Towards the Peace on Earth
Interview with Robert
Previous owner of B & W speakers Robert Trunz has spent most of the last 20 years since selling the company in South Africa where he pioneered the record label Melt2000 which extensively recorded the freedom music of our peaceful transformation … He currently lives in Durban where he continues to work with African music. Robert's innovations in his 30 year career with B & W speakers led the company to become one of the biggest brands in the world. Robert once offered me a formal position as archivist for his record label, MELT2000 (Musical Energy Loud Truth Beyond 2000). Robert's extensive archive of music recordings documented a career of twenty years that had spanned Europe, South America and Southern Africa. Robert has the ability to spot talent, and he found a lot of great musicians. And with Robert comes the excitement of big musical collaborations.
Robert T says
There are a lot of young musicians trying to break into the mould that other artists have taken in the past. In the jazz scene there are a lot of good musicians around, including Zoe Molelekwa who stays with me at the moment. There is a young drummer called Stanley who also goes to school. He is from the Moses Molelekwa Foundation. There are very good musicians, Tumi the drummer, Mandla the trumpet player, Nduduzi the pianist. Some of the younger ones are trying to get too political a view across, rather than musical. I also met the guys from Brother Moves On, very nice bunch but they are breaking into the mould of the white people. We were at a concert at the Rainbow and I thought where am I, I must have gone to the wrong place because there were so many young white people. They cater for that large non-segregated market.
I find there is a lot of segregation. People like Mandla are very sarcastic about things. Sarcasm in the music is not a good thing, because it kills the message. Rather than being critical of what has happened we should look to what should be happening in the future. Sadly there is a lot of past that has not been dealt with and I think somehow the past should be dealt with on a political level and as long as the politicians are not capable of doing so and spread hatred as they do now, and there is greed, I understand that there is a difficult message that needs to come across. Perhaps we should put across more happiness in the music than sadness, anger and political views.
I find they are far away from being spiritual. There are messages that I got from a well known musician and he was talking about basically putting me with apartheid. I said why should you do that? It doesn't help your music and your brain. And I said why are you so angry? There is a guy who works for me, Lungelo. It was something about him. And I like his sangoma calling. Do people hide behind that? What is going in this country. Nobody seems to want to work and everyone wants money for something that doesn't exist.
And then you have the other scene, the dance scene which is huge like one big business. I go on Black Coffee's website and I see has a house in America and a house here and he drives his Mazerati at 200 km'h and gets caught. It is completely the other side of political.
Has music come full circle?
I have two outfits who in my opinion would represent my love or openness towards music and genres and electronic and acoustic and whatever and that is Black Motion and Uhuru. Black Motion recently had Madala and Mabi in their studio. One of the Uhuru guys used to hang out with Mabi. If I was still doing A & R work, I would strive to work with these people. I would love to have them remix the stuff we were doing in the past. They are also quite tragically busy.
These guys also play instruments. They are actually doing what we have been hoping and striving for a long time, incorporate the modern beats into acoustics. They all play instruments.
I think one should not look at the musician based on what his dad has done. What I feel with Zoe is that he is still going to University. He still has to digest all the stiff the teach him. He is digesting a lot of the stuff his father did. Obviously there is a lot of pressure on the young man like this to have a genius as a father. I feel rather than commenting on his future prospect, I would think one should just encourage him to find his own style, his own way. We did a track Wa Mpona. It was done by the Forest Jam Groove Orchestra. We then recorded Wa Mpona in Maputo and we had Chico Antonio on there as well. It is a beautiful track. And then we took it back here and we got Stanley to overdub. And Mabi came in and did some overdubs and at the same time that Mabi was here, Zoe walks into the room. So, now we had the fathers song with the sons keyboard in it as well. We have one of the studens from Moses Molelekwa foundation. Ad whilst I went through the separates I found that Shaluza Max was in there, his vocals that have never been used. At the end of the track we are finding in Moses and Max. It is going to be a super track. Unbelievable. Wa Mpona was very advanced in those days. Except for that time I am watching what is going on here. There is a huge market for gospel which must be part of the positive thinking of people that things might be getting better.
I am sitting in front of a huge screen in my office and I have been working on a new Melt2000 website cut down to more of the African artists. I am doing a website that concentrates on the African part of the label. And it does become more understandable why I have done all these recordings. The way I have been able to find and trace all these different details is amazing. It is almost like a complete brain-fuck. I can't believe all these details and I keep finding all those things I have forgotten which is great. I think what I am able to do now is pout a comprehensive history of what has happened in the 1990's. Melt2000: Legendary Musicians from the New South Africa.
