An edited version of this interview appeared in the May 2003 issue of the UK MI industry's trade magazine, MI Professional.
 

INTERVIEW, JACK O'DONNELL, OWNER OF U.S. AUDIO SPECIALISTS NUMARK & ALESIS

There's something of the quintessential American businessman about Jack O'Donnell, boss of Numark and Alesis - a description which, lest Guardian readers take that entirely the wrong way, is intended as a compliment. For all the mythologising of the untravelled, un-cosmopolitan American, beloved of broadsheet op-ed writers, there is a strain of American entrepreneur that is constantly travelling, representatives of whom you'll find in most decent hotels in just about any city in the world. Far from insular, they seem unfazed whether they're in Beijing or Birmingham, seeming just as wearily relaxed in either. And Mr. O'Donnell seems quite without faze when we meet in his London hotel, during a sustained bout of travelling which, he reveals, is more or less constant: though he is tired, he admits. We've been trying to arrange the interview for several weeks, but hectic schedules have resulted in a game of catch played across several cities and more than one country. And there are good reasons for such determination on both sides. Numark is no longer just the standard bearer for the DJ market but by now has been digesting Alesis long enough to have a very good idea what it has bitten-off. Given the reported downturn in the DJ business and the surprise surrounding his takeover of the high-tech, but slightly tarnished, Alesis, some had wondered whether Mr. O' Donnell might have lost his touch. This was our chance to find out. Also present, Damon Crisp, the UK division's energetic and exceptionally well clued-up MD and MI Pro's editor, Gez Kahan, who though he says he isn't taking part in the interview, rides useful editorial shotgun.

As our photographer improvises a makeshift studio in one of the hotel's reception rooms, I start by asking how Jack O'Donnell had come to Numark in the first place. Clearly, he didn't suddenly catch the hip-hop bug a few years ago and Numark itself has been around for around three decades.

'The company was started in 1971.' he says. 'At first it was really concerning itself with consumer electronics and then evolved into professional electronics and then evolved further into the DJ market. I bought the company in 1992, having spent the previous 12 years as VP of sales and marketing at Stanton Magnetics. Numark became available for sale, basically because they were having financial difficulties moving manufacturing facilities from Japan to the States and were looking for investment help. It's been a very great success story for the past ten years.'

Given the curve the DJ market was on a a decade ago it was brilliant timing.

Damon Crisp's involvement with Numark, meanwhile, goes back to its first distributor, Light Factor Sales. Later the brand moved to Lamba which, interestingly, was (and is) the UK distributor for Stanton, which is where Messrs O'Donnell and Crisp got to know one another. 'It was always a great love of mine, Numark,' Mr. Crisp says. 'It was always a top-end name. I was doing export for Lamba at the time and used to bump into Jack around the world and when the decision was made to come into the UK, it fitted together naturally.'

So what had made Mr. O'Donnell decide not to use an agent to distribute his products in the UK market? Why go to all the expense of setting up his own operation here? 'It was really taken in two steps. First we went to DJ2000 for distribution and we were pretty successful in taking advantage of what was happening in the market here. But we also saw that we were having obstacles placed in front of us because of indirect distribution. We knew that with expertise directly marketed to the dealers, our products could do even better.'

While Numark was with DJ 2000, Damon Crisp remained at Lamba, selling Gemini, KAM and Stanton. 'Damon was essentially a big competitor at Lamba,' says Mr. O'Donnell. 'But he and I remained in contact. As for the timing, it's always a roll of the dice. We were doing well, but we speculated that there was a lot more business to be had, so we set up directly here and that has been a great move, these past five years.'

It's always useful to have figures when someone is telling you how well their business is doing, but this is often the first sticking point in an interview. Not so with Jack O'Donnell, who not only has the numbers in his head but is willing to be open with them.

'The UK turnover is ten million pounds and the projected growth is another 25 per cent for 2003.'

I try to catch the look on Damon Crisp's face as Jack O'Donnell talks about increasing his UK sales by a quarter this year, but if this prediction perturbs him, he doesn't show it. But a 25 per cent lift in a DJ a market which, by common consent, is in trouble? Just a few days before the interview took place, one of the weekend supplements had carried a feature saying that the era of the DJ was over and that kids were playing guitars again. Surely, I suggest, if the trend had percolated through to Fleet St, it was pretty much set in stone? So how do you jemmy a quarter-fold increase in sales out of a declining market?

