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Dateline: April 28 2020
The magic of video that the public sees when a band ‘big’ or other, or cast of thousands of singers appear to performing together at the same time over the internet is of course just that. You can’t have multiple performances over the internet in real time, in sync.

There’s a variety of ways to seem to be achieving this feat and last weekend Alan Parsons and recent MCTS vocal star David Pack delivered a beautiful performance of The Beatles' Tell Me What You See for the Los Angeles Mayor’s Fund to assist those on the front line in the fight against against Covid-19.

David took the lead on this and simply recorded (on video and audio in ProTools) his part, which he then sent to Alan as two tracks of audio (vocal and guitar) with his accompanying iPhone video. With his trusty engineer Noah Bruskin safely in his own home in Santa Barbara, driving Alan’s ProTools session remotely using TeamViewer (’a bit slow and fuzzy so Noah couldn’t work at his usual lightning fast pace,” says Alan), Alan then miked up his own voice and acoustic guitar and played along to David’s track. They didn’t use a click, just a count-in as you can hear on the broadcast.

A sprinkling of reverb on the vocals and that was about it, a quick balance, and that was about it. David didn’t hear or see Alan until Alan had recorded his part.

Even once the current health/isolation crisis is over no one is going to forget this in a hurry nor figure that it can’t happen again. But even though we won’t be able change the laws of physics, we will get better at these domesticated concerts. Whether it’s Paul McCartney in his kitchen (does he really keep a Rhodes in there?), Elton John in his shrubbery, or Eddie Vedder on his harmonium ’somewhere,’ this might not become the new norm exactly but it will become commonplace and we will - and dare I say need to - get better at it.

We’ll be offering more thoughts on options, equipment and more in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

Dateline: April 24 2020
Exactly what is the nature of learning? You don't suddenly get infused with knowledge. Knowledge and aptitude comes by studying what others have done, or are doing, and then... doing it yourself.

So what does a conventional classroom offer that a virtual classroom doesn't? A conventional classroom is, firstly, a space. OK, let's look at that. What (else) is in this space? Is it hot, cold, drafty, cramped? Does it have a distracting view, at which it's easy to gaze? Does it have a distracting view of other people, at who it's also tempting to gaze?

Then there's the deliverer of your education. No matter if they're a genius. Did you manage to catch everything they said?

What was that? "Most people find a 57 Magnum best on a snare" 'Is that some sort of shotgun mic?'

"Singers love reverb." What, you mean like the website?

You can't rewind a teacher. And if you constantly ask for something to be clarified or repeated you'll soon become the class pain.

Flippin' heck!

We're living in a time where whole school systems, never mind individual classrooms have been flipped on their heads. Change is scary. Especially when preceded by a complete stop. But times like these are also precious moments where we have a bit of space to re-assess, re-examine, see if 'actually' there is a better way of doing something. Maybe we can turn adversity into advantage?

The process of learning is the transfer of knowledge. There are many types of knowledge generator: teachers, tutors, guides, masters, peers, authors, presenters and program makers. But there's only one you. You know how quickly you can grasp a concept or how long it takes you to perfect a skill. No matter how the learning process is being conducted, there's a distance between giver and receiver and between the giving and the 'getting.' There always has been.

Distance learning as a concept is nothing to be afraid of. Teachers will always be needed, whether they're standing in front of a class or standing in front of an iPhone.

Long before the current health crisis that decimated the 2020 Academic School Year there's been a steady stream of products and technologies that are closing the physicality gap. Digital Audio Workstations are virtual recording studios. VSTs are virtual instruments (would we really like to go back to heaving an actual Hammond B3 around with us?). We now have virtual mics, and virtual rooms thanks to 'impulse response' technology.

Thanks to Facebook Live or Zoom or Google Hangouts you can be your own virtual teacher. But you still need a support network of materials to show and tell much as you do or did in your real classroom or school studio.

Now is the time not to be afraid but to get on top of or ahead of the technology.

All learning is distant. Technology, actually, is helping to make it less so.

The Art & Science Of Survival

Part 4 of Julian Colbeck’s reflection on the twists and turns of life in music tech as Keyfax NewMedia turns twenty-five.

Keyfax has always been a creative company. We like making things, new things; not just the same old same old.

Motif and related software and hardware kept our wheels spinning (and then some) building websites, making videos, launching products, doing tech support and offering all manner of support products in a number of on-line stores. At one point Keyfax was one of Yamaha’s top 10 Musical Instrument dealers in the US, almost exclusively just selling accessories.

