|YOU KNOW FILMS
In Association with ATLANTIC FILMS
Directed by Alexander Dunn
Screening Format at SXSW Film Festival: DCP
TRT: 107 mins
Camera: Sony F55, Sony F3 with external recorders, Sony FS700 with Odyssey 7Q recorder, GoPro Hero 3, Canon 7D
Press Materials and Art:
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This documentary chronicles the untold story of how the Roland TR-808 Drum Machine changed the course of music history. Featuring appearances and commentary from: Pharrell, Beastie Boys, David Guetta, Phil Collins, Rick Rubin, Lil Jon, Afrika Bambaataa, Questlove, Norman Cook (Fatboy Slim), Diplo, Goldie and more.
808 - Directors Statement
Making a documentary about a drum machine, a piece of electronic equipment, is a real challenge. It's inanimate, has no voice of its own and as a protagonist, is rather difficult to craft a story around. 808 has really been a journey of discovery for me. Over the course of around two years, the team and I met over 50 musicians and artists with the intention of telling the story of the Roland TR-808 drum machine through the music that featured its iconic sounds.
Those artists and musicians are the real protagonists of the film. The 808 was the machine to enable their creativity through its odd sounding, electronically produced drum sounds. It didn’t sound anything like real drums, but in their hands, it would change music forever. Working with music producer Arthur Baker as part of the production team, I had an entry point for the story, Planet Rock, a seminal track he produced with Afrika Bambaataa in the early 80s which was one of the first globally influential music tracks that would use the 808 and a key piece of music in the emergence of hip hop as a genre.
But the enormity of the task was then how to tell the rest of the story. Delving into the 30-year history of the 808, its sound has touched so many great pieces of music and defined so many genres. So 808 is very much about the experiential as well as the factual. About the people we met and the tales we heard along the way, letting the story unfold as organically as possible. It was really important to me to keep the integrity of their stories and uncover the relevant music along the way. It was then a massive challenge to bring this seamlessly together as one in the edit.
By no means is this meant to be the definitive story of the 808; it has touched far too many people and reached too far into music, so that's the beauty of it. This film represents a cross section of stories from its life so far, how it influenced artists, the sounds that they created together, the iconic music they recorded and the history they were all part of. The amazing thing about the 808 is that its sound lives on, it's everywhere, especially now. It has transgressed both genre and time. It’s retro but futuristic. It's been more important to music than just a piece of inanimate electronic equipment. It has a life of its own.
- Alexander Dunn
Q&A WITH DIRECTOR ALEXANDER DUNN
What was the inspiration behind filming 808?
808 originally came from a discussion between Arthur Baker and Alex Noyer while discussing another potential project. The subject turned to “Planet Rock” being thirty years old and of course, the 808’s role in that story. Once it was mentioned to me as a possible project and we started developing the idea, it was very obvious the legacy the 808 had left within music. We knew it would be a fantastic journey to embark on.
“Planet Rock” was a perfect entry point for the documentary. It was really the song that brought the 808 to prominence and was, of course, an extremely influential track in the development of hip-hop and electronic music in general. The film then grew from there and allowed me to build a journey of the 808’s sound and influence through music.
Can you discuss the process of interviewing some of the most influential subjects in musical history for the film?
We were extremely lucky to get so many great artists involved in the film. Arthur Baker did a great job getting some amazing artists to take part. Credit also goes out to my colleague and co-producer on this project, Matt Jarman, who managed to get Phil Collins involved. Phil provides a really interesting angle on the 808 we otherwise wouldn't have had.
Managing to get such a cross section of artists with such a wealth of experience has meant this project has really been able to develop into what it is today. The artists themselves had so many amazing stories and experiences to share, all defined by the 808. I think the most amazing thing is that most of these conversations could have carried on all day. Everyone had so much to say about the 808, and the music it was part of. I think it's pretty amazing that this machine can create such wide-ranging discussions with so many great artists.
In your own words, describe what your film is about?
808 is a film about what is arguably the most iconic drum machine that has ever existed and how it became synonymous with electronic music almost by accident. It’s about the artists and producers who stumbled upon it, used it, experimented with it and created iconic music with its unique sounds. The 808 have headed many musical movements, and the film explores the stories and experiences of the artists at the forefront of those movements. And, of course, the music plays a huge part in the film offering a fantastic soundtrack to their experiences.
As a first time director, what were the challenges you faced?