'I'm not sure I'd look to the 25 per cent coming from the DJ market,' Mr. O'Donnell confirms. 'But we did experience absolutely strong growth in the DJ market. I don't dispute the industry's figures, but we are quite convinced that we are getting a lot of market share. Go to an individual retailer anywhere in the world and they'll say that their business is flat, possibly down. You will find the occasional one whose business is up, but that's down to better marketing or whatever, so, yes, I think the industry as a whole is flat..' He stops himself. 'Actually, I think that might be a bit optimistic in itself. But what's happening in the DJ business is legitimate, You can't expect surges in growth all the time. Everything in the MI business is cyclical and the fact that right now we're hearing that guitars are coming back, is great. It's appropriate. You never think of writing off any segment of the MI business just because there's a new segment taking over. Every area has its growth potential, its day. It peaks, it goes down. That's how the industry is.'

'Certainly in the UK, the whole DJ thing is evolving into something different,' adds Damon Crisp. 'Part of the reason we've seen a dip is because of the media exposure it's had. It was on every TV programme, in every magazine and when you got to the point where the Tatler was talking about DJ, then it had become over-exposure. It has changed for a lot of reasons - musical tastes being a big part of it. Go back through the past four years and you had a heavy leaning towards drum and bass, you've seen a lean towards handbag, house and garage. They've all now evolved into something else and the dance sector is like that - consequently changing. And of course the equipment's users are now that much older, which is an important factor for us. The user who was into drum and bass in '98, who might have been 19 is now 24, maybe buying their first house, so what we're seeing is a maturing market.

'That guy who started-off in his bedroom is now moving onto a studio, maybe with computer music, maybe starting to do radio ads, so his equipment needs are changing. Also, the mobile is coming back very strongly. There's a lot of work for them and that's part of our culture, based around entertainment. How often do you walk into a hotel and find there are four separate DJs doing four separate weddings? That had died and we had lost some of that market but now there are newcomers in it and we're really getting a lot of business from that mid-upper sector.'

All of these, Mr. Crisp maintains, are good signs for the up-market Numark - particularly so now that it is bed with Alesis, thus ideally poised to sell recording gear to those DJs with home and project studios.

'There's some sort of contradiction here in one sense,' adds Mr. O'Donnell. 'We are now seeing more exposure of the DJ industry in the mainstream than ever before. I saw our equipment in the Wall St Journal recently and that was the last place that you'd expect to see DJ equipment, but their headline was: "The new piano lessons for the suburbs" and all the products featured in that article were Numark. So I think what that says is that five years ago, people were saying this is a fad, this will disappear, but now most everyone is very comfortable. Just like they now realise Rock and Roll wasn't a fad, they now see that DJ isn't a fad either. It may have reached its immediate peak, but I still see some very big avenues of growth which are still untapped and we are looking into that.'

So where are these growth areas?

'Well, when you see mass media featuring DJs, there's an opening for mainstream sales, but I think the average young teen that sees DJs on MTV or VH-1, doesn't necessarily know how to purchase the equipment they need, so there's still that big untapped group. In the States they walk into a Circuit City or Best Buy' (think Dixons or Comet) 'and there's no DJ equipment there - that's not where they buy it. But they are eligible purchasers, walking in with Mom in tow, looking at TVs and Gameboys and if there was DJ equipment they'd be looking at that, too. The awareness level is very high but the availability is still through specialised channels of distribution.'

Does this hold true for the UK as well, I ask Damon Crisp? Are we going to be seeing Numark in Dixons? And if so, how does he think this might go down with UK specialist retailers?

Jack O' Donnell interrupts. 'I can answer that. You won't see Numark in those stores because we have a very strong higher-end image for professionals and it would be inappropriate for Numark to be in those shops. And you won't see Alesis in there, either.'

'Yes, I agree with Jack. Numark is very much a DJ brand and will stay a DJ brand,' continues Mr. Crisp. 'If you take it elsewhere it'd lose credibility. The same would be true of Alesis, you may be able to sell it that way but you'd harm its distributor network, which is very strong in the UK and we have a good relationship with our dealers. But whether you may see another product range appearing in that market - well, that's another question.'

He leaves the hint dangling, but Gez Kahan seizes on it, asking, if Numark and Alesis aren't being sold through multiple stores, while other DJ company's products are, how does Numark get customers into specialist stores where those brands are sold.? Is there anything Numark can do to help that transition?

