Synopsis: 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.
Director(s): Alexander Dunn
Production: You Know Films
Rotten Tomatoes:
107 min


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


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

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    "808" Scripts.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 13 May 2021. <https://www.scripts.com/script/808_1804>.

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