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Julian Colbeck (born 1952) is current CEO of Keyfax NewMedia and a former professional keyboard player of over 25 years, author of several music-related books and guides, the creator of Twiddly.Bits MIDI loops, the concept designer for the PhatBoy MIDI controller, and producer of several music technology DVDs and websites. He has played/collaborated with Greep, The New Seekers, Charlie, John Miles, Yes offshoot Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe, and Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett. He also worked as a session player on numerous recordings, including the debut Vitamin Z album, produced by Alan Parsons, with whom he would later collaborate on the 2009 DVD set, Alan Parsons' The Art & Science of Sound Recording.
His business specialties include: Analysis of the music technology industry, past, present, future, and MIDI recording. His goal has always been to preserve, champion, and enhance the music experience in all music technology endeavors.
Born in 1952 in Aldershot, Julian began boarding school in Malvern, later attending Monkton Combe School in Bath, where he played in the band 'Springtime Child'.
Julian later attended Inchbald School of Design 1970-1971
In 1973 after a brief stint in college, and a spell in the left-wing rock choir Co-operation, Julian was fortunate enough to sign a record deal with Charisma Records with the band ‘Greep’. After releasing a number of singles, the group disbanded and Julian found himself working in fringe theater, London’s Albany Theatre, Deptford.
The New Seekers needed a keyboard player and Julian landed the gig, playing many live concerts and TV shows in UK and Europe including the group’s famed Drury Lane concert in 1974. During this time he met their lighting director, who coincidentally was also the manager for a band called ‘Charlie.’ Hired initially as a session player for the recording of the group’s No Second Chance album at Trident Studios, London, he was subsequently asked to join the band as a full-time member.
Julian was called upon to replace the Charlie keyboard player Martin Smith and began what would be almost 5 years of constant touring and music making. He co-produced 3 Charlie albums: Lines, Fight Dirty, and Here Comes Trouble.
He left the band in 1980 amid turmoil. He writes "Finally, the touring band line-up of Terry Thomas, John Anderson, Eugene Organ, Steve Gadd, and myself ceased operations once Arista refused to release Here Comes Trouble, and our caring, sharing management company immediately cut off all our money in 1980. That's a whole other story but, for the record, our final gig was in 1979 at the Civic Center in Providence, RI on Monday 29 October, alongside Foreigner"
After Charlie, Julian moved to Los Angeles, worked a bit with The Doors’ Robby Krieger, almost broke into film music (“the industry was just not quite ready for synthesizers at the time”), and was the Musical Director for ‘Captain Crash vs The Zzorg Women, Chapters 5 &6,’ written by Steve Hammond, Dave Pierce, and Rick Jones. Nearly starving, Julian was saved when he was picked up by a band named Tropical Madness, the name “sums up that particular experience”. Moving back to UK in 1982 Julian undertook several tours of the UK and Europe with British pop star John Miles.
In 1989, Julian joined YES super group 'Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe’ and played every date during 1989-1990. He also appeared on two albums “Symphonic Music of Yes” and “Live at Mountain View,” the latter also released as the DVD An Evening of Yes Music Plus.
Earlier in 1989, Julian began what would become a long-term association with Genesis' Steve Hackett, appearing on a live-recorded TV show that would become the album and DVD Time Lapse. Over the next seven years he appeared on 10 or more Steve Hackett albums and countless North and South American tours.
In 1996, whilst on stage with Genesis' Steve Hackett and Chester Thompson along with Asia/King Crimson’s John Wetton and Ian McDonald, Julian had a cathartic moment. “I looked around stage and saw a bunch of old men, including (if not especially) me”. He made a conscious decision and determined to “get the hell out” of performing onstage and never has yet to return. He continues to hold a firm belief that live rock ‘n’ roll music is a young man’s game.
Back to Bach
In 1991, released a solo album ‘Back to Bach,’ [EG/Virgin] collaborating with concert pianist Jonathan Cohen, plus Steve Hackett, Milton McDonald, John Keeble, Mary Hopkin, and celebrated Irish poet Brian Keenan.