Maintaining a company over an extended period of time is a feat of endurance and ingenuity but it’s especially tricky in the fickle world of music technology. Take your eye off the ball and hello a rather less welcome ‘Kodak Moment,’ as in what also happened Blackberry, Netscape, MySpace, Motorola, Radio Shack, Nortel…

In the beginning you’ve got nothing so you’ve got nothing to lose. Taste some form of success and it's harder to be braver.

Alan Parsons projects

Fortune smiles on those who’s eyes and ears are open to new opportunities and one such moment happened at the home of my good friend Alan Parsons. Alan and I had met on an album session for a band called Vitamin Z that he was producing at his mansion studio in leafy Kent deep in the UK countryside. I came to the project with my fellow John Miles bandmate Barriemore Barlow who had recently left Jethro Tull. Alan had produced John Miles global smash hit Music a few years earlier. Such is the intertwined world of the British music business.

Alan and I worked together on a number of projects (Vitamin Z, The Orchestral Music Of Yes, during my stint with the affirmative ones), Alan’s SoundCheck test CD, and the instructional video project Getting The Most Out Of Home Recording for which I conducted an extended interview with Alan on mixing.

Getting The Most Out Of Home Recording became quite popular and although it was created for users several fathoms below Alan-level productions, Alan liked it and often said we should do a program like this but "more advanced."

One day over at Alan's house in Santa Barbara the subject cropped up again.  This time I said “OK, let’s do this.” Keyfax had by now become highly skilled at producing videos and we had a team of full-time video editors and a small recording studio within our offices.

A legal pad and two glasses of Sauvignon Blanc later and we were fast work, listing what topics we would cover, who we’d like to interview, how long it’d be, a title, a budget, a price, and a time frame. In two hours we mapped out what would become The Art & Science Of Sound Recording. Three years later it became a reality. Pretty much everything on that legal pad became so; just our budget was off by 50% and time-frame by 30%.


The write stuff

I’ve always treasured certain degrees of ignorance. Ignorance can be your friend. If you know too much you probably know enough not to embark on half the good things in life – having kids, buying a house, starting a company, embarking on a ten hour multi-language video series on recording. Also, if you don’t know something ‘can’t be done’ then one’s enthusiasm for a project can remain unsullied by someone else’s version of what's possible.
ASSR as it abbreviatingly would become known, is all about the script. Write a decent script and don’t entirely mess up the production and you’re three–quarters of the way there. Technology enabled Alan and myself to write together, apart, on different continents, in real time and via email and drop box. Essentially either I would write and Alan would edit or he would write and I would edit. Then we’d re-write and re-edit. Each of the 24 video section scripts had fifteen to twenty versions. Our goal was to make this so often confusing and BS-infested subject easy to follow and fun to watch. Hard to fault Occam’s Razor or Einstein’s wisdom of “If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.”

In time the video series became 
Alan Parsons’ Art & Science Of Sound Recording—The Book (Hal Leonard), happily now a staple in schools teaching music production.

Video almost killed the recording star

At first my fellow workers were all a little “What’s Julian up to?” But slowly Alan and my magnus visio became magnus opus for the whole Keyfax team. We took a film crew around the country and throughout our own neighborhood—a local high school, the beach, downtown Santa Cruz where Alan hilariously stopped random passers by and asked them if they knew the difference between mono and stereo… ‘interviewing’ them with a hairbrush into which they spoke without batting an eye!



Editing a program of this length (and breath—we decided at the outset to have English, Spanish and German language tracks) was a daunting task since we’d assembled some 50TB worth of footage in a year of filming. Another daunting task was the music. I’d composed all the beds and stings on a Yamaha Motif XS, mixes of which I sent down to Alan, who also used an XS and so could insert them into the final mix direct from the instrument. Alan being Alan he just couldn’t resist re-mixing them. "I think the hi-hats are are a bit harsh…”.

Each scene had at least a dozen or more audio tracks, from music beds to Alan’s voice, Foley, narrator (a superbly dry Billy Bob Thornton, who we recorded on his beloved Trident A Series board at his house in Beverley Hills) and production music i.e. what we were actually demonstrating. Turning Billy Bob German and Spanish is a process that’ll have to wait for my autobiography.

Ultimately, twenty-four scenes in three languages i.e. 72 separate final mixes were delivered to the DVD authoring facility. Alan said it had felt like making twelve albums at the same time.

