The Return of the 909

By Dan Century

The Roland 808 and 909 drum machines revolutionized electronic and rap music in the eighties. What they are known for and what made them so popular is their unique bass drum sound. The 808 is known for its ultra-deep speaker rattling base. The 909 has a tighter, punchier bass sound. These machines have since been replaced by more advanced devices, but their samples have lived on thanks to devoted fans.

Recently, thanks to a new mutation of techno called gabber, the 909s and 808s are becoming popular again. Gabber mixes ultra fast drum beats, an occasional thrash guitar, techno keyboards and vocal samples. For the most part gabber songwriters shy away from live vocals. Most songs incorporate rap samples or other obnoxious vocals. One classic gabber track, DOA's Yo Mutha, incorporates a hilarious answering machine message that has to be heard to believed. The key to gabber: the more obnoxious the song, the better it is. Ultra-fast (usually well over 200 beats per minute) distorted 909s and 808s are very obnoxious.

The closest gabber has gotten to the mainstream is Atari Teenage Riot. ATR rely on Slayer guitar samples, looped hip-hop drum beats and angry European vocalists. They're not true gabber, but if you listen to the bass drum track on their hit "Into the Death" - that's gabber.

Gabber is well represented on the World Wide Web. There is even a gabber Web ring. Many underground artists are making their compositions available as MP3s, which you can download and use to scare the neighbors. Hundreds (maybe thousands) of kids are making there own gabber with samplers, a cracked version of Sound Forge downloaded off a Warez site or, if they're lucky, a used Roland 808 or 909. If gabber sounds interesting to you, or you're sick of pansy ass milk toast alternative music, these songs are worth checking out.

DJ Skinhead's "Extreme Terror" is a great example of gabber with live vocals. Lots of angry, distorted screaming over ultra fast loops.

Bloody Fist's "Cocksucker" is true obnoxious gabber. Full Metal Jacket samples make for gabber that will fuck shit up at any club.

Delta 9's "Hard Core Chicago" is a furious mix of live vocals, rap samples, thrash guitars and white noise. Great music to accompany the destruction of anything. The "Buck Wild" remix of their song "Hate Tank" is definitely worth checking out too.

The Rising!Man!Incinerator Vs. Scoundrels remixes are classic examples of what happens when you let a gabber DJ / remixer get hold of the master tapes to a Vermont thrash band. Pure fuckin' shit up.

Just about anything by Johnny Violent is worth listening to, but "Burnout" is probably the only song you'll ever hear that tops out at 20 Million beats per minute.

The Preachers "2 Die or Kill": "I wanna kill...everyone! Satan is good! Satan is our pal!" This song is more hardcore techno than gabber, but the samples really make my day.

The Chosen Few's "Name of Our DJ" combines a famous Public Enemy sample with other rap samples and hardcore techno keys and white noise.

Darrien Kelly's "Main Mutherfuckers" is another rap / hardcore techno mix. "Prankster studio gangster busters, softer than a bitch, but portray the role of gangster." An ode to Will Smith.

MD and A's "Return of the Cracken": super-distorted Roland beats with samples from Clash of the Titans. Hilarious.

Just about everything by Bazooka is good too.

There are a lot of comps out now. The best place to start is the Industrial Strength comp from Earache Records. You should also check out the Hardcore Web Ring ( for some great gabber sites. Viva ultra-violence!