Well,' replies Jack O'Donnell. 'That is our plan for 2003. We're developing an entry-level, novice's line that focuses on price point and ease of use, that allows the young teen that's fascinated with the concept to try it out. In my opinion that expands the market. Then you separate the true enthusiasts from the novelty buyers and once you've exposed them in greater numbers to the novelty, then you get them to look at the more expensive equipment, once they've decided this is something they want to do.

'The brand we're creating will be called ION and the approach we're going to take with it is to offer it to our dealers, who we regard as kind of sacred. They have the choice. If they want to take the ION brand then they can have it, but it's also available to a broader spectrum, so the big chains will be introduced to the product line and hopefully that will bring some exposure to the market, which will eventually seek its level at the MI and DJ specialist store.'

Even so, there is no association going to be made between ION and Numark - not even of an "ION by Numark", kind, so I suggest that loses the immediate feed-through association of a single brand, a la Fender and Squier.

'Well, we think the feed-through is actually introducing the young person to DJ, and then getting them to move on to the specialists store,' says Mr. O'Donnell. 'We may not end up with the sale when they go to that specialist store, ION may end-up passing the sale on to another DJ company, but it will pass the sale on to our specialised DJ companies and that's ultimately good for the industry.'

One of the most rewarding aspects of talking to manufacturers rather than distributors (fine, upstanding chaps though they all are, of course) is that it is the manufacturer that gets to see the real shape of the international market. So how, I asked, is the UK's DJ market comparing with other territories?

'The UK is unique in that it has more of a DJ culture than probably any other country in the world,' says Mr O'Donnell.' The celebrity status of DJs does exist in Italy, France, Spain and Germany, but the specialised stores you have here are pretty unique. They exist in the States, but only in a very small number. In fact almost all of the professional gear we sell in the US is through MI stores, whereas here you have specialised DJ stores, so the market is probably as sophisticated in the UK as it is anywhere in the world, if not more so. In terms of sales per capita it ranks as one of the top - and the US follows, not in sales volume, of course, but in sales per capita.'

'That's something we talked about in an interview in MI Pro a few years ago,' Damon Crisp adds. 'That some UK MI dealers took so long to grasp the fact that their cousins in America had been doing very nicely thank you with DJ equipment for years. Over here, they'd left it to the specialist DJ store, who is still king, I would say, in running the DJ market here.'

'And that may just never reverse,' concludes Jack O'Donnell. 'That could just be how it's going to be, that DJ stores never evolved in the US and now it's solidly entrenched in the MI store, while it's solidly entrenched in the DJ specialist store in the UK. And I'm not sure that's bad. It's probably serving the DJ very well, so that the MI stores are an adjunct, rather than a replacement.'

Turning again to Damon Crisp, I ask how his programme of trying to encourage UK MI retailers to take on the DJ business has fared. 'Generally, it's gone very well. What I have liked about some of the MI dealers is that there are some very astute people out there, very astute in how they lay their stores out, what they see in their every day custom. Territories have to come into this. The South East is very different from that the North of England and what sells in the North of England doesn't necessarily sell in the South. I see an awful lot of companies making the mistake of trying to tell stores that they should buy something for a store in the North because it sells well in the South, rather than listening to that dealer's request or requirement.'

So how does this market differ in actual practical terms? ' Well, let's go on just musical tastes,' says Mr. Crisp. 'Scotland and the North of England are into very, very hard dance, as the main culture, so it's very techno-based. The South is very much more a car wash, handbag, garagey kind of thing, Birmingham is a mid-way, almost an intermediary between the two. So the wants, desires and needs for the equipment are very different. In big cities like Birmingham, Manchester and London, they are very successful in selling hip-hop equipment because there's that inner street-cred, gang culture. Go down to some where like Exeter on the other hand and you won't sell one DJ hip-hop mixer in a month - and you'd be lucky if you did more than three a year - and most of those will be to people who've gone to Exeter University from a city. So we listen to our dealers.

'When we went to MI dealers in the UK a lot of them were initially very cautious. Before Alesis turned-up, it was almost a case of, "Do I need DJ?" and I have to say that one or two have let the ball drop by assuming and listening to talk about the market diminishing and being on a downward turn. But I don't think it has turned down, I think it may have plateaued and gone into other areas, but because they don't have a dedicated DJ-type of salesman or a core DJ understanding in that store, we have seen their business decline. In the multiple stores you'll see that one store stands out - why is that? It's because in that one store there's a guy who is a DJ, or he may have a DJ studio and be a producer. So this is something that we try to say: don't expect the guy who sells Fender or Charvel-Jackson to suddenly be able to sell a couple of decks and understand why. Or, more importantly to grasp what it is that makes this customer want to buy that rather than the Start that's hanging on the wall.'