Everyone broke boundaries.
A lot of the things that was learnt from the remix side with music with no name in the early days has had an influence in this market. Rude Boy Paul, I saw a while ago and he was saying how much he has been influenced by the stuff we have been doing. He dropped Madala's Ubombo remix in all the clubs.
Return of Melt2000
I don't want to revive the label it has served its place. I think it is time for someone else to take over. There are other labels. I do invite people to come and talk to me about doing collaboration projects and doing some stuff with material that is available.
We are going to release some stuff with what we have done in the last few years with Forest Jam. I am doing a CD with a promo DVD which will be out towards October. Some of the stuff we recorded on Cullinan with Tarang. It is going to be nice. Stuff we did in Switzerland, Cullinan, Madagascar and in Durban and Maputo.
My story started quite early. Because I grew up with a mother that has been extremely busy running the family. I was the last of six. She was even then at that point of time when all the others were starting to get grown up. I was 6 years behind. I landed up doing all the tasks that before used to be done by two or three of my brothers. When other friends of mine used to have holidays I was working, cleaning classrooms because my mom looked after a school and she looked after three blocks of flats. I was running around in the winter time 5 o clock in the morning clearing snow from the passages, cutting the lawns in the summer time, blah blah blah.
But there was a time when I was given a little radio. It was medium wave because short wave didn't exist in our region. We had one station. It is called Radio Beromunster. In the old days when I grew up, they didn't broadcast 24 hours. After ten they switched off. And then they started to play the background stations. Right behind the dial where Radio Beromunster used to be, a millimetre to the right there were radio stations from North Africa, Algeria, Tunisia. I always waited for ten o clock for Radio Beromunster to shut down. I listened to all this music, hence my love from then onwards for the rhythms of Northern Africa.
Because I had to work hard, sometimes my mum gave me a little money to keep me sweet. But money was quite short in those days. My father was a butcher, He was working 4 in the morning till 7 at night. I managed to at some stage buy a portable vinyl disk player, for singles. In those days you had 33 and 45 rpm. The 45 rpm were these little things. There was a thing by Phillips, the first kind of plastic thing that I saw. Because before that most of the things were Baccolyte , this old plastic, very heavy plastic. That was the first modern plastic, injection moulding. Already the mould was in a red colour and it was quite funky. It was running on batteries. In the top there was a little speaker so it was portable. The Walkman came many many years later, but that for me was my first walking vinyl. Because we lived in this block of flats we congregated next door; because there was a school. There was a big field where you could meet friends. I always took my little player and records. Whenever I had a few pennies I would go down to my friends' mother. My friends' family name is also Friend; Vreund. His mother had a little discotheque right when you come out of the train station, you walk round the corner and there was a shop. Behind that there was this repair shop for TV's and radio's and she had an amazing place with lots of beautiful vinyl's, so that is where I bought my first music. In that family there were two brothers. The older one was going to school, the class below me and he also shared this passion for music but he also shared a passion for electronics. Early on he always started to repair things because he was hanging out with his father and the people who worked there. At about the age of 12 I got a little amplifier and with an actual real turntable, amplifier, everything in one piece. But the speakers were terrible so we decided we were going to build our own first pair of speakers. The whole thing started. That guy Werner Vreund put the love into my system.
When I got to my twenties I started to travel because I got a job as a tourist guide. And I was first stationed in the old Yugoslavia and later in Spain. You are stationed there and then you receive the customers. You get them from the airport and you look after them during the week and you bring them back. It is a kind of a routine. After three years of working as a tourist guide I went to work in Zurich with a company, they are no longer in existence. They imported some real fine hi fi equipment. When you get involved in this kind of brand, you either get damaged for life or change job. Because of the fact that I was such a big fan of music, it fascinated me.
Let's go back before I was twenty there was a period of two years between 18 and 20 when I was working, earning some money. At that time there were three of us, a guy called Derek and Mario and myself. We started to present concerts in the University, like a Technikon. We had this concert hall we were renting and we put some concerts up. In those days they were musicians that you may not have been aware of. There was a band Klaus Doldinger, very funky jazzy. There was an American drummer by the name of Alphonse Muzon. And somebody I became good friends with a man who wrote in my opinion the best biography of Miles Davis I have seen. It hasn't got so many ‘fuck fuck's' in it. His name is Ian Carr. Ian Carr was a trumpet player himself in the Miles Davis feel. Great trumpet player, lovely man. So gentle. He had a group called Nucleus. With him we did some concerts. Then he was also in a group called the United Jazz Rock ensemble released by a German label.
