808 (2015) - full transcript

808 is a documentary film about the inspiring story of the Roland TR-808 drum machine. It's the tale of the birth of electronic music, and how one small machine changed the musical landscape forever... by accident. It's the story of a sound that has been embraced by the world's top producers and performers, and has been name-checked on a whole host of hit records. Associated with numerous musical styles crossing both time and genre, its defining sounds are as relevant now as they ever has been. It defined hip hop and modern dance culture and it's sound continues to deliver dancefloor smashing beats today.

In the late 1970's, electronic music as
we know it today was beginning to emerge.

Early hip-hop and electro music was
rarely heard outside New York,

and was yet to make
it onto record.

In Europe, bands like Kraftwerk were
experimenting with revolutionary,

futuristic electronic sounds,

sounds that would prove
hugely influential.

Most people had never seen a
computer, let alone used one.

One machine was about
to change everything,

sparking a musical revolution
and helping lay the foundations

for modern electronic music.

The sound that would kick-start a
musical revolution across America,



Europe, and around the world
was born in Japan.

During the late 70's, the Japanese electronics
industry was experiencing a period of huge innovation.

New advances in technology meant
relatively cheap electronic instruments,

and basic computers were
being manufactured.

You know, the only thing that I knew by that
point was the electro drums that are inside

of your Grandma's organ, you
know the church organ,

the little rhythm machine that Sly and the
Family Stone used to use back in 1971.

That's the very first futuristic
look into the idea of drum machines,

but no one ever wanted to make
that the primary sound,

you only used that when
you had no drummer.

There were a few records
here and there,

say like, 'Why Can't We Live
Together' by Timmy Thomas

that obviously was using
some kind of those,

I think they used to call them combo rhythm
units because they were built into organs



so that somebody could just
have a little rhythm background

while playing the organ or something like
that, that was the classic, typical thing.

♪ Everybody wants
to live together ♪

♪ Why can't we live together ♪

It's quite common to use
drum machines on records,

that Timmy Thomas record
was a massive record.

Even, there's like a drum machine track on
'Yellow Brick Road', an Elton John thing.

You know... They were being
used,

but they weren't kind of a
common language.

This story begins with one
man, Ikutaro Kakehashi,

or Mr. K. Born in Osaka in 1930,

Mr. K studied mechanical engineering
in high school before opening a

watch repair shop at sixteen.

Following a period
of ill health,

Mr. K decided to concentrate on
creating electronic instruments,

launching Ace Electronics who made
combo rhythm boxes for Hammond organs

before launching Roland in 1972.

By 1978, Roland had built a global
name for itself in the music industry,

and had even released the CR-78,

a rhythm machine with basic
programmable features.

Back in the sort of late 70s there was a band
I used to rehearse in the same place as,

they had a drum machine,
a Roland CR-78,

it was a band called Crispy Ambulance
and they were using it on records.

Then in 1980 Roland released a machine
that would change everything.

I think I heard about
it in Japan,

and I think it was from a
band called The Plastics.

A new wave Japanese band and they
were real hip and they said,

"Oh TR-808, so cool," you know.

I remember somebody said, "Hey
you gotta check out this box,

"it's called the 808, you can
actually program it."

I went somewhere in Manhattan or whatever,
it was Sam Ash or something like that,

and the guy had a drum machine,
but it wasn't the 808 at first

it was like some DR-55.

I remember going down to the music
store on 48th Street, Manny's Music.

And then we saw the 808,
it was like, "Ahhhhhh..."

There is was, and the guy said, "Oh,
this is, this is the new thing.

"You can, you can program this
however you want."

It's got red buttons
and white buttons,

it's got knobs, it looks
like a computer man.

Got to get an 808,
got to get an 808.

Credited to two Roland employees,
Mr. Nakamura and Mr. Matsuoka,

the 808 was created by Roland as a
rhythm machine for backing tracks.

Like its predecessors, it was aimed
at musicians without a drummer,

who simply wanted to make demos.

Initial reaction was mixed,

not least because the 808
didn't sound like real drums.

I think when I first heard it I didn't
realize what a cool sound it was.

It sounded so much like what an 808
sounds like and not like anything else,

that I probably was looking for
something that sounded more like drums,

but it didn't sound like drums
it sounded like an 808.

Because at the time it
was competing with

the Linn and the DMX which actually
like I said sounded like drummers,

the reviewer said the maraca
sound in particular

sounds like a hoard
of marching ants

and it's like, well, yeah, yeah,

yeah that's it, that's
what's good about it.

But the fact that it didn't sound like real
drums would end up being the 808's attraction.

It sounded otherworldly,
futuristic.

The low sonic boom of the kick, the tinny
snare, cowbell, and odd sounding handclap.

These elements all combined to
make it completely unique.

What Mr. K and Roland could
never have predicted

was the 808 would be adopted and championed
by a new breed of electronic musicians,

who would use the 808 as an
instrument in its own right.

House, electro, Miami
Bass, hip hop, R&B,

trap, crunk, pop, rock,
drum and bass,

all of these genres and more
have been touched by the 808,

driven by its iconic sounds.

Without it, music would sound
completely different today.

But to tell the story properly,
we need to rewind slightly.

Back to a pre-808 New York City.

The vibrant beats and break scene was being
led by a group of DJ's from the Bronx.

Inspired by legends like Kool
DJ Herc and Kool DJ Dee.

Block parties were popular and
a place for DJ's to experiment,

isolating percussive breaks
in popular songs.

One of the key figures in this
scene was DJ Afrika Bambaataa,

the self styled leader
of the Zulu Nation.

Back in the early days we was
playing a lot of different music

dealing with the soul and the funk
that was happening at the time.

I was also into a group called
Yellow Magic Orchestra

from Japan and a group
from Germany

that struck a big chord in
myself was Kraftwerk.

So with the funk of James
Brown, Sly and the Family Stone,

Uncle George 'Parliament
Funkadelic' Clinton,

and also my, my homeboy
Gary Numan,

I decided to mash it up, thus became the birth
of this sound called the electro funk sound.

♪ Get up for the down stroke ♪

In the late 70's, future Tommy Boy
Records founder Tom Silverman

was working on his magazine
Dance Music Report,

when he heard about Bambaataa.

I heard about this thing that was happening
called The Breakbeat Room at Downstairs Records,

and this was a record
store that was down in,

down below on the way to the subways
on 6th Avenue and 43rd Street,

and there was a line
out the door

of kids like sixteen and seventeen
year old kids, black kids,

waiting to get to the front so
that they could buy these records

and it was like a phenomenon,
I'd never seen anything like it.

I said what is... What's going on, and what
do these records have to do with each other?

And the kids would say that these are the
records that Afrika Bambaataa plays.

And so I asked the guy who was sort
of running that part of the store

selling records about how I
could reach Bambaataa,

and he gave me a phone number
and I called Bambaataa

and he told me, "Come
up and hear me play,

"I'm playing at the T-Connection on
Thursday night," or whatever it is,

and I went up to, to hear him
spin.

It was a disco, T-Connection it was
on White Plains Road in the Bronx.

There were some guys at the door and
I said I was here to see Bambaataa

and I think they looked at me like they had
never seen a white guy in the club ever.

They wanted to know who was
this black young man

who was playing all of these
different sounds of music

to a large black,
Latino audience.

They were hearing about me and the
different songs I was playing.

This is the time when we was just
giving the birth of hip hop.

I asked Bambaataa that night, I said,
"Do you want to make a record?"

and he said, "OK." And I never
made a record before,

I didn't really know
what that entailed

except from hanging out with
other people in the business

that were making records, so I said,
"Alright let's start working on it."

Tommy Boy was born in 1981 out of
Silverman's West 85th Street apartment,

and set about making records.

Hip-hop as we know
it was being born.

Silverman and Bambaataa got
together to work on ideas,

recording a demo for a record that would
define modern-day hip-hop and dance music.

We cut a demo for what would
become 'Planet Rock'

and it had three or four different
songs that we wanted to incorporate

and that Bambaataa was playing.

We used 'I Like It'
from BT Express,

we used a Rick James
song, Kraftwerk,

and we used Babe Ruth
'The Mexican',

and we made this eight-track demo.
I ended up having a cassette of it

and I played it for Arthur
Baker, he flipped out.

He said, "This is great, lets
do a full out recording of it,"

so I said, "Alright cool,
let's put this together."

In an uptown Manhattan
recording studio,

Silverman, Bambaataa, Baker,
John Robie, and Jay Burnett

set about producing the track.

One of Bambaataa's MC crews, The Soulsonic
Force, joined them in the studio that night.