'That's a real good point,' adds Jack O'Donnell. 'These guys have to go in and see another DJ to feel comfortable and that's what the specialist stores give us. A concentrated number of specialists that can talk their language, can tell them where to get the music, discuss what's hot and plan what's going to be hot with them. They need that and they need the community. What Damon's saying speaks volumes about why having a separate company for the UK is so important. Those specifics - if someone was coming to the UK from Germany or the States and was saying, "well, we sell a lot of this product you should be able to move it too" it just wouldn't work. That intimate knowledge of what really is going on in the UK makes us unique. We can really serve the dealer, understand his needs and cater for the differences and also help in the retail marketing.'

So how on earth (quite literally) does a manufacturer cater for a market so diverse that not only do different countries have their own tastes, but which is so fashion-driven that different towns do, as well?

'Let's take an example,' says Jack O' Donnell. 'Take something as simple as EQ on microphones. That's meaningless in the US - why would you need EQ on a microphone? Whereas in England it's very required. But we haven't lost anything by saying it's essential. We haven't lost anything by adding it. We don't need to make two products and maybe the US will find some value after we add it? And, sure enough, that was the case. So you don't have to build specially for the North of London, say, but you do have to take on the influence of the North of London and put it into the products that are going to be sold worldwide. In other cases, we have a product range that is so broad we can say, well this is a product for Europe, or this is a product that is for the UK - it can be that specific. I'm never one to tell my distributors that they must take a line. They must take what is appropriate for their market.'

And so to Alesis. At one stage the darling of the pro-am studio market, massively successful around the world, it stumbled badly when it lost sight of the very pace of technology that had once driven it. Having taken what had been new DAT technology to the limit, rather than recognising the signs when DAT's brief time was over, that hard disc and other media were running round like early mammals, it got its dinosaur feet stuck in the swamp and soon started to resemble some of the old open-reel tape companies it had displaced. So why did Jack O'Donnell want to buy it?

'Well, I was already associated with Alesis. At NAMM 2000, they announced several new products and at that point Numark had a technology partnership with Korg on a couple of products. Alesis came out with a couple of new products they were excited about and which I thought were very, very interesting for the DJ market, which was all that I was focused on at that point. So I met with their engineers and sales people and they gave me a brief run-though of all their products, including the semiconductor division and including products that were still in the works. And I though this was really a very exciting company that could have offered a very exciting technology partnership with Numark. I wanted to expand our conversation and expand some licensing agreements, so there were a couple of phonecalls, I was planning to meet with them at Frankfurt, but I didn't get a call back from them as we were running up to the Messe, so I assumed they didn't want to be partnered with anyone and I just let it go. But then I got a call out of the blue in April, from the head of engineering who said they were very interested but would like us to invest in the company. So I flew out there and met with their team. They were pretty open that they had financial difficulties. They had great products and great R&D, but perhaps they weren't running their business properly. That eventually led to the purchase on June 15th. They were entertaining a lot of different possibilities, by the way - Fender being one and Mackie and Digidesign as well, but we were very persistent. From that initial meeting at NAMM to my meetings at the factory, I realised this was a perfect marriage.'

I ask the obvious question: why?

'The ultimate goal for most DJs is to go into production and Alesis is a recording production company, so this was expanding upon the dreams of the Numark customer. From my standpoint, I could see clearly that their business model was flawed.'

Was that, in his opinion, due to their dedication to ADAT?

'Yes, I guess it was their reluctance to change quickly. It really burdened them with lower sales than they needed to have to support their infrastructure. They had created an infrastructure based on the heyday of the ADAT, which brought them close to being a $90 million sales company. They had three facilities in California, when they should have had one. They had far too many employees in my estimation, to support declining sales. They really needed to use their IT, their technological expertise and they were starting to do that, but they weren't responding - they kept the entire infrastructure in place as if they were selling several thousand ADAT machines a month, which they weren't. Everybody in the company was aware that they had to go to digital recorders, that the days of the DAT were numbered, but they weren't acting on that information. But, from my standpoint, though the business model was flawed, it was easily correctable. The technology was great, the direction they were going was great, the synergy between Numark and Alesis, though operating in two different markets, was unbelievably compatible, distribution channels were pretty similar - though the exception, interestingly, was in the UK - but in most countries MI stores were carrying DJ products as well.