In the end a project that had begun with Alan and myself around the kitchen table involved almost 100 people, spearheaded at Keyfax by photographers and editors Chris Killen, Ben Cruz, Robin Moore, web maestros Terry Shields and Jason Ware, sound recordist Raymond Jones, mixer Coley Read, and our graphic designer Lisa Liu, took three years to make and cost, well, that’ll have to wait for the autobiography too but a lot.

The Art & Science Of Sound Recording was initially released online as individual streamed or downloadable videos. I remember sitting with my kids in a coffee shop in Hollywood the day the doors opened, watching the order counters go 1, 2, 3, 5, 10, 25, 50… validation of what had been the largest single project in any of our professional lives.

Ejicashun

In the years since ASSR was released the focus of our work at Keyfax shifted from ASSR as a project to ASSR as a master and a huge part of that work has been in the somewhat boggy field of education, where decisions tend to be made, if ever, at the speed of a particularly slow-moving glacier.

Nowhere does the axiom of those who can do, those can’t, teach and those who can’t teach, teach gym apply less than in the field of education for the recording arts. But, fortunately, a lot of musicians and studios who are now finding it harder and harder to raise an invoice for their musical life are turning to either institutional or private teaching. Tim Pierce, the stellar guitarist we used in the recording of ASSR, now has a massive online student following at
TimPierceGuitar.com. Abbey Road, Blackbird, Ocean Way along with engineers like Niko Bolas, Jack Douglas and John McBride who all appeared in ASSR are all now fully engaged in music education.

For our own part we have continued to dive deep into creating materials for education, including an
Education License app version of the ASSR video series, a hardback book, and most recently a complete Music Production Curriculum that links the video series with the Session Files raw multitracks with 24 in-depth lesson plans. 

School’s In

Outside of ASSR, it was a great pleasure to see Thomas Dolby again at the Synthplex expo in Los Angeles earlier this year. Thomas, too, has finally become the professor he was destined to be, at the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. When we chatted over breakfast we discovered we’d actually attended the same school in England (along with Radiohead), though not, I have to admit, at the same time!

 

A good part of the ‘trick’ of maintaining a company over a sustained period of time is to make sure you’re always doing at least some things that other people aren’t. If nothing else it’s a sure fire way of keeping ahead of the competition.

Master Class Training Sessions

Having released ASSR the video series in a number of different formats and languages and marketed it as ‘the next best thing to being in a studio with Alan Parsons’, we wondered how feasible it’d be to offer live master classes where you were just that. Alan was embarking on a tour of Argentina and we approached an old friend Mercedes Onorato,  who ran one of the country’s best distributors, to see if we could test the notion. The first of what has now become an on-going series of
Master Class Training Sessions was held at the Universidad Nacional de Lanús, in Buenos Aires, to a rapt audience of audio engineering students both in the studio and via video feed to a sizeable auditorium. MCTS events have continued successfully in studios all over the world from The Village in LA to Abbey Road to the current series at Alan’s personal studio in Santa Barbara.



The opportunity to work with Alan and either a band or top session musicians the likes of Nathan East, Vinnie Colaiuta, Simon Phillips and Rami Jaffee has proved a priceless and occasionally life-changing one. Attendees have switched careers, gone on to make successful records, even found employment…with Alan! And I met my future wife at an MCTS we held in Bogota!

Session Files

The master classes slowly built up a masterful collection of studio recordings. Alan has released some himself (All Our Yesterdays, Do You Believe At All? and Paul Dukas' The Sorcerer's Apprentice that just appeared on Alan’s brand new album The Secret. Some of the bands we’ve recorded have also released their tracks: Belmonte, from The Dave Barrett Trio recorded at Noble Street studios in Toronto, The World’s A Stage by Fish On Friday, recorded at Abbey Road, and White Matter Recess from Casey McPherson, recorded at Orb Studios in Austin.

And if you want to get behind the wheel yourself you can buy the raw multi-tracks from some of these sessions in the ASSR store.
Session Files offer the unique learning experience of driving a large format ‘real’ recording session (i.e. using players and microphones) for so many of us who’s musical manifestation is, out of a variety of necessities, one of loops that have never been out of the box.


Keyfax and ASSR remain very much alive to this day and, even if another twenty-five years might be a little optimistic personally, I’m hopeful the work the companies have created over the years will continue to survive and thrive for years to come.
*|MC:SUBJECT|*

Motifating Masses of Motif Owners

Keyfax NewMedia began life as the softest of software companies, creating the effectively open source MIDI loop libraries, Twiddly.Bits.

