Sample This !
Drum Machine and Sampler Museum
by Bobby Nathan

The Linn LM-1
Long before midi, 
sampling was my life! 
It all started when we bought one of the first 
Linn Drums (LM-1) for our studio, 
Unique Recording. 
Back then, when anyone heard the Linn Drum, 
they were blown away. 
It brought us business. 
Everyone wanted to experience the new sounds 
and the new technology.

Before the Linn Drum, making dance (disco) records required making a "Drum Loop".
Oh yes, we had drum loops back in 1978!
Drum loops were made on 1/4" 2 track tape recorders.
First we would simultaneously record the kick drum to the left channel and snare to the right.
We would edit the tape to be two, four or eight bars. Then splice the tape into a loop.
We would thread it onto the 2 track and one of us would hold the tape
using our finger as a guide roller or set up a mic stand to be the guide roller
and play the loop to tape for 3- 6 minutes.

The drum machine had much more! 
It had kick and snare, toms, congas, bongos, wood block, clave, high hat and cymbals. 
The sounds of real drums were sampled into EPROMs that were located inside the unit. 
Then when Roger Linn introduced the newer Linndrum he offered a service to burn your own sounds into EPROMs on a custom basis.

The Linndrum

Oberheim DMX
Around 1980-1981 we got Oberheim's DMX and then Roland's 808 drum machines. 
Oberheim later offered the ability to burn custom EPROMs.
Although each drum machine had a sync to tape provision, it was hard to sync to tape! 
There were no rules. 
We made them up as we went along. 
I was constantly searching 
for a way to conquer this.

Roland TR-808

The Movement Drum Computer
There were two distinct camps 
at the end of the 1970s - 
those that embraced the drum machine 
and those that fought it. 
I was totally for the drum machine. 
The Movement Drum Computer (the orange beast on the left) was made in England. 
It was used by Thomas Dolby, The Eurhymics 
and the Thompson Twins. 
It is a very rare unit and we still have it! 
It can play it's LinnDrum sampled type sounds 
and Simmons analog sounds at the same time.

















 

I was producing and engineering a "New Wave" group called PolyRock that we saw at Harrah's. 
They were a live band with synthesizers and live drums. 
Phillip Glass came aboard 
and finished up what I had started. 
I also recorded Bill Laswell's debut single 
with Material.  Bill eventually produced Herbie Hancock's "Rockit", a totally drum machined Lp. 
Unique purchased the Simmons SDS-5 
Electronic drum kit

Simmons Pads

 

Arthur Baker
Our clients at the time were Arthur Baker, 
John Robie and Tom Silverman 
and together with engineers
Jay Burnett and Bob Rosa, 
they created what is 
the modern day Hip Hop. 
Tom Silverman formed the first 
independent record label 
Tommy Boy Records. 
This began the 12" single era. 
Arthur also recored and mixed Planet Patrol's "Planet Rock", "Looking For A Perfect Beat", 
"Funky Soul Makosa", Freeze "AEIOU", 
and with producer Maurice Starr co-porduced 
New Edition's "Candy Girl" and "Pop Corn Love" 
and later the soundtrack to "Beat Street". 
All at Unique Recording Studios!

The magic of the Drum Machine era was that each machine made music feel different.
It had to do with the way each machine quantized (time corrected ) the notes
A roland TR-808 's 2 bar pattern felt completely different
from the same one programmed into a Lindrumm


Back then without web sites and email the only way to share knowledge was at the trade shows. 
At the January 1982 NAMM show I met Dan Garfield and ordered the save all - The Doctor Click. 
This box printed a 1/4 note click on the tape 
and sync'd drum machines to it.. 
It allowed the Linndrum, DMX, DSX and the impossible Roland 808 not only to sync to tape but to each other ! 
Arthur Baker and John Robie where searching for a way to use the 808 kick with Linndrum and DMX. 
The Doctor Click was it. 
And the magic happened at Unique Recording.

 The Dr.Click

The Emulator
Then we all got to check out the Fairlight sampler. 
This $35k machine was 
all I had to see. 
But, we couldn't afford it! 
So we bought the Emulator. 
I was hooked.

I began immediately sampling everything!
I went through all the sound EFX records, orchestra hits, cartoons, television shows, movies
I  was never satisfied. So I bought a Nagra and went out to get my own sounds at the junkyard.
I banged on fenders, brake drums, steel, brass, aluminum, street signs, street lamps.
You name it, recorded it and sampled it.
I had thousands of 5 and 1/4" floppy disks full of emulator samples
that were tuned to A440 and were ready to be used musically.
I rented orchestra instruments from Carroll Music and SIR and sampled away.