'Instead of asking why did I buy it? I have to say it seemed so obvious that I had to buy it. It was a perfect marriage - dissimilar products that made for a nice company balance, but with shared technology.'

I suggest that the obvious link here is the way the so many of the next generation of home studio builders seems to be coming out of the younger DJ market. Damon Crisp agrees.

'Yes, very much so. Some of the MI dealers were very quick to dismiss the Alesis link but they were wrong. In general you're now talking to a young customer who is very, very capable of operating a computer, who has learned it at school. I watch some of the young girls in our office who have learned computers at school and they are phenomenally quick in the way they can use computers. You ask for information and bang, bang - there it is. It'd take me two or three minutes to navigate to where they can get in seconds, so there's a generational ease with computers.

'Also, DJ-ing is created by using other people's creations, so taking it on to the next stage, you're having to manipulate it a lot more than you do live sound. It's a very big growth area for Alesis for the next two to three years.'

Through Different dealers, or the same ones?

'We've been very quick to identify that you mustn't try to gel the two together. If you take the mindset of the traditional DJ dealer, he sees a hard disc recorder and thinks who is he going to sell that too? The same is true for the MI dealer with other products, so we keep the sales forces separate.'

The desire to keep the two brands separate and yet the need to cross-feed the technologies makes for an uneasy balance, one might have thought, but the need is there, all the same, Jack O'Donnell says.

'There is a resentment toward DJ music from the Alesis side - speaking of the customers - and you have to respect those barriers. Alesis deals with a lot of musicians and recording studios and that is their expertise. The technology may be applicable to both, of course.'

So does this mean that we will see Alesis technology in a Numark product? 'There's an exchange both ways. Numark is a great leader in technology for the DJ and so the technology flows both ways. It's a bigger road from Alesis to Numark, but there is technology passing from Numark to Alesis, too.'

Alesis was one of those cases of a company that got the fundamental technology right, but missed most of the breaks thereafter. As Jack O'Donnell sees it, it was Alesis that gave Mackie its launch platform, but, surely, that was a market that Alesis itself should have been addressing? There's no point mincing words - Alesis screwed-up. So how does its new owner address those failings? Has he found it hard to turn that corporate culture around?

'No.... well... it wasn't easy and I want to step on it carefully because so much of that resistance to change was coming from the top and when the top management changed after my purchase, there was a lot of unexploited desire and energy that was suddenly there in the company that had felt constrained before. So people felt a sense of freedom, coupled with the availability of the production facilities that Numark had.'

Gez Kahan asks the next one: over what time frame does Jack O'Donnell plan to recoup his investment in Alesis?

'In many ways it's been immediate, because of the way the technology has immediately fed into Numark. But from an investment standpoint, I'd say three to five years is the appropriate model and closer to three, as we start moving forward. And a lot of that is achieved through having a great brand name and being able to make cost savings. If I was buying it as a standalone and all the other support you'd have to give it as a single company, I think you'd have to be talking about five to seven years.

'We kept the LA office, the engineering and research group - the core of Alesis - and that stands alone. We've consolidated back office things and that seems to be the balance. Naturally, it's much better to put everything into one office but that's when you get into the danger of cultures not mixing. There are definitely two different cultures in Alesis and Numark and we respect that with different locations. They're 3,000 miles apart as a matter of fact, which is not easy for my schedule,' he adds a little ruefully.

One question that is sure to be on our retailer readers' minds is what does this mean to them? If you've been a Numark dealer do you automatically get to be an Alesis dealer?

'Well, it's a very valid point. Because they are separate we tend to look at the area and see how things are there,' says Damon Crisp. 'We look to see if there's a good supporting DJ dealer in that area. If the answer's no, then that dealer would be introduced to the Numark rep by the Alesis rep and then it would be carefully assessed and developed from there. And the same the other way around. The more sophisticated DJ dealer has already seen his customer evolve, so he's felt the need for recording and Alesis is one of the big three and does offer something unique, so should be in there.'

'It was much simpler in the US,' says Mr. O'Donnell. 'When I got the Alesis dealer list, we knew them all. There was never that debate. There was just one in the top ten that we didn't already do business with as Numark, and that was simply because he didn't do DJ. '

At this point, Jack O'Donnell makes a fascinating comment which highlights just how different the UK and European markets can be.

