Interview: Jack O’Donnell, Numark – English Version

Peter:
Your next big step in 2001 was the acquisition of Alesis. Was that more strategy or a lucky coincidence that you could take over Alesis?

Jack O’Donnell:
My plan was to acquire a company that was more at home in the engineering field. With Numark that was almost everything in Asia and I wanted to be more active in the USA. Alesis was a strong, established brand name that had a recognition value in the market. I took a close look at the company and they also had a strong engineer backround. So you could do things at Alesis very differently than Numark.

Peter:
And that was the right decision then?

Jack O’Donnell:
It was definitely the right decision because I could focus more on development and engineering.

 

Peter:
Alesis has written music history with many of his products. How was it possible then that Alesis was just for sale?

Jack O’Donnell:
They just did not look far enough into the future. Their greatest success in the early 1990s was the development of ADAT (Alesis Digital Audio Tape), a digital multi-track tape device.

Peter:
Clearly!

Jack O’Donnell:
They made a lot of profit with it. But unfortunately, they have relied solely on ADAT. As always in history, things are changing and new technologies are coming to market. People started buying more computer-based products. Alesis was a great company, but at some point had more expenses than revenue. When ADAT did not sell well anymore, it was a shock to the company.

Alesis Andromeda A6

Peter:
Some products Alesis was famous for, unfortunately do not exist anymore. For example, the Andromeda A6 and the airFX. Why are they not there anymore?

Jack O’Donnell:
The products were simply no longer profitable. This market simply stopped. Today we know that this special lover market has increased again. We also look very much at how and if we can develop it for ourselves again. At that time, we had to find new sources of income at Alesis, which had never before focused on it. So after ADAT we had to find a new line and develop new things, which we did.

Peter:
Amazona.de is now almost 20 years old and we have the largest community in Germany for synthesizers and beat products. We often write about vintage synthesizers. At the moment we are seeing a huge comeback of the analog synthesizers. Behringer, Korg, Yamaha etc. are starting to produce analog synthesizers again. Would it be conceivable for Alesis, who developed one of the best analog synthesizers of all time with the Andromeda, to also get back into this area?

Jack O’Donnell:
The market is literally begging for an analog synthesizer from Alesis.

Peter:
Absolute!

Jack O’Donnell:
Of course, we want to fulfill the wishes of our customers, but we have to do it right and at the right time. The technology that was used at the time at Andromeda is no longer there. So we have to start from scratch. This process is very time-consuming, we want to come up with something, which also has the quality of an Andromeda and not just use its name.

 

Peter:
In Germany there is every year the fair Superbooth. The company InMusic was also there last year and presented the new Akai MPC. We had a replica Andromeda on the stand as a magazine. It looked like a Minimoog, with this dark paneling. Rebuilt completely different than it was in the original. The thing was so coveted that people all asked, „Where can I buy this? – Where can I order it? – Is this a new line from Alesis?“ No, it’s a one-off, the only thing that exists! „It was just a fake of us, I need to send you some pictures of it, and then I realized that there is a lot of interest in Alesis, in his name and his history in the area of ​​analogue synthesizers.

Der Alesis Andromeda von AMAZONA.de 2017

Jack O’Donnell:
Yes that’s true! But we want to do everything right before launching a new Andromeda.

Peter:
Let’s talk about Akai Professional. I myself was Marketing Manager at Akai when they released the S3000 and the „old“ MPCs. And then we were sold to an American company names Numark. Numark bought Akai, right?

Jack O’Donnell:
Yes, not the company Numark alone, but my group of companies bought Akai Professional. The group operates under the name InMusic.

Peter:
I do not remember that they started off with guitar effects for Akai at that time, was that during your time or was it before?

Jack O’Donnell:
That was before my time, but then we went ahead with it and ultimately developed a whole new line from it. This was called Akai Headrush.

Peter:
Exactly, I remember that. Did that work with Headrush at the time?

Jack O’Donnell:
Not with the old product, but then we developed it further.

Peter:
Then 2008 two new drum computers came out almost at the same time, one from Alesis the other from Akai. They were two pretty similar products, both of which had almost the same design, but a slightly different sound.

One would have believed, since that comes from the same company, you once used the Akai logo and once the Alesis. Is it not that difficult to have different brands, but the same team of engineers behind it? At the end of the day, when a product is ready, you ask yourself, do I put an Akai logo or Alesis logo on it?

Jack O’Donnell:
Yes, the problem is there. But I think that’s now a thing of the past. Today, people are focusing on the different brands we have at InMusic. We invest a great deal of money into development, marketing and sales to represent the uniqueness of the different brands. Nowadays every brand has its unique selling points. Although there are similarities in the products, but there are today in the entire industry.

Peter:
Then came the time when the largest division of Akai was the MPC. You then decided to distribute this „only“ as a controller. Two or three years later you came back with hardware MPCs. Was that a mistake „only“ to have a controller? Why did you decide to return to the stand-alone solution?

Jack O’Donnell:
It was not a mistake, the market at that time demanded it. We just wanted to develop the MPCs.

Peter:
That’s true. Today I know why the market accepted it then. But for me it was the right decision to do it that way. But it looked like that, as if the users asked for a different kind of MPC?

Jack O’Donnell:
That’s a good point, Peter. We really enjoyed the controller years, but more and more stand-alone solutions were required. Today we have the know-how to build an absolutely comparable stand-alone MPC. And we just did not think we had that before. If you like, you can now use the stand-alone solution with your computer. In addition to the stand-alone solution, we are still bringing out desktop solutions. But with the stand-alone solution, we first had to develop something to let our advanced software run on it. That took some development time. We see that today we have great success with the stand-alone solution.

Peter:
Larger as with MPC RAM3?

Jack O’Donnell:
Yes, we had good success with MPC RAM, but the stand-alone has surpassed it all.

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