It’s such a huge subject matter to explore, and you have to know when to say enough is enough. That was probably the most difficult thing, working within limitations of time, budget and then forcing ourselves to stop shooting! We conducting around 55 interviews in total, spread over the course of three years, and we could have easily done this again…. and again, almost indefinitely.
The 808 is part of so many musical genres and so many artists used it. I had to take a cross section, peer in and grab hold of the essence of the story and the journey that it took through the eyes of the contributors we met. I had to refine all that information down into a feature length film. That was hard as we had so much great interview footage, and I had to manage that down to a consumable length for a feature film.
I know we’ll probably get a lot of questions, like why didn’t you feature this artist or that artist. Certainly, there are people who I’d have loved to feature in the film that we couldn’t get around to interviewing for various reasons. However, I think this is really interesting. I’d love the film to be the starting point for more conversations about the 808. I hope it is something that gets people to investigate further and experience more of the music it played a huge part of.
How does it feel to showcase your film at SXSW Film Festival?
The opportunity to have the film premiere at SXSW is a really fantastic opportunity for us. It really seems like the perfect place for a documentary that sits bang in the middle of this convergence of film, music and technology. The team and I are all really happy to be taking part of the festival. It's also a great opportunity to meet new people and discuss some of the exciting new projects we currently have in development.
Why do you feel it is important to share the history of the 808?
The 808 has been a prime example of how an instrument can be created with a particular purpose in mind, only for that purpose to be completely overlooked by its end users. Those end users instead took it on a completely different, revolutionary journey. It has permeated so many musical genres, left an indelible mark on culture, inspired countless musicians and continues to be as relevant today as it was thirty years ago. Plus, it’s retro-futuristic sounds are just plain awesome.
Q&A WITH PRODUCER ALEX NOYER
How did you get involved with the project?
I am proud to say I started it. After a fun and inspired tapas lunch with Arthur Baker, our music discussions lead me to decide that the 808 was going to be the topic of my next film. So, I spoke some more with Arthur, got him on board along with Alex Dunn, and we started this 3-year-journey. From then on, I got the initial production funded, and we started in Miami at WMC in 2012 to see if we really had a film. Today, we can call that an inspired decision.
Describe the collaboration process between your team and director Alexander Dunn?
Alex has been my long time friend and business partner for the last 10 years. His influence and skill in editorial and post-production at You Know along with his personal affinity with the topic made it a perfect opportunity for him to take the directorial reigns. He is a very meticulous and thorough individual. Taking this large amount of personal accounts (55+ interviews) and turning them into the film that we see now was no small achievement.
We are not just 2 namesakes. Our partnership has allowed us to always be creatively ambitious, and this project is an important landmark in this ambition being fulfilled. Being a producer himself, he also understood all imperatives and when the production needed to be completed. That made the whole process very effective.
How much preparation and research did you have to do before production started?
There were multiple talks, a lot of music listened to and all of us had different perspectives and music tastes to draw from. After that, we also let ourselves be guided by the interviews that in turn called for more research to back points made. Arthur Baker’s experience and legacy in relation of the 808 was very valuable as well as Luke Bainbridge's music journalism track record. We went where the memories of our contributors took us, and I would say the most thorough work came when it was time to piece it together into a film.
Why do you feel it is important to share the history of the 808?
30 years of hip-hop and electronic music that can be tracked back to this evanescent drum machine. These are sounds that are still used today across the musical spectrum, and the fact that icons still refer to its influence means that the 808 needed its legacy celebrated.
What were some of the challenges you faced when trying to secure the various subjects for the film?
Arthur did a fantastic job getting great people in front of our cameras. Challenges of time and travel were there, but I would say that despite our limited budget, we really made the most out of each location and opportunity with hardly any waste. Then, Matt Jarman managed to get us some time with Phil Collins and Atlantic added none other than the Beastie Boys to round up all our efforts. We have been blessed with favorable conditions of people being in the right spot at the right time, and the challenge for me was to back the opportunities with resources and time. Our motivation was high, and I am delighted to say that we all filled our roles to meet and match the challenge to deliver this film today.
Can you describe your first encounter with 808 creator and Roland Corporation founder Ikutaro Kakehashi?
I unfortunately did not get to go as I was finishing the Los Angeles leg of the shoot, but we sent Arthur Baker, along with Matt Jarman and Stuart Birchall, and they all came back feeling humbled by the way they were welcomed by Roland. The conversation between Arthur and Mr. Kakehashi revealed a very important secret regarding the history of the 808, and we are extremely grateful for his time. He gave us the prefect way to round up our film. I am due to go pay them a visit in the very near future, and I very much hope to get to thank Mr. K in person.