I met Kevin Kent and Kevin Monaham from Emulator 
and they flipped over my sounds. 
They bought my samples
I  hosted a 1983 Fall AES show for them at Unique Recording Studios. 
It was for the elite in the record business. 
All I can remember is watching Todd Rundgren's face 
as I brought them all to their knees 
with my samples of James Brown's screams!
I had fun showing them to James Brown in 1986 
during the recording of the Rocky V sound track 
"Living in America" and James Brown's albun "Gravity"
both produced by Dan hartman at Unique Recording Studios.

 
Now as far as copyright goes I sampled James Brown's screams for demonstration purposes only. 
I never advocated putting his screams on record 
nor did I ever sell the samples for monetary gain.

The Emulator II

 

The Beatles used the mellotron on Strawberry Fields
Like in the mid 1960's with The Beach Boys and The Beatles with Sir George Martin, 
everyone was  looking for new sounds. 
I was on a mission recording and sampling new sounds for "Hip Hop" and "New Wave" 
and new music in general. 
My samples were everywhere. I wasn't greedy. It wasn't about money. 
I was just having a party. 
And the party attracted The Cars, David Bryne, 
Patrick Moraz and Vangelis.

 
In 1983 we became the beta test site 
for Yamaha's new instrument the DX7. 
Between sampling and the DX7 
my head was spinning. 
Everyone came by just to hear 
and check the DX7 out. 
But the DX7 had something new, 
it was called MIDI.
Yamaha DX-7

 
We had to Midi everything up to everything else. 
We hired Jim (JL) Cooper to add midi onto our 
Arp 2600, our Mini  Moog, our OBXa, 
and our Oberheim modular 8 voice. 
We added the Prophet 5 and the Voyetra 8..

Arp 2600

The Mini Moog

Oberfheim OBXa

Oberheim Modular 8 Voive

The Prophet 5

The Voyetra 8
Edgar Winter 
was doing a remake of "Frankenstein" 
for Tommy Boy Records with the Voyetra. 
He tried to replace 
the Arp 2600's sound 
with a programmable synth, 
but in the end 
ripped the solo 
off in just one pass 
with the 2600!
Producer Jack Douglas 
was recording Cheap Trick 
at the time in studio B 
with Chris Lord Alge engineering. 
We set up all three of our DX7s, 
and everything else that had Midi on it. 
There were synthesizers all over the control room - 
on stands, the floors, everywhere. 
We called it "The wall of Sound".

The MemoryMoog
I bought our first IBM PC. 
We ran Voyetra Sequencer Plus 
and Personal Composer and the DX7 librarian software
In 1983 we added the first Forte Midi controller 
to our Yamaha Acoustic pianos. 
McCoy Tyner was recording his Lp. with us at that time. 
Engineer Frank Heller and I 
Midi'd up three Yamaha DX7s to the piano 
without McCoy knowing. 
McCoy came into the control room for a playback 
and he heard acoustic piano, vibes, rhodes 
and swelling strings. 
He was blown away. 
Though he wouldn't use it on the record, 
it was amazing!

Roland TR-909

The Oscar

 
In 1983 we became Yamaha's East Coast Beta test site. 
We would receive regular visits from Mr. Masazumi Miyakei (President - Yamaha International Corp.). 
Every week we received crates of new gear. 
There were racks of 8 DX7s called TX 816 racks. 
We got the DX-1, DX-5, and KX-88. 
Synth guys like Phillip Saisse 
and David Frank of  The System went wild. 
And remote and wind controllers that horn players such as Michael Brecker fell in love with. 
We desperately needed more space to accommodate all this and special  room 
for all the new clients we were attracting.

President of Yamaha - Mr. Masazumi Miyake 
and Unique Studio Manager Curt Cosentino
cica 1983

 

Jack Douglas behind the dual Neve 8068
 Studio D - Unique Recording Studios
In 1984 we opened the world's first 
Midi Recording Studio, 
"Midi City" 

Midi City was a recording studio 
that centered around a control room
and a tiny vocal overdub booth.
The console was a Neve 8068 
(originally from Electric Lady Studio B).

We had tons of synthesizers, sequencers, drum machines 
and samplers all set up ready to go. 
Midi City attracted Michael Bolton, Bob James, Burt Bacarach, Miles Davis, Devo, Jeff Lorber, Chaka Kahn, and even rockers likeAreosmith, Metallica and Billy Idol.


