by Tracy Dietlin
Most of you know Brian “Puke” Parnell as the guitar player for the popular punk band Throw the Goat, who just happened to win Best Punk Band at the 2018 CV Music Awards. But you may not be aware that Parnell is also creating another respected name for himself as a local music producer. He recently produced metal band Instigator as well as indie rock band 5th Town. Parnell took time to answer a few questions about his producing skills and aspirations for the future.
CVW: How long have you been producing and what was your first project you produced?
Brian “Puke” Parnell: “I’ve been at it professionally for a couple years, but started trying to hone my chops in the early ‘00s when I first began staying in Idyllwild and working on music with a buddy from high school. My debut album as producer was in 2017 with Johnny & The Competition, which was also the debut solo album from former TTG rhythm guitarist, Johnny Wilson.”
CVW: Do you have your own recording studio?
Puke: “Yes, known as Emesis Studios, located in Idyllwild. I’ve been recording there for a little over a year and a half.”
CVW: What type of equipment do you use?
Puke: “I have two Focusrite interfaces chained together – the Scarlett Octopre Dynamic MkII and the Scarlett 18i20 – going into a CS450 hard drive. My DAW is Adobe Audition CC but I also integrate Ableton Live 10. Assorted VST plugins including the Slate Everything Bundle, iZotope Music Production Suite 2, Butch Vig Vocals by Waves, Xpand!2 by AIR, Celemony’s Melodyne 4, etc… plus a pretty nice microphone locker, assorted amp heads, speaker cabinets and other goodies.”
CVW: I know you’re working with 5th Town and Instigator. Those are 2 completely different music genres. How is it different producing them? Share a little about both please.
Puke: “They are definitely two different beasts. With the Instigator demo, Built To Defy, it was basically capturing a pretty straightforward thrash quartet. The interesting element was mic placement for drummer Joe Boomer’s setup at the time which essentially utilized three snare drums. The idea was to keep it as much on par with current heavy metal albums without losing that kinda garage-ish demo vibe. The lads were also recording vocals for the first time, so there was a lot more coaching needed than with the two seasoned vocalists in 5th Town. The main challenge with recording the as-yet-untitled 5th Town album is that there’s six people in the band, all with different schedules, and they all needed to coordinate when they could come up and record their individual parts. We finally finished tracking at the end of 2018 and everything is shaping up nicely. I can safely say that it is definitely worth the wait.”
CVW: Who else are you working with?
Puke: “I produced a few songs on the Idyllwild Strong Benefit compilation, which also featured songs donated by bands and musicians from the desert and the mountain. Volume One was released last year and helped to raise extra funds for victims of the Cranston Fire. Volume Two will coincide with this year’s 2nd annual festival. There’s also talk of doing a full length album with Instigator, plus a few other projects just in the discussion stage. But, I have a feeling that I’ll be a lot busier after everyone hears the 5th Town album.”
CVW: What is your style or process for producing?
Puke: “Ever since I was a kid, it’s been almost impossible to hear music without aurally dissecting every element. A lot of times, I’ll hear – in my ‘mind’s ear’ – other potential additions or changes to the existing musical composition. It comes in handy being not only the producer but also the engineer and the mixer. So, when I’m in preproduction, I’ll figure out how I want to track each instrument and voice in respect to how it’s going to be sonically layered when I’m mixing later. Then, being a musician as well, I can add other elements to the composition to enhance fullness and dynamics. I want people to really feel the emotions present in the song.”
CVW: Is it difficult producing such close friends?
Puke: “Actually, it’s easier. Nobody likes being in the studio with a total stranger. It also helps knowing the songs already and having a vision before the project even starts. It also makes the communication with clients more comfortable and removes a lot of potential stress. Plus, it simplifies the otherwise headache-inducing process of occasionally having to convince the band to make changes to a song. Because they know I’m a fan, they also know I have the best interest of the song and the band in mind.”
CVW: How is it different producing your own music from others?
Puke: “We did the last TTG album, The Joke’s On Us, in 32 days from start to finish. We wanted it to sound raw and not overly produced. The other records I’ve done have taken months at a time. So, I’ve been much more meticulous with clients.”
CVW: What producers do you most respect in the business?
Puke: “Tough one… here’s a quick top ten. Quincy Jones is the greatest, bar none, in my opinion. Ross Robinson is a massive influence. Rick Rubin as well. Then there’s the triumvirate of Trent Reznor, Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine. Bob Ezrin, especially his added piano work on the early Alice Cooper albums. And I’ll round it out with Tony Visconti, Butch Vig and Steve Albini.”
CVW: Great choices! What Major album do you wish you could’ve produced?
Puke: “Not that I would have done a better job than Dave Bottrill, but I wish I produced Tool’s Ænima. Jim Wirt did an amazing job on S.C.I.E.N.C.E. by Incubus – in my opinion, their best album – and also worked with my UK buddies in Elliot Minor. He probably could have made my top 10 if the competition weren’t so fierce. Another one who could have made the list is Todd Ray (aka T-Ray) who did my favorite albums by Snot, Helmet and (hed)p.e.”
CVW: What bands locally would you like to work with/produce?
Puke: “I was glad that Mikey Doling and crew did such a good job with Mega Sun and I’d be down to do a full length with them. I’d love to do the next Bridger album. I’d also love to work with The Flusters, The Hellions, Mondo Generator, Dali’s Llama, Blasting Echo and Fatso Jetson. And it would be a dream come true to someday track at Rancho De La Luna.”
CVW: What are your production goals for 2019?
Puke: “There’s been a lot of upgrades the last few months, so one goal is to get faster and improve the fluidity in the studio. But, another goal is to also do more experimentation. To paraphrase Brian Eno, “the studio is a musical instrument” and it can be used to take your inspiration to new landscapes. It makes my creative brain all giddy.”
CVW: How does producing differ from performing and how does it fulfill you on a different level?
Puke: “When you’re performing, you only really have control over how you personally sound. And, even then, it’s the front of house engineer who’s in charge of how you sound to the bulk of the room. Producing and mixing, you have control over every aspect of the band’s sound. As fulfilling as it is to get a ‘good show’ compliment from band mates after a gig, it’s a different feeling entirely to know that a band is happy with your work on, say, their debut album.”
CVW: Tell us what’s in the cards for Throw the Goat in 2019?
Puke: “We actually did some recording in the fall and are working on putting together a new release unlike anything we’ve done before. And we’ve got a couple desert shows lined up, supporting some very well-known punk bands. We’ll spill the beans when we can.”
CVW: Anything else you want to share?
Puke: “It really feels like 2019 is going to be the biggest, most eventful year that any of us have ever seen. And I mean everyone…like, the whole world. It’s just in the air. So, it feels like the best time to really go for it. Don’t let anything hold you back. That dream you think is stupid and will never happen? Get over yourself, shake off all the bullshit and just take that leap. It’s only worth it if you try.”
You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org