About the Filmmakers
ALEXANDER DUNN, Co-Writer/Director/Producer/Editor
Alexander Dunn is a filmmaker based in London, UK, working in film, television and advertising as a director, producer and editor for over a decade. 808 is his first documentary feature as a director, having previously created film and programming for a number of clients and broadcasters including Sky Television, PBS and MTV. Alexander has brought a wide production knowledge and storytelling skills to 808 as well as a passion for music.
Born in Birmingham, England, during his school years, Alexander first encountered dance music, but being too young for the clubs, spent his time listening to mix tapes and honing his DJ skills on old belt driven turntables. He moved to Cornwall at 16 where he developed his interest in music further, playing at clubs in the area and spending all his spare money on vinyl. At this time, he also began his journey into film production whilst studying at college.
Following a move to the Hertfordshire to study film production where he would direct a number of short films, Alexander worked for a brief stint at CNBC Europe where, amongst other programming, he worked on the feature length documentary THE POWER OF FLIGHT. Following this in 2004, Alexander co-founded production company You Know with Alex Noyer, producing content for a variety of clients as well as the documentaries A CONVERSATION WITH JULIAN SCHNABEL, NEW YORK INFLUENCE CITY and a slate of music videos.
Over the years, he has worked as a director, producer and editor for a number of clients and collaborators including Ubuntu, Nokia, Casio, Jagermeister, Sony, The House of Marley, Diesel and many more. He is currently in development on a number of documentary projects to follow 808 as well as developing his first drama feature.
ALEX NOYER, Producer/Executive Producer
Paris-born producer is the driving force behind 808, the feature documentary that traces the story of the Roland TR808 from the creation of Afrika Bambaataa’s “Planet Rock” to the dynamic drum machine’s influence on hip hop and modern dance culture, through its continued use today. Raised in a French-Finnish art and media world, Noyer studied advertising at the University of Hertfordshire and subsequently worked for CNBC Europe. In 2004, alongside Alexander Dunn, Noyer co-founded You Know, an innovative creative solutions agency with a special focus on film and video. The agency’s early work included the development and creation of marketing content for L’Oreal, Durex and Jägermeister. In 2007, Noyer expanded his digital reach by opening and growing the UK branch of the Finnish agency Activeark.
In 2008, he wrote and produced a project that merged two of his primary interests – film and art. A CONVERSATION WITH JULIAN SCHNABEL, a short documentary for the artist’s retrospective at Helsinki’s Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art and Galerie Forsblom, screened at Art Basel (Switzerland) and major museums and galleries throughout the world. In 2009, he served as executive producer on Stuart Birchall’s BURNING, an educational short film about a young girl’s struggle with bulimia.
The artist documentaries led Noyer to produce and write NEW YORK INFLUENCE CITY (2011), his first feature length film. NEW YORK INFLUENCE CITY’s key participants include Ross Bleckner, Ann Craven, Peter Halley, Donald Sultan, Ryan McGinness, Jacob Hashimoto, Tony Oursler and Eric Freeman. In 2014, Noyer expanded his film operations, opening You Know Films in Los Angeles. Noyer resides in Los Angeles with his family.
CRAIG KALLMAN, Producer
Craig Kallman carries on the entrepreneurial tradition that has driven Atlantic Records since its founding by Ahmet Ertegun over 65 years ago, and is embodied in the careers of such fellow Atlantic producer/executives as Jerry Wexler, Nesuhi Ertegun, and Doug Morris. Craig joined Atlantic in 1991, when the company acquired his independent Big Beat Records label. Advancing through the executive ranks, the New York-born Kallman was named Chairman/CEO of the Atlantic Records Group in 2005.
Just four years after Craig started Big Beat after college, his success prompted Atlantic to acquire the label and bring Craig into the company. He came on board as Vice President/Assistant to then Co-Chairman Doug Morris. Advancing to Executive Vice President, Kallman began to oversee Atlantic's entire A&R operation. His roster of trailblazing artists grew to include Aaliyah (whose Atlantic debut introduced producers Timbaland and Missy Elliott to the pop top 10); Brandy; Notorious B.I.G.'s rap clan Junior M.A.F.I.A., featuring Lil' Kim; and hard rockers Stone Temple Pilots and P.O.D.
