Warning, for muso’s only !
Why do I play with a drum machine?
A lot of reasons, mostly independence and the sonic texture of analogue percussion, also there are no issues with timing, turning up on time and getting too intoxicated to function properly, the thing is a machine and sometimes the machine can have a personality.
The Roland R8 was a flagship rhythm drum composer, possibly the most advanced drum machine in it’s day circa 1990. It is digital sample based with an exceptionally flat sound, it has hard plastic trigger pads which rattles when hit, it required endless studying of the manual and a lot of layering of sounds to get anything decent out of it, it is capable but uninspiring and Rosco bought one for £650 during the Darkside days.
Due to tour finance discrepancies I ended up thrashing away on the R8 creating the bulk of the Alphastone recordings.
I got to hate the sight of the thing, a black greasy plastic slab of digital crap, so I returned it to Rosco as a goodwill gesture although he probably forgot why I had it in the first place.
Quote from Rowley Ford ,’Sounds like a skeleton having a wank in a bisquit tin.’
For some a drum machine is a poor substitute for the real thing, so just to remind you how good the real thing here is a decade of memories regarding the real thing.
‘Have you drank four of those extra strong cans of lager ?’
‘No five , there is another can there.’
That was the drummer who could not cross his hands, think Thunderbirds puppet.
The drummer who threw the biggest spanner perhaps cemented my relationship with drum machines.
The kid had problems, only days after we accept him into the band he adopts an uncontrollable non stop laugh, things only got worse from there but somehow we hung together until 1998.
I sensed it was Alphastone’s time to ascend , despite having laughing boy on the drum stool we had the most mobile line up ever having shed a guitar player and a Klingon percussion player .
USA was calling, I knew it was something we had to do, our set was great, I was working a lot on the shows, late night calls to USA .
Of course I had a feeling and the drummer disappeared. Months later I get creepy phone calls asking about his whereabouts.
He eventually turns up the following year.
First it was a trip to Glastonbury, take a drug, lose your mind and friends.
He spent two days wandering about like a lost fool until he gets kidnapped by a religious cult, they take him to Brighton. He escapes hence the calls to Rugby, he ends up in a commune in a small Welsh town being lectured by a woman who believes she has the secret of the universe after a near death experience in a hot air balloon.
When he finally meets me he plays me a tape recording , it has a recreation of a sound that the guru woman believes is the god tone she heard during her near death experience, I have my guitar and play a string, the tone is in the key of G.
We reunite for one last tour in 2002.
The worst thing was he faked mental illness, whilst we thought we were helping him through life during a difficult time he was putting on an act for the sole purpose of gaining attention.
The last drummer I worked with was fantastic, at last someone in the same age group, we worked really consistently until he started to get flaky.
‘My arm feels a bit sore so I don’t think I will be able to drum today.’ no drumming but sitting about smoking dope and drinking tea will do just fine.
‘So what happened to your arm?’
‘I think the blanket came off in the night and I got cold.’
‘So you were injured by fresh air ?’
This guy sent me a text to say he was quitting, after all the work I put in it broke my heart, he is a good guy and a really fine drummer, he is also a flaky, unreliable, useless, lying git.
That was it , I was done with drummers, I have to say everyone I worked with came up with some great beats and for some of the time it was really fine but words like commitment and discipline seemed absent from their vocabulary.
The quest to find a perfect machine can be like finding a good drummer, I have an Elektron Machine drum and a Vermona Drm 1 mk 2 both very fine pieces of equipment , both very capable but I have to say do not come close to my favourite drum machine the Jomox XBase 09.
When I first purchased this machine I was sure it was faulty so I phoned up Jomox, the guy listened to what I had to say and replied ‘Have fun with your problems.’ I was confused and annoyed at the same time, anyway it took some time to understand the man’s response.
He was totally confident in the integrity of the Jomox, there was nothing wrong with the machine , it is an absolute peach and given me years of service and the strange thing is I never get bored of it.
The Jomox is on my latest lp ‘Lost In Space,’ and I guess will feature on future recordings.
I am selling the Elektron and the Vermona, both fantastic in their own right but still no where near the Jomox in terms of usability and quality of sound which is quite remarkable because the Jomox only has three parts, an analogue kick and snare, the hi hats are six bit samples!
Anyone thinking of buying an expensive drum machine , my advice is don’t, a drum machine should be fairly basic, if it ain’t it will slow down your work flow and make music making a chore but having said that it still will not be as frustrating as playing with an under rehearsed, un motivated drummer.