There was a German trombone player called Albert Mangelsdorff. These are the kind of names if you lived in Europe 70's and 80's, they were on the forefront of creative jazz and fusion kind of stuff; jazz / rock.
Back to the equipment stuff whilst I was working with this company, they distributed some very famous brands like a cassette recorder. Here in SA cassettes were around till quite recently. There was a company in Japan called Nakamichi and Nakamichi was a company that manufactured cassette decks that were able to reproduce music in the highest possible quality. In those days when I bought my first Nakamichi I paid like 3500 Swiss Francs which is R35000 and it took about two years to put the money aside and I got it at quite a cheap price because I think it was R70 000 or something ridiculous. But this machine could get sound out of a cassette that you wouldn't believe. But there was also some English brands like Wharfedale. These brands used to be very famous for the people. The people who were actually behind the brands were the legends. There was also another brand called Quad which is a very quaint British design that had a very old kind of design, Q band. Very funny looking thing, small and then they did a so called electro-static speaker. I always call it the radiator. When you walk into a room and you see these things in there, you go like okay and put your hands there and there is no heat coming from it. You say, ‘Hey your radiator is not working.' No this is a speaker and they switch it on and you get the sound coming out of it. So through that I got to know because I was selling in that shop to customers and to dealers. We had all these visits from these different manufacturers that came to visit. I got to know the owners and those kinds of legendary people. After three years there was a lady who came to the shop and asked that I would see her in the next few days. She gave me her phone number and I called her and met her and she headhunted me and got me to come and work for the distributer of B & W. That company also had an expensive Japanese brand called Accuphase and a turntable made in Japan who then in the 80's already was a gigantic big thing. It had three different parts, a motor and a bell that was driving a huge platform. It was like 30kg, made of brass. And it had a motor next to it which would suck the LP onto the surface of the turntable, that means the LP when you put the needle on, it would be rock solid with no vibration. And on top of all of that it is 30 kg heavy. And that was floating on air like the principle of the hover craft. Air is being pumped in underneath lifting this whole thing and you could just touch it and give it a quick shove and it started to turn. It was completely frictionless. Very expensive. Crazy thing. I was working there for a while and there were like trips for people who would go to England to the factory of B & W. I never got in. Then there was a guy who came in and built up the company because the lady that worked there who used to be the owner, from the morning at 9:30 she opened up the first litre of white wine already. By the afternoon she would start crying because her husband left for South Africa. Mr Pruney left her. He had enough. He is somewhere here in Johannesburg. She is a Dutch lady. And then there is this guy who comes in and buys up the company and he loves also white wine. The perfect couple. Now you didn't have only two bottles, you had four bottles every day. People when they drink a lot of alcohol at some stage they get very pissed off about things. Alcohol changes the character of people quite dramatically.
One Christmas he was there and I was in the office when he came in and he started fighting with me because I was in the office and not out in the streets to go and sell components and speakers or whatever, which was bullshit, because right before Christmas you don't want to go to a dealer and tell him he must buy some more because he is busy. In those days the shops were full before Christmas, everyone was buying hi-fi and speakers and all this shit, so you don't want to disturb them in their process. I refused, so he fired me, thanks God for that. Then I landed up with a dealer. I started to work with a dealer further down on the lake of Zurich on the right hand side, where Zurich becomes Shweetz which is another county and there, right in the beginning there is a place called Lachen which means laughing. The place is one of those peculiar tax havens that Switzerland has created since the Second World War and the reason why Switzerland is so rich today because they did that kind of thing. They attracted people to the country. Before the Second World War, Switzerland was very different. It was a very poor country. After that because of their policies they became famous for attracting very rich people. And Lachen is one of those. There are a lot of Germans there. That shop is very well positioned right next to the lake and there are people who go walking there. It is like Italy a little bit. People go walking in the evening to get some fresh air and socialise and show what they have got, the new Porsche, the new Rolls and all this shit. So, I was introducing B & W to this dealer. And helped him. After I got fired I called him and said, ‘I was going to get another job and thanked him for his support. And he said, ‘what are you going to do now?' I said ‘I don't know.' He said ‘Hey you come to my place, you come and work for me, I put you in charge of the hi-fi section and that is it, okay! I get you a little flat next door I know someone upstairs moving out, give me two days.' In two days I was there I got into the flat and set up with my speakers and my hi-fi and started working. Within a short period of time I became Switzerland's top dealer for B & W. I sold three times more B & W in this small little village than any other dealer in the whole of Switzerland. My old boss the one who fired me, suddenly he now had to be quite friendly to me because I was his best customer.
