808 The Movie Debuts Friday March 13 At SXSW

808-the-movie808 The Movie – a documentary about the Roland TR-808 drum machine and its influence on music – makes its world premiere this Friday, March 13th, at SXSW.

The film has been in production for three years, and feature a “Who’s Who” of producers, including: Afrika Bambaataa, The Beastie Boys, Pharrell Williams, Questlove, Phil Collins, Rick Rubin, Diplo, New Order, David Guetta, Damon Albarn and many others.

Here’s the official 808 trailer:

Official synopsis:

808 is an inspirational story of the Roland TR808 drum machine and how its ground-shaking beats changed the musical world.

Its sound transcends countries and musical genres, in turn inspiring countless artists and producers, giving them an iconic sound from which to build upon.

Even if you don’t know the 808 by name, you know its sound. It’s everywhere, even now. 808 reveals the stories of the world famous artists, producers and most importantly the hit music to which the 808 was key, offering a cross section of personal experiences about the development of musical genres from around the world.

And 808 reveals why, after only three years of production, the 808 befell an untimely demise.

If you’re attending SXSW, the film debuts Friday at 3:45. See the SXSW site for details.

41 thoughts on “808 The Movie Debuts Friday March 13 At SXSW

    1. maybe he has to say more than you can, otherwise you would have been in this documentary!
      I’m not a big fan but he has been around for 25 years so we can give him some credits

    2. I get your emotions, they count for me the same.
      But on the other hand, you can see it from the other side, it maybe drags the kids to watch this documentary, and even a bigger audience. This can bring some of the less famous artists into the spots for what they have done.

    3. To his credit, he used a lot of 808 in his first album, Just a Little More Love (great album btw, you should give it a try). But well, you get an upvote because nothing justify the shit he’s doing now. He lost is credibility when he sold his soul.

      1. “He used” implying David Guetta wasn’t sitting on a couch brushing his hair while Joachim Garraud wrote & produced Guetta’s first record.

  1. Another one of these things about the 808?

    Let me guess, it’s gonna clip after clip of hip-hop bands from the 80’s, and a bunch of old school producers saying shit like “when I heard that kick I was like whoa!” Haven’t we seen this before? It getting played the fuck out boys. Much like the endless fixation on vintage gear. Move forward!

    1. definitely agree. i kind of get the feeling that they do this to keep the old school alive. much respect, but it seems that afrika bambaataa and everyone else from the 80s needs a way to show up again somehow. and really? guetta?

  2. I can’t wait to see this. You guys rock for getting this together! I only hope for even more good docs and books on synths and gear stuff – it’s fascinating

    1. i feel like i’ve watched something on the 303 in the last year, maybe like a 30 minutes or less documentary on youtube. search for it, i think there’s something out there about the 303.

    1. As Well as Chris Carter of Chris & Cosey infamy , he said he was the first person in Britain to get an 808 he has a very interesting short story about this instance. And on another note Cabaret Voltaires Crackdown album recorded between 82-83 was pioneering/ground breaking in the electro sound usage of the 808.

  3. NO Egyptian Lover .. wow , I’m sorry. but if he aint in this docu, its maybe better to cancel it.
    Hi is the godfather of the 808, like jimmy of the guitar, and Theodore of the scratch, Mills of the 909.

  4. Why on earth would Damon Albarn feature in such a film ? What relevance does he have to that machine, ? No mention of 808 state? UR, Drexciya? LFO etc

    1. Damon albarn is part of gorillaz so you know..
      Anyway i could see tons of people who should be there rather than them.
      Of course it’s to bring youngee and a more diverse crowd in.

  5. Great that all these pop stars are in this doco, but what about the real guys who made this box famous in NYC and Chicago? Yes, I’m talking about classic house music. David effing Guetta… Blimey.

  6. We get that the 808 sounds were “in the right place at the right time”. And the designers at Roland probably had no idea that this approach to drum sound synthesis would make such a splash– and then have such a lasting impact. Like the Amen Break, it got stretched beyond its original purpose.

