> This is the first drum machine I ever owned. The dude who sold it to me tol... more
This is the first drum machine I ever owned. The dude who sold it to me told me it was “a hip hop machine” so i would need to “put it through an effects unit.” His presumptions about the kind of music I wanted to make aside, this was in, like, 1998, and let me tell you, hip hop in ‘98 was not made on any HR-16 B and Le Tigre in ‘98 was not gonna complicate matters further with any crappy FX unit this dude wanted to sell us! Nearly all the beats on our debut album were recorded directly from the stereo outs of this machine. Sounds we got considerable mileage out of were the fake 808 “rap kick,” the garish “techno snare” and the “lip pop” (i.e. the popcorn chaos on our song “The The Empty”). Although we ultimately wanted to go beyond pre-set drum sounds and we donated our HR 16-B to a high school music program, all of my subsequent knowledge re: sequencing and beat-making was based on my familiarity with this drum machine and so i think of it fondly. Also it has this cool flip up instruction panel on it’s face for super convenient reference.
> When I think about the **ALESIS MMT-8** sequencer I feel a wave of nausea a... more
When I think about the ALESIS MMT-8 sequencer I feel a wave of nausea and panic as well as a sense of achievement. We bought this sequencer to loop the samples we made on the MIRAGE in time with our beats on the HR-16 B (so we would not have to trigger the mirage by hand). The MMT-8 was designed as a companion to the Alesis HR-16 and HR-16 B (they match although the MMT-8 is grey instead of black). It really wasn’t that hard to figure out how to use cuz it combined familiar elements from drum machines, 4-tracks, telepathic communication. Initial confusion resulted from the fact that in none of the individual equipment manuals (mirage, HR-16B or MMT-8) could we find any allusion to how we might make MIDI connections to get the machines to work together (we found this info in the excellent book “MIDI for Musicians”). After we had programmed most of our songs for the first record and were getting ready to go into the studio, we had this brilliant idea that we should try to BACK-UP the sequences on the MMT-8 and the HR-16 B in case something bad happened. This involved recording a tone out of each machine on to a cassette tape. We weren’t convinced this was actually saving our data, but the next week when the MMT-8’s internal battery died and we LOST EVERYTHING, we learned that indeed somehow that tone on the cassette had the power to give it all back to us. Thank god.
> The **MPC 60** came into our lives after we finished our first record and h... more
The MPC 60 came into our lives after we finished our first record and had to figure out how to play our songs on tour. We felt like bringing our old sequencer and drum machine on tour was stupid — too fragile. We wanted something that saved to disk. The MPC (MIDI Production Center) is a sampling drum machine (you sample your own sounds and assign them to these cool big pads) that can also play other electronic instruments via MIDI -- it is a sampler, drum machine and sequencer all in one. With the 3.0 system software upgrade and SCSI interface (so we can save data to a zip disk) available from Roger Linn’s website, we souped up the MPC 60 so it was no longer functioning like a thing of the eighties (although it still does not have nearly as much sample time as the more recent MPC 2000, 200XL or 3000). Although it ultimately became this central creative tool for us (we made all the beats on "Feminist Sweepstakes" with it including guitar samples, bass-lines, synthy parts etc), I learned the basics of how to use it in one mind-bending 3-day weekend when I sampled all the drum sounds from the HR-16B onto the MPC and replicated all our old beats and song structures on it. Then I re-sequenced all the MIRAGE loops so that the MMT-8 was out of the picture too . . . it was a pain in the ass. But in the process of doing all this reprogramming shit I discovered this whole world of stuff that I could be doing instead. I can’t tell you how much I treasure the MPC now. It’s like a friend or an arm . . . it doesn’t seem like a piece of equipment, but like a very special robot with human qualities and idiosyncracies capable of making artistic suggestions. I really really love it.
> The MIRAGE had to be phased out almost immediately when we started touring.... more
The MIRAGE had to be phased out almost immediately when we started touring. Too heavy, too awkward to load floppy disks on stage, too weird to trust, too outdated to repair quickly. So the Akai S2000 entered the picture, a rack-mountable sampler to put our long loops and keyboard sounds on (we trigger it with a MIDI keyboard controller). So I re-sampled all the sounds from the MIRAGE on to the new sampler which sucked and for some reason it was hard to get them all trimmed right. The Akai S2000 compared to the MIRAGE is like a fighter jet vs. a rotary phone. It has so much more memory, more editing features and other crazy shit. Our rudimentary use of it as a sound bank for the keyboard doesn’t even scrape the surface of its immense brain! We basically use it as extra memory for the MPC when we have it maxed out, or to play keyboard parts live. And now we have drum pads to trigger its samples!
> It’s hard to believe that the **ENSONIQ MIRAGE** sampler-keyboard was once ... more
It’s hard to believe that the ENSONIQ MIRAGE sampler-keyboard was once the mainstay of our song-writing process. Released in 1984 for just under $2000, it was considered the first practical and affordable sampler. I bought mine used for $150. A bunch of disgustingly dirty floppy disks of orchestra hits and classical percussion sounds bound with a rubber band were included in the deal. Supposedly the MIRAGE was revolutionary in its day for its many features and envelopes that allowed the inventive musician to customize her sounds, but to us these features were so obscured by technical language that our results were generally accidental. The initial Le Tigre sampling strategy involved lifting a couple of bars of music from a record and pitching it way up or way down (Deceptacon, Hot Topic, Slide Show, Phanta, My My Metrocard etc). We used the maximum sampling time on the MIRAGE to make super low resolution (8 bit) samples that sounded scratchy, warped, underwater. We would then try to manually trigger the sample in time with a beat. It was an abject approach to electronic music, all about the aesthetics of impending disaster (i.e. our “one step behind the drum style”). We were insane to take the MIRAGE on tour (it is so fucking heavy!),loading floppy disks between every song and playing it through a guitar amp, but magically, it never broke (although we can't say the same for the guitar amp).