Eleven albums since their debut,
808 State has helped define and redefine the state of the art in electronic
dance music. Graham Massey, who along with Andrew Barker and Darren Partington
currently makes up 808 state, has witnessed many changes since the band's
launch almost a decade ago. "When we formed, it was during the acid house
thing in England. The electronic revolution kinda started there, as far
as we were concerned. There was a lot of electronic music around before
then, but it became a mainstream culture at that point. We became known
as one of the first electronic groups of that era, so we have roots in
that dance culture. It was all about futurism, looking into the future,
making new sounds and new forms of music. That's always been our roots."
Not being ones to dwell on the past, 808 state continues to evolve. "We get bored very easily", says Massey. "We've got all of this fantastic equipment, and we like to stretch the limits of technology. We like the fact that music should have mystery to it and a sense that you've never heard it before. That's what we're all about."
Recently we had the pleasure of chatting with Graham about the band's latest domestic release, Don Solaris on Hypnotic records.
1 Were you going for a particular feel or mood when you were writing Don Solaris? "I think we had an attitude at that point to try to get away from that 'rave' thing. We were trying beats that weren't just four to the floor. If you go back over our previous albums, it's a logical progression. We've always been a progressive group, and we've tried to sort of stumble across different areas."
2 What gear are you using these days? "The main thing we use is the sampler. That's the mainstay of our equipment. More sounds come out of the sampler than anything else. We're currently using an Akai S3000. We use [Steinberg] Cubase for the Macintosh to do the sequencing. We like to sometimes challenge ourselves by programming with old sequencers, like ARP sequencers, and programming from drum machines. Today, I think the manufacturers are finally listening to musicians and making synthesizers to play, and putting the spontaneity back into the keyboards. We bought a [Korg] Prophecy when that came out because we're always trying to get the flatness out of synthesizer music and put a little bit of life into it. A mainstay of our synthesizer collection is old Moogs; they just have some extra warmth about them. They're not as predictable. There's a return to that kind of thing with the [Clavia] Nord Lead and others. They're still just tools, but it's what you do with those tools."
3 Tell us about your latest US tour. "It was okay. We find that the big rave thing is what we're always associated with because that's how we started. We find that our music, however, fits less and less into that format in some ways because we've kind of developed into something else. A lot of people expect us to be very techno, and even though we use the technology, we're doing quite a different kind of music. A lot of techno bands are just twiddling knobs [on-stage], and there's an element of that to our show, but we use quite a lot of live elements. We've got a drummer, a percussionist, a guitarist, and some others who allow for improvisations. It's normally a lot more in your face. It's a different kind of energy level than on the record."
4 How do you approach remixing? "I think there's a different mindset [than doing your own music], in that it depends on what the music is. And there's something about not paying for the studio time yourself that frees you up a little bit. You're a bit more relaxed when doing it."
5 What's next for 808 state? "Right now we're actually doing some recording. We don't know what label will put the next album out, but we're recording anyway. It should be finished sometime in 1998. This one is a lot more direct and even a little more angry. We're doing some other stuff outside the band as well." - Robert Semrow
(Keyboard magazine, March 1998 issue.
Miller Freeman publications)