    One thing that kind of bugs me about this trailer is how they talk about the “feel” and “groove” of the 808. As far as the built in sequencer, let’s say it was user-friendly, let’s say it was good at doing what people were doing. But nothing special, in terms of timing/feel/groove.

    The tones are another story. They kind of got at the quality of sounds that were versatile and interesting. I like the 808 sounds more than any other electronic drum sounds of that time period.

    Seems like a great subject for a 30 minute YouTube documentary.

    1. I too was a bit surprised by the assertions regarding the feel and groove of the sequencer. You can take a pattern from the 808 and look at it in a wav editor and see exactly where the beats start. You can statistically measure what the standard deviation of the slop is. There is no magic there. It’s not any more magical in timing than their earlier machines. I’m with you–it’s the sounds, not the timing.

      1. No groove in the 808 ?
        Have you sampled a real 808, and saw that all the beats was in time (not just one bar) ?
        505/606/707/808/909 all these roland’s stuff have a real nice groove, look at the timing when you sample one. Hihat.are never exactly on the time, that’s the groove ! And the 808 have a fuc***g groove !
        You can try to record midi sequence, and see. I use this midi files (recorded in midi with my 909 and 505, my 808 don’t have midi, but the sequencer have the same feeling) to “swing” all my drum sequence in Ableton.

        1. Can someone explain to me why the so-called “computer controlled” sequencers have a certain swing or timing variance to it?

        2. You can just admit you like the sound, admit you like 100% quantized 16th notes, and we can call it a day. There’s no shame in it.

          I’m sure you’ve heard a real drummer play with amazing, greasy, mojo-infused, stanky groove before. Um, that is tasty. The 808 just doesn’t do anything like that. Not sayin’ it isn’t cool. But you know, cool like an old robot, not cool like an old human drummer.

  7. There’s a film already, one of ‘the shape of things that hum’ series( that was on UK tv some years ago. They now appear to be on youtube), there’s a 303 one, and more.. 🙂

  8. I’m also surprised that so many of these artists are lauding the “feel” of the machine. Don’t have the time to look it up now, but im almost positive the Innerclock Systems guy has tested the 808’s timing and the results weren’t much different than anything else out there.

    I think that the mojo they are talking about has more to do with the way the 808’s individual parts interacted when sequenced… lots of volume inconsistencies and subtle tone changes when sounds are layered or (if i remember correctly) when certain drum sounds are played on consecutive steps (only audible at higher tempos).

    That and the interaction between the individual outs and noise added from the (now dated) components used. And of course the UI was simple to use and fun to jam on… especially being able to pre-program fills and alternate patterns and change them on the fly.

        1. Yes, that’s silly, especially if it’s a maximum jitter of 2 ms, and even more so if it’s not even the same on every beat.

  9. More notable 808 users that should headline this bill of artists:

    Derrick May (Saunderson and Atkins mostly used the 707 and 909)
    808 State
    Derrick Carter
    Frankie Knuckles
    Larry Heard (Mr. Fingers)
    Freddy Fresh
    Jean Michel Jarre
    Josh Wink
    Richie Hawtin
    Dr. Dre

    That covers multiple genres….

    Just saying, Damon Albarn, Guetta and Pharell Williams belong nowhere near this. I’m obviously sentimental and I really actually prefer the 909 but let’s at least be realistic about who made this piece of kit a legend…

      1. I left off tons of names… But to list them all is too much

        Richard D. James
        Tom Jenkinson
        Basement Jaxx

        Etc, etc, etc. (I just listed my favorites)

  10. Great video! One of mine all time favourites i always heard riding BMX in the 80’s.
    Have to cry now being so happy, sorry! 😉

  11. The topic of “feel” has (I believe) everything to do with the nuance of the machine (i.e.: slight circuit-round-robin-ing etc) more than statistics on the sequencer and it’s timing: in Theory the 808 is regimented to a clock and outputting note hits just like a DAW outputting 808 samples .. yet the two sound and feel quite different – I believe That is what people wax romantic about when they talk about the Feel of the 808.

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