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Julian Joseph Interview

Published: Wed September 10, 2008  News Feed

Round-up talks to Jazz ace Julian Joseph about how the MOTIF XS captured his inspiration and opened up new methods of music making for him.

“Most importantly I felt I could really function as a jazz musician with the Motif, I did not feel limited in any way”... (Julian Joseph)

The award-winning MOTIF range of instruments are a regular feature on the rock and pop scene with artists as diverse as Sir Paul McCartney, Amy Winehouse, Mika and Michael McDonald relying on them thanks to their vast sound libraries and audio superiority. They are however less prevalent in the world of Jazz, as indeed are synths generally. So we were delighted when Julian Joseph took some tentative steps from the acoustic grand piano and tried out the MOTIF XS. Such was his enthusiasm that within months he had completely embraced the instrument and brought it centre stage into his hectic music making schedule.

Virtuoso Pianist, bandleader, composer arranger and broadcaster Julian Joseph is one of the icons of the international jazz world. Acclaimed by critics and audiences the world over, he never fails to inspire with his mastery of the keyboard.

Julian has also established himself as a jazz pioneer in the classical world, he was the first jazz musician to give a series of concerts at London’s most prestigious classical venue, the Wigmore Hall.

Recently, Julian expanded his keyboard inventory beyond his acoustic grand piano and acquired a Yamaha MOTIF XS workstation. He took time out from a busy recording schedule to visit Yamaha’s flagship store in the heart of Soho to tell Round-up exclusively how his Motif has contributed to his hectic live, recording and arranging schedule.

First Impressions...
Everybody has a different way of judging the usefulness of products, and musical instruments are no exception, in the case of Julian it started with the acid test of the ability of the Motif to accurately reproduce the authentic sounds of legendary vintage electric pianos such as the Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer and Clavinet. Julian takes up the story “ I first came across the MOTIF in Yamaha London and wanted to find out how it could perform the big keyboard sounds – that’s my benchmark, in particular all the many variations on the classic Rhodes sounds, because of course players like Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Joe Zawinul and Jan Hammer all had their own interpretations of this sound. Over the years many keyboard manufacturers have tried to replicate these sounds, largely unsuccessfully. But this time I was really blown away with the detail and accuracy of them, and when I was shown how I could adjust things like phasing I was totally sold!

Next I checked out all the various ways of how it could follow harmonies with the in-built grooves, doing things like Samba, Funk and Soul riffs with me playing on top, at that point I just thought I’ve got to have one of these things and found myself in a world of my own for a couple of hours.”

Julian has since discovered that the MOTIF has a creative role to play in his writing, arranging and producing activities too, keen to tell us about how it has allowed him to integrate his music with other instruments and technology. “ It’s a great writing tool ,in terms of building up ideas really quickly it’s perfect , especially at the moment because I’m working on a Cuban album, so for mocking up Cuban beats and putting the harmonies in and just generally moving things around it’s ideal because I can get a semblance of what I’m looking for, and for giving other musicians an idea of what I want it’s perfect.”

What about Julian’s experience of his Motif on the live scene “ I tend not to use the acoustic piano sound because I’m an acoustic pianist so I’d rather use an instrument for what it’s designed for, even though the acoustic piano sound is really excellent, matter of fact I was working at home when the singer Cleveland Watkiss came round and he was blown away too, he proceeded to spend a coupe of hours making up tunes! On the live side of things, I recently took it to ‘The Spin’, a small jazz venue in Oxford where they don’t have room for a grand piano. So I thought this would be a great opportunity to try the Motif live, last time I played there I used a Fender Rhodes. I used lots of the various classical electric pianos sounds and it was great both for straight jazz and fusion. Most importantly I felt I could really function as a jazz musician with the Motif, I did not feel limited in any way. The weighted keyboard has a really good feel too. The comments from the audience were also very encouraging, they said they could hear everything. I was very pleased with the way it worked.”

How would Julian sum up the relationship between the man and the Motif and so he concludes “ It’s opened up a new area for me in terms of my creativity because I guess when I first started I regarded the keyboard and piano as separate things. I would play around on the keyboard the go to the piano to write my music. But now the Motif provides a new way to integrate all my writing- I’ve found the whole process very liberating.”

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