Tom Middleton Talks 909


Tom 'beardy' Middleton is preparing a treat for lovers of the Roland 909 – a musical journey through the history of the greatest Drum Machine to ever grace this earth. This voyage takes place at Memory Box Social's 1st Birthday. Last time Middleton played the event, he curated a history of the 808, so it made sense for him to return and follow through with Roland's next iconic machine. 

We sat down with Mr Middleton for a brief chat about what he thinks about the Roland 909 and the music that was produced throughout it's history. 


What do you think gives the 909 it's lasting appeal?

The 909 sound set was supposed to emulate a real drum kit.

In fact, the sounds where so well designed, they cut through a mix at the just right frequencies, so the result is that it’s still hard to beat them for low bass kick and punch, snappy mids snares and sizzling hi hat top end.

Testament to it’s endurance are the numerous classics that all use the 909’s sounds and it’s shuffle/swing groove to great effect.

So to this day, it basically remains peerless.


Can you let us know what your going to start with?

The first commercial use of the TR909 in 1984 is proving hard to pinpoint exactly, but it could be a Skinny Puppy or Phil Collins track.

Mr Collins was also one of the first to use the TR808, and according to online sources, Sussudio and Take Me Home started life as TR909 improvised jams!


What was the biggest surprise track you came across researching the set?

You’ll have to come to the Horse & Groom and listen to the set 😉


Who has most consistently squeezed excellence out of the box?

Has to be the Dons of Detroit; Derrick May the first real maestro, Kevin Saunderson, Juan Atkins, Carl Craig and Underground Resistance in the early days of Techno, but perhaps Richie Hawtin takes the crown for pushing the envelope for well over 2 decades.


And who do you think has used it in the weirdest ways?

Maybe Derrick May for most effected 909 use.


Whats the best pop record with a 909?

Hmm tricky one…can’t think of a ‘pop’ record that I like.

But Rhythim is Rhythim Strings Of Life, Inner City Good Life or Robin S. Show Me Love for overall ‘popularity’ maybe?

Chemical Brothers Galvanize? Daft Punk Around The World?


What are your own favourite 909 cuts?

Sooo many..mostly from the late 80’s early 90’s. Real 909’s, with the authentic sound, feel and groove.

From mid 90’s people who couldn’t buy one started sampling them which meant the groove came from the sequencer or DAW. Not the same.

Rhythim is Rhythim : Emanon, System 7 & Derrick May : Altitude, F.U.S.E : Substance Abuse, Underground Resistance : Hi Tech Jazz, The Martian : Stardancer, Model 500 : The Chase, Mr. Fingers : Can You Feel It, Reese & Santonio : The Sound, LFO : LFO, Hardfloor : Acperience 1.


When and where did you get your own 909?

Recall sampling one that was on loan to us in the mid 90’s during the Global Communication/Jedi Knights heyday. Haven’t owned one (yet!)


Say your transported to a bizarre fascist future where you'd only get to keep either the snare or the hi hat – who stays and why?

The Hi Hat for sure, it’s hard to replicate, I know, I’ve tried as a sound design experiment, it’s pretty easy to re-create the snare.


And looking back at last years 808 set (good job btw) were there any tracks you had to leave out? Is there anything that probably isn't going to make it into the 909 set, despite being great?

Phil Collins One More Night didn’t make it into the 808 set, and actually probably should have been included considering he was one of the first users!

Beastie Boys Slow And Low, S.O.S Band : Just Be Good To Me, 2 Live Crew : Me So Horny, Phuture : Slam, Dj Pierre Box Energy.

As for the 909 set, you’ll have to come along and listen, then I can tell you next week what didn’t make it in!


For more information on the Memory Box Social's 1st Birthday and tickets, click here.