Then there was a trip to England, to go to see the factory. I always wanted to see the factory and the people behind it. This time round he couldn't not invite me. So off I go. My passion was always languages and I spoke English quite well in those days as well. He asked me especially for the French guys to please do the translations and all that. I had to translate from English to German and French. Whist we were there one evening I got to sit next to a guy called Peter Hayward and John Bowers. John Bowers is the founder of B & W speakers and Peter Hayward was his mate who started a company with him. And we got to talk and John got to like me very much despite my quite outspoken nature. Whilst we were eating there was a drink before and after and a cigarette here and there. So you talk and I started to tell John what I felt about the product and its pros and cons and its potential and its downfall which is quite risky when you talk to a manufacturer because most of these people have blinkers. But John was extremely open. We got to talk. The next day at lunch he sat next to me and said, ‘I have been thinking about some of the things you are telling me and I will appreciate it if we can find some more time to chat'. I said, ‘we are going home tonight'. He said, ‘don't worry I will see that we can arrange something at a later stage'. Four or five weeks later I got a call saying John Bowers is coming to Switzerland and he has expressed a wish to see me and would I be prepared to take him and his engineer on a trip through Switzerland and spend a couple of days. I said to my new boss, ‘John Bowers is coming and he wants me to spend time with him'. Felix my new boss said ‘hey.' He was chuffed, he said, ‘John is coming here to my shop,' and we made the shop spot clean. In Switzerland everything is always spot clean so when spot clean becomes even more spot clean, it is clean. John came. It was a big thing. He laid on some food and wine. Then I spent two days with John and Ray Greenwood, his old engineer friend. And, we went up the mountain. We went to some simple places and we went to some nice places. We had some cheese fondues and we took some photographs, up and down mountains back and forth; on trains and onto boats. You know the lake through Switzerland is very nice for tourists, it is very picturesque especially when the weather is nice. So, for two days we talked and talked. I asked him about the Central European markets and he explained to me that because of historical reasons when B & W started way back in ‘66, ‘67 … Before that he came out of the Second World War and he used to be a communications officer who worked behind the lines in France. He was underground. They got some weird shit. They got bombarded and bombed, and couldn't get out. John had a kind of a claustrophobia. If he had to do certain things, going somewhere as well he would become very nervous and have diarrhoea and stuff like that because of his nervousness which all came from that bloody war.
After two days of talking about the market position, and having been told the historic background I got to the point where I thought maybe I can do something for them. Their traditional markets in those days were in Holland.
He had a shop. After the Second World War he and a guy called Roy Wilkens opened a shop in Worthing. It is still there run by the son of Wilkinson. They sold the first black and white TV's. John upstairs had a little room where he modified speakers. He would take the speakers from the manufacture and he would do his own cross over network to improve them. In those days it was the beginning of a magazine after the Second World War, the Bible for classical music, called Gramaphone. And Gramaphone had a couple of reviewers that were like highly thought after. If they said something was good you would go and buy it because it is a reference. There was a little guy called John Gilbert. A lady who bought speakers at John's shop actually wrote to this guy at Gramaphone to say that he should come to Worthing and listen to those speakers; which he did. And John didn't know him. He was coming incognito. And he went and listened to them and later on published an article about his visit to the shop which started this kind of new trend. Suddenly John had no more just a little shop and a little room. Now he had so many customers that he had to manufacture more than the one odd pair or so. He decided to take on the back of the shop. There were some garage units and he converted those into the manufacturing place. And they kept this thing B & W, but Roy Wilkens kept the shop and said to John, ‘you carry on with the speakers stuff because it is too risky for me'. And so it grew very rapidly. Now that the first speaker he put out Gramaphone did such a rave review; the next day, this guy Jack Klusenaar , stood there. He was driving there in his outrageous car. Jack Klusenaar is like death on four wheels, or anything that had a wheel and a pedal or a way of making him go faster. He would never go for half. He did nothing in half. His driving style was ridiculous. He had a boat. He crashed so badly he appeared in the newspaper once with a photograph where his boat, because he couldn't stop it anymore, went up on the side of the dam and it landed up on top of a car. Jack Klusenaar lands up outside of the door and he goes in and says to John, ‘Mr Bowers I want to buy these speakers and take them to Holland and sell them in Holland'. The Dutch are quite close to the English, but the main market Germany has never been looked after. I say to John if there was a change in design and change in approaching the market, then I would think it would be a very good brand for Germany. John then said to me, I was still working back in Switzerland, ‘would you consult for us'. I say, ‘Yes, but I have to ask my boss'. We went into my bosses office and John asked him if he wouldn't mind if I consult which meant flying over to England once a month for three days. Obviously Felix was very chuffed. This kind of consulting became more and more part of my life. John became my mentor and in the end he asked me to move to England and take over management and marketing and then we tackled the German market.