Adding hardware to our mix of products in the shape of the Phat.Boy MIDI Performance Controller changed everything. Crucially, the logistical and financial impacts of manufacturing hardware in Central London put a different spin and stress on how the company was structured. Eventually Keyfax divided like a mitosisizing amoeba and the UK division re-emerged as Gforce Software, purveyors of fine virtual instruments like the MiniMonster, MTron and ImpOSCar.

Getting Stuck in the Grooves  


In the USA, Keyfax NewMedia set about exploring how our programming and audio skills could be applied to specific individual instruments and one such instrument that caught my eyes and ears was Yamaha’s RM1x.

The RM1x is a groovebox with a Yamaha sample-based tone generator, built-in sequencer and a bunch of grooves whose mix and manifestation you can manipulate in real time. The internal grooves were good. But not that good. I reckoned we could do better so we recorded a groove library that could be inserted into the RM1x via our old friend the 3½ “ floppy disk. Almost instantly, the RM1x Hip Hop And R&B Groove Library was very well received.

And especially by Yamaha.
 

Motif Magic


Yamaha supported both the Hip Hop and R&B and the subsequent FUNK groove libraries and when it came to the company working on a new keyboard workstation code-named “*$%^&3CV” (do you spot a competition question on the horizon?) they got in touch and contracted me as a UI design consultant.

One thing led to another and over time Yamaha licensed some Twiddly.Bits MIDI loops as raw material for what would be called the Motif’s internal ‘arpeggios.’ The flute flutters, those acoustic guitar-fingerpicking patterns, funk electric guitar? They’re Twiddly.Bits.

Motif was brewing up to be an excellent instrument but it had two things not going for it. In spite of my UI input it was pretty darned complicated to operate. Yamaha also had modest expectations of sales. “It’s really the end of the road for workstations” they said.

Undaunted, both I and the senior marketing guy for Yamaha US loved it and together we hatched a plan for a dedicated website to help launch the instrument.
 



Motif was previewed to the press at 1 Infinite Loop (Apple HQ) late in 2000. For the most part the launch was like a thousand others I’ve attended over the years. “We’re using the latest XYZ technology and this comes with 8476 sounds and a capacity of blah blah blah.” But then the demonstrator played one of the flute arpeggios and, though MIDI, it sounded like a real flute sample. You could hear the room snap-to. “Eh?” “What’s going on? How’s it doing that?” Our ‘magic’ of simply using a real flute player to record a flute motif on a MIDI Wind Controller and for that data to then drive a short burst of MIDI, proved to be the icing on this admittedly already very tasty cake.
 

Social Media before Social Media


Motifator.com was launched before the Motif even appeared, in July 2001, to immediate acclaim and massive viewing figures. The key to Motifator was its ability to motivate a group of people with similar interests: to inform, educate, enable people to inter-communicate, share music, share stories, share pictures of their cats… in two words ‘social media’ before there was a thing called social media. At this time Mark Zuckerberg was still in high school. LinkedIn, MySpace, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, SoundCloud and more hadn’t been invented.
 



The forums on Motifator.com got off to a flying start, as much because we wanted them to be open, carefully but non-intrusively moderated, and that a culture of support and friendliness was paramount. And it worked. Only months into its life 9/11 happened and in its own miniscule way, Motifator became a healing force, reiterating the power of music and the power of being good and nurturing to one’s fellow citizens. Over the years, and en route to well over a million posts, Motifator produced many heroes: Motif owners who spent thousands of hours helping others figure stuff out. And it was pro bono. BradWeber, sciuriware, TheDukester, Wellie, Patchcord, DavePolich, philwoodmusic, Meatballfuton, 5pinDIN (who remains to this day) and dozens of other ‘gurus’ represent the best money Yamaha never spent.

Far from being an end-of-line instrument Motif propelled a new era of workstations into life. No, into orbit. Motif, in its subsequent various extensions and diminutions has gone on to sell in excess of 200,000 units worldwide making it one of the best-selling keyboard lines ever.
 

Video Vidi Vici


Keyfax’s role in helping Motif be understood, supported, and loved by millions became pivotal. As the Motifator community ballooned, so too did the demand for third-party sounds, accessories, and more tangible support media like instructional videos. Keyfax has produced the official instructional DVD for every single Motif product in the line. We also produced ‘unofficial’ videos like Sound Advice on programming, Drum Programming Secrets, and Cubase 4 Recording The Band, all of which are alive and on sale to this day. It’s been a personal mantra that if people understand and enjoy a product they’ll come back for more. More stuff, more products.