The original Soulsonic Force was
Mr. Biggs, Pow Wow, G.L.Jo. B.E, Jazzy Jay.

We was trying to do that whole
family of funk or family of hip-hop,

like James Brown when he
had the family of soul,

or George 'Parliament
Funkadelic' had in Parliament.

There could be five or six on the stage or
sometimes we might have twenty on the microphone.

This gentleman here, first
Soulsonic Force member.

My name is Mr. Biggs, Soulsonic
Force, peace to the world.

Afrika Bambaataa's first MC.

Released on Tommy Boy
Records in 1982,

'Planet Rock' was the result of
a perfect fusion of people,

from diverse racial, social
and musical backgrounds.

A melting pot of musical genres, attitudes,
style, mentality, and beneath it all,

a visionary use of a drum
machine, the 808.

♪ Just taste the
funk and hit me ♪

♪ Just get on down and hit me ♪

♪ Bambaataa's gettin'
so funky, now hit me ♪

♪ Yeaaaa, just hit me, it's
time to chase your dreams ♪

♪ Up out your seats,
make your body sway ♪

♪ Socialize, get down, let
your soul lead the way ♪

♪ Shake it now, go ladies,
it's a livin' dream ♪

♪ Love, life, live, come play the game, our
world is free, do what you want but scream ♪

808 was definitely a serious sound
that gave that extra funk and grunt

to the record. Because if you
heard Kraftwerk they was funky,

but they didn't have that soulful
bass bottom that was needed.

That was definitely the
first time I saw an 808,

and it was also probably the
first hands on

computer that,
that I used in music.

- We heard that them drums come out the 808
and we was like... -That was the end.

- Yo what the hell.
- There was no bass like the 808.

- It would just hit you in the head like
your whole body would just shake. -Yes.

Oh it was the key,
it was the bottom,

and if you listen to the rock,

the way Arthur and John mixed it

they had to play with that 808
for a while to give it that

whrump, whrump, whrump you know.

It was very fast, the record was one
hundred and twenty nine beats per minute,

and in urban dance music at the time,
one hundred and twenty was speedy.

The rappers definitely weren't
into 'Planet Rock' when we did it,

they thought it was a weird beat, they thought it was
too fast or too slow because it was sort of half time.

It was so different it
has us startled like,

either this shit is
going to be a hit,

or we ain't going
to rap no more.

G.L.Jo. B.E was the guy who wrote
the stuff so basically

G.L.Jo. B.E had to take it back and come up
with phrasing and sort of do half time stuff.

G.L.Jo. B.E was the masterpiece
he came up with the blue print.

The things he could do with a
rhyme was just crazy.

We were so into what we had done we didn't
know what the outcome was going to be.

We were just relieved that it was over and we
knew that something was going on in that room.

You really can't predict a hit.

You can wish it to be a hit,

you can want it to be a hit, you
can construct it to be a hit,

but we knew, gut feeling that we had
done something nobody else could copy.

We weren't sure if it was going to be a hit
or a stiff, it was just an experiment.

It didn't sound like a hit,

because there was never a record
before that sounded like that.

I thought we had something
really special.

To me it felt more like a
Talking Heads record,

I was like wow, because of the clavinets
and all the different things.

I was super excited by it
even without the rap.

♪ Soul Sonic Force ♪

'Planet Rock' was fast becoming
a worldwide musical phenomenon.

Its distinct beats echoed throughout
nightclubs and on the streets,

inspiring the development
of new musical genres,

and in turn the producers and artists who would
continue to innovate with the 808 sound.

When we heard 'Planet Rock' it was like a great twist on
'Trans-Europe Express' because I loved the theme out of it.

It was just like a fantastic new look at it, you know.
It was like Kraftwerk go tribal.

You would never imagine Kraftwerk doing that,
which was the brilliant thing about it.

I mean it was great, but it was
like a really clever twist.

You heard keyboards, you heard bass
lines, but what's this drum sound.

It's like Kraftwerk, but it's
urban, it's funky, it's cool.

It was new territory because no one
had really used an 808 on a record

and it has this low end that
you couldn't really hear.

You wouldn't know it was there and
then it would just blow up a speaker.

I said they are using this drum machine
and it's a viable piece of equipment

that can actually, you can make records
out of and people are accepting it

because people hit the
floor and danced to it.

I can remember very distinctly the
first time I heard 'Planet Rock'.

I think I must have turned
eighteen and moved to Brighton

and started going to this club
called Sherry's

on a Wednesday night in
Brighton, alternative dance.

These kids came by basically
with a boom box,

and they also had
the fresh BMXs.

For me it was really
a revelation.

It was like futuristic,
but making me dance.

It was something that was very techie,
when we didn't know what techie was

we just knew it was
electrifying.

And we knew that there was
something very us about it.

We heard the music but were like what is that
music, and they were playing 'Planet Rock'.

And we were like what is this, this is?
And someone said it's kind of, sort of

this American thing called
electro or hip-hop.

Instantly we all were like, we
have to find that record.

This is probably the moment
where my brain like clicked,

and I was like, wow, electronic.

'Planet Rock' was definitely one of
those like eureka moments for me.

'Planet Rock' started a
new movement in music.

A movement headed by the 808,

and one that would mark the beginning of
electronic music as we know it today.

Following on from the huge
success of 'Planet Rock',

the 808 became a defining
sound in New York clubs.

New York at the time man, you know every record
had to have an 808 in it, in order for it

to have any sort of success in
the dance floor.

It was at the end of new wave, the
beginning, you know, of, this,

which we used to call hip-hop, now it's
freestyle, and today it's electro.

One of the first tracks to explode after 'Planet
Rock' was 'Hip Hop, Be Bop' by Man Parrish.

I'm not a trained musician. I can't
read or write music, I still can't.

So, I basically learned music
by just experimenting.

But I didn't want
real drum sounds,

I wanted to be Kraftwerk, you
know? That was my influence.

I could be a band and not have to
deal with band members, you know.

This was a way of having a drummer
without having a guy there,

you know the 808.

'Hip Hop, Be Bop' was actually one of
those experimental things that I did.

I didn't have a record deal, it wasn't meant as
anything but just playing around with some rhythms.

I wound up doing a sound track
for a porn movie

and the record label said, "Do
you have any other tracks?"

And I said, "Well I have
this, this and this,"

and they said, "Well,
what's that?"

and I said, "Oh, it's something
experimental I did,

"let's see if we can develop
this into something."

And John Robie came in
put some keyboards on,

it was just basically an open
free form piece of music,

there was no verse, there was no
chorus, there was no structure to it.

We took about six ten-inch, twelve-inch,
reel-to-reel mixes filled sixty minutes each.

The guys from the label stayed home one
weekend, did a bunch of coke and MDA,

edited everything together with razors
and 'Hip Hop, Be Bop' came out.

So when they played it for me they said,
"Well this is going to be the single,"

and I said, "You can't do this, I, you know, this
is embarrassing it's not a real piece of music

"there's no verse, there's no chorus, you
know, everybody is gonna laugh at me."

Back in those days there was no DJ
culture, there was no dub music.

You can't put out music like
this it doesn't exist.

Sure enough they put it out, I hid under a bush,
and later on, you know, it is what it is.

There was a club here in New
York called The Funhouse.

John 'Jellybean' Benitez
was the DJ.

We used to bring acetates
for John to play,

and if the crowd liked the music they
would bark, woof, woof, woof, woof.

So we said, "Right, we need another track for
this thing, let's throw on some dog barking

"because I'm sure they will only play it
in this one little club and they will

"recognize the dog barks."

We were kissing ass and trying to get
our record played at The Funhouse.

♪ Woof, woof, woof, woof, woof ♪

♪ Woof, woof, woof, woof, woof ♪

There wouldn't be a freestyle
scene if it wasn't for

'Planet Rock' because that
gave birth to like that

whole scene of melody records,
you know,

R&B and pop records written
on 808 drums.

Those were R&B records,
with 808s.

Alright that sounded amazing.

And the 808 drum machine had to be prominent.
It was like all the other keyboards in

the background, all the other
musical stuff yeah that's cool,

but as long as those drums was
prominent, this record's a smash.

'Play At Your Own Risk' was the record,
when that came on the party got crazy.

That was kind of almost the
first free style records,

I mean if you want to deem
singing over 'Planet Rock',

if you want to just use it
in that layman's terms,

that was Planet Patrol.

Every time I heard that,
"Well, Well, Well,"

it was just, everybody
would run to the floor.

It was really, really
influential, and it

had that sound that you hadn't
heard before.

You might have heard
the beat before, and the beat

a million times after of course
as we know,

but the sound of that record
was definitely unique.

