|International Musician and Recording World
Volume 16, Number 2
Theresa Fowler meets Manchester's premier dance heroes 808 State.
SO GUYS, WHEN DID YOU BUY YOUR 808? "Well actually, we never owned one," blurts Martin in his distinctive Mancunian accent.
In fact, they use a 909, along with Roland's latest drum machine, the R8: "The 909 gives a good solid bass while the R8 adds sophistication. The sounds on the R8 are too nice, and it. tends to be weak on its own."
808 State or "State 808, whichever you're comfortable with", are Martin Price, Graham Massey, Andrew Barker and Darren Partington. They describe themselves as "an electro techno-based dance outfit", and they are thoroughly enjoying the rise to popularity of their huge ZTT/WEA club/crossover track, Pacific State. We meet in a small room on the fifth floor of the Kensington Hilton. It's the morning after their first TV appearance on BBC's The Late Show, and I've just woken them up...
The band formed two years ago, around the focal point of Price's record shop, Eastern Bloc. Massey (who also has his own band, BITING TONGUES ), had been taking an engineering course at the School of Sound Recording, and used to visit the shop. Barker and Partington, the band's Dis, bought their records there, and at the time Pacific State was recorded, there Was a fifth member, Gerald Simpson, a.k.a A GUY CALLED GERALD, of Voodoo Ray fame. Perhaps it's something in the Mancunian air...
Graham: "Basically, we are making music for dance floors."
"It's because we are funky people," says Darren. "We like to make music for people to dance to."
"Yeah, it's a strange thing about Manchester...there are a lot of white black people," says Graham.
The boys do their funky homework by road testing tracks at Darren and Andrew's weekly DJ nights...The final release of Pacific State was the result of 12 months dance floor research.
Martin: "We get our inspiration from anywhere. In order to make this type of music, you've got to have a good groove...because I buy records and sell them for a living, I just know what the elements are, and what people are looking for...what will make them dance."
Funny old world time: Italian pirates did a kazoo version of Pacific State and then tried to sell it to Martin via Eastern Bloc...which brings us to the touchy subject of samples:
"We're giving samples away," says Graham. "I mean, if someone hears something good we've done, we're almost saying 'here, have it'. But to an extent...you have to have respect. You can tell when it's not used with integrity. We're not butchers when it comes to sampling."
808 use a technique they call "shadowing" - recording a song using a loop sample, then taking the original sample out, leaving something different.
Graham: "It's a good way to work.. a lot of songs on our new album are ripped off from the track before!"
The band are avid fans of Roland gear, "cos we like the Roland corporate image," says Martin.
At the helm is a D50, a hired Minimoog and an SH101, the keyboard that they use on every track, the sequencer firing off the 909. Last, but not least, there's a Casio FZ1 sampler, simply because "It was available. We'll use anything - if we can learn something, there's a thrill in it...Sometimes we get good things purely out of incompetence," adds Graham.
Ninety, the ZTT debut, was recorded over the past year on multitrack in a 16-track studio at the School of Sound Recording. The album took six days to mix.
"What we're going to do next is investigate a mini recording studio for us, a 16-track. Something like we used at the Recording School, but that we'll have main access to. We've listened to some digital, but we've decided to stay with tape," says Martin. "That would be better for us, because a lot of the music is composed in 1/4" edits, not on the multitrack at all ..."
It's the 808 State of the Art...