Analog Ears
FIGHTING EVIL WITH AUDIO – Sitting down with Hear No Evil's Steve Parr and Sharon Rose
By Marsha Vdvovin

Steve Parr and Sharon Rose pose with the trusty Valradio
In December 2001, I attended the second annual Surround Professional Conference in Beverly Hills. It was an actual conference, not a tradeshow, so you actually learned technique, listened to panel discussions on such things as 'What to do with the center channel?' etc. My favorite part was the case studies where people presented their surround projects and dissected their method through the entire process. Plus the conference was attended by the über A-list engineer/producer crowd. It was energizing, electrifying, and filled with enthusiasm.

At the end of the second day, nobody wanted it to end. People just hung around in the halls, still yakking. I caught an inkling that one of the participants was going to put his mix up on the huge 5.1 system in the largest room. A handful of us ran in and were treated to the prize of the entire conference. A 5.1 mix on DVD-A of the classic Who song, 'Who Are You'. Our jaws dropped. We had it played it over again, until the guards kicked us out of the room. Who did this? It's amazing. I discovered a mild-mannered English guy mixed it, so I proceeded to stalk him and his fabulous partner at the 2002 and 2003 Surround Conferences, until I got the nerve to introduce myself to them. I ran into the glamorous couple, Steve Parr and Sharon Rose, this year at AES in San Francisco and found out that they use and love UA gear. There's nothing better than meeting people whose work you admire and finding out that you now have an excuse to interview them.

“The LA2A is great to squeeze the bass and bring acoustic guitars forward in the mix. We also have a UAD-1 card that we love.”

Steve and Sharon run one of the most prolific recording studios in London, Hear No Evil. HNE specializes in recording film and television soundtracks and surround mixing. Recent projects have included a drum & bass album in 6.1 "The Best of Earth' by LTJ Bukem, and a live high resolution recording of Steve Reich compositions also in 6.1.

Steve Parr says, "not only do we have some of the original hardware devices from Universal Audio, but we also max out on their plug-in versions."

Both being artists, they still find the time to collaborate on other creative ventures. Over the past few years they have managed to step out on stage when the right time presented itself to produce other artists, as well as achieve a FIPA Gold for best original score for the film '100 Days', and the Best Surround Mix at the 2002 Surround Awards. They also recently inaugurated See No Evil, a media company which attacks DVD authoring from an audio perspective.

Until recently Steve was vice chairman of the Music Producers Guild and Sharon was vice chair for Women in Film and Television International, both fulfilling a wide number of speaking engagements on behalf of their respective organizations. Steve also recently presented a number of seminars on surround at the AES convention in San Francisco.

Steve is a keen motorist and Sharon likes partying till dawn - that is when they're not out all night fighting evil (both audio and visual) under their alter egos Bob and Helen Parr. I interviewed them while they were in Texas setting up a new studio.

What are your separate backgrounds?
Steve: When I left school, I became a professional keyboard player touring with bands for 10 years. I then moved sideways into session work and composing for television and commercials. This led to me establishing a studio for my own work, which soon also became very much in demand by other composers doing the same sort of work as me. I started mixing music in surround for film in 1988 and the thrill just grows and grows. In 1991, I was writing the music for an album project instigated by Andreas Thein of German cult band Propaganda when, needing a lead singer and lyricist, I was introduced to Sharon Rose.

Sharon: I left Texas and moved to Germany where I began my professional career as a singer/songwriter. I soon established a band and performed all around Europe. As time went on, I expanded my business to include tour management and supplying back line equipment for touring bands from the US. One thing led to another and by the time the DJs became popular, I set up a crew of DJs who reigned in clubland. Having a desire to focus more on the recording side of music, I closed shop in Germany and moved to London, which produced a plethora of recording and television work with artists of all genres. Life is full of links in any profession if you can manage to hang in there. Before long, Steve and I had decided to join forces, bring all of our skills to the table, and set to work to create Hear No Evil.

Where did you grow up?
Steve: I was born in Cardiff, capital of Wales, and was brought up in the nearby seaside town of Penarth. Our local dance hall was the home of Welsh artists such as Tom Jones, Dave Edmunds, and Man. I soon followed in the tradition by playing with as many local bands as I could on as many different instruments I was able--some of them peculiarly badly!

Sharon: I'd like to feel that I'm still growing up, because I am continuing to enjoy the ride and a new challenge is always around the corner. I'm a southern gal born and raised in Temple, Texas but having decided from the age of 7 that Temple, let alone the US, would never be diverse enough, when the opportunity presented itself I followed the path to Europe.

How did you start doing music?
Steve: I was about 7 or 8. My grandfather left me his banjo when he died. I nagged my parents for piano lessons, discovered rock 'n roll and jazz, marijuana and girls, and formed a band where I played bass, because I thought it was easy. From thereon, decline was inevitable.

Sharon: Music was always being played in my family home. My brothers introduced me to all types and my mother impressed me with the way she could rock a tambourine. I used to sit in front of the record player and learn songs that I would then perform in various talent shows, beauty pageants, and any opportunity that provided experience and kept my dream alive of being a well-known force in entertainment one day.