It created a whole
other sub-genre,

one record with a beat
in it, and a feeling

creates a whole other segment.

Slowly rap pulled away from
that 'Planet Rock' sound,

things started to get slower
and freestyle took off.

♪ Where ya at, where ya at,
where ya at, where ya at ♪

The drum sound of 'Let
the Music Play',

the ambient drum sound,

specifically came from me describing
to Mark Liggett and Rod Hui,

"Guys can we have the beat of the record like
this part, listen to this part it goes..."

♪ Your own risk, your own risk ♪

♪ Play at, play at,
play at, play at ♪

♪ Play, play, play at your
own risk, your own risk ♪

I said, "Do you hear that echo in the
beat, boom boom boom boom boom boom,

"can we have that echo through the whole
record?" And they thought I was crazy,

but it was because every time I played
that part it was like whoa this is bad,

this is when the crowd
is going nuts.

And of course you can't have all that decay
throughout the whole record as the kick.

What we ended up doing was
doing that but then gating it,

that's how that sound
came to birth.

♪ With someone else ♪

♪ We started dancing and love
put us into a groove ♪

♪ But now he's with
somebody new ♪

When I heard that sound back as a
full song when I was driving home

I don't know why but I was just like tearing up.
I was like this is awesome,

I guess it because it
was my first song.

You could have sang Cracker
Jacks over it.

♪ Let the music play,
he won't get away ♪

♪ Just keep the groove and then he'll
come back to you again, let it play ♪

♪ Let the music play
he won't get away ♪

♪ This groove he can't ignore, he
won't leave you anymore, no, no, no ♪

I think the first freestyle
records that got me into it,

obviously because I was coming from a
hip hop background was George Simms.

Because that... And Shannon.

That was like my intro because
it was cool it was like oh

I can breakdance to this or I
can dance with a girl.

You know, that's kinda like, it was
like oh, it was serious R&B. You know.

What is really, really
significant

about that moment
in time is that it created an

entirely different space
sonically in music.

When the relationship between the bass and the
snare became something entirely different,

you know, and I'm talking about the sonic
landscape of just those two elements.

For a lot of people it would
have been, really their first

sort of subliminal influence
to Latin sounds

- with all of the percussion that came
with those rhythms, you know. -Yea.

That's why it was simply
a revolution.

Strafe was around that time for me,
and I remember when it came out

it was just one of those
slower records,

kind of like a rap beat, you know, but it
got played in the big clubs, you know.

It like... It's weird because it's,
it's quite an anomaly that record.

It's like nothing sounds like it,
nothing has sounded like it since.

It's super sparse and minimal,

but does all the right little
things, you know what I mean,

it's just one of those classic,
classic dance records.

"Y'all want this party
started right."

That was kind of the last
thing I laid on the track,

and when I laid that on the
track the principals

at the company thought
I was crazy.

They was like, "Get him
out of the studio."

I was supposed to be in there
doing a pre-mix of the track

and I said, "I've got to throw this down
on the track, this needs to be here."

♪ Y'all want this party
started, right? ♪

♪ Y'all want this party started
quickly, right? ♪

♪ Set it off I suggest ya'll,
set it off I suggest ya'll ♪

♪ Set it off, set it off, set it
off, set it off, set it off ♪

What made the 808 a better
tool was that I was able to

tweak and tune the toms,

and even adding the extra
snap on the snare,

as well as widening the decay on
the kick drum made a difference

and the 808 boom
was a big thing.

That was one of the initial
discrepancies I had with the

initial mix of the record being released. It
was great that Walter Gibbons mixed the record

but he had just come out of retirement and
he was a born again Christian at the time.

He felt that bass was an
instrument of the devil.

Snare drum, open hat, just starting
with this intro pattern here,

I just want to get the levels
right on everything.

It's one of the special things about this machine,
I'm sure everybody's been talking about it,

that, that decay you
get on the kick.

And the accent actually helps to

bring more emphasis to
certain parts of the

Pattern. Put some snap
on that snare.

Hi-hat on it's gonna clip.

Clip that track nicely.

♪ Set it off, I suggest y'all,
set it off, I suggest y'all ♪

♪ Set it off! Come on
let's set it off ♪

♪ Set it off on the left y'all,
set it off on the right y'all ♪

♪ Set it off! Come on
let's set it off ♪

♪ Set it off! Set it off! ♪

But the 808 didn't only feature on
club, hip-hop and electro records.

The 808 sound was quickly
adopted by pop musicians.

Some of music's biggest
stars embraced it.

Marvin Gaye used Motown's in-house band
The Funk Brothers on most of his hits,

but by 1981 he looked to cut
ties with the record company,

moving to Ostend in Belgium, where he wrote what
would become his biggest selling song ever.

So when you have family
problems, drug problems

and tax problems, you come to
Belgium.

Well I was living in Belgium
in the, in the 70's.

I originally worked for a studio in London
and they opened a studio in Brussels.

And I got a call from a guy
saying that he was

Marvin Gaye's manager.
"Can we meet you tomorrow?"

"Yeah, sure." He liked the
studio and said,

"Well can we start next week?"

"Yeah, sure."

♪ Get up, get up,
get up, get up, get up ♪

Having broken ties with Motown,

Gaye started writing in a more
stripped down style, based on an 808.

A big departure from
his previous sound.

Marvin did tell me that it was going to
be with drum machine and synthesizers,

so the TR-808 and a Jupiter-8.

He planned to do a lot himself and
he wanted to have some control,

so he could spend some time
doing the recording without

getting too many other guys
to come in and play.

When he came in the studio the patterns,
the basic patterns had been programmed

and he had the tempos all written
down and that you couldn't touch it.

That was very important that nobody
especially the fine-tuning of the tempo,

don't touch it. That's fixed.

So he just said, "Well this is
song number one, ok, record it."

And you just sat there,
listening to it.

And then, stop.

And that was the song and there was
nothing else it was just the pattern.

♪ Sexual healing baby
is good for me ♪

It is quite a cold way of working,
working with electronic instruments.

And then everything happened
when he put the vocal down

and it warmed the whole track
up and it all made sense.

♪ And my emotional stability is
leaving me, there is somethin' ♪

You have these sexual lyrics and this
electronic groove and it kind of went,

yeah, it works.

It's kind of weird that, one of
the biggest hits of his career,

the only song that got him a Grammy
was probably one of the most

coldest, frozen, instrumental
songs of that period.

This was one of the first records
to really use this instrument

as its own instrument as a
totally different sound.

♪ Let's make love tonight,
wake up, wake up, wake up ♪

The marriage of that R&B thing
with the

percolating groove
underneath really works.

After 'Planet Rock', Marvin Gaye
comes in and kicks ass

with the very same sound
and drum machine.

We really couldn't believe it,
it was like yo he's using 808.

How do you figure that out, now I've
listened to it on YouTube I'm like, duh.

We heard the beat and everybody was like wait a
minute Marvin Gaye's got a funky beat like that,

like a rap beat in his record,
we couldn't believe it,

we heard the tones of it. We were like,
"Wait who made that beat for him?"

We wanted to know
who made the beat.

Nearly two decades later, Belgium band Soulwax
acquired an 808 from a second hand shop in Ghent.

They were told it was the same one
originally used to record 'Sexual Healing'.

They rang us to say, "Like,
we've got an 808."

And they sold it to us for
eight hundred and eight Euros.

They said to us, "This one was used in an Ostend
studio, it had been there for twenty years."

The guy actually said, "It's probably the one that
was used on 'Sexual Healing' by Marvin Gaye."

But we never believed him, so we took it back to
the studio, and I remember when we plugged it in,

one of the first presets that
were in there, we hit it,

and I was like, "No way..."

I was really confused I thought well
this doesn't sound like a normal drum,

drum track, I thought it sounded like
something you would hear in a restaurant

with a guy playing a little
keyboard in the corner

while you're having a pizza.

I think something is going on
with this machine guys,

because it's not really doing
what I want it to do.

I'm trying to get it to
be doing other stuff.

Maybe the ghost of Marvin is
here right now saying,

"No, no, no, no, no, that's not the way
to do it, that's not what I want."

'Sexual Healing' was just the start
of the 808's journey into pop.

Legendary production team Jam and Lewis
also decided to make it the defining sound

on their work with the SOS Band.

Well I think we incorporated
the 808 into

a sound specifically for
particular artists.

So when we did the SOS songs we
did 'Just be Good To Me',

I don't even know whether we
even cared at the time

what kind of drum machine it was because
we recorded those tracks in Atlanta

and they just said, "Oh
well we got an 808."