Explaining a product is like telling a story and it’s not that difficult. Essentially you need to speak in words your intended viewers can understand. For any product’s 'instructional' video it should be fairly obvious not to assume much prior knowledge and to avoid-or if you can’t then properly explain—technical jargon. If a video is dull to watch and contains about as much humor as a restraining order don’t be shocked if your message fails to land. 
 


In addition to the Motif videos Keyfax went on to write, shoot, edit and distribute many other videos-Exploring Sound Reinforcement, 01Xperience for the ill-fated MLAN project mixer the 01x , the oddball Tenori-on (for which Keyfax was appointed the official US and Canadian distributor) and videos for both the electronic drum and professional audio divisions of Yamaha—as well a videos for Universal Audio, AVID, Arturia and Casio.

 

Steinberg


Just before Christmas 2004, Yamaha acquired Steinberg from its previous owners Pinnacle Systems. Pinnacle, a company who knew as much about the music community as I do about mink farming, was supposed to continue supporting the platform, including its crucially important customer upgrade path. But to everyone’s horror, especially Yamaha’s, Pinnacle just stopped in its tracks and said, as the ink was drying on the contracts, ‘Over to you, boys, we’re outa here.’

Keyfax to the rescue, and in record time a new online upgrade process plus a dedicated support site, was in place. The relationship between a hardware-orientated company like Yamaha and its young software-based acquisition was interesting to observe. At the 2005 NAMM show I attend a priceless meeting-of-the-forces between Yamaha and Steinberg sales teams. Within minutes of the ‘we’re all on the same team now’ spiel and expected hug fest, skirmishes broke out quickly followed by open hostility. It’s always been a source of pleasure to see how quickly a veneer of corporate calm and control can disintegrate. It's good and somewhat assuring to be reminded we're not all drones who stick to the given script-and-spreadsheet like flies on a windshield.

The Motif period of Keyfax was a blur of products, videos, and intense NAMM shows. But it was also a warm and fuzzy time, knowing we were helping people who'd bought music tech products get their money’s worth and be creative with it.

And actually, it was the same driving force that had created the Twiddly.Bits loop MIDI loop libraries.

In Part 4, Alan Parsons and The Art & Science Of Sound Recording.

Evolving  DAWs

Julian Colbeck reflects on the birth and growing pains of digital recording as Keyfax NewMedia turns twenty-five.

Part 2. Coming To America

The UK is a challenging place to live and work, especially if you’re in music.

When I was a touring musician there was nothing quite like returning to London from a gig in the midlands at 2AM on a rainy Saturday with nothing but the Watford Gap (a ‘service station’) and its fare of greasy whatever to look forward to before you crept back into a freezing flat ("apartment") with only the girlfriend’s toes for warmth.

The late night food situation in the UK may have improved modestly in the past thirty years but the country is still not built for travellers, as it is in the USA.

And from my experience in 1994, nor was it built for new businesses.

Credit Squeeze

The initial problem was not so much getting sales but getting the money. In spite of owning a house and having a spotless credit record Barclays, my bank of some twenty years, refused to give us a credit card facility—i.e. the ability to ‘receive’ (not borrow)—money by credit card payment. “Too risky” they said. And that was that.

It’s a half empty / half full glass thing and, decamping to the US some months later, a guy called Ron, who didn’t know me from John Adams, got in touch after having registered the business at the County Court and just said “You’re going to need a credit card facility!” Ron, who looked like he’d stepped out of a Quentin Tarrantino movie came through and I hope he still gets a piece of the action because over the next few years Keyfax put millions of dollars through that company. Nice one, Ron. Barclays? You suck.

Life’s A Beach

Landing in Santa Cruz, CA as a technically illegal alien, the US could not have been more welcoming. In addition to brown leather jacketed Ron, I was overwhelmed by support from local music companies: E-Mu’s Marco Alpert, Q Up Arts’ Doug Morton, Keyboard magazine, local musos like ex-Doobies Dale Ockerman, and Tiran Porter (who’d famously announced to me on tour with my band Charlie that their upcoming album “wasn’t my fault. It’s terrible…” talking about Minute By Minute.).

