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Digital Subscriptions > MusicTech > Jan 18 > MASTERCLASS


One of the country’s foremost mastering engineers, Mandy Parnell has worked with artists such as Björk, Aphex Twin and The xx. MusicTech travelled to her Black Saloon Studios to talk about her award-winning career…

The roster of artists who’ve brought their records to Black Saloon, Mandy Parnell’s quirky Walthamstow mastering studio, is seriously impressive, from Björk – whose Biophilia and Vulnicura were mastered by Parnell, to Aphex Twin’s stunning return, Syro. Parnell has been mastering for decades, training at the SAE Institute before learning her craft at The Exchange Mastering Studios. Her work has been nominated for Grammy Awards and, in 2015, she won the MPG’s Mastering Engineer Of The Year gong. We spoke to Mandy about her life in mastering and the impressive vintage gear she has tucked away in Black Saloon…

MusicTech How did your interest in music come about?

Mandy Parnell “My parents had a café in Wickford in Essex. It was one of those classic greasy, English breakfast places. My parents would take me there and they had this amazing jukebox, every now and again, this guy would come round and change out the 7” records in there. The records they took out they would sort of dump, in a sense, and occasionally, he’d give me these old 7” records, so my parents bought me this really old record player. I can’t remember how many records I could stack on it, but pretty soon, I had loads of the chart stuff from the time: Wings, the Bay City Rollers and lots of quite cheesy pop from the early-to-mid 70s.

“Music played a big part in my life growing up, all the way through school (I actually went to a boarding school) I’d very often get my radio confiscated for listening to Radio Luxembourg. This led me to study music more academically, and I learned guitar and piano. I was very into music and went to gigs, concerts, etc.”

MT When did you first think about starting a career in music production?

MP “I had a friend called Julie who worked at The Manor, which was where Richard Branson’s residential studios were in Oxford. She invited me to come down for the weekend, just to hang out. So I did, and we had a great time, but just before I left, the assistant engineer said to me: ‘Do you want to see the studio?’. I said: ‘Sure,’ so I walked in there and it was like love at first sight.

“I came back to London and instantly looked at courses. There were three music-tech courses. This was SAE’s second year in the UK and I got on a course there and ended up being taught quite a lot about mastering. I remember while I was there having a demo of the very first AKAI sampler, so it was quite far back. Anyway, one night, I was on the phone to my best friend and I was jut flicking through the pages of an industry paper and I noticed an ad that was looking for trainee mastering engineers at The Exchange.

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About MusicTech

2017 has been an exciting, innovative year for new music-making technology, from machine-learning plug-ins to laser-guided microphones and from scientifically crafted, point-source monitors to boutique synthesisers, the past 12 months has offered up new variations on classic gear and inventive new creative tools for making and recording music. We pay tribute to the best gear of the year in our roundup, with our winners compiled by a fusion of reader votes and our expert panel. Elsewhere this issue, we have the second part of our new A-Z series with Gear4Music, chat to MPG Award-winning mastering engineer Mandy Parnell and Grammy-winning producer and engineer Mark Rankin, and cast of our eye to the future with tutorial content in the latest iterations of Live and Reason. Additionally, you’ll find all the latest reviews from the likes of Toontrack, Dynaudio, Sonokinetic and more.It's been an excellent year for the music-technology industry, and MusicTech as a magazine. Here’s hoping 2018 will be equally as fruitful… enjoy the issue.