We're like, "OK fine,
plug it in and lets go."

And those songs hit huge.

The next record we did after
that was Cheryl Lynn, 'Encore'

and we went back to like a DMX
or a Linn drum or something

because it was like we
didn't want that sound,

we kind of thought that's
more the SOS sound,

so we don't want to really take
that sound and use it everywhere.

And the exception to that was a
group we did called Change

because we went over to Italy
to record that album

and once again that's what was
in the studio was an 808.

After that we kind of reserved
the sound just for SOS Band.

So whatever the 808 lends, it causes
you to create a whole different

underlying thing that
you build on.

It was a huge part I think in how we created
especially for the SOS Band because

I totally identify with
the SOS Band and the 808

and if I hear another drum machine it
kind of doesn't sound like SOS to me.

♪ People always talkin' 'bout ♪

♪ Your reputation ♪

♪ I don't care about
your other girls ♪

♪ Just be good to me ♪

We were just really lucky that,
you know, fate had, you know,

put an 808 in our session
a couple of times,

which turned out to be really
pivotal records for us.

And then we heard other records
like Phil Collins with the 808

and we was like wait a minute
were late we've got to catch up,

Phil Collins is rocking the 808 like
we've got to get into this now.

I use drum machines
as a tool, you know,

I mean, and for me it opened
up my world for writing.

To me the way I write is,
I need an atmosphere.

Atmospheres will tell
you where to go next,

and suggest what you could
do after this chord,

and sometimes those, those 808s,
you know, patterns that you write

would give you a great platform

and something that not a lot has
to happen which is why on my stuff

certainly there is a lot of space
when there's a drum machine.

♪ Oh think twice ♪

♪ 'Cause it's another day for
you and me in paradise ♪

♪ Oh think twice, 'cause it's
just another day for you ♪

♪ You and me in paradise ♪

The sounds I found very,
kind of stimulating,

particularly the conga sounds
and the bongo sounds

and the kind of 'pop' sounds.

You could do a lot with them.
You could make them kind of,

kind of mellow, you know with
the desk and things and

you'd put a little bit of
reverb on and they would go back

and they would be a panorama to
whatever you were writing.

You know, you could use them and
know that you were going to replace

this, and this, and this with real drums
but this, and this, and this could stay.

And then sort of sit there for ten minutes and the
thing just carried on, you know quite happily.

You know, you try to get a
drummer to play something simple

for ten, fifteen minutes
he won't do it.

We get bored, we'll play...
Doom da da cha...

No don't do that, you know. Just
play... Doom da da cha...

And drummers they kind of
get bored

and they want to show they can do
more than that so they do that.

Where as a drum machine will
just, as long as you turn

it on and you turn it off it
will just play that forever.

And so that was the
beauty of it.

The joke is you can't pour beer
over a drum machine because it will

stop working but you can
pour beer over a drummer.

Back in the clubs of New York, hip-hop
culture was continuing to grow.

I was a fan of hip-hop,
and would go to,

at that point it was a club
called Negril on 2nd Avenue

but that was the only place really that had a
regular hip-hop, I think it was Tuesday nights.

Hearing the hip-hop records that I was
hearing at the time didn't really

reflect what was going
on at the club.

Really just as a fan I wanted to try
to make something that sounded like

what the experience was
of hip-hop in a club.

Being as the Treacherous Three
were my favorite group,

met Mo Dee, I asked him if, you know,
we could make a record together.

And he said, "Well, you know,
we're signed."

I didn't know that there were labels
or signing or what producers did,

I really didn't know
anything at all.

I just wanted to make a good
record with them and I felt like

I had an idea of what it would
sound like to make a good one.

And he said, "You might want
to talk to Special K

"because his brother
is a good MC."

So I talked to Special
K. We became friends.

Special K wrote the rhymes and he got T, his
brother T La Rock to perform the rhymes.

I was working at the time. I worked
for Leroy Pharmacy in Manhattan,

and my brother said he had an
opportunity to record a record.

But the producer wanted only

my brother Special K and Kool Mo
Dee.

He did not want LA Sunshine.
He only wanted the two.

Three weeks later, four weeks later my
brother came to me, knocked on my door,

and said, "Listen, I want you to record
a record." with the persons name,

who's name by the way
was Rick Rubin.

And I wasn't interested. I said, "No, you
know I just want to do this on the side

"I don't want to
record a record."

Though my brother pushed me and
pushed me and pushed me.

I went downtown to meet Rick Rubin
and I remember we met at NYU.

Rick played this beat for
me and blew me away,

and that was 'It's Yours'.

And he used this drum machine
called the Roland 808.

♪ Commentating ♪

The only reason that was the
drum machine on 'It's Yours'

was because it was the only drum machine we had
and that was where the beat was programmed.

It wasn't like we tried all the great machines
and ended up with the 808 as our choice,

it just worked out that way. I do
remember that in our search for bass,

I think we were in a
sixteen track studio,

and I think six of the tracks of the
sixteen track were all the kick drum.

♪ Hell yea, well it's yours ♪

♪ Taking a record that's
already made ♪

♪ With the help of a mix board
using the cross-fade ♪

♪ Rhythm can be kept to a self-choice
pace, depending on moment ♪

I remember sitting there just look...
staring at the 808 saying,

"My God all of this is coming
out of that machine?"

And I remember being afraid to
touch it, but I wanted to.

♪ It's yours ♪

After I recorded 'It's Yours' I forgot about it.
I went back to work the next day.

And I turned the radio on and I remember
the radio personality she says,

"The number one requested song of
the day and hip-hop lovers..."

And I'm thinking here we go
another Run DMC record.

And I heard that opening.
Duh duh duh...

I grabbed Ken, the pharmacist,
yanked him over,

before he could get this
close the lady says,

"Brand new number one requested
song by T L.A. Rock."

And I said, "Oh my God she said my name
wrong, but my record's on the radio."

I put it on and I heard
it and I said, "Wow,

"this record sounds like one of
the demos that we were making."

To me that was like the official
version of hip-hop as I knew it.

Everything slowed down, and now all of a
sudden the groove was a little slower,

you could hear more of the rap
as opposed to the rap just

kind of like flying over the
beat.

Fast forward, Danceteria,
record release party.

Beastie Boys. They were
the under card.

For those that don't know Danceteria was the big
scene back then, but not really for hip-hop.

I'm thinking, "Oh my God, how are
these people going to react to me?"

I went out, the record came on...
I'm talking about everyone,

the entire club just erupted.

They were drowning me
out, put it that way.

Once again I have to come
back to that drum machine.

I had those speakers at
Danceteria booming.

Now everything is great with 'It's
Yours' but I have one major complaint.

This guy walks up to me and I thought I
had some kind of beef with this guy.

I'm like no I'm this gentle giant, this nice
guy, what kind of beef can he have with me.

And he goes, "Oh man, if you weren't such a
super star man me and you would have problems."

"Why?" He says, "Man your
record blew out my speakers."

I said, "Oh my God..." I
said, "Are you serious?"

He says, "Man I turned the bass up.
My whole system just blew out."

I said, "Well..." In my
mind I'm like, "Yay!"

but in front of him I'm like,
"Hey man... Sorry about that,

"but that might be the best
story I've heard all year."

True story now.

After the success of 'It's Yours', the
kick drum and low bass of the 808

became key building blocks
of early hip-hop.

It's one of the defining sounds of
hip-hop, from 'Planet Rock' to,

I mean we used it on '99
Problems' you know with Jay-Z.

Rick Rubin was the King of the
808. He put the rock in the 808.

The album that he definitely
utilized the 808

in its finest moments to me was
'Licensed to Ill' by the Beastie Boys.

The fact that he was able to get
so many ideas out of the 808.

Well I think before
we talk about

Well what happened

Before we talk about the
impact of the 808

and everything on the album,

to get there I am just going to
go in baby steps, I think.

Adam, to give credit where credit's
due, procured our first 808.

Right. We put out our song 'Cookie
Puss' and it was a twelve-inch

with some other sort of dubbed versions
of it and stuff on the B-side.

And we had come into
some money as a band

regarding a lawsuit against a well-known airline
company that used the song, part of it.

- Without licensing it.
- Without licensing it.

And so I went to the used music store
Rouge Music and I was going to buy,

I had two hundred and fifty
bucks and I was going to buy

a Rickenbacker guitar like Paul
Weller's, the exact guitar.

And then there was an 808
and I'd heard about it,

and I'd heard like, "Oh that's the 'Plant
Rock' thing." or something like that,

like I'd heard... And I
wanted a drum machine,

and I was like well fuck it
I'll just buy this one.