Recording MIDI-a

The concept behind Twiddly.Bits was having real players record loops on the MIDI equivalent of their instruments. Recording drums (using drum pads, mainly Roland V Drums) was relatively simple. As Alan Parsons would say to me years later, the secret to getting a good drum sound is get a good drummer. And that holds true with MIDI recording as well. After Bill Bruford we also recorded Hugo Degenhardt (my bandmate with Steve Hackett) and Gavin Harrison (King Crimson, Porcupine Tree, The Pineapple Thief) and the success of the Drums & Percussion library inspired us to record several new drum loop collections, notably MIDI Breakbeats. We also, and bravely, tackled a genre not typically beloved by programmers: country music. It fell to me to do the initial recording of Dwight Yoakham’s fiddle player Scott Joss, more recently known for his work with Merle Haggard.

The key to record convincing MIDI performances is not quantizing, and not cleaning up every little ghost note or what might appear to be extraneous data. We used a Zeta violin MIDI pickup and, in order to be able to capture articulations like double-stopping, decided to record multi-timbrally, i.e with each string on its own MIDI channel. During the recording Scott had the sort of fixed, pitying expression of a man looking at miniature poodle trying to mount a St. Bernard. Mining this data for nonetheless usable loops was also both an hilarious and hair-tearing exercise and I’m not sure even our genius programmer and editor Dave Spiers back in the UK ever quite recovered.

Twiddly.Bits MIDI sample loops began to catch on, selling not only in the US but all over the world. One of Doug Morton’s recommendations was the Japanese distributor Media Integration, who purchased crates of product at a time. In 1998 I visited them in Tokyo, taking part in a live MIDI loop contest at a Roland Sound Party, trading loops in front of a sizeable if bemused audience with local rival company Idecs, flaunting their Hypergroove series. “And now, a bass loop from Keyfax….!” Bizarre but beautiful. And yes, since you ask, we like to feel we ate their sushi.
 

Hard Sell on Software Sales

At this time, in addition to producing multiple new MIDI sample collections—Drums and Percussion, Electric & Acoustic Guitar, Country, and The Funk—it had also come to our attention that the world was going increasingly soft. Dave Smith’s Seer Systems. Reality, the world's first professional software synthesizer for the PC, came out in 1997 and sound cards, notably those made by Creative Labs, who had purchased our friend E-Mu back in 1993, dominated the burgeoning market with the SoundBlaster AWE32. We created custom libraries, both for the AWE 32 and for PC people's favorite DAW, Cakewalk.

But when it came to performing, was music under the control of a blob of plastic on wheels really the best answer? Increasingly, I felt, not. Music should be more of a kinetic, immediate cause-and-effect thing. Do something, hear something. So, with some initial skepticism from my partners and subsequently a ton of skepticism from the world at large, I came up with the idea of a MIDI Performance Controller: A box of knobs hard-wired to several key MIDI Continuous Controllers that you could play in real time. My son was an avid Game Boy user and I figured Phat.Boy was a pretty decent name for a device that allowed you to tweak and control sound. Well, MIDI; but sound was the end result.

Who knew MIDI volume went to 11?

The key to Phat.Boy was that it was instant. Plug it into a GM or GS synth or soundset and it worked. No drivers, nothing to set up, download, install, fiddle about with. At first the community was all ‘Oh no, we need to be able to assign different controllers, customize parameters.’ Arrogantly, perhaps, I figured that even if there were 1001 parameters you could control there was probably only a dozen you actually/typically would. And here they are! I felt that, at least initially, people would appreciate the freedom of having lmited controls and just be able to focus on the music. I remember going to a game convention in San Diego in 1999 and seeing the expression on people’s faces who, for the first time, felt like they were able to control music. And in real time. Magic stuff.

Phat.Boy did become something of an ‘overnight success’ and, in addition to breathing new life into the Roland Sound Canvas and Yamaha XG module business (I remember Yamaha seeing us at a NAMM show and literally not believing what was coming out of a Yamaha MU128) and soon Phat.Boy became the de facto ‘hardware controller for soft synths.’ Propellerhead and Steinberg distributed Phat.Boy with Cubase and Re-Birth under the name Birth Control! Who says Swedes and Germans don’t have a sense of humor?
 

The Beginning of the End of the Beginning

It was an exciting but challenging time juggling hardware and software products and juggling two sets of people, one still in the UK and one freshly ensconced in a suite of offices downtown Santa Cruz: modest, but a major step up from the basement of my house in Aptos.

By 2001 Phat.Boy and Twiddly.Bits were selling in Guitar Center and in countries all over the world. But, as so often happens, internal pressures between the UK and USA were building and our world would soon both be torn apart and reborn shortly before 9/11.

In Part 3, the phenomenon that was the Yamaha Motif. Working in social media before there was such a thing as social media.