Here’s a different sort of compilation and synth collaboration – KORG Germany in Berlin invited the likes of Joan La Barbara, Suzanne Ciani, Alva Noto, Dave Smith, and a lot of us relative newcomers, too, to make a cookbook. And it’s free to download.
Former KORG Chief Engineer Tatsuya Takahashi is leading a new division in Berlin, alongside COO Maximilian Rest. And it sounds like a different kind of synth business.
It’s not clear just what exactly KORG Germany will do, apart from design instruments in Berlin. But the fact that “Tats” and Max are in charge, and that they’re writing some lofty mission statements, is enough reason to take notice. And they’re hiring, too, largely across engineering roles – mechanical, electrical, and software.
Tatsuya was at the engineering helm at KORG through some of the most innovative synth industry accomplishments of recent years. That includes the monotron and monotribe series, which helped kick off a boom in affordable modular and compact synths, followed by a string of volca hits (beats, bass, keys, sample, kick, fm), the collaboration with open source magnetic snap-together kit maker littleBits, the ARP Odyssey and MS-20 remakes which helped push the historical clone concept, and the fresh monologue synth.
Then Tats went to Yadastar, the independent marketing company that ran the Red Bull Music Academy program before Red Bull pulled the plug. And what we got from Tats was interesting, but nowhere near as accessible as his work for KORG – the Granular Convolver, for instance.
Well, now Red Bull’s loss is the synth world’s gain, because Tatsuya is back full-time with KORG. (He continued consulting for the company in the interim, as I understand it.) And he’s bringing with him collaborator Maximilian, who has long been a champion of making more sustainable products and reflecting on issues like labor practices. Max has also run his own independent business making modular and timekeeping pieces, E-RM; I’m unclear on what its future will be as he steps into the role at KORG.
So, what we get is a new enterprise that these two promise will engage both in new instruments and partnerships, and investigate “things that matter” and are made sustainably. With some flux at Behringer, ROLI, Native Instruments, and others, they may find some talent becoming free agents, too.
Team building is a big deal, and it’s worth noting that all those KORG products were possible because of collaborative, team-driven engineering efforts. So this talk of collaboration is itself compelling – even as some of Tats’ own private projects like audio-rate triggering a TR-808 are also rather cool and I suspect may figure into this, as well. (One of my highlights of 2019 was definitely making loud noises in a Latvian warehouse and then partying to Tats’ set!)
From their statements –
Tatsuya is CEO and says the company will make instruments with a core team “but also through per project partnerships and collaborations. “
Maximilian talks about sustainability and getting out of business as usual: “We will only market the things that matter, because the key to our way of great business is to respect each other as humans and the resources of our planet.”