Studio Album – credits
Julian Colbeck - Discography
- Charlie No Second Chance (1977) (Janus / Polydor)
- Charlie Lines (1978) (Janus / Polydor)
- Charlie Fight Dirty (1979) (Arista)
- Charlie Here Comes Trouble (1981) (Polydor)
- Sean Delaney Highway (1980) (CBS)
- Vitamin Z Vitamin Z (1985) (Phonogram)
- Rime of the Ancient Sampler (1992) (VoicePrint)
- Steve Hackett Time Lapse (1992) (Kudos)
- Yes Symphonic Music of Yes (1993) (BMG)
- Yes An Evening of Yes Music Plus (1994)
- Julian Colbeck Back To Bach (1994) (EG/Virgin)
- Steve Hackett Guitar Noir (1996)
- Steve Hackett Blues with a Feeling (1995) (Kudos)
- Charlie Fight Dirty/Good Morning America (1996) (Renaissance)
- Steve Hackett & Julian Colbeck There Are Many Sides to the Night (1997)
- Steve Hackett Watcher of the Skies: Genesis... (1997)
- Steve Hackett & Friends The Tokyo Tapes (1999)
- Steve Hackett, Darktown (2001)
- Charlie Charlie Anthology (Renaissance) (2006)
- Jon Anderson Watching The Flags That Fly (VoicePrint 2007)
- Charlie Kitchens Of Distinction (VoicePrint) 2009
In the late 1970s Julian started writing for numerous English Language MI and Pro Audio magazines (as well as some French, German and Japanese) including: Sounds, Sound On Sound, Music Technology, Keyboard Player, Keyboard, Music Week, Making Music, Electronic Musician, and The Frankfurt Daily. He subsequently published several keyboard buyers guides, a Frank Zappa biography, music related and even assisted his then brother-in-law Raymond Blanc, with a cookbook. Here is a list of publications:
- Keyfax, A Buyers Guide To Electronic Keyboards (Virgin)
- Keyfax 2 (Virgin)
- Keyfax 3 (Music Maker Publications)
- Keyfax 4 (Music Maker Publications)
- Keyfax 5 (Music Maker Publications)
- Keyfax Omnibus Edition (Mix Books)
- How To Make A Hit Record (Anaya)
- RockSchool 2 (BBC Publications)
- Rock Talk (WH Allen)
- Zappa - A Biography (WH Allen)
- What MIDI (Music Maker Publications)
- Recipes From Le Manoir Aux Quat' Saisons (with Raymond Blanc) (Macdonald / Orbis)
Keyfax Software was founded in 1993, taking its name from Julian’s Keyboard and synthesizer guides. Initially created to market the original concept of ‘MIDI Samples’ under the name Twiddly.Bits, the company since developed into a multifaceted business offering music technology distribution and support (DVDs/Websites), MIDI samples, Steinberg music software, and is also the exclusive distributor for the revolutionary Yamaha Tenori-On.
“My role as CEO is divided between providing our creative direction and ensuring that this direction is both invigorating for those who work here and economically sustainable for the company.” “It beats rock 'n' roll only in that I get to spend way less time at Denny's.” – Julian Colbeck
When Julian was asked to review some particularly dismal standard MIDI song files, he realized that there were no MIDI samples available on the market that actually sounded good. He then enlisted help from programmer Dave Spiers to create Twiddly.Bits MIDI samples in 1993. Today there are over 20 Twiddly.Bits MIDI sample libraries available, all generated by professional musicians playing MIDI instruments.
Yamaha approached Julian to create content library for the Yamaha RM1x. Its success led to preliminary work on the Yamaha Motif Keyboard (including content licensing). For the next several years (and counting) Yamaha would time and time again approach Julian and Keyfax to create content, instructional videos/DVDs and websites for their products.
DVDs/Videos Julian has been the driving creative force behind several music-related DVDs and videos, often taking on dual roles of director and script writer, including:
- Analogue Heaven
- Getting the Most Out Of Series (Korg M1, and Home Recording Vols 1,2,3)
- Get Motifated Series, For the Yamaha Motif Classic & Yamaha Motif ES, Volumes 1, 2 & 3) (Winning a Videographers award)
- The O1xperience (a guide for the Yamaha O1x mixer/interface)
- Exploring Sound Reinforcement (How-to on live sound set up)
- The Complete Guide to the Motif ES
- S90 Under Control (Yamaha S90 Master Class)
- Go Mo (Yamaha MO 6/8 Keyboard)
- World of Motif XS
- Motif XS Master Class
- Making Beats on the Yamaha MM6 (Top honors at 2008 Aurora Awards in Art / Culture Instructions)
- Using Cubase 4 Recording the Band
- Sound Advice (with host sound programmer Dave Polich)
- Universal Audio Studio On Screen
- Alan Parsons Live in Madrid
- Drum Programming Secrets
- Steve Hackett The Tokyo Tapes, Camino Records, crown studios, 16-18 Crown Road, Twickenham, UK, tw1, 3ee, UK
- Alan Parsons’ Art and Science of Sound Recording (2010)
- Motif XF Fully Loaded (2011)
- Discovering The Yamaha MOX (2012)
Colbeck has two children Abi, b.1988, and Cameron b.1992.