 
In 1983 the first Macintosh Computer came on the music scene. 
With it's built in graphic display 
it became the favorite with musicians. 
 Opcode invented the Midi Interface for the Mac. 
Midi recording was now getting a foothold. 
We were Development Consultants 
for the first Macintosh Midi sequencers by 
Dave Oppenheim from Opcode Systems, 
Roy Groth from Mark of the Unicorn, 
and Bill Southworth from Southworth (Total Recall)

Will Lee and Stevie Ray Vaughn
I began teaching Midi Classes down at PASS 
(Public Access Synthesizer School). 
Everyone wanted to know what MIDI was 
and how to use it. 
My comparison of MIDI sequencers to 
a tape machine and mixing console helped many. 
Some of my favorite students were: 
Will Lee (The Late Show Band), Gary Rottger and Holly Goldrich (Manny's Music).

 

The Fairlight III
We even received beta test status with Fairlight. 
I was finally offered a Fairlight III 
at a price that we could afford. 
Stuart Copeland made Midi City his home 
and recorded the soundtrack to all of 
" The Equalizer" television shows. 
Herbie Hancock used our Fairlight III 
whenever he was in NYC.
We almost bought a $85k Synclavier II, 
but luckily we never did! 
The next wave of  lower priced affordable samplers killed the big high end units.

The Synclavier

The Drumulator
I sampled the "Rock" drum sounds 
for EMU's The Drumulator.
These rock drum sounds became a 
staple for the recording industry - most notable on 
"Tear For Fears" debut albumn.

The creator's of The Drumulator, 
Peter Gotcher and Evan Brooks 
went on to start Digidesign's Sound Designer
and the rest is history

The PPG Wave 
was another synthesizer 
and sampler from Germany. 
We had the first one in NYC 
and I made samples for it as well. 
The sampler part never caught on but the synthesizer had great sounds. 
Programming ithe PPG left everyone totally lost.

The PPG Wave 2.2

The Kurzweil 250
After I met Ray Kurzweil 
at the 1985 NAMM show, 
we purchased one of the first Kurzweil 250s 
for Unique Recording. 
Sampling with mac interface was really painfull. The sounds never compared to Ray Kurzweil's internal sampled piano sound. 
Clients used the K250 until Roland's MKS20 
low priced piano module changed all that.
Although the AMS DMX1580s 
did not have midi , 
it's sampler was triggerable from tape. 
It changed mixing forever. 
The Lord Alge brothers and Bob Rosa 
were among the engineers 
that used the AMS samplers 
to change the sound of Kick and Snare. 
This can be heard on the remix of Bruce Springsteins "Dancin' In The Dark".

Engineer Bob Rosa & Producer Keith Diamond 
Studio B -Unique Recording circa 1984 
with 4 AMS DMX 1580s delays 

 
The Publison Infernal 90 Sampler followed the AMS. It had full bandwidth stereo sampling, riggerable inputs from tape and the best pitch shifting computer for it's time period.

The Publison Infernal 90 Sampler

The Linn 9000
In 1986 Kevin Kent contacted me to consult for Roger Linn's Linn 9000. 
We tried our hardest to perfect it. 
It had it's downfalls but it was the new workhorse. 
I was again busy making samples for the Linn 9000
and perfecting the internal sequencer.

 
Mike Mathews (Electro Harminx) got me 
to help with another new sampler. 
It was actually made up of eight memory man delay pedals with Midi. 
It was the Akai S900. 
I made samples for the S900 as well. 
The S900 was the first affordable sampler 
with  8 triggerable inputs that worked from Simmons drum pads as well as tape

Akai S900 Sampler

Akai MPC-60
Roger Linn finally sold his Linn 9000 to Akai. 
With Akai's backing it became the MPC60 and finally MPC3000 and MPC2000.

 
Although I had nothing to do with Emu's SP1200 
we had the early prototypes to use at Unique. 
Emu's SP1200 became the "Rap" machine. 
It looped and locked to tape flawlessly.

Emu SP1200

 

Korg M1
We built spearate programming room. 
Programmers camme to make their sounds.. 
I hired Jack Hotop to run this room. 
 He eventually went to Korg, 
where he programed the sounds 
of the Poly Six, M1, SG1 and O1W. 
He passed on an touring offer 
as keyboard player for the band Yes for this gig. 
Two other programmers 
that made this room their home were 
Dr.Bob Khozouri and Billy Cobin aka Billy James.

When Steve Winwood came and saw this room he was like a kid in a candy store.
It led to recording his 1986 "Back In The High Life" Lp.
with producer Russ Titleman at Unique Recording Studios.