Welcome to Reasonistas Interviews, episode 5.
In this special “insider access” episode we interviewed Mats Karlöf, Senior Product and Business Development Manager at Propellerhead Software HQ, based in Stockholm, Sweden. Mats graciously accepted our request for an interview on this, the 4th year anniversary of the Propellerhead Shop to discuss his career and Rack Extensions. In addition, to celebrate the shop’s 4th anniversary, we’ve crunched some numbers to provide our community with interesting and fun statistics and surprises. Skål!
Interviewer: Noel González of Reasonistas Interviewee: Mats Karlöf of Propellerhead Interviewee Specialty: RE Evangelist, Musician and Producer
Mats graduated from Stockholm University in 1993 with an MBA in Economics and Statistics. He held positions in Account Management, Business Development and Head of Research at various companies before joining Propellerhead Software in March 2005 as Product Manager, just as Propellerhead was launching Reason 3. In October 2013 Mats was promoted to Propellerhead’s Senior Product and Business Development Manager, primarily responsible for third party relations and the Rack Extension business.
Since joining Propellerhead in 2005, Mats and his team have worked to transform Reason from a niche “virtual analog synth studio” to the inspiring and formidable DAW that is Reason 9. He shared with us that a month after joining the team, Propellerhead CEO Ernst Nathorst-Böös asked Mats to work with Peter Jubel (creator of the software for Clavia's Nord Lead synth) to design Thor Polysonic Synthesizer. Mats said “I couldn’t believe that I would have direct input in creating my dream synthesizer”. He went on to share that the inspiration for Thor’s oscillators and filters were drawn from his personal collection of synths acquired over the years. For example, Thor’s modulation bus was inspired by his Minimoog Voyager, the Wavetable Oscillator from his PPG Wave 2.3 and so on. Of course Thor’s story wouldn’t be complete without the following early concept drawings provided by Mats.
Noel: Mats, was CRM-3 Thor's original name?
Mats: No, the working name was actually Big Synth. I can't remember why it was named CRM-3, but I came up with the name Thor. The name was inspired by mythological names such Jupiter and Juno and as we are a Swedish company we took the name from Norse mythology.
Mats and his colleagues, Peter Jubel (on DSP) and Andreas Karperyd (on Graphics), are also credited for developing Alligator, Audiomatic, Dr. OctoRex, Kong, Parsec, Pulveriser, Pulsar, Rotor and The Echo. That’s certainly an impressive list of accomplishments. The three amigos (Alligator, Pulveriser and The Echo) were developed in 8 weeks just prior to Mats’ wedding in 2011. He said “I was creating patterns for the Alligator the night before my wedding” (clearly this man married an angel). Mats said he also put a lot of time into the A-list series, and Reason’s Block Sequencer and ReGroove Mixer. By the way, you can read all about Pulveriser’s back story over at Marco Raaphorst’s Melodiefabriek blog. Also, check out these early drawings of Alligator, Pulveriser and The Echo provided by Mats:
At this point it’s worth noting that prior to the advent of Rack Extensions, Propellerhead were introducing 2 or 3 native Reason devices with an average 18 month release cycle. So, as you may recall, it was utterly mind-blowing the day Propellerhead simultaneously launched the Rack Extension Shop and introduced 20 new devices from 10 well known developers, including Properllerhead’s very own Polar, Pulsar and Radical Piano. Add to that the fact that suddenly users could either trial devices for 30 days free or buy them on the spot and see those devices appear in their Reason rack within minutes. This seemingly humble beginning leads us to our next segment appropriately titled, “Propellerhead Shop Anniversary and Statistics” in which we provide interesting and fun facts about the Shop’s history and current stats.
Propellerhead Shop Anniversary and Statistics
June 14th, 2016, marks the 4th year anniversary of the Propellerhead Software Shop. As previously mentioned, the Shop opened for business with 20 Rack Extensions from 10 early adopters of the technology, as shown in the left image and listed below:
01. Audio Damage
08. Sonic Charge
09. Sugar Bytes
10. Synapse Audio
Despite several early doomsday predictions, it’s clear that Reason, Rack Extensions and the Propellerhead Shop have all prospered and evolved over the past 4 years to include 306 Refills with 7 Bundles and 375 Rack Extensions with 47 Bundles as of June 14th, 2016
Since day one Reasonistas has kept a close eye on the Propellerhead Shop, keeping track of all Rack Extension releases and has been consolidating the data into the “Rack Extension Inventory”. With such a plethora of historically data, we’ve been able to slice and dice the Propellerhead shop in many useful ways. So, in celebration of the Shop’s 4th year anniversary, we provide the following interesting and fun statistics.