I went to see the German reviewers. I remember the first interview, poor John is sitting there scared of this big German again. He says, “Mr Bowers what makes you think you could sell your speakers in Germany where we have so many good speakers.” That was kind of the opening I looked at John and said okay. Now he understood. If somebody wanted to tackle him like that he would go into a mode of relentless work to prove to the other person the opposite. He said to me, ‘lad,' he always called me lad, ‘this guy you are going to help me show him what we can do.' I said, ‘yeah John I told you long time ago, now maybe you will listen.' He said I am listening, so we changed a lot of stuff and got into the market. I think B & W is still the biggest selling brand in Germany next to the American thing called Boza, which is a load of crap in my opinion.
That was my beginning at B & W, but I am not an engineer. I have no engineering training. I have no marketing training, I have no degree, I have got sweet fuck all, but the universe has given me a gift to see things and feel things and I started to travel a lot to see people and young people. Because in those days, the kind of people who run the market were quite old and very few young people. Because of the fact that I had been traveling a lot and speaking a few languages, I went to Spain once for a meeting, Barcelona. Now Barcelona is Catalonia and in Catalonia they speak Catalan which is quite radically different to the Castilian and the Spanish that is being spoken in Madrid because it is more like the Latin language. Catalonia goes all the way up to France, a vast reach. Whilst I was working in Barcelona as a tourist guide I obviously had to learn a few words and phrases and expressions in Catalan. I was going out with people every day who spoke Catalan. So I went to this meeting a few years later with B & W marketing, there were two guys that were trying to tell me a load of crap. Every time I asked them questions about what they were doing they would confer with each other in their own language Catalan. So I thought okay carry on because I understood every word they say. I think after about ten minutes when they really tried to pull the wool over my eyes I simply responded to them in Catalan and their jaws dropped. Their faces went red. That kind of thing happened to me quite frequently. You go in and speak English and the English are very well known for not speaking any other languages, just English, so people rely on this fact. That helped with the French, but the Germans you couldn't fool being Swiss because they knew you speak the same language but it helped to understand the mentality of the Germans. The Germans couldn't really understand why the Swiss would work with a British company. But then we are so called neutral country bound by the history of the Second World War and all this crap. Now, more and more I got into trying to steer the company to more modern ways.
At a point when I was at B & W the figures at the end of the year, they were quite red instead of black, which has a reason for it, quite a good reason. In the late 70's and early 80's, there was a new media coming into being. There were two major companies who fought each other about the standards of that media. It was Phillips and Sony. One of them won and we all lost because then we had CD's and CD's are very bad quality. You have Mp3 afterwards and that is even worse that is like the killer story. At the same time there were companies like EMI and Decca, Decca being the first label that released Rolling Stones. Also they had a very strong representation in the classical market. That is how we got into the classical market. EMI, Deutsche Gramaphone, Decca. We supplied speakers to them for their recordings and studios, for their masterings and also for their experiments with digital. And in those days they recorded in digital, quite high revolution, much higher than todays' CD. I was looking at this whole thing. There was a span of three or four years where they were fighting - those two. It is like Apple and Samsung today, lawsuits, you can't do this you can't do that, blah blah. Meanwhile the customer got so confused that they stopped buying the hi-fi because no longer did they know what to buy. They were all waiting for this CD player. As clever as the Japanese were in those days, they were building small amps, well priced amps for about 100 pounds in a really good sounding transistors. And they tried for many years to sell their own speakers made in Japan with those amps but the Japanese ear is listening in a different way to music than the European ear. They were successful until one day one of the Japanese companies, Pioneer discovered that the solution is to engage reviewers and engineers from Europe to design the speakers and then build them in Europe. Suddenly you had Japanese made amplifiers of the highest quality. For me Japan is the same as Switzerland. The quality that comes out of Japan is comparable to what we do in Switzerland. There are parallels. There is an incredibly good watch industry in Japan, like the food. It is very similar. I always admire their precision and their approach. So now they started to not only design the speakers in Europe but build them in Europe which is great. Suddenly people see it is local content. And you do accept electronics that come from there, because you can't get better electronics than Europe. All the guys in England have built smaller amplifiers. Those bladdy things always broke down. In those day England was famous for their innovation and they were completely famous for their quality control. And it was the same thing for their cars. When you drive a Jaguar, or a Range Rover; in those days when you had a Jaguar you definitely had to have two because you always had one in the garage. It broke down very quickly.
