While visiting the NAMM conference this year in Anaheim, we stopped by the Roland booth and were reminded how so much of today’s music was influenced by the 808 drum machine. It’s a sound that is so ubiquitous that many don’t even know where it came from.
It wasn’t until the producer Larry Smith who brought the 808 drum machine to Run DMC’s King of Rock and Whodini and the Beastie Boys Licensed to Ill that it earned an eternal spot in hip hop history. Phil Collins brought the 808 to pop music with In the Air Tonight, and the 808 came to electronica with the Japanese band Yellow Magic Orchestra, and R&B with Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing.
The 808 was not a commercial success when it was released as there were only about 12,000 sold in it’s original form. In fact, the Roland 808 “Rhythm Composer”, as it was named, was overshadowed by the technology in drum machines such as the Linn Drum and E-Mu SP 1200, which opted for digital samples of drums stored on chips, rather than the 808 analog synthesis of drum sounds in the 808. Over the years, the 808 drum machine became so ingrained into music culture, producers were sharing their samples of the original drum machine, which was rare, and it seemed like everyone was issuing their collection of samples based on the 808 drum kit. In the 2000’s Roland finally discovered that the 808 had, in fact, been a wild hit and their sales were getting cannibalized by underground sample libraries. Roland recently responded now with a more current recreation of the classic machine with the TR-8 and the TR-8S. We covered a demo here from NAMM with the TR-8 sync’ing up with DJ software Serato on a laptop.
Roland also now includes ALL of the variations of the 808 drum machine samples and the successor 909 samples in their Roland Cloud library. So, if you want the classic, these are the best ways to get it.
So, celebrate 808-day using the #808day hashtag, and let us know how you use the 808 in what you do!