I’m old enough to remember when drum machines first came out. The LinnDrum (see my Roger Linn interview for some great insight on how it was developed) was a wonder that allowed producers to finally get perfect time while scaring the pants off drummers everywhere now fearful for their jobs. Most of the LinnDrum imitators that followed tried to improve upon the sound and feel, but not all. One drum machine that seemed like a joke to many back then was the Roland TR-808, mostly because the sounds seemed so lame when compared to the machines based around real drum samples. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder though, as the hip-hop community embraced the machine as it became an essential part of the sound of the genre.
A new upcoming film called 808 celebrates the machine and it’s influence on a generation of music makers, and it will debut on December 9th exclusively on Apple Music. The documentary is narrated by Beats 1 DJ Zane Low, and features a diverse number of contributors including Rick Rubin, Pharrell Williams, David Guetta, Phil Collins, Questlove, Afrika Bambata, among many more.
Here’s the trailer. Looks like it should be pretty good, and hopefully will finally answer the question why this iconic unit was discontinued at the peak of its use.