids. Every idea is a good idea until it doesn’t work. The reality is that there is always something that you can learn from other people, even if you don’t agree with it. You don’t have to agree with things that happen all the time but you have to be observant and kind of be a sponge and soak up what’s going on, because it’s the little stuff that you accumulate in any industry, but especially ours.
full in bloom: Is there anything that you recorded recently that’s of particular interest to you?
Alex: I have been working on all styles of music for so many years. I know a lot of people gravitate towards the metal years from the ’80s and early ’90s, but there’s so much stuff that I’ve done. It’s really funny, I’ve done a lot of high-end classical projects. A lot of times the classical clients have no idea of other genres I’ve worked on and the same thing goes for a lot of the rock records, or blues records, or metal records. A lot of those people never knew I was actually dabbling in recording 100-piece orchestras either. I just like working with people that are good at what they do. I just like being around people that are serious about making great music. Especially these days, with the technology, anybody with a laptop and an interface thinks they’re a recording engineer. There’s some great music being made that way. I’m not trying to minimize the amazing quality that can happen with musical intent. But the notion that anybody can get together and record something and have it on the internet that night, that doesn’t make it good…it just makes it available. So, I miss the days of artist development, budgets and people really hunkering down and really working at crafting music. Whether it’s metal music, or rock music, or jazz, whatever…I say there’s two types of music, good music and bad music. (laughs)
full in bloom: It doesn’t seem like there’s anything with the record labels anymore. You look around and it’s mostly just the old school bands that are still releasing records.
Alex: Well, you have the notion, too, that it’s a delivery system, right? Physical medium is dead and gone. People do still make cds but nobody really buys cds. Everything is an online scenario; it’s all about streaming nowadays. That’s all the labels are looking at is how many seconds somebody is streaming on a website. They don’t have to pay anybody; nobody is getting paid, or the artists aren’t getting paid. Most definitely the production people aren’t getting paid. (laughs) You know the days of cutting a deal where you actually got points on a project…what are you going to get? You’re not going to get points on any kind of physical media. So how do you even structure putting your time into something. It’s interesting, unless you really believe in what you’re doing….and that’s maybe a cool thing, when there’s skilled personnel working with a band that’s got something going on. I think it’s interesting to think that somebody is actually investing themselves in a project, for whatever reason. Nine times out of ten, people who have done really well for themselves, never did it for the money. They just did it because they really enjoyed that particular band or that style of music…the money came. It’s a little more difficult these days.
full in bloom: I thought it would bring more of the art back in, and I’ve seen it some, but not like I thought it would. And as far as the record companies, you just think, karmically, those guys…I know they get a ton of money for streaming but they’re just not spreading that around and giving more to the artist. Still, after screwing artists for all those years, you got a moment to make it right, you know?
Alex: It’s got to be all about numbers now. Anybody can stream from Spotify or Apple Music, a subscription-based, or even a free system where it’s filled with banner and pop-up ads that you can’t get away from unless you have a premium service. It makes it difficult until you get more people signed on. So, I guess there’s an argument from the record company side, that there’s only X amount of people signed on to subscription-based services and that it’s going to take more time to get more people, so you can actually figure out the math. I don’t know, that’s a bigger question. But we’ll see what it all means in the long run. It’s a little disheartening. I recently got a statement from Atlantic for last quarter. It was for a Bad Religion record that I did. I think there were like 197,000 streams of the album and I think the check was for $68.00, or something crazy like that.
full in bloom: Unbelievable. In the old days, you’d buy an album because you couldn’t get a song out of your head, or you wanted to listen to it (over and over). But when you can go to YouTube and listen to that same song twenty times in a row, why would you ever buy anything? Part of it was that you wanted to hear it and you couldn’t hear it over and over (unless you purchased it). Now you can just go and burn yourself out on the song.
