Studio Saver: this €60 Roland drum machine is Session Victim's saviour
Studio Saver is our feature that explores the bargain basement kit that producers are using in their studios
Everyone knows all about Roland's famous TR series, be it the 808, 909 or even the 707. They're long-established in dance music lore. But behind those iconic instruments, Roland's other drum machine output tends to go under the radar – so much so that Session Victim managed to pick one up for €60. We caught up with them to find out why the Roland R8 is an undiscovered gem and what features make it one of their go-to beat devices.
“Way less famous than its ancestors from the TR series, the Roland R8 is one of the most complex drum computers Roland ever built. It takes a while to learn the machine, but that time is well spent.
“The R8 has a few fantastic and for its time, like the ‘Feel’ programs, to humanise your drum patterns, so they slightly vary in dynamics and timing. Then there is the data slider that you can use to manipulate certain parameters of a drum in real-time, like decay or pitch – the range of that pitch, for example, is crazy. Although we tend to record fairly subtle manipulations, you can get quite extreme Autechre-esque effects here, it's really a never-ending joy to experiment with. As for subtlety, one other parameter is called ‘Nuance’, and if you manipulate it for example on the Ride cymbal, it sounds like the drummer is moving the stick between the middle and the side while playing – a fantastic feature we have not seen anywhere else to this day."
“Some of the built-in sounds, like the kick drums, we rarely use. Others, like the toms and especially the hi-hats, find their way into our productions again and again. On our new LP you can hear them as part of the drums on ‘Bad Weather Mates’ and ‘No Sky, Blue Sound’."
“There is a card slot in the back of the machine to load additional ROM sounds, but we have yet to get our hands on the relatively rare ones with the 808, 909 and Simmons samples. However, the built-in sounds are just great on their own and will not leave you asking for more once you get a feel for the machine and its capabilities.
“While the upgraded MK2 model is apparently quite rare and a bit more expensive, the R8 MK1 is easy to find on the used market for between €150 and €300. We got ours for €60 from a guitar player who bought it as a backbeat machine to practice his instrument to – and we can imagine very well why he sold it off again!”