Who is your third partner?
We became increasingly aware in our dealings with DVD and video companies of the lack of general awareness of audio issues in the video world. We had an idea to start a DVD facility where we could not only perform the normal authoring tasks but could also supply the specialist knowledge we had acquired in 15 years of applying audio to picture. We also wanted to create a one-stop shop where we could script, shoot, and edit as well as encode, author, and replicate. We pulled in Ian Greaves, a music producer, composer, and IT specialist who had been thinking along the same lines, and we started 'See No Evil' in 2002. We've been busy ever since.

Why are you opening another room in Texas?
Sharon: Steve lives 75% in London and 25% in Texas. I do the opposite. It keeps life interesting, gives us both time to catch up on our reading on the plane and creates a great excuse for me to talk to strangers. And Texas does fantastic margaritas for $1.99

How would you describe the majority of your work -- composing, mixing, post?
Steve: The main body of our work is recording and mixing music for film and television. I started mixing in LCR (left, center, right) for film soundtracks in the late eighties (the first was cult horror movie 'Society') and through the Dolby Stereo matrix (LCRS) shortly afterwards. When we saw the reality of a home surround medium (DVD and DTS CDs), we realized that we already knew a whole heap about mixing music in 5.1, and we applied what we had learned to surround music projects.

After a spell in Ethiopia and Eritrea recording local artists in tropical rainstorms, Sharon and I wrote the score for a film about the Rwandan genocide '100 Days', which won a FIPA for best original soundtrack; and shortly after, I was awarded Best Mix at the first Surround Music Awards. We have also just written the music for the new DTS trailer that will preface all movies shown in DTS equipped screens. I also record orchestral scores elsewhere and bring them back to Hear No Evil to mix in surround; last year I went to Rome, Prague, and Bratislava. On average, I record and mix three to four movie/TV drama scores per month. I have just finished mixing 6.1 and stereo versions of LTJ Bukem's 'Best of Earth' album, which will be released in January, and earlier in the year, I recorded a concert of Steve Reich music in New York for which I have been doing 6.1 mixes for an HD DVD. And I try to remember to feed the cat regularly.

Do you have any special UA techniques to share?
Steve: We have an original 1176, which is a favorite port of call when recording bass, vocals, and solo instruments in general. The LA2A is great to squeeze the bass and bring acoustic guitars forward in the mix. We also have a UAD-1 card that we love. I generally put vocals through the Pultec set flat just for the extra depth it gives to the sound. I also use the room simulator (in the CS-1 plug-in) a great deal on guitars to create a tight ambience, especially when mixing in surround. I'm currently playing with the new Precision Limiter which is brilliant: a great user interface and metering that really lets you know what's going on and helps you make wise decisions. Can we have a surround version please?

What platform do you run the UAD-1 on?
Steve: I use the UAD-1 card with Logic Pro 7, Digital Performer, Nuendo and Waveburner. I generally run 2 Macs, one for playback through our Euphonix console and then mixing onto the other. I keep meaning to get another UAD-1, because, at the moment, I'm forever swapping the drives around so I can gain access to the plugs I need for the particular job I'm doing.

What other gear is a 'must have' for you?
Steve Parr and Sharon Rose pose with the trusty Valradio
Steve: I don't use a lot of digital processing. Working in surround as much as I do, I let balance and panning and my analogue EQs do the hard work. However, I'm addicted to the TC 6000, which sounds great and is truly flexible. I love my Roland DEP5, which gets left on its stereo delay panning setting. I've got a lot of hardware reverbs, so I don't much use plug-ins for that--quick credit for the infinite reverb on the Lexicon 200!--and I use my DBX 160s and 166s a lot on guitars and brass when necessary. The Euphonix dynamics can be eight way linked, so I use them to peak limit surround stems and also to get drums sounding the way I like them. My trustworthy Genelecs and NHTs ground me in space and time, but my favorite piece of gear is an old speaker in a box with an enamel plaque that says 'Valradio' which I found in a thrift store for £5.00. I've sprayed it with taxi paint and use it for all my mixes. If a mix survives Val, it's bombproof! But I should also give due credit to a comfortable chair, suitable lighting, and a relaxing environment to put you in the right frame of mind to be able to work creatively and efficiently. Unplug that phone!

Any tips for Mixing for Television?
Steve: The thing about mixing music for television is to always balance realistically against the dialogue and fx: as music people we have a vested interest and its very easy to overestimate how loud the music will be in the final mix. At certain volumes, you find certain instruments either become inaudible or stick out like a sore thumb; so you have to guard against this by monitoring at all sorts of levels on all sorts of speakers until you get a feel for what's going to happen. And then, keep checking.

Are you doing Surround Mixing for television?
Steve: Increasingly so. Sometimes it is because of the sell-through DVD, some times it is because the program is broadcast in surround, and sometimes it is for archive purposes.

Do you do practice Bass Management?
Steve: Yes, no, and maybe. It's so big a topic that I couldn't possibly answer that in a paragraph.

Do you have any philosophy about surround mixing (i.e. Immersive or ignore the center etc...)?
Steve: I suppose 'Lets eliminate the idea of a sweet spot, no matter how you do it. ' A good surround mix should sound good when you're underneath the car in the garage next door.

Visit Hear No Evil on the web at

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