It certainly is not a stretch to describe Andreas Tilliander as an innovative producer. Operating under a number of different aliases across his long career, the Swedish artist penned some of the most seminal records in the rise of glitch-techno for labels such as Raster-Noton and Mille Plateaux. Tilliander has continued to push the envelope as a forward-thinking producer, most recently issuing icy, hardware-driven live techno under his TM404 alias. With TM404’s self-titled LP of techno lattices still giving us chills after dropping in April, we decided it was time to take a peek under the hood to see just what Tilliander utilizes to craft his unique brand of techno. Turns out it’s all the magic of the classic Roland TB-303. Here he tells us about it in his own words:
At the moment I’m focusing a lot on my latest moniker, TM404. The Roland TB-303 is the main ingredient so I have to pick that little bastard. The Roland TB-303 is 30 years old and was supposed to be used as a bass accompaniment for guitar players or organ players. It was a total flop. No one bought it because it sounded way too artificial. It was, and still is, a bitch to program. If you’ve got a bass groove stuck in your head and want to transform it into a TB-303 pattern, it’s nearly impossible. The patterns people make using this fantastic machine are usually the result of more or less luck rather than talent. Some time after the 303 was out on the market, the price dropped and the stores were almost giving them away for free.
This led to young kids, mainly in Detroit and Chicago, buying them and forever changing the sound of music. They also changed the price of the 303 forever. Nowadays they cost a fortune, consider its limitations. After all, it’s just a plastic silver box—and I want to be buried with mine.
I got my first one very cheap. As I said before, they are worth a fortune now, but I bought one in shitty condition. I wanted to make music using it, not just buy it to look at it and wait for it to be worth even more. I’ve used that 303 at more that 200 gigs, so I guess it was a reasonably good buy. Once I bought a 303 from a somewhat shady guy in the subway. He came with it in a plastic bag from Systembolaget (the government owned liquor store that has monopoly on alcohol in Sweden). We almost didn’t talk. I gave him the money and he gave me the plastic bag. The deal was done in thirty seconds. The latest TB-303 deal I did was actually at IKEA. Being Swedish, that might not sound strange to you guys, but it was a weird situation to meet someone by the pillows at IKEA. A few minutes later I bumped into some friends who asked me what I was getting at