In that time, we were working already for quite some years with a designer called Kenneth Grange, who has an OBE from the Queen, quite a famous designer, he did Wilkinson sword and Kenwood kitchen appliances. He designed the first little Kodac camera which had a cassette inserted. I spoke to Kenneth and said ‘lets design a range of speakers that could compete with the Japanese'. And I said to John, ‘Look John I apologise but right from the beginning I am putting to you a price that I have to sell this product. I cannot go beyond the price because then I will shift out of the market that is now dominating Europe and almost the world and if that is the case then we must act because we are still writing red figures. And what's the point? It is okay to look after more people, but it has to be profitable so you can employ more people to look after more people'. And we did and we almost had fights over 30 pence. But I said it had to be that price, and they did. Credit to those engineers, and big thanks to John, we had a range called the DM 10, 20, 30. It was spot on. At that point in time I got to know some young designers and we sat together and created the campaign which came out of my marijuana induced brain because every time I smoked something in those days I would always visualise things in front of me. The better the music was the cleaner and clearer it came through the speakers, the more colour I saw and visualised. So, I created a slogan which got me some quite bad comments like you druggy and stuff like that. It is called, ‘listen and you will see.' It is still the slogan for B & W today. We had a campaign with it. We even did an album. I brought Donald Fagan from Steely Dan. Donald Fagan came out with an album Night Flyer. We did a whole new cover with B & W and when you bought the speakers you got an LP. That was right at the beginning of this digital thing. Not only the time that B & W was selling the speakers in the 70's, they were always called DM 1, DM 2 etc. And it used to stand for Domestic Monitor. And at the end of the 1970's, in the 80's I said to the guys digital will come. It is just a matter of fact. You can't tell me Sony and Phillips are putting in so many millions and millions of pounds into a technology and then abandoning it, they are not going to do it. I renamed the word Domestic Monitor into Digital Monitor which got me again bad from the dealers, but it worked. As soon as the CD players hit, everything changed again. And immediately all the sales went up across the world, you couldn't get enough CD's to sell in dealer shops and we started to manufacture speakers like crazy. We shipped every day, two containers and sometimes three containers. And suddenly we went from red to deep black.
And when I saw that I saw that the factory was crammed. There was no more space and we also had a laboratory there, so the engineers were involved in manufacturing and research. They were consistently interrupted so I said okay hold on. I decided to convince John to move research and development out of the factory and right across the hill, to the region we had all the factories. On the coast, behind that coast, there is a range of hills, called the Downs. If you went over the Downs you came down into a village called Steyning . Steyning in those days was quite famous for a product that is known worldwide by hi fi aficionados and specialists in vinyl. They were manufacturers of Toner. There was this guy called Alistair Robertson, and when you meet him it was like meeting royalty. He had this huge listening room, which is still there, because it was there a few years ago when I went to see his widow. And it had this thick carpet, electro static speakers and you would walk in and you had to take your shoes off, and you got house shoes with gold crown embedded into them. The whole place was hi tech, beautifully done. This guy was hit dramatically by the change. Suddenly he couldn't sell anything. I got on very well with him and I was very disturbed. That man was a genius, but I saw he was suffering financially as well. He did have quite a high standard of living including his Porsche, but still you could see the suffering and to see a brand like that going down, that has been around for so long was quite hurtful. I went there and he had a factory unit that stood empty so I convinced him to sell it to me, right in the middle of the village. I created a dedicated laboratory research, moved all the engineers and had nice conference rooms and meeting rooms, listening rooms and called it the University of Sound which still stands today.
