Our look back at the history of Novation continues with a look at what the company is currently doing and what they are aiming to achieve in the future…
Right up to the present day, we have the new Launch and Mini ranges of controllers that are defining how we interact with music hardware and software. When controllers become instruments in their own right, you know they’re succeeding – and that’s where pretty much all the controllers in Novation’s line-up score well.
Head of Product & Marketing (London) Matt Derbyshire, hardware engineer Nick Bookman and artist and media guru Will Evans
are among the Novation employees responsible for taking the company’s reputation forward with new products.
“We have such a rich synthesiser heritage that we’re in a great position to uniquely combine this sound, with new ideas such as Grids,” says Matt, before summing up the company’s current goals. “To not be afraid to try new ideas, evolve the way people create electronic music, and collaborate with exciting partners.
When I joined, I was introduced to some exciting interfaces, and great synthesiser ideas Ian had. More recently, we’ve created some really successful iOS products, and I’m excited to see these evolve.” One of the products that Matt was involved with from conception was Launchpad, but it wasn’t without its teething problems…
“Launchpad helped electronic music makers to move away from a keyboard. With Ableton leading a time-stretching revolution, and new hardware concepts such as Monome arriving, we realised simplicity and integration were missing. We mocked up some prototypes and presented them to an outside review group. Someone in the room looked up and said, ‘So, it’s just a bunch of buttons, that light up and sounds happen? Is that it?’
“I couldn’t believe they couldn’t ‘see’ what it meant. As someone holding a fragile idea, it’s your responsibility to help people understand, take people on a journey, help them visualise what it means. We approached Ableton, with whom we have a great relationship. Gerhard [Behles, CEO and co-founder] saw the designs, saw what it meant, and agreed on a partnership. We refined our designs with their team, headed up by Baptiste Grange, and the result was the Launchpad.”
And it has been very successful, as Matt details: “Launchpad has been a great winner, and now that we have our own iOS app that can be instantly downloaded in every country in the world, that is proving to be an exciting area. Our keyboards have always sold well, but with the trend of electronic music makers wanting real hardware, our synths have had a comeback, especially Bass Station II.”
Will Evans is responsible for artist relations at Novation, so deals with the day-to-day needs of Novation users, famous or otherwise, not to mention coming up with the odd product idea along the way.
“The MoroderNova (limited edition signature synth) was a product I’d conceived after our marketing director said how much he’d love to work with Giorgio Moroder,” Will reveals. “I flew out to LA and met with Giorgio, secured his blessing, and began in earnest working with the product team to develop the product and the marketing plan. MoroderNova seems to have had a good reception – I’m pretty proud of that.”
The gorgeous MoroderNova
We asked Will what artists use Novation gear that he’s most thrilled about and why. He replied: “Before I worked here, I was aware that the likes of Radiohead, Trent Reznor and Jean Michel Jarre were Novation users. Since then, our artist database has grown exponentially, from legacy artists like George Clinton, Giorgio Moroder, Kerri Chandler and Richie Hawtin, to new emerging artists like Lorde, alt-J, Arca and Flume. It’s great to see our gear used by such a wide variety of artists in different genres, and feels like that’s a testament to the versatility of our range.”
Matt Derbyshire added: “Personally, I love seeing our products on stage at Sonar Festival. It’s a powerful place for many of our artists to showcase their work. Notable artists, though, include Bjork, Arca and Bonobo.”
Who would Will like to see using Novation gear? “As far as large-scale artists, I would be very excited to see Aphex Twin, Pharrell Williams and Daft Punk using our kit,” he says. “Equally, I’m just excited to see those in new or underground music using our gear, and so it’s great to see those artists using our equipment live or in the studio.” And which products have had the best reaction from artists? “The feedback for Bass Station II has been overwhelming – people really love it,” says Will. “Also, there’s no question when it comes to the impact that Launchpad has made over the years.”
Matt also reveals some of Novation’s future plans… “We’ve recently set up a new office in the heart of London. It is a small space, with a start-up culture, tasked with creating the next generation of music-making product concepts.
It’s in Tileyard, near Kings Cross, in a creative/tech hub surrounded by some of the biggest names in the business. It’s inspiring, and we’ve got some cool things planned.” And what about the future of music production as a whole? Any ideas on where we’re heading?
“I see us following a cyclical path in terms of hardware,” says Will. “We’re very pro-analogue, but I can imagine a resurgence in digital hardware to counter-balance the abundance of analogue sounds in recordings. Regarding software, I think it’s simple, intuitive apps that work well alongside typical setups, so will be most successful for the near future, then we’ll be due a shake-up with a new DAW or way of working – like Ableton recently.”
Novation hardware engineer Nick Bookman
Matt adds: “As music makers, we’re undergoing a paradigm shift. Just as laptops changed our world, it’s happening again with mobile technology. We’re halfway through, and the next 10 years will see this transition completed. It won’t look massively different, it’ll just be a lot simpler to make the music you want to, and get it listened to by a lot of people.” The last word goes to Nick Bookman, who sums up Novation’s overriding philosophy.
“Quite simply, to make products that will help inspire electronic musicians to make music, and to make the products as useful to them as possible.”
Want to work in the industry?
Then maybe you might want some top advice from our Novation interviewees…
“It takes time and dedication – it’s not something you can quickly jump into. So long as you’re passionate and put in the hours, it’ll always come good in the end. A big tip is ‘don’t shoot too early’ – wait until you’re really ready to send that demo or ask for that introduction – you want to present your work at a point that you’re really confident that the person seeing/hearing it is going to take notice.”
“Ideally [my advice is] that their parents have left them a house! No, seriously, it’s a tough career path to take and only very few make a really good living.”
“One of the best things to have is simply great people skills. Even at places like Abbey Road Studios, the best engineers and producers are the ones who make the people around them ‘feel’ inspired, always bettering themselves.”