So instead of the guitar I
brought the drum machine.

It ended up at the studio, we all
recorded at the studio called Chung King.

And so like my 808 is on our album, on
the first couple of LL Cool J albums,

on Run DMC, a couple
of their albums.

And so it was kind of like for whatever
reason became the Chung King 808 for a while.

♪ Now here's a little story
I've got to tell ♪

♪ About three bad brothers
you know so well ♪

♪ It started way
back in history ♪

♪ With Adrock, M.C.A.
and me, Mike D. ♪

I mean to take an 808 and
reverse it on 'Paul Revere'.

How do you even think about that? Play the
tape backwards and then they rap to that.

Which is... Who thinks of that?

Basically, Mike was saying that we would push
riffs, or like push the bass and the kick.

It was really Adam Yauch that was really
the techno wiz, and so he was very into

production and how to get certain sounds
so he was really into that sort of thing.

The three of us were going to meet Run and
DMC and write a song, and record a song,

and we didn't really have an idea
we were just going to meet at some

random studio on twenty
something street.

And so we get there and there's an
808 there, I don't know whose it was

maybe it was theirs maybe it
was ours I don't know.

But Yauch was like, "Oh, we
should record it backwards."

And tell me if I'm saying this wrong, but
Yauch was like, "Because Jimmy Hendrix, I'd

"heard or read somewhere that he used
to do a lot of stuff backwards."

Like he'd turn the tape over, record the guitar solo, and
then turn it back over and the shit would be backwards.

♪ I've got a license to kill, I think you
know what time it is, it's time to get ill ♪

♪ Now what do we have here an
outlaw and his beer ♪

♪ I run this land, you understand,
I make myself clear ♪

So he programmed just like the simplest
808 pattern, but recorded it on a tape.

- Then flipped the tape over. -He flipped the tape over so it
was recording it backwards then played it back so it would...

Yauch recorded the beat, you
know recorded it onto the tape

but then flipped the tape
over. So then the tape's

- He flipped the tape over
then recorded it. -Backwards.

- No. No, other way. -Yes he flipped
the tape over recorded it.

- See it's like forty years later and I still
don't know how it happened. -With the record

- head on, anyway it's not for the film. -No
it is your telling the story tell them how it

- actually happened. I don't remember. -With the
recording head on it only goes in one direction,

but so you record it... Um...

You record it forward but then you flip
the tape so when its playing back,

its backwards but everything else your
recording on it is recording forward.

- Which is what we did.
- OK.

- Does that make sense or does
it not really make sense? -No.

And the way you just looked at me it seemed
like you were really confused when you said it.

- Not a good sell huh. Alright I didn't sell that very well.
- But it comes out backwards which is the whole thing.

- The shit was fucking backwards. -What I'm saying
is, as you can see in terms of the technological and

production level of our band it
went Adam, and then Mike

and then myself was
kind of dead last.

♪ Stick 'em up, and
let two fly ♪

♪ Hands went up and people
hit the floor ♪

♪ He wasted two kids that
ran for the door ♪

Now we're hearing the 808 beat backwards and
it went zzzum zzzum zzz zzzum zzzum and

Run comes running in like, "Yo!"

Just yelling, jumping
up and down like,

"This is the record,
this is the record."

But it really was amazing it was
just one of those moments where,

inspired by one thing that had nothing
to do with an 808 record, right

like Jimmy Hendrix records,
and Yauch having this

split second innovation. Nobody could
have ever imagined it would be this

backwards, stripped down drum machine
loop vibrating windows around the world.

We just tried to find ways to amp it
up, to be as over the top as possible.

Overloading things to just take
them to an extreme place.

Our intension really was to
like shatter windows.

We wanted to take it to a place where
it was really like abusive kind of.

Rick Rubin had a period in 1985
where

he did 'Together Forever'
for Run DMC,

'Slow and Low' for the Beastie
Boys,

and at the same time Russell
Simmons got a Columbia deal,

two million dollar Columbia
deal, put out 'Crush Groove',

and then boom LL Cool
J is the poster boy.

And suddenly 'Rock the Bells' is on
the top forty charts with full bass.

'Planet Rock' introduced the
808 to hip-hop music.

From there, Rick Rubin figured out that you could
get bass out of it by tuning it to full decay.

The rumor is Dr. Dre of Original Concept showed
him how to even get a fuller tone out of it.

To me the most incredible use of it
was Dr. Dre from the East Coast.

He created the record
called 'Knowledge Me'.

One of the early Def Jam records that nobody
knows, under the name of Original Concept.

He took the 808 and did something
to it that made it huge.

I remember Original Concept,
and they started really

misusing the boom kick drum,
and it just went boom.

♪ -You know what I'm saying, man? I went to
see Rusty J man -And where you go next? ♪

♪ Rusty J with the headline
on the radio, man? ♪

♪ Yo man Rusty J be fresh, you know what
I'm saying cuz? Yo he had a lot of ♪

That record, I would go
in and sample that,

and that was my 808 for the
rest of the records.

'Bring The Noise', 'Rebel Without
A Pause', and the list goes on.

'Party For Your Right To
Fight', you know, “Terrordome'.

Anything that I could possibly
put, had to have that.

When you listen to Rubin's
stuff or you listen to

the stuff that LL was making

or you listen to the Shocklee
or Eric Sadler

or Bomb Squad Productions,

it was just larger than life. I mean it literally
felt like it had come from, from Mars or something.

And a lot of the intrigue was just trying to
work out what the composite of that sound was.

I was listening to a
Marly Marl record,

and he sampled the kick and the
snare from records all right,

but then he also added a sustain kick on the
one so you get this kind of like kick-boom.

And I'm sitting there going like,
"Yo, I want to sample that."

So I sampled that a million
different ways.

And from that point on, that
particular sound was in everything,

it's kind of like milk
or adding water,

it's like you cannot make a record
without having that 808 sound.

It's just, it's just not, it's just
not hip-hop, it's not authentic.

♪ I am taking no prisoners,
taking no shorts ♪

♪ Breakin' with the metal
of a couple of forts ♪

♪ While we're hearin' that
boom supplement the mix ♪

♪ Gonna rush 'em like
the Bears in the 46 ♪

♪ Homeboys I don't know but
they're part of the pack ♪

♪ In the plan against the
man, bum rush attack ♪

♪ For the suckers at the door,
if you're up and around ♪

♪ For the suckers at the door,
we're gonna knock you right down ♪

♪ Yo! Bum rush the show, yo! ♪

Come on man lets go back to 'Yo! Bum
Rush The Show', 'Rightstarter',

'My Uzi Weighs a ton'.
It didn't matter.

It's like whatever record
I was making, it's like,

it wasn't complete unless, "Yo, we've
got to put the 808 in this shit man."

Bang, and now the record's finished, all right.
But I didn't care if it was a ballad.

It was like, "Okay, I'm doing an R&B
ballad, okay it's not complete,

"put the 808 in it,
it's hot now."

♪ It's been a long time ♪

While hip-hop and electro
dominated in New York,

a new sound was developing
further south.

A sound fueled by
the 808 kick drum.

In the 80s and part of the 90s,

the 808 really found a
home and an identity in Miami,

you know, the whole Miami Bass
sound.

It really comes from 'Planet Rock'
to be honest. I mean the 808,

I wonder if 'Planet Rock' was done on a different
drum machine if Miami Bass would sound different.

In New York it was like TKA,
Lisa Lisa and all these people,

so nobody out in Miami
was doing it.

So I go, "You know what,
let me try doing it."

The first record I did was 'Fix It In The Mix'.
That went platinum.

♪ If you got a problem that
you cannot really fix ♪

♪ Let me hear your problem and
I'll fix it in my mix ♪

The problem I had was, the first record I
did went platinum they go, "He's lucky,"

because if it wasn't from New
York, it can't be real.

Second went platinum,
"He's still lucky."

Third one, "I've got to watch
this guy he might..."

And then by like four and
five I was accepted.

I was one of the first people that I
knew about put bass boom on a record,

and it just sound awesome, so I was
just coming out of being a DJ,

so I go, I reflected back to my crowd
and I go they would love this.

Problem was when I went
to the mastering lab

they go, "You can't do that."
I go, "What do you mean?"

"You can't put that boom on a record." I said,
"Well listen I'm paying you, put it on."

And I took it from the mastering lab to
the radio station, and it went crazy.

In Miami all of a sudden it was this
very local music, it was very southern,

and it talked about the
neighborhoods there.

You know, there was probably
six to eight different

acts that were all just 808,
808, 808.

You couldn't use no other drum
machine, for the Miami Bass

style of music, it was a must.

