I was looking through some old photos last night and I came across a photo of myself in my studio in 1995. It was in this room I wrote the first Things to Come Releases including One Night in NYC and many of the early Industrial Strength Records I recorded. This studio was in my mother’s basement. Her bedroom was just above it. Looking back I realize how funny it is that I was screaming my head off down there. I do remember I was going to a wedding and thought, “OK I look cool lets take a photo in the studio.”. So hah please look past my uncool look and let’s see what gear I had!
– Atari 1040ST & SM124 High Resolution Monochrome Monitor running Cubase and Dr. T’s KCS.
– Yamaha NS10M Studio Monitor Speakers driven by a Crown Microtech 500 AMP.
– Roland TR-909 Drum Machine
– Roland TR-707 (not pictured… sat to the right of the 909)
– Roland TB-303 Bassline Synthesizer
– Roland SH-101 Synthesizer
– Roland Juno-106 Synthesizer
– Roland SH3 Synthesizer
– Electrocomp-101 Synthesizer
– Roland S-50 Sampler with external monochrome CRT
– Akai S950 Sampler
– Korg SDD-2000 Digital Delay
– Mackie 1604 Mixer
– Another large old mixer (in the photo with the record, CD and DATs on it)
– Tascam 1/4″ Patch Bay
– Tascam Dual Cassette Deck
– Tascam DA-30 DAT Machine
– Turntable for Sampling Records
– Ultimate Support Systems Desk with extra “wings”
– Ultimate Support Systems A-Frame Keyboard Stand with extra “wings”
– Ultimate Support Systems 3 Tier Keyboard Stand
– 2 SKB Rackmount Cases
– Slanted 19″ Rackmount Stand with Wheels
Today kids own a ton of gear. Back then my studio was considered “a lot of stuff”. In making this list you can see how Roland owned the techno world or at least you can see how much I love their stuff. This photo was right before Apple Macs became powerful enough to run Cubase VST with audio recording. So all the vocals I did back then had to be recorded live in one pass to DAT (digital audio tape). One night in NYC, Dark Germany, Mission Ecstacy, etc… all recorded live to DAT in one pass. Of course I would make mistakes and had to start the tape again. So what things in this photo do I still own today? I moved to Brooklyn and the TB-303 and Juno-106 were stolen. I sold the Akai S950, Dat Machines, Mackie Mixer, SH-101 and TR-909. I never regretted selling the 909 actually and until I saw this photo I forgot I even once owned a SH-101! I sold the Korg SDD-2000 digital delay and I do regret that. I will buy one again on eBay someday. I still own the Electrocomp-101. You can’t really see it in this photo (it sat above the SH-101). My father gave it to me and I’ll never part from it. It’s number 521 of 2000 ever created. I still own, love and use the Roland SH3. This is a SH3 not SH3a. The 3 has the original filter in it which was a clone of a Moog design. Moog threatened to sue Roland to they created the weaker 3A revision. While it’s fun to fetishize gear it’s very important to remember it’s not the equipment it’s the artist. Just make music, have fun and tell YOUR story.
I think it’s fair to say at this point Roland did create a proper modern day replacement for the TB-303. The TB-3 is a box we can bring out and toss around and while it doesn’t sound quite as good as the original it is far more versitile. Back in the day if I wanted to create a random pattern on a real 303 I would have to take the batteries in and out. On the TB-3 you hold the [PTN SELECT] and press [SCATTER].
“Based on the wildly influential TB-303, the new TB-3 Touch Bassline is a performance-ready bass synthesizer with authentic sound and intuitive controls engineered to play. The TB-3 contains the unmistakable character of its predecessor, wrapped in a modern package with a pressure-sensitive touch pad that makes both playing and programming a total joy.” – rolandus.com
I used to own and use a Roland SBX-10 to get my 909 and 303s all in moving along nicely with my Atari ST. Today Roland has released the SBX-1. Not only will it sync MIDI and DIN devices but also CV. This is going to a very useful box for live or in the studio.
“The SBX-1 lets computers and electronic instruments communicate and synchronize with each other. It supports a vast array of both analog and digital devices through DIN SYNC, MIDI and USB, and any of these can be the master clock source. You can use the SBX-1 itself as the master sync and control your external devices with its rock-steady internal clock. With hands-on control over timing and groove, and support for CV/GATE, the SBX-1 is far from just an ordinary sync box.” – roland.com
The greatest acid house track of all time is Acid Tracks by Phuture. They have never played in NYC. That changes tonight as they will take the stage in Williamsburg, Brooklyn at Verboten.
“Yes there may have been Acid recordings before Phuture – Acid Tracks but this is the one that really propelled the Acid style in chicago clubs, this was originally created and played at the music box by Ron Hardy in 1985 2 years before its release… and they don’t come better than this” – Leroy Skibone
Sometimes things seem to change however often they are just the same. I absolutely adore my Sequential Circuits TOM and indeed also my Roland TR-8. Check out the interesting video above showing TOMs glitch mode vs one of the TR-8’s Scatter modes.
“I drive Glitch Sound in Sequential TOM, I compared it with Scatter of Roland TR-8.” – Yokushe
If I could I would own every drum machine ever created. Here’s a new one based on Roland’s TR-606 from Acidlab called Drumatix. I really love all the products Klaus creates. You can read an interview I did with Klaus from 2009: here. Coming soon.
