Percussive colossus, Ted Parsons, has occupied the drum stool in some of the most influential bands of all time, whether it be Swans, Prong, Godflesh or even filling in for Killing Joke in the early 2000s. The chances are you’ll have at least one record of his in your collection if you listen to industrial, post-punk or metal music.
Nowadays, Ted lives in Norway with his wife and two children. “Prong was on a promotion tour in Oslo for Rude Awakening in 1998,” he explains. “I met a beautiful woman named Tonje organizing our interviews for Sony. I fell in love and we ended up getting married and having two kids. This is a great country – I would never move back to the US,” says Ted.
The last record Ted appeared on was Jesu’s 2020 LP, Terminus. His relationship with Godflesh/Jesu mastermind, Justin Broadrick, is one that endures to this day, but he has many exciting projects on the go, including a record with Mark Stewart of the Pop Group that hits the studios in 2021. This one is a dub supergroup called Mark Stewart and the New Mafia and features Napalm Death legend, Mick Harris, on beats and sounds. He also recorded drums in Oslo this year for the upcoming album by experimental dub rock outfit, Metallic Taste of Blood.
When asked what his career highlights are, Ted’s answer is simple. “Touring in Europe with Swans for three months and meeting new bands and people in 1986,” he says.
We asked the hard-hitting drummer to choose the three albums that changed his life and to pick his favourite record from each of his former and current bands.
3. The Monkees – The Monkees (1966)
I loved The Monkees as much as The Beatles. They were from the US, and, damn it, they were so fun! The group was conceived in 1965 by a television show. The Monkees have sold more than 75 million records worldwide, making them one of the biggest-selling groups of all time with international hits, including ‘Last Train to Clarksville’, ‘I’m a Believer’, ‘Pleasant Valley Sunday’, and ‘Daydream Believer’. I loved the Saturday show – just four wacky guys living in the same house playing their tunes on every show! The Beatles’ film, A Hard Day’s Night, inspired Bob Rafelson and Schneider to revive Rafelson’s idea for The Monkees. Michael Nesmith was the only member who could actually play an instrument. Most of the songs were written by other musicians.
2. The Beatles – Revolver (1966)
I was obsessed with the Beatles when I was a little kid. My Mom took me to all the Beatles films when they came out. She loved them as well. I had all their albums in the 60s and 70s. I would play The Beatles with my two twin friends. We would play their music in the garage and mime with brooms and trash cans. I was Ringo, of course. They were a true inspiration for me! I asked my Mom if she’d buy me a Naru shirt, pants and boots that the Beatles wore. I was in heaven when I looked like a Beatle. I had a crappy little record player. One day the left speaker broke, and when I played the first couple of albums, there were no vocals. I was at my wits end – how could this happen? I later discovered that back in the day they mixed their albums to pan left and right. I still love the fab four!
1. The Trashmen – Surfin’ Bird (1964)
I bought this album when I was about six. I got a small record player for my birthday and went straight to Woolworths to buy The Trashmen’s album. It had their first hit, ‘Surfin Bird’, on it. I played this over and over. It was the most amazing music. I was bouncing off the walls in my room like a little maniac. One day when I got home from school, I found my record player and the album sitting in the windowsill, and the album was melted. I was devastated. I went straight back to Woolworths and got a new one. Life was good again! I still love that song to this day!
Ted’s favourite albums from his former and current bands…
Swans – The Great Annihilator (1995)
Bill Rieflin was the second drummer on this album – one of my favourite drummers (R.I.P.). Good songs, great sounds. The Great Annihilator was fresh, and I genuinely believe that this is not just a heavy, brutal statement of the highest order. Yes, the melodies are more prominent, the production is cleaner, and certain dissonances have audibly been resolved, but this is still a punishing listen. If anything, the album’s relative accessibility affords it a certain power which may have previously eluded the band. The album was recorded at Martin BC’s in Brooklyn where many great artists recorded. This would be my last Swans album I recorded on.
Prong – Prove You Wrong (1991)
My best drumming with Prong. A new approach to our sound. Prove You Wrong is what could be described as a transitional album as it shows our focus less on the thrash tendencies, which dominated previous material, and more with a new direction akin to industrial metal but still retaining our urbanistic beats and slamming riffs. We also did a cover of the Stranglers’ ‘Get A Grip (On Yourself)’. We loved that band. Recorded by Mark Dodson.
Godflesh – Streetcleaner (1989)
The best album by far! Algis from Swans and I became really good friends. We would listen to new albums. One night at his place, he said, “Teddy you have to hear this band, Godflesh.” We both loved it. Later we found Justin Broadrick’s favourite band was Swans. Then I thought: “That’s where Benny got that bass sound – he got it from Algis!” Prong were also huge fans, and we played several gigs with them in the UK. I told Justin: “If you ever need a drummer, give me a yell!”
Jesu – Jesu (2004)
Slow beats like Swans, fantastic melodies, great vocals! The songs here seek to render rib cages and remove still-beating hearts for close inspection, to discover the exact nature and location of the human soul, even if it means sure death in the process. Bludgeoning down-tuned slowcore metal, electronic noise squalls and squelch, droning organs sounding like church bells, hair-raising discordant synth stabs, martial drumming and fuzzed-out electronic rhythms. Truly my favourite Jesu album and always a pleasure to make music with Justin – a true genius and a very close friend.
*** Besides being a professional musician, Ted Parsons also produces drawings and collages. You can purchase his work from https://tedparsons.net/
***Jesu released Terminus on 13/11/2020 via Avalanche recordings.