It spawned this huge scene down in Florida where
it no longer was just in the skating rink,

now it was making its way out into the
masses, and to the high school dances,

and to the clubs.

My first experience of the 808
came when we were

running a small studio up in
Hollywood.

We used to call it The Box. In
those days Luther Campbell,

Luke Skywalker was running the place
with a song called 'Throw That Dick'.

So Mr. Mixx, Mr. Hobbs who was the main guy,
who was the beat producer at that time,

he would come to the studio and me and my
other partner was the engineers there.

My blueprint was taking elements
of the 'Planet Rock' record,

you know, using that as the tempo
guide and then actually taking

hot records that was at the
same beat per minute speed

and mixing those into
the 808 drum machine,

and then putting comedy stabs of
wild and crazy stuff being said.

You know, that was my gumbo pot of making
what they ended up calling Miami Bass.

Back in the days the iPhone wasn't there where
you could film Mr. Mixx making his loop,

and two tracks at a time,
you know what I mean.

He would be using the SP-1200 for
his music sampling, chopping up.

And you'd leave him there about,
say one o'clock in the day.

By about six thirty you'd come back and
what you would hear would be crazy.

He would have the meters do do
du dum, do do do do du dum boom.

I pulled the damn needle
off the shit.

Alright, let's do it.

I would just tinker around,
when I actually got one.

I actually take the 808 drum
machine into parties with me,

so, you know, you're playing a popular
record, you know what I mean,

and then you turn
the machine on.

It's a record that nobody knows, or
at least they think it's a record,

but they don't realize it's a drum machine
that's up there playing you know what I mean.

So, you know, then you're able to
solo your scratches and all of that,

and do your little thing to it.

That's what you would do live and
people would just think that,

"Man what is he doing up there,
he's ruining something,

or he's making something,
he's creating something."

It was all about the bass, it
was all about the bass.

To me the whole world
was about the bass.

♪ So many kinds, where
can we start? ♪

♪ We like them dumb and
we like them smart ♪

♪ I like the ones with
the pretty eyes ♪

♪ Well I like all
kinds of guys ♪

♪ Stop. What happened, how about
the ones we especially like? ♪

♪ Which ones? You know the
ones with the cars that go ♪

♪ I hear you, hit it! ♪

In Hollis rap music was big but it was
kinda more like Run DMC and LL Cool J.

You were fly when you had
gold chains and Adidas.

In Miami you were fly if your
speaker system rattled the windows,

if you annoyed the neighbors.

♪ It was me and the
posse with Bunny D ♪

♪ We were cruising in the
Jags or the Lamborghinis ♪

♪ When low and behold there
appeared a mirage ♪

♪ He was hooking up a car
in his daddy's garage ♪

It was full on culture shock, the music was
different, they talked with a funny accent,

they wore funny clothes, but, you know, it
kind of rocked my world. I just adapted.

♪ Bass, I assume, but then he turned a
little button and the car went boom ♪

You'd be driving any time in Miami back
in those days and a car would pass you,

and your car would literally
freeze in the road because that,

that 808 would just,
you know what I mean.

Do do do do boom
boom, boom boom.

You know, all bass music, and people
were like, they were building systems

bigger than any system I'd ever
seen in the back of a car.

♪ They're always adding speakers when they
find the room, cuz they know we love ♪

The inspiration came from these two
old Jewish dudes in the studio.

We had recorded the whole album
and they kept pushing,

"Write a song about the cars, you guys are
always cruising around with these big systems,

"write about that." And we were like,
"Don't nobody want to hear about that."

So we kind of postponed writing it and then at
the very last minute we needed an extra track

and we were like, "Oh,
it will be a B-Side."

I wrote it in like
fifteen minutes.

The lyrics and everything,

because we thought it was kind of silly,
and then, yea, and then it charted.

♪ The cars that go boom ♪

We had other songs that we thought
were going to be the smashes,

but we loved it, you know,
it was really playful.

It kind of like spoke to our generation
and our culture at least in Miami.

That's what we did
we cruised around

and we especially liked the guys
with the cars that went boom.

We coming from the reggae experience,
we know what the deep bass is.

But this is almost like a tone now,
it's not like the bass guitar it's that

resonance of that low end.

Dynamix II actually did a
record,

I want to say it was in '87
called 'Give The DJ a Break'.

And they were one of the first
groups to tune the 808 drum.

♪ Just give the DJ a break ♪

♪ Just give the DJ a break ♪

We just had an idea to take the 808 and
make it the bass line for the song.

So we took the 808 and married
it with a 909 and an emulator

and brought it into an SP-1200
and played it in multi tones.

As soon as that happened, we get, we sort of got
credit for being the first record to do that

down here, and it was a huge
record. Went gold for us.

Eric Griffin was the programmer
on that song

and he took the 808 kick drum
in its full decay and tuned it.

But he did something to it that
gave it a unique sound.

I don't know, I don't know exactly what he did.
I never got a chance to find that out.

♪ Please stay tuned ♪

♪ Please stay tuned ♪

But I was given that
sound by Dave Noller,

and I actually have
that sound there.

So it's got the punch and the decay,
but it's got almost like a...

you know, sign wave
or triangle wave,

and that just had everyone's
head spinning,

"Woah, how'd they do that?" You
know?

And that's where the SP-1200
drum machine came in,

which... It enabled us to
tune the sounds, you know,

even the snare drums we would be able to take
the original snare and we did things like...

You know, so it just, it
just hot-roded the 808.

In Italy, producer Tony Carrasco
was introduced to the 808,

and would produce a seminal record that influenced
everyone from New Order to the Pet Shop Boys.

One of my friends who has, he
had this whole

sound gear, all
of this analog stuff,

he brought it in and said, "I think
you would like this drum machine."

So he gave it to me and showed me a couple of the step
programs he was doing on this drum machine and I said,

"Wow, I've got to try to do something on this
drum machine, do sort of a record on it."

Carrasco used the 808 on a couple of recordings
before he began working with Mario Boncaldo

on what would become
Klein & MBO.

Mario Boncaldo came to me
with this demo and I said,

"Wow I like that. Let's
try to produce that."

The idea was something very
Human League, you know.

I knew it was going to be a big
record, because it's just,

it's just one of those things you feel
when the chemistry is right, you know.

When we finished the mix I took it back
to the club I was playing in Milan,

people on the dance floor just
responded tremendously and I said,

"Wow this is going to be big." Two months
later some fashion model came into the club

and he said, "This record... They're
playing this record in New York."

I said, "Really?" He goes.
"Yea it's just blowing up."

Thanks to Jellybean, of course,
my best friend, you know.

'Dirty Talk' was really
interesting because it

used the 808 but it also had
this like

Italian thing to it. Tony
Carrasco

who was the writer and
the artist and producer of it

was a New York DJ for a long
time and moved to Italy,

so he sort of fused like sort of the
Italian disco thing but it also kept

sort of the underground thing
that was happening in New York,

and was a very, very big record.

They really rocked the
percussion and the hi-hats

so now you found another element
of the 808 that was really

interesting, it wasn't all about
just the kick and the snare no more,

now you had the do do do do do do do do. And you
had all that type of stuff making you dance.

That's one thing about the sound of the
808 it had the ultimate dance feel to it.

Klein & MBO wasn't even a
record it was like ok

what are they saying, nobody
know the lyrics,

nobody knows the melody, nobody
knows shit.

Only thing that anybody knows
is, "Yo that beat's crazy."

Over in Chicago during the mid 80's,
early house producers such as Chip E

and Jesse Saunders were
working with the 808,

creating influential tracks that would help build the
foundations for house music as we know it today.

♪ These things inside my soul ♪

♪ They make me lose control ♪

♪ It goes on and on ♪

A lot of dance music was quite
familiar stuff based on R&B.

House music and techno
music, I mean

it's all about having this one
bar

looping endlessly and doing
variations on that.

For me that's like the
definition of house.

I think all the early house
producers and stuff

perfected it in a
more functional,

rhythmic, just purely
rhythmic sense,

and it's forever going to be
associated with that sound.

♪ Just dance until
the beat is gone ♪

The early days of house and techno
music were beginning in the mid west

cities of Chicago and Detroit, but what
can be considered one of the first early

experimentations with acid house
sounds actually came from India.

Bollywood session musician Charanjit Singh
created an unusual futuristic blend of 808

beats on his album 'Ten
Ragas To A Disco Beat'.

So far ahead of its time,
when released in 1982,

it pre-dated the first acid house records to
emerge from Chicago by at least two years.

♪ Ahhhhhh I've lost ♪

Marshall was like the... He
lived and died by the 808.