“Analog Drummachine based on the circuits of the 606 with additional sounds and parameters.” – acidlab.de
Since we are waiting to hear the Roland Aira to see if they will deliver a new TR-808 here’s a classic track featuring the king of drum machines. Perfect High from Peppermint Lounge has the elements of an early 80s new wave track I love. Sad lyrics, meloncholy arpeggiators, pads, stuttering samples, vocoder and a TR-808. Produced by Jörg Burckhardt and written by Matthias Elvers in Germany in 1983
“Because getting high was all he cared to do.” – Peppermint Lounge
So Roland is teasing something new for NAMM. It looks like a new drum machine and they have a promo talking about the origin of the TR-808. If the new AIRA is analog I’ll be excited. It also looks like this is one of eight products in an AIRA line. Will this be a return to the classic Roland we love? These machines will have to have the punch and tightness of the originals not just less than imitations.
UPDATE: Analogue Ryhthm Machine, 6 Analog and 4PCM-based Drumparts, Loop- and Step-Sequencer, Stutter-, Active Step and Step Jump-Functions, Multitouch Trigger Pad / Step-Button, LED-Display, Build-in Speaker, Sync I/O 1/8″ Mini-Input female Mono, MIDI In, Headphone-Out 1/8″ Mini-TRS Stereo, Power via 6x AA Battery or optional Power Supply (KA-350; not included), Dimention: 193 x 115 x 45 mm (WxHxD), Weight: 372 698 Euros”.
UDATE 2: People are pointing out the specs above are from a Thomman image which is probably a hoax. We will see!
“Roland Engineers discuss the initial concept of the TR-808 which was conceived and built in 1980. Although it was designed to create “backing tracks”, creative musicians started to use the Rhythm Machine as an instrument and music changed forever. Now the evolution begins again.” – roland.co.uk
Earlier this week I did a post about a band a stumbled across called Kline Coma Xero (read). I decided to give the man behind the band, Tony Williams an old school phone call. We did chat for a while and I discovered he also owns a Roland SH3 and recently modified it to work with CV/Gate. I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while and he promised to post a video showing the mod so here it is above. The SH3 is a really nice sounding synth because it has a proper Moog filter in it (among other things). Moog sued Roland and in response Roland created the SH3-A which changed the filter design.
“A video overview of my Roland SH-3 which I modified using the KENTON SH-3a CV/Gate/Filter mod. I intentionally left off the filter mod due to the fact that the SH-3a has a different filter than the SH-3.” – Tony Williams
Wave Alchemy are sound designers from Nottingham in the UK. In the past 5 years Dan Byers & Steve Heath have built up a reputation for producing some of the better sample packs especially when it comes to drum sounds. Recently they released a very ambitious project called Transistor Revolution which uses 22,000 samples to recreate a Roland TR-808 and TR-909. Some people will ask why do we need more 808/909? I think theses specific drum machine sounds are the pencil and pen for electronic music. They are important backbone sounds that can be used a million different ways. Real 808s and 909s are continually going up in value. Last time I checked an 808 is about $2500 on eBay. Transistor Revolution is currently less than $100 USD (introductory price) so if it sounds good it’s value is apparent. “TR” uses Native Instruments free Kontakt Player and is a 6GB download. That’s 6GB of essentially 20 different drum sounds! When you turn a knob in Transistor Revolution changing each of the sounds parameters the drum samples are actually changing from one to the next behind the scenes. In addition, “7 variations of each drum sound… cycle randomly each time a key on the keyboard is played”. Within the custom TR Kontakt player there are 7 effects: EQ, Compression, Tape Saturation, Transient Designer, High Pass Filter, Low Pass Filter and Bit Crusher. Each effect has it’s own page with multiple parameters that can be edited and saved. There is a full mini mixer within the plug-in so you can mix and place drum sounds on separate virtual outputs and add Send Effects. Send Effects inlcude the ones mentioned above and others including a Phaser, Flanger, Chorus, Delay, Rotator, Stereo Modeller, multiple Distortion types and Convolution and standard Reverbs. The interface reminds me of Propellerhead’s Reason. Each drum sound has it’s own rack piece which can be closed and opened. Without reading the manual I was able to find my way around.
So how does it sound? Very good. Different model 808s sound different from each other. However, in my own opinion when listening to hardware or software clones there are things to look for. You want super clear white metalic high hats, rides and crashes. Snares and claps should have a very sharp transient attack. Kicks should go from tight to boomey. Transistor Revolution does an excellent job. I have one criticism and two things for the wish list. There are 4 “multis” which are basically a full 808 or 909 group of samples with some settings. For example there is an MP60, S1200, Lite and Analog version of the 808. I’m not sure if they use different sample sets or just the effect settings are different. Either way I want to see many more Multi presets. As I said above 808/909s lend themselves to treatment very well. Give us 50 flavors of each please! For the wish list I would like to see a TR style sequencer and MIDI file player. Why just give us the sounds? Part of what makes a the drum machines great is the patterns. Give us a few hundred MIDI patterns built-in and give us 16 lights going from left to right please.
Wave Alchemy are on the right path here. I suspect we will see more drum machines meticulously multi-sampled by the UK duo. In short of a real 808/909 or maybe the Tiptop Audio modular stuff this is the best sounding and certainly most affordable convient way to the TR sound.
“Our aim with Transistor Revolution was always to produce a product that could completely replace the hardware in our own productions.” – wavealchemy.co.uk