Alex: And the way people consume now is different, too. They consume on their phones, basically, with a speaker that’s on the phone, or some small bluetooth device, cost $18.00. It doesn’t sound good. The quality of the stream is not great. You get into the math of the algorithms they’re using for the compression and the limiting of level. Spotify has one thing and Soundcloud has something totally different. Anytime somebody posts something on there, it really sounds – not good. Tidal and some of the other streaming services that were higher bit rate and sampling rate, so that it was higher quality, but it was expensive…the servers are expensive…and who is going to buy in…it just goes on and on and on. It’s always been driven by the public. The lowest common denominator of what they’ll accept, convenience over quality, and that’s kind of where we are currently. Most of us will still keep trying to make good music…that are invested in working with bands that are fun and that the music is inspiring and makes you feel something. It’s always important to me.
full in bloom: What are some of the other cool things you’ve been working on?
Alex: I’m currently working with a couple of other producers. I’m working with Craig Street. He lives in Ithaca now. Really super-talented producer. I’ve worked with him on a couple of projects that were really fun. Currently, we worked on a record together for the last year with an artist named Jennie Stearns. It’s being mixed by a pretty famous person that I can’t disclose at this point. I also got to work with my old friends in a band called Attacker…from New Jersey. I just finished their EP late last summer. Great guys. I’ve been really good friends with the drummer since the very first time I worked with them. The band has gone through some changes over the years, but really fun bunch of guys. It was really great. The idea was to make a record that didn’t have any drum samples on it, so that one has got no drum samples on it, because that is what the drummer wanted to do. It’s pretty old school. It’s just an EP. I only did four songs with them, but it’s really fun. I think you should check that one out. (LISTEN TO THE ENTIRE EXCERPT)
full in bloom: Outside of the metal genre, what album is the most meaningful to you?
Alex: Probably Joe Bonamassa’s first record. His debut record with Tom Dowd, who has since passed away. Amazing producer. He became a really close friend of mine after those couple of months together. I talked to him every week up to a few days before he passed away. One of those inspirational things that happens to you as an engineer and a producer to work with somebody that had such an amazing history. I think I learned more from him in a few months than I ever learned on my own from other people I was around. If I was twenty years old, I wouldn’t have understood what was happening. Since I was much older at the time when I made that record with him, it was super deep. (laughs) Pretty deep information, and I try to make sure I pass on some of that to my kids.
full in bloom: You said you had been mastering quite a bit, which is coincidental, because you got your start mastering Metallica’s Kill em’ All, correct?
Alex: No, I didn’t master Kill em’ All. This is an interesting story, because people always ask this question and I’ve never really talked about it too much. When Jonny Z (Megaforce Records founder Jon Zazula) was about to sign Metallica to Elektra, he released a 4-song EP on Megaforce (Records) that featured some songs from Kill em’ All. And what I did was I remastered some of the tracks from the master tapes and then he wanted me to do another mix of something, so it would be a little different. So, I personally did a mix of “Whiplash.” I never talked about it much because I don’t think the band really wanted that to happen, and I didn’t know that until much later. I don’t think the band wanted something to be remixed or something to change without them being involved, and I had no knowledge of any of that. So, I’ve always just sort of not talked about it. (laughs) Because I didn’t want to start a shit show from way back then. (LISTEN TO THIS SEGMENT)
full in bloom: Where did you record Anthrax’s Spreading the Disease?
Alex: At Pyramid, at my place.
full in bloom: How long does it take to record?
Alex: Oh man, that’s a tough one to remember now. Typically, in those days, we were on a thirty to forty day schedule to record and mix.
full in bloom: Does anything stand out from recording “Madhouse” or “Medusa?”
Alex: I don’t know if anything stands out. They were at the beginning of finding themselves as a band. It was a little bit of a change from the first record but not it go totally off the rails by any means. Those guys are just good musicians, right? Being that young, they were visionaries. Just like Metallica, they were visionaries…and every band from that era that got some traction, they had a thing. I don’t think any of those bands sound like each other. They all had a thing. That’s what separated them from 100,000 other bands out there that were just copying something. Those guys were not copying anyone; they were really original.
There is a lot more interview to go. You can listen to the entire interview via the embedded YouTube at the top of this page, or via the Soundcloud widget below.