And at that time ‘84 he decided to look into active speakers which is a great thing to do, a speaker with the amplifier right next to it done properly, is perfect. But those days they were running quite hot, so it wasn't always a good thing. So we decided to look for an engineer and found this guy called Laurence Dickie, a complete hippie, hair like this and a beard, but utterly intelligent, utterly lovely to be with and incredible knowledge and his parents were both teachers, his mother from France and his father from England. This guy was a genius. But, for electronics he was at times not the right person because he would have great ideas but he would not actually bring them through. He had this kind of English feel, like when you drive the Jaguar you have to have two. One to drive and one to be in the garage to be serviced. But, whilst we were working on this electronics stuff there was a parallel research going on by Dr Glen Adams, an engineer who was researching into the behaviour of the cabinet, you know this cabinet is the wooden thing that surrounds the speakers, because a speaker when it moves, the membrane, when you have bass in it, the energy which is becoming free from this drive unit is often being transmitted into the cabinet which makes the cabinet move as well, so it would create a tone, a resonance. It is a bastard of a frequency. It is 80 hertz. 80 hertz is a very critical low end where a lot of instruments, classical instruments themselves already have their own frequency, like double bass, cello's and so on. A lot of those instruments would also be quite accentuated in that region. So, you had to get rid of this. Now you have wooowooo from the resonance of the instrument and now you have a second instrument from the resonance of the cabinet because the cabinet does exactly the same. Suddenly in those critical regions you have two resonance frequencies, making it out of control. So, the research started in the new materials in how to make cabinets. There was everything from aluminium to space technology. You know in an aircraft there is a thing called Aerolab, the floor of an aircraft is about that thin, it is very inert and you can't break it. It is a honeycomb material of aluminium and I don't know what. It is extremely light. A sheet of 2M by 2M you could lift with one finger. That technology was important in an aircraft because you had to save weight in every corner you can. But, that didn't work, other things didn't work, like cabinets made of concrete, fibre-crete and none of those cabinets would yield the results that they were looking for. And then this guy who was supposed to be doing the electronic side, he was very interested in the acoustic side as well. And while we didn't know that before he was making his own speakers at home. One morning Dick turns up and says, ‘sorry JB, can I have some time? I think I have got something. I don't want to tread on Dr Glen Adams toes but there is something that came into my mind last night. I was celebrating my birthday last night, and my father was giving me a present and I was indulging in this present quite heavily.' And he looked quite frail that morning. I said, ‘what do you mean, because I knew he had been drinking last night. And also dope and all of that'. He said, ‘after the second bottle of wine I went out into the kitchen and opened the box that my father gave me.' He gave him a box of 6 bottled of very beautiful red wine, I even had a sip of it. And then he said, ‘I was pretty pissed already and then I look at the thing and thought that could be a solution'. So, he came in with the empty box, the wine was all gone, accept for one bottle which he gave us. He said, ‘if you look at this thing as the box for the speaker, on the inside it has the divisions, it looks like the matrix. If we connect up that matrix to the cabinet, then the cabinet should be very inert because it can't go anywhere.' So, we tried it out and that was it. Ever since, the technology is called the matrix technology and it changed the industry quite rapidly because a lot of people copied it and tried all sorts of things, so that was the beginning.
Afterwards when John became ill I was in that time traveling a lot. I used to spend 280 nights in some bladdy hotel between here and Japan, between Tokyo and Wellington and Sydney, and Honolulu and Los Angeles and back up again to New York and over to London and the next day down to Milan and the next day back up to Helsinki. It is quite exciting when you are young but after a while it gets to you because now you are traveling meeting from meeting to meeting. I always had these little trips in between which I enjoyed, like coming to South Africa. These were the ones that really made my day, coming here in 1981 for the first time. Like going to Australia for the first time. We had a great guy there. He had a farm like this one out in the Blue Mountains. And he had a tractor and in the evening, they drink. I can't believe how they drink. This guy was always traveling with a little box full of everything he wanted in there, drugs… The next morning at 6 o clock he wasn't attractive. These kinds of experiences were quite nice and you could start to see a little bit some of the countries and some of the places. My very first trip was to Hermanus. I mean the sunset, shit, yes when I saw the first sunset, the colours. And to see the whales. So the travelling came to quite an abrupt end aro