AN INTERVIEW WITH DOUGLAS MORTON (PRESIDENT & FOUNDER) OF Q UP ARTS by Thorsten Meyer Douglas Morton from Q Up Arts did take the time out off his busy schedule to provide some insights and background information about Q Up Arts and their world-class sound collections for computer companies, professional music producers, Film/TV composers and recording artists. Thorsten Meyer: Doug, first of all, thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule. Would you be so kind and tell us a bit about yourself and how Q Up Arts started out in the business back in 1993? Thorsten! many thanks for taking the time to speak with me! I’m excited to share my experiences and hopefully inspire and enrich your readers. I started playing organ and piano at 7 years old, played in bands through my teen years in Cupertino, California and British Columbia, Canada. I later migrated back to Santa Cruz, in northern California, a hotbed of digital audio. in the early 1980s, E-Mu Systems had set up shop in Santa Cruz in a house on Broadway and Ocean. I’d met some of the muons and quickly became enamored with this new sampling technology. Next thing you know, I’m sampling drums for the Drumulator. My first customer was to Christopher Franke of Tangerine Dream. I kept sampling as I worked in the test department, then marketing before moving over to Optical Media International (OMI) down the coast in the hills of Aptos, California, then to Los Gatos in Silicon Valley. OMI had developed the first desktop cd.rom publishing, Topix. The Universe of Sounds was the first sample cd.rom published, was for E-Mu’s Emulator II. the OMI CDS3 cd.rom drive connected to the EII via rs422 finally enabling users to escape the drudgery of the floppy disc and load from cd.rom providing access to hundreds of sounds at the press of a button. I produced and managed the development of the Universe of Sounds which was released to a vast audience of customers including Pink Floyd, The Cure, Stevie Wonder and many other A-list film/tv composers and producers. OMI continued publishing samples for Emax I/II, EIIIX, EIV, Akai, Roland, Ensoniq and more as well as implementing connectivity between most hardware samplers on the market. This connectivity provided access for users and thus heralding the beginning of the sample market. In 1993 I left OMI and created Q Up Arts, leaving Silicon Valley and heading back to the beach near Santa Cruz. after 24 years, Q Up Arts is creating content, developing and licensing samples and loops for a variety of customers and companies across the globe. Let’s talk about California Keys collection of keyboard instruments including California Grand, Wurly, V-Organ, R-EPiano, H-Organ, Clav, F-Organ. What makes this collection so special besides the number of included instruments? I was originally approached by Guitar Center’s Private Brands to produce content for the Williams Digital Piano line, a consumer platform of hardware digital pianos. Our goal was to capture the most important sounds from each of the instruments. Sounds that have been proven to work in a multitude of musical situations and applications. My first instinct was to find the greatest sounding instruments I could find. We had 2 Fazioli Grands to choose from, the 9ft and the 10ft. After we all played and listened to both, it was unanimous, the 10ft was the most beautiful instrument we’d ever laid our hands on. It’s truly the Stradivarius of pianos. There were also so many C7s sampled out there. I was after a piano that you could play very softly, the main element that is missing in most sampled grands. Next up were the organs and keyboards. We enlisted the services of master keyboard curator Arlan Schierbaum in Topanga, Southern California. Arlan had the most keyboards I’d ever seen in one place, so we had a lot of choices available. His instruments were very well maintained with help from renowned keyboard restoration expert Ken Rich of Los Angeles. A long answer to your question, but what makes these instruments special is the quality of the instruments and the care we took in capturing the true character. We also care deeply about the playability and expressivity of the final instruments no matter what platform or engine they play from. There are many piano libraries available these days. How does the California Grand differ from other available pianos? There are some great sampled pianos out there, however, the Fazioli 10 ft. grand, as I mentioned earlier, is the finest instrument I’ve ever played. It’s a rich instrument with power, sonority, singing quality and perfect harmonic effects. The subtlety that’s available to the player is something I’d never experienced before. The challenge of course, was to create virtual instruments out of this source material that contained as much of this expressivity as the architecture would allow, in this case, Williams and Kontakt. We went for the softest hits we could get, that’s where the beauty lies in most instruments, in my opinion. Another stand out feature is how the piano was recorded. It’s recorded in true surround. Matched stereo pairs of room mics were placed in front of and behind the player. U87 was placed under the piano, a classic ORTF config was to the right of the player with close mics directly above the hammers as well. In Kontakt, these mics can be sent to the surround matrix for 5.1 and 7.1 and beyond. The surround capability is very flexible for many configurations. Everything was recorded with utmost care @192khz 24bit. Which of the included instruments has been the most fun to sample? They’re all fun!! Challenging is fun for me. The piano was the most inspiring and challenging.