Yearly and Monthly Shop Analysis
The above yearly and monthly shop analysis provides the number of Rack Extensions released each month from June 14th, 2012 (Shop launch date) to June 14th, 2016 (Shop’s 4th year anniversary). As of today, June 14th, 2016, there have been 375 Rack Extensions released among 86 developers, including Propellerhead. 2013 stands out as the year with the most Rack Extension releases (110 Re / 29.57%); however, we are only halfway through 2016 with many new developers and sound designers that have or will be stepping into the Rack Extension arena (Nudge, nudge. Wink wink. Say no more).
Historically December and June are the months with the most Rack Extension releases. There have been 56 (14.93%) Rack Extensions released in December and 51 (13.60%) Rack Extensions released in June. However, we should note the Shop launched with 20 devices in June 2012, so as a result June continues to lead in total Re costs at $2,870 (20.62%). The 56 (14.93%) Rack Extensions released in December makes sense perhaps because developers want to squeeze in and finish their projects before the holidays.
Rack Extension Category Analysis
Now, let’s take a look at the above Rack Extension category analysis. To me, the first glaring observation is the fact that since the introduction of the IDT (Instrument Development Toolkit), the total number of Instruments (110 Re / 27.73%) has caught up with Utilities, a category that has been historically dominated primarily by control voltage devices (cv). You may have also noticed that in Reason’s browser, Creative FX and Studio FX are combined into “Effects”, so these two categories combined lead the device count at 167 (44.53%) total devices.
Noel: Mats, are there any other comments you would like to add about these category numbers?
Mats: It used to be that 20% of the devices were Instruments, but they represented 80% of the turn over. So, there was great potential for creating more instruments. Therefore we initiated IDT and NXTGN agreed to build this toolkit. We wanted an easier way for all people or companies that had built Kontakt instruments or Refills to create Rack Extensions.
Rack Extension Summary by Developer
We captured the above list from Reasonistas’ very own “Re Shop Summary by Developer” and sorted the list by “Total Devices” to see which developers released at least 10 or more devices. Jiggery-Pokery Sound leads the pack with 23 devices followed by Hamu, Propellerhead, Red Rock Sound, Blamsoft and Quadelectra in the range of 16 to 18 devices. The others on the list, Ochen K., AirRaid Audio, Lectric Panda, Synapse Audio, The Chronologist and Numerical Sound all seat between the range of 10 to 13 devices. In terms of diversity, most of these developers have released devices in just about every category, except Hamu and The Chronologist who have focused on an extensive catalog of dedicated and useful control voltage devices. Let us know in the below comments section if you find any other interesting observations in our analysis numbers.
In a separate conversation with Ryan Harlin, Video Producer at Propellerhead Software, we mentioned it would be great to have access to the official Propellerhead Rack Extension Combinator backdrops to share with the Reason community. Propellerhead liked the idea so Ryan personally tracked down the following Combinator backdrops to share with you in this special 4th year Shop Anniversary feature. We are working with Ryan to identify and acquire all other Propellerhead Rack Extension Combinator backdrops to share with you via our Reasonistas Combinator Backdrop Rack. Thank you, Ryan and Propellerhead! Enjoy.
The Interview with Mats Karlöf
As usual, we began our interview by asking Mats about his birthplace, where he spent his childhood and what influence this had on his life and career.
Mats: I spent my first 5 years only a couple of hundred meters from our office here on Södermalm in Stockholm, but I grew up in Nacka outside Stockholm. My father's electric guitar got stolen by my babysitter, maybe that sparked an interest in electric guitars. So a few years later I was playing guitar in various rock bands, listening to Thin Lizzy and ZZ Top. When I started working playing guitar was replaced with bass as I thought that this would be easier (not true, bass is more difficult than guitar). In search for a more synth bass sound I stumbled on a Korg MS-10 in London, bought it and fell in love with vintage synths. I had synthesizer manuals on my bedside table, became completely obsessed. A few years later my synthesizer park had grown to 20+ different synths, all vintage analogue. This later became the source of inspiration for Thor.