I think every dude
in Chicago did.

♪ I've lost control ♪

♪ I've lost, ahhhhhh, control ♪

♪ I've lost control ♪

You know, I would watch like Marshall
and DJ Pierre, Mike 'Hitman' Wilson,

even Bad Boy Bill, he was
like one of these cats.

I would sit there and watch
them. I was a keyboard player,

I was not trying to even come near a machine that
produced beats, I just wanted to play keyboards.

Chicago '84, '83, '85, maybe to '89 when BMX and GCI
went out over here, that was our shit right there.

For us electronic mother
fuckers, the 808 was our savior.

What I loved about all of those
records

at that moment in the
mid 80's was

their simplicity
and their rhythm.

The Chicago and the Detroit
stuff was coming from,

I guess from a European
perspective.

They, they were taking on European influences
and bringing that into their music.

There were a lot of people trying
to bite around that sound.

Particularly in Chicago there were a lot of
producers in Chicago that were just sending me,

at the time, letters because
we didn't have emails,

that they were a very
big fan of that sound.

And they were saying that it
sort of influenced the whole

Chicago whole sound, the whole
Detroit sound and all of that.

In Detroit an 808 driven electro track
was created by Juan Atkins and Richard

Davis as the group Cybotron. Released
in 1983, 'Clear' can be considered

part of the early evolution
of techno music.

♪ Clear today, clear today ♪

♪ Clear, your mind,
Clear, your mind ♪

♪ Clear ♪

It's a bit like one of those things where
one day you realize that almost all the

music you loved did
have an 808 in it.

Something like Derrick May 'Rhythim is
Rhythim', 'Icon' I think is one of the

biggest records for me, most influential
records for me, that's all 808.

Turning the 808 on reminded me of the
Juan Atkins records and also took me

back to the first records that really
I guess got me into electronic music.

Probably my most beautiful
moment with an 808 was

going back at 8am on a Sunday morning after
listening to Derrick May play in Detroit,

and turning on my 808, and
creating a whole song out of it.

Trying to make an intense rhythmic
piece out of one machine,

and in actual fact it became
one of my biggest songs

because that was 'Plastikman -
Spastic' which is pure 808.

In the late 80s an acid house
explosion was taking place in the UK,

influenced by the music
pioneered in Chicago.

I think it's been going back and
forth in a very interesting way.

You know, house music was born
in Chicago and New York,

and London and the UK in general they
really have that thing of turning

a street phenomenon into, adding a cool
factor to it so it becomes more like a trend.

- Me and you were going down the
Hacienda quite a lot -Yea.

And hearing the beginnings
of the acid thing there.

It was natural for us to start
dabbling with a bit of acid house.

It was a really, I don't know, a really
old school sound at the time for me

because I had kind of gone through like the whole electro thing.
But I was used to it and it was a nice sound.

The acid thing was really intense at the time.
There was a sort of focus on it where it

felt like it was in the air and it was exciting.
Therefore when we first made

'Newbuild' that first album, it
was about an intensity.

What you can do with 808's and those
kind of machines is block them off at

sevens and nines and things, put them against
each other and you start getting these

really interesting polyrhythms
that are really exciting.

We weren't particularly focused on making
a dance record or making a club record,

it was just making it as alien as possible
and pushing into that alien territory.

- That's when I got really excited
about that kind of music.

- Same here actually, it was a way of
kind of pushing and experimenting.

- In some ways we were trying to emulate
the American thing but not really

- because we were trying to mess
with that formula, -I was though.

Take those sounds that were
familiar and then push it

out as far as we
could, you know.

By the early 90s a number of
musical genres began to split off.

Producers were experimenting with
break beat sounds and heavy bass.

Jungle and drum and bass were born, and the 808
would play a key role in their development.

808 was the soundtrack
to my generation.

And hearing it and thinking,
"We could really fuck with it.

"Wouldn't it be great to turn a
whole bunch of people onto it."

The tunes for me that took up the mantle of it
within my own music, within drum and bass music

was Foul Play, Satin Storm, Doc
Scott, myself, you know, Waremouse,

2 Bad Mice, Ibiza Records especially. They
hacked into it like you wouldn't believe.

Mickey Finn I think was the
first thing I heard,

which was just... I think it was
about 6 'o clock in the morning

at Castlemorton and it was
frightening.

It was the best day of my life, and the end
of the world had come at the same time.

And I found that... I found Mickey Finn's
production specifically, and then Peshay's

and people like that, Bukem, I
found that mind blowing.

♪ Take me up ♪

♪ Come on take me up ♪

The thing is with the 808 as far as
drum and bass music was concerned, from

the first note, whether it was Bukem on
'Horizons' rolling it, or me dropping it

on one bar on 'Terminator' or 'Satin Storm'
or 'Here Comes The Drums' or any of those,

or 'Your Sound', any of those classic tunes, once
you committed to the 808, you committed to it.

Gladly for us technology came along
again a decade later where we could

bend the 808, where we could, we could
harness its power. You know what I mean.

People could tune their kick drums, so
the kick drum could play the bass at the

same time, and that was something
that to be honest when I first put

headphones on I was like,
"Hang on a minute."

There was drums and there was bass,
but now the two were sort of fused

so the feel was not just complex and
rhythmical but it was also tonal.

For me the first idea of bending it was
Hit Factory, KRS One. I always wanted

to do a track with Kris, and I always
felt that a homage thing would use an 808

on the VIP especially of KRS One for me was...
You know... that's like...

I've met my heroes I might as well
go and get hit by a Mack truck now.

♪ KRS One, come back
in digital ♪

♪ KRS One, come back
in digital ♪

The biggest problem we had with it was
how do you cut it. How do you effect it

and cut it on a lathe, because I'd have
people like Stuart at Masterpiece going, or

Leon at Music Power, "Boy, the thing it
just jumped out man, it's blowing the

"head, it's blowing the head out man.
The thing's got too much bass man, on

"the bass man. Too much bass
this and bass that."

And it was true because
we were cranking it and

you would see the cutting arm
go across and it would go...

That's the bass. So we would have
to go back and tone it down,

or cut it in mono. And then we started trying
to echo it and reverb it where it would

just be shuddering around, and you would
see the speaker going... Woom woom woom...

That's the 808 lads,
that's the 808.

It wasn't until we had spectrum analyzers
where you could see, ah there's your problem.

You've got all this sound going like
that and then there's this one peak,

that's the bass line, just out of the roof,
there's nothing else, it's just gone.

Throughout its life the 808 has continued
to inspire and influence musicians,

lending its beats to countless
iconic recordings.

Throughout the 90s, 2000s
and into the present day,

the 808 sounds continue to
be as relevant as ever.

Without an 808 you couldn't
have what we call bass music.

You couldn't have what I did,
crunk music, you couldn't have

the Memphis movement,

you couldn't have New
Orleans bounce music.

It's the foundation of those tracks, those
tracks won't sound the same without that boom.

It's got to have that drop.

I think the 808 stayed really
alive in the south

for a long time as it became
probably dormant

in the rest of the world and
then southern rap just rose.

A former Miami Bass producer out
of New Orleans, Mannie Fresh,

who was the in-house Producer for Cash
Money Records and working beneath the

radar, he kept the New Orleans bounce
sound alive which is heavily related to

Miami Bass. And when Master P
became a powerful independent

record label owner and Universal
Records

went down to New Orleans to
find out who else

was working down there, they found
Cash Money they found Mannie Fresh,

and that's why the 808 became today's
pop music, today's hip-hop music,

because bounce became more influenced.
Lil Jon with the whole Atlanta

Crunk scene and TBT Records got on board
and Atlantic Records got on board

with Trick Daddy, and now we
have today's top 40 music.

I think my biggest record of my
life ever

with an 808 is
'Yeah!' by Usher.

♪ Yeah, yeah ♪

♪ Okay, okay, Usher, Usher ♪

♪ Lil Jon, yeah, yeah,
yeah, yeah ♪

♪ Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,
let's go ♪

It's Usher's biggest record of his career,
the album went on to sell ten million

records, and that was the single that
blew that album up. It was an R&B

singer, singing over an 808, and really a dance sound.
Like nobody had really kinda bridged

those worlds together before me. And
that's also why I see myself as an 808

guy because I mean I really had
the 808 booming in that track.

♪ So I got up and followed
her to the floor ♪

♪ She said baby let's
go, let's go ♪

♪ When I told her I said
yeah, yeah, yeah ♪

What really made that song so big, it was
that it appealed to people in the hood,

ghetto mother fuckers, to pop mother fuckers.
And that's a wide variety and

range of people to appeal to. To appeal to super
pop and super hood, you know, is amazing.

