Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What exactly is an 808?

I've been dithering around for the last hour or so, trying to find something, anything new to blog about. Nothing seemed to be hitting the spot but, eventually, I stumbled across something that cheered me up no end: It's a video of rap pioneer Egyptian Legend programming his Roland TR-808 drum machine.

No doubt, you've heard of the 808 many times. Beyonce namechecks it in Deja Vu, Outkast extol the virtues of its sub-bass frequencies in I Like The Way You Move, and Madonna informs us that she is compelled to sing "hey-hey-hey like a Girl Gone Wild" when she "hears them 808 drums". As you do.

But have you ever seen what an 808 looks like? They're lovely. Big, chunky prehistoric hunks of plastic that could easily be a cheap knock-off of the 1970s TARDIS console. But they sounded better than they looked, particularly that low and dirty kick drum.

There's also something pleasingly robust about the machines, first produced in 1980. Look at how Egyptian Lover pounds those keys like they're indestructible. I might be able to programme more complex beats on my phone these days, but if I stabbed it that hard my fingers would go through the screen.

The video comes in two parts. First an excerpt from a 1981 documentary:

And then an extended tutorial filmed last month for FACT Magazine. I love how he rolls his sleeves up as he gets ready to programme the kick drum.

And thus concludes today's history lesson.

Labels: , , , , ,

<< Home

Newer Posts ::: Older Posts

© 2014 Discopop Directory | Contact | Go to the homepage