Question 2 Noel: At what age did you discover an interest in music?
Mats: At the age of 10 I went to a presentation of a music school, various instruments were played cello, violins, trumpets, acoustic guitars and DRUMS. That drum solo played by a tennager made a huge impression on me - I really wanted to start playing drums. Strangely enough, my parents thought that trumpet would be a better instrument, but blowing a trumpet at the age of 10 is pretty hard so I gave up after 3 months and started playing around with our family’s piano instead.
Question 3 Noel: What role has music played in your life?
Mats: A huge role, everyone in our family have a big interest in music. All my childhood ABCs (Anniversaries, Birthdays, Christmas) are filled with mandatory performances by me and my siblings. My brother went on to become a professional musician and is now one half of the band Niki and the Dove.
Question 4 Noel: Do you have traditional music training?
Mats: Yes, I managed to get into a school that gave me guitar lessons for 7 years. The price was that I also had to sing in a choir, something that I, at the time, didn’t appreciate very much.
Question 5 Noel: Do you remember your first music related application?
Mats: Yes, I started with bars and pipes for the Amiga. It had some nice midi effects, not too distant from Reason 9’s Players.
Question 6 Noel: Did you know about Reason before joining Propellerhead? If so, what was your first version?
Mats: Yes, I had seen friends of mine making electronic music in Reason 1 and 2. I was originally a Cubase user, but got into Reason with Reason 2.5. I think what drove me to Reason was the community. One aspect of choosing a DAW is the environment you are placed in. There were so many friendly and free resources like PUF, Combinator HQ, etc. Today we have Reason Talk, Reasonistas, Rack Extensionists etc.
Question 7 Noel: What are your top three favorite Reason features?
1. It always works. Problem free.
2. The short time it takes from the moment you start the application until you actually are making music.
3. The Reason community
OK, if we are speaking of devices I really like:
1. Dr. Octo Rex, especially the slice editor.
2. The modulation bus in Thor where you scale the modulation by a third parameter.
3. Pulveriser, I use this beast at least once in every song I make.
Question 8 Noel: Are you able to give us a sneak peek into Propellerhead’s next Rack Extension or future SDK and Rack Extension plans? Mats: I wish I could, the company policy is to never pre-announce any features as we made that mistake for Reason 1. The resulting death march of 9 months desperate coding thereafter scarred people for life, so this is no-no.
Question 9 Noel: Anything else you would like readers to know about you or Propellerhead?
Mats: I can neither confirm nor deny that I have no more comments. :-)
Noel: Mats, thank you for this interview and for sharing the device drawings and Combinator backdrops. I’m personally looking forward to Reason 9’s release on June 21st, 2016. I think the “Players” in Reason 9 will revolutionize the way we make music and the 1000 new sounds will keep users inspired. The new Pitch Editor makes it much easier to correct vocals and will keep users inside Reason without depending on external programs to get the job done. I hope Propellerhead continues to invest in Reason and the Rack Extension format, so we can see Reason updates more regularly to keep people engaged and inspired. I wish you and your colleagues continued success at Propellerhead and of course in all your future endeavours. Keep up the good work. Mats: Thank you for making this possible, you’re doing a great job, Noel. We’re all very fortunate to have your commitment and energy to drive Reasonistas.
One last thing, would you like to win a free Propellerhead Rack Extension? Be the first to answer the following 2 questions correctly in the below comments box and win any Propellerhead Rack Extension of choice.
1. What was originally produced in the building now occupied by Propellerhead?
2. ReWire was developed to integrate ReBirth with which other DAW?.
Alright fellow Reasonistas there you have it! An informative and fun review of the Propellerhead Shop and an insightful interview with Mats Karlöf. As always, feel free to comment below if you have any questions for me, Mats or Propellerhead.
Until next time, happy music making and keep it Reason-able!