♪ Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah ♪

There is a whole school of rap beats
currently that use the 808 kick pretty

much exclusively. And the thing that's
amazing is that there are still new

patterns being created with it. The type
of really stuttery and pitched snare and

hi-hat patterns that you hear in this current
era of Lex Luger, Drummer Boy, kind of

post Mannie Fresh southern hip-hop production,
that's a whole other kind of evolution.

One really defining 808 thing
for me and I was actually

talking this yesterday with
Tiga, we started

talking about how the 808 actually
changed both of our lives quite a bit.

I was a DJ and I owned a
nightclub and a record store.

I was doing well for myself in
Montreal in Canada.

Anyway I had obviously lots of
dreams and stuff

and it all hinged on production

and I was a bit lazy. And then
one day my friend Jori

Hulkkonen, he came to Montreal, I brought
him to Montreal for a New Years Eve

party and we had like a day off
or something the next day.

We had nothing to do
so Tiga had an 808.

I had a Juno, and
we rented an MPC.

Miss Kittin & The Hacker had just done this EP.
They had done a couple of

cover versions. I think they had like 'Sweet
Dreams' with Miss Kittin re-singing it.

Kind of like dirty electro version and we
thought, "Oh we want to do something like this."

We started screwing around and we made
'Sunglasses At Night', this track.

It took like an
hour and a half.

Which is almost entirely 808, no effects
chain nothing it was just raw 808 to DAT.

That became one of the biggest club records of
that year and kind of started Tiga's career.

♪ I wear my sunglasses
at night ♪

♪ So I can, so I can ♪

♪ Watch you weave then breathe
your story lines ♪

The track became super successful
and it completely launched me.

I mean I don't think I'd be
here if it wasn't for that.

That was the first record that Tiga was
ever part of producing and making of

so that kind of started
Tiga's whole career.

♪ Don't masquerade with the
guy in shades, oh no ♪

I think the record sold like two
hundred and fifty thousand copies.

And it was beyond raw, I mean beyond
ghetto, it was exactly punk rock or

exactly how I imagine the old
Chicago guys making their tracks.

That kind of changed a lot of things for us, so the
808 actually has been a big influence in my career.

I love the 808 for me
it changed my life.

♪ Oh no ♪

♪ I wear my sunglasses
at night ♪

♪ So I can, so I can, watch you
weave ♪

A lot of the use of the 808 is
down to people who

are open to new technology using
the thing.

Producers, it's like

the thing that I really like
about Rick and obviously about

Bambaataa and certain people that take
things and use them in a different

way is that they have open minds
towards different music. So you hear

Bambaataa and he's like, "Oh I want to
make a Kraftwerk record." As opposed

to I want to make these rap records that
are fucking awesome but they're like

you know funk records, R&B tracks that are
awesome, but it's like I want to make

this other thing. Rick Rubin was like, "I
want to make a Led Zeppelin rap song."

And Alec Empire that's like, "I want to
make a fucking Bad Brains dance 808 track."

There's people that make some weird
shit, that takes this thing into a

whole different direction. That
makes that thing special.

Have you ever heard this track
I did called 'Kick drum'?

You hear that 808 blasting. I'm
doing

shit with the 808 that's never
been done.

Fuck it let's reference
that shit.

I'm running that shit through
fucking all kinds of filters and

chaos and shit. I think I have the
best 808 track of the last ten years.

♪ Big fat kick drum makes
you wanna get some ♪

♪ Makes you wanna get some,
makes you wanna get some ♪

♪ Big fat kick drum make the girlies
get none, makes the girlies get none ♪

The whole track is an 808. It's like, "My
big fat kick drum makes me go boom, boom."

It was like... Boom, boom,
boom... Y'all feel that shit?

♪ Big fat kick drum makes
the girls get some ♪

♪ Big fat kick drum
makes the girls get some ♪

♪ Big fat kick drum makes
the girl, girl ♪

♪ Big fat kick drum makes you wanna get some,
big fat kick drum makes the girls get some ♪

It just filled a massive void in the
sound spectrum that wasn't there.

Since its arrival it just
established itself as this

pertinent frequency.

People may not have known that that
frequency mattered so much to them with

music, but once the 808 started to occupy that space
it became something you missed if you didn't have.

It's like semtex man, it's like, "Carefully put
it in the arrangement pattern, and walk away."

If the 808 never existed,

where you're sitting now, I
don't know if I'd ever own

this house, this console. Every hit
record I've done has 808's in it.

I've used it throughout my entire career
in one-way or the other. If not as an

actual stand alone 808,

the sounds, because they were
unlike any other.

I'm assuming any producer that
makes rap music just has one.

So it's part of your every day recording.
You know what I mean? It's just there.

Right? You know what I mean, it's
like having jelly in your fridge.

- You just have it all the time.
- Jelly?

- Yeah. You don't have jelly in your fridge?
- I have artisanal jams Adam.

- I'm sure you do but same thing, you get
what I'm saying right. -Artisanal preserves.

Whatever I've got
jelly in my fridge.

It's not just the sounds that
are in the 808, it's the

internal rhythm of it that's so

specific to that instrument, almost like the way
a certain percussion player plays something.

As a musician, if you have a guitar, if
you have a drum, it's how you interact

with that machine to create the
nuances that become your trademark.

And the trademark of an 808 is
that human interaction.

Actually, a really nice feature of the
808 was you had this huge tempo knob,

and then you had this smaller
like kinda fine tuning

which you could play with and slip
and slide the rhythm and the tempo.

These are all things that make 808
bass tracks so incredibly wonderful,

and again there's a spirit, there's
an energy there from that machine.

What happened in the early 80s,
the way that staple became

the sort of heartbeat of

dance music, that's, that's the starting
point for where we are now, you know.

If it weren't for those records, I don't
think the 808 would carry on because of

what a great sound it is. In some ways
the idea that it was obsolete eighteen

months after was true, it really was.
But because it was used on these great

records, and has such a signature
sound, it lives on forever.

Every musical movement actually
comes from technology.

'Cause there are only so many

chord progressions, there's
only so many notes.

What makes the difference is when there's
a new instrument that is created,

and people are like, ok I'm going to
use it, and I'm going to twist it.

I think it happened big
time with the 808.

I guess the interesting thing for me
would be to be able to see what Roland

thinks of what they've created or if they
even understand the culture that they

created. They created a whole
underlying musical movement, you know.

A few musical movements that's the thing.
There's been a few of them.

Yeah, so it would be really interesting
to me to hear what they think about the

808 and the music that's
been created from it.

I have a feeling they
have no idea.

I don't think so.

♪ We bring the beats that
make you vibrate ♪

♪ We bring the beats that
make you vibrate ♪

♪ 808 kick drum, 808 hat ♪

♪ 808 snare drum, 808 clap ♪

♪ Got an 808 this
and an 808 that ♪

♪ Got an 808 boom
and an 808 bap ♪

♪ 808 bap, 808 bap,
808 bap, 808 bap ♪

♪ 808 boom and an 808 bap ♪

♪ 808 kick drum, 808 hat ♪

♪ 808 snare drum, 808 clap ♪

♪ Got an 808 this
and an 808 that ♪

♪ Got an 808 boom
and an 808 bap ♪

♪ 808 bap, 808 bap,
808 bap, 808 bap ♪

♪ This is 404 over 808 ♪

♪ 808 ♪

♪ 808 ♪

♪ Boom clap on the beat
that's a classic ♪

♪ Boom clap, boom clap, boom
that's what happened ♪

♪ 808 ♪

♪ Boom clap on the beat
that's a classic ♪

♪ 808 kick drum, 808 hat ♪

♪ 808 snare drum, 808 clap ♪

♪ Got an 808 this
and an 808 that ♪

♪ Got an 808 boom
and an 808 bap ♪

♪ 808 bap, 808 bap,
808 bap, 808 bap ♪

♪ 808 boom and an 808 bap ♪

♪ 808 kick drum,
kick drum, hat ♪

♪ 808 snare drum,
snare drum, clap ♪

♪ Got an 808 this and an,
this and an, that ♪

♪ Got an 808 boom and an 808 ♪

♪ Boom ♪

♪ Boom clap on the beat
that's a classic ♪

♪ 808 kick drum,
kick drum, hat ♪

♪ 808 snare drum,
snare drum, clap ♪

♪ Got an 808 this and an,
this and an, that ♪

♪ Got an 808 boom and an 808 ♪

♪ 808 bap, 808 bap,
808 bap, 808 bap ♪

♪ 808 boom and an 808 bap ♪

♪ 808 boom and an 808 ♪