Over the past decade, Kallman has continued to drive Atlantic’s recruitment of a rich diversity of high-profile artists, among them Bruno Mars, Death Cab For Cutie, James Blunt, Ed Sheeran, Jason Mraz (via Atlantic’s 2004 merger with Elektra), Trey Songz, Lupe Fiasco, Flo Rida, Zac Brown Band, Gnarls Barkley, B.o.B, Skrillex (via Kallman’s re-launched Big Beat label), Paolo Nutini, Janelle Monae, Wiz Khalifa, Skillet, Halestorm, Jaheim, Christina Perri, Hunter Hayes, Straight No Chaser, and many others. Kallman also spearheaded one of the music industry’s pioneering 360 deals, partnering with punk-pop band Paramore. In 2010, Craig re-launched his Big Beat label which has had tremendous success with artists like Grammy winners Skrillex and Clean Bandit, Icona Pop, and Martin Solveig, to name a few.
Over the past two decades, Craig has championed Atlantic’s involvement in the film and TV soundtrack world, beginning with the 1996 smash SPACE JAM soundtrack, on which he served as Executive Producer. Most recently, Atlantic has released Grammy-nominated soundtracks for the TWILIGHT movie series – which produced an unprecedented two consecutive #1 albums, and HBO’s acclaimed TRUE BLOOD and BOARDWALK EMPIRE series. The newly established Atlantic Films is co-producing the documentary film 808, which chronicles the story of the influential Roland TR-808 drum machine, with a soundtrack on Big Beat/Atlantic.
ARTHUR BAKER, Producer
Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Arthur Baker launched his musical career as a disco DJ by spinning 45s, pre-remixes and 12-inch disks. He graduated to being among the most visible and widely imitated of the early hip-hop producers, masterminding breakthrough experimentation with tape edits, sampling and synthetic beats on such records as “Planet Rock” (winning the Billboard Trend setter award in 1983), New Order’s “Confusion”, Rockers Revenge’s “Walking On Sunshine”, Freeez’ “IOU” and his own break dance classic “Breakers Revenge”.
Baker would go on to become an internationally renowned producer, working with such legends as Bob Dylan, Al Green, Bruce Springsteen and New Order. He discovered the group New Edition and produced anti-apartheid benefit record Sun City, (being honored at the UN for the effort). He has made London his home since 1996. Baker also music supervised and produced tracks for such movies as FRIED GREEN TOMATOES, THE FLINTSTONES, SOMETHING WILD, FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF, PRETTY IN PINK and LISTEN UP- THE LIVES OF QUINCY JONES.
On the events front, Baker produced the infamous international Return To New York parties through the 2000s in such cities as London, Barcelona, Paris, Toronto, New York City and Miami. He helped launch such acts as 2 Many DJs, LCD Soundsystem, Mark Ronson, Tiga and Diplo. He now co-owns fashion label Felder Felder and has recently produced two music documentaries: FINDING THE FUNK with director Nelson George for VH1 and 808 with You Know Films and Atlantic Films. He is also writing and developing TV and film properties with Irvine Welsh and Jonas Akerlund. He has also recently launched BAKED Recordings and will be releasing “No Price” under the artist name of Slam Dunk’d with Columbia Records this summer.
STUART BIRCHALL. Editor/Cinematographer
Stuart Birchall is an award winning multi platform artist, founding his first production company in 2000. He joined You Know ltd from 2004-2009 as a director/producer. Birchall went on to found Numinous Pictures, focusing on creative direction and cinematography working on music videos, commercials, feature documentaries and short films. Birchall has directed for clients including: Sony, Lipton, The House Of Marley, L’Oreal, Diesel, Durex, Bose and Nokia etc. Birchall has directed over forty music videos and is currently focusing on feature film development.
CLAUDIO RIETTI, Cinematographer/Associate Producer
Cinematographer Claudio Rietti most recently lensed DEEP IN THE DARKNESS and 5 SENSES OF FEAR for NBC/Universal as well as worked as 2nd Unit DP and Camera Operator for ANIMAL, produced by Drew Barrymore's Flower Films and Synthetic Cinema International. He is currently attached to shoot THE OTHER SIDE starring Tony Roberts and Alysia Reiner. Rietti's documentary work has aired on several major European (ITV, Channel 4, RAI Sport), South American (Globo, SBT, Record, Bandeirantes), and North American TV channels. His commercial clients include Kellogg's, Mary Kay, Olay, AT&T (Filipino watches), Sunglass Hut, amongst others. Rietti studied at the London Film School and speaks English, Portuguese, and Spanish.
