Recently in a programme I forget the name of, I blame that on YouTube, I heard Daniel Miller talking about the TR-808 Drum Machine, and he said an interesting point. His perspective was that on the release of the TR-808, himself and many of the people he worked with, were kind of disapointed by its arrival.
Although a great sequencer, all the sounds were basic versions of what they were creating years before using synthesizers and modular sets. The 808 was a box of presets in their eyes, and although interesting, was very limited in its sound capabilities.
This is something I would have to agree with, and yet it’s taken hearing someone else say it for me to really have it click. However, would I like one? or more accurately would I like mine back? well perhaps not my old one as the bass drum sounded bad, but it is a pretty machine and with all its limitations, working with an iconic machine and trying to find something new in it is certainly something I am interested in.
Working with such machines, it is all too tempting to tweak the sounds to fit the way they have been heard a thousands times already. Our ears have adjusted so much to these sounds, that it takes quite a bit of work to undo what has been done, in order to create again as it might have been all those years ago.
On a similar thought, one of the sounds I could never really get to grips with in the Tr-808, mainly due to its Electro Music implications, was the Cow Bell. Therefore, todays upload uses the cowbell, placed right at the front of the track.
All the sounds bar a bit of reverb, a rolling bass 303 and one tom, one hat…are made in the Nord Modular. The cowbell took probably 2-3 hours to get right, so do many of the Roland drum machine sounds.