'The collapse of the ADAT market was far greater in Europe than it was in the USA. Europe was much more adapted to hard disc-based recording, while the US was still able to hang on to the tape-based market and even today we are still able to sell a considerable number of ADAT products in the USA.'

But how has that translated to the UK market? How much presence does Damon Crisp feel that Alesis has today? 'Well, from where it was in the UK market, I'd have said it was non-existent because of a product starvation process that had begun before Jack bought it. The market had dried-out for nigh-on a year and there were other people who were very quick. You have to look at it from a dealer's point of view - you can't sell what you don't have and from that point of view it's grown 100 per cent, but what is more interesting is that it's growing month on month and in big chunks.'

So what products is Alesis selling so well over here? 'Very much guitar effects, plus the HD24 - people really like that format. If they're working on a Sunday morning and they need a drive, they can go down to PC World, let the machine format it and 20 minutes later they're working again - it really has a lot of appeal. Studio monitors are also selling very, very well- every single shipment that comes in sells right out again. The M1 Active has a phenomenal following. And the keyboards are big, too.'

Given the apparent fit between Alesis and Numark, technologies, why not broaden the appeal? Alesis guitar effects are a proven success, so will we eventually see Alesis guitar amplifiers? Jack O'Donnell fields this one:

'Well, Alesis guitar amplifiers would be a natural, yes, so that's natural growth for Alesis, as would be instruments themselves and as for the addition of another company, yes, that could happen. I would like to be more important to the market. There are certainly plusses from a business standpoint - a back office that can be shared between several companies - efficiency, really. So if the right thing came along, we'd be interested.'

Both Numark and Alesis - the former to the greater extent one supposes - live or die by fashion. As dance trends move in weeks don't products have to be as well timed as new styles of trainers? How hard is it to keep up?

'We have 18 month cycles for products,' says Jack O'Donnell. I think you start out by saying it's a fashion industry and that you have to be quick. This is the constant input that we're getting and is the virtue we make of having everyone inputting ideas all the time. We have to know what is going on.'

In this, the US parent seems particularly well served by Damon Crisp who, throughout the interview, displays a similar sort of knowledge regional of musical styles that enabled Professor Higgins to place an accent to a particular street. 'You'd be finished inside six months if you didn't listen to what was happening on the street,' he confirms. 'I tell our guys that it is very, very important that they look, they pay attention to what is going on around and also that they understand - particularly as we get a bit older - that we have to be kept informed about what is happening.'

Given how fast this side of the music industry moves, and yet how much a businessman needs to be able to plan, could they have any clue what they might be producing in, say, five years time?

'Ah - this is the opportunity where we can say something really stupid that you can lead the article with,' laughs Jack O'Donnell. Our fox having been unceremoniously shot, he gives a good illustration of how hard it really is.

'I'll tell you how good I am at predicting, When I was at Stanton 17 years ago, I made the observation that the cartridge business would be dead in five years. And I'd just recently spent hundreds of thousands of dollars tooling-up for new cartridges - so I'd have to say that my ability to predict the future leaves a lot to be desired. I'm willing to look 18 months ahead, to pay attention to new formats for music and new technology, but it's old hat in 18 months time and I recognise that. My prediction is that now we've proved that the DJ is not a fad, it will be with us in five years' time. in some form or fashion - that much I'll say. But in what form and how they'll do it - well, they're a very eclectic group. On the one hand the oldest technology in the industry, the vinyl record, is a big important part, and yet formats like MP3 are also big.'

So much achieved and yet so little sign that Jack O'Donnell has finished with his mission yet. So what is it, that drives him ?

'It's... providing, I guess, the latest and greatest. When we have a customer that can't believe we've just delivered something so revolutionary, or at such a great price, or something that's so exciting. I like being able to do that and to grow a company - they go hand in glove. I am absolutely a businessman and I really enjoy business.'

But what about the relentless travelling? He's here in England today, having just flown in from Germany. When he isn't travelling the world, he's flitting the 3,000 miles between Alesis and Numark as if it were just down the road. Doesn't he ever get sick of it? 'No, it feeds me. Other than getting sick on the road I love it, it feeds me, that required level of energy. And I'm lucky enough to be in the music industry, with that passion for business, because of all the industries I could be in the music industry is the best. What a shame if I had to spend my creative industries in the dry cleaning business!

To which, dear reader, I guess we can only append: "and so say all of us."

Ends.

2005 Gary Cooper