MIFF – 808 (2015)

Director: Alex Dunn
Featuring: Damon Albarn, Afrika Bambaata, Phil Collins, Felix Da Housecat, Lady Tigra, Pharrel Williams, The Beastie Boys and many more

Having something of a passing interest in electronic music (I even went to a festival this year) and already knowing about samplers and other old school synthesisers I was interested in this documentary as it looked different.

As it turns out most of the documentary is taken up with people talking about the key albums that used the 808 and the impact it had on creating the rap and drum and bass scenes. Every rap song of not either has an 808 used on it or samples from one.
Even if you are not into some of the artists involved, they talk about working with the 808 and the creative process with such enthusiasm that you are carried along with it.

It is a sausage party in terms of musicians interviewed, but that seems to be the nature of the scene unfortunately.

Hearing from the original creator of the Roland 808 was also interesting as he said there is was a deliberate decision to use a faulty transistor in the machine to give its unique properties. Improvements in manufacturing meant they could no longer source the faulty transistors so there were only ever 12,000 units sold over the three years they were available. Supposedly in Japan they are more widely available, but their impact continues to this day.

I did like the interview with two of the members of the Beastie Boys being adorable old duffers trying to remember how the tape loop was recorded and breaking Snoop Dog’s brain in reminiscing about the 808. They also said the Suzuki Samurai should come with that drum machine installed.

I would recommend this documentary if you have an interest in the development of the rap genre or dance scenes or like hearing about the creative process of artists.

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