Roland TR-606 Popular Users

 Roland TR-606 Drumatixmanufactured 1981 – 1984

A continuation from the Post-Punk Drum Machines and Other Gear post, the Roland TR-606 deserves a post all of its own, having been used by bands such as The Sisters of Mercy and Nine Inch Nails.

The Roland TR-606 Drumatix is a drum machine built by the Roland Corporation from 1981 to 1984. It was originally designed to be used with the Roland TB-303, a monophonic analog bass synthesizer, to provide a simple drum and bass accompaniment to guitarists without backing bands.

Sound Behind the Song: “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails

“Closer” by Nine Inch Nails is built around a densely layered groove featuring the TR-606. The edgy track achieved great chart success for the band.

Roland articles – Nine Inch Nails

The TR-606 was used by punk rock/noise rock band Big Black and was credited on their records as “Roland”. Steve Albini later reflected on the TR-606: 

When I first got the 606 I carried it around and listened to it like a Walkman, and over the course of a day I would gradually build and re-build a rhythm until it was satisfying to listen to on its own… Drum machines can be cool instruments with a lot of character. I was always disappointed when I heard one being used clumsily, which was most of the time.”

The Sisters of Mercy also used it, on their early records, where it was credited as a band member named “Doktor Avalanche.” Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark had it listed in the liner notes of their album Dazzle Ships. Nine Inch Nails used it in their hit single “Closer” from the album “The Downward Spiral” and Dave Rowntree of the Britpop band Blur uses one on the track “On Your Own” from their 1997 self-titled album Blur.

T̲he S̲isters O̲f M̲ercy – F̲irst A̲nd Last A̲nd A̲lways (Full Album) 1985

Outside of rock music, the TR-606 was commonly used by electronica artists C. Balardo, Uwe SchmidtPlastikmanAphex TwinMike Ink, and Autechre. Even artists that preferred breakbeats to four-on-the-floor rhythms used it, seen when 4Hero credited the TR-606 on its well-received album Parallel Universe. Another example was Massive Attack‘s 1994 album Protection, which prominently used the machine on some tracks, and the CD booklet included a photo of the TR-606 connected to a TB-303. The Swedish electronic band Covenant has used it, citing it as “one of the most beautifully distortable drum machines ever made”.

The electronic musician Kid606 mentioned the TR-606 as an inspiration in interviews and confirmed it as an inspiration for his stage name.

SOUNDS

The TR-606 has seven synthesized sounds: Bass Drum, Snare Drum, Hi Tom, Lo Tom, Cymbal and Open/Closed Hi Hat.

An additional function labeled accent serves to modify the volume of the entire drum mix on a given beat. This allows, for example, a louder beat 4 in a simple drum pattern: boom-chik, boom CHIK. There is no “swing” parameter on the TR-606. The output is mono.

Trigger outputs

The Lo Tom and Hi Tom tracks have outputs to trigger an external sound source.

When the closed and open hihat are played together, a 3rd hihat sound emerges.

When the trigger output is in use, the corresponding internal sound still functions normally. The tom track could be employed, for example, to trigger a kick drum synth module.

NINE INCH NAILS RELEASE GHOSTS V-VI FREE

Screenshot 2020-03-27 at 00.13.54

 

NINE INCH NAILS release GHOSTS V-VI as a free download with the following statement:

 

 

FRIENDS-

WEIRD TIMES INDEED…

AS THE NEWS SEEMS TO TURN EVER MORE GRIM BY THE HOUR, WE’VE FOUND OURSELVES VACILLATING WILDLY BETWEEN FEELING LIKE THERE MAY BE HOPE AT TIMES TO UTTER DESPAIR – OFTEN CHANGING MINUTE TO MINUTE.

ALTHOUGH EACH OF US DEFINE OURSELVES AS ANTISOCIAL-TYPES WHO PREFER BEING ON OUR OWN, THIS SITUATION HAS REALLY MADE US APPRECIATE THE POWER AND NEED FOR CONNECTION.

MUSIC – WHETHER LISTENING TO IT, THINKING ABOUT IT OR CREATING IT – HAS ALWAYS BEEN THE THING THAT HELPED US GET THROUGH ANYTHING – GOOD OR BAD. WITH THAT IN MIND, WE DECIDED TO BURN THE MIDNIGHT OIL AND COMPLETE THESE NEW GHOSTS RECORDS AS A MEANS OF STAYING SOMEWHAT SANE.

GHOSTS V: TOGETHER IS FOR WHEN THINGS SEEM LIKE IT MIGHT ALL BE OKAY, AND GHOSTS VI: LOCUSTS… WELL, YOU’LL FIGURE IT OUT.

IT MADE US FEEL BETTER TO MAKE THESE AND IT FEELS GOOD TO SHARE THEM. MUSIC HAS ALWAYS HAD A WAY OF MAKING US FEEL A LITTLE LESS ALONE IN THE WORLD… AND HOPEFULLY IT DOES FOR YOU, TOO. REMEMBER, EVERYONE IS IN THIS THING TOGETHER AND THIS TOO SHALL PASS.

WE LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING YOU AGAIN SOON.
BE SMART AND SAFE AND TAKE CARE OF EACH OTHER.

WITH LOVE,
TRENT & ATTICUS

 

 

GHOSTS V: TOGETHER and GHOSTS VI: LOCUSTS are available for download here.

 

I’ve been a fan of NINE INCH NAILS for a few years. The first NIN song I heard was a cover of JOY DIVISION‘s Dead Souls from The Crow movie soundtrack. I picked it up on cassette at a new age goth shop I used to pop into on the way home from work.

 

 

I bought the fragile double album a couple of years later by chance on the day it was released. I was heading off on a trip and popped into a record shop looking for something different to listen to for the journey. I was feeling a bit depressed at the time so it had to be something unpretentious – the last thing I wanted to hear was upbeat, happy garbage.

 

 

The album blew me away and I bought all their music after that.  Nine Inch Nails haven’t let me down, aside from a cancelled gig in London, their music has evolved along with my tastes and remains one of a few bands I haven’t changed my opinion of over time.