LUKE BAINBRIDGE, Co-Writer/Associate Producer
Luke Bainbridge is an author, filmmaker and festival curator. He was one of the founding editors of the award-winning Observer Music Monthly, the UK’s biggest ever music magazine, and ghostwriter of Shaun Ryder’s autobiography, The Sunday Times bestseller, Twisting My Melon. He has been a music journalist since his late teens, becoming editor of Manchester’s City Life (the first magazine to cover Oasis) in his early 20s. Over the last 20 years, Luke has interviewed almost every top musician and pop star, from Jay-Z, Paul McCartney, Pharrell Williams and Oasis. He currently writes for publications including The Observer, The Guardian and GQ. He is working on a new book called Red Planet, to be published late 2015. He is also Head of Arts and Culture for Festival No.6, which was voted Best New Festival at the UK Festival Awards.
MATTHEW JARMAN, Co-Producer/Editor/Sound Supervisor
Matthew is a London based filmmaker with a background in the music industry. As co-producer, he has worked closely with director Alexander Dunn to bring the story of Roland's seminal 808 to the big screen. Matt has worked as a producer and director on a variety of projects, mainly focusing on music and documentary. These projects have featured a variety of artists and contributors such as Gary Numan, Alt-J, Phil Collins, The Futureheads, Ladyhawke, Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly, Architects and Deaf Havana as well as working with Universal Music, Sony, IMG, Jaegermeister and Syco.
Matt’s career began as a musician and producer. He eventually opened a recording studio in Hampshire, UK, before making a leap into video production, utilizing his knowledge from the music industry to specialize in the capturing of live music performances. In 2013, Matt traveled to mainland Europe to direct and produce SPIRIT OF THE ALPINE, a documentary following 47 vintage Rolls-Royce Silver Ghosts as they departed from Vienna. The cars traveled through Austria, Slovenia, Croatia and Italy before returning to Vienna on June 29, 2013, exactly 100 years to the day that the 1913 Alpenfahrt finished. The faithful re-enactment celebrated the seminal 1913 Trials, a test of endurance that saw the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost cement its reputation for faultless reliability, thus, establishing the legend of the ‘Best Car in the World’.
After SPIRIT OF THE ALPINE, Matt joined You Know as a producer before becoming Head of Production. He works closely with founders Alexander Dunn and Alex Noyer, developing new film and television projects to follow 808, which he worked on as co-producer, editor and sound supervisor.
You Know Films Presents
In Association with Atlantic Films
Producer & Co-Executive Producer of Re-Covered Content Limited
Felix Da Housecat
Remi Kabaka GSS
Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis
T La Rock
Armand Van Helden
DJ Pappa Wheelie
With special thanks to
João Barbosa (Li'l John)
Watch the Duck
B Cam Operator (NYC)
Steven W. Rose
Boom Operator (NYC)
Voice Over Recording
Trident Audio Post
Voice Over Audio Engineer
Empire Recording Studios
Sound Mix & Edit
Post Production Facility
You Know Studios London
Dubbing & Mastering Facility
Julie Rose Dunn
Programme Your 808 Artwork Series
Pedro Gundar Mota
James RM Hunt
Christine J. Viggiano
Brown Rudnick (London)
FRWV (New York)
Allan Chapman & James Insurance Brokers Ltd.
Richmond Film Services
Additonal Footage & Photography Courtesy Of
You Know Ltd
Corbis Images UK LTD
BBC MG / Getty Images
David Hobbs AKA MR Mixx
Photos by Plastics
Janak Rana Ghose
Ultra Music Festival
Footage Firm Inc.
Lynn and Louis Wolfston II Florida Moving Image Archives, Inc
YWA Music, Inc
Suzuki GB PLC
John King, Chung King Studios
Shot On Location In
With thanks to
The Boom Boom Room Studios
Circle House Studios
Downtown Music Studios
Mandarin Oriental Miami
Red Bull Studios London
Soho Beach House Miami
Amanda Hale De Jesus
Trump International Hotel & Tower New York
Special Thanks To
Roland / Roland Japan
East City Management
Young Turks / XL Recordings
Rabbit Vocal Management
Suzuki GB PLC
A very special thanks to
For Your Love And Support
Julie & Jago
Linda and the Pikkuiset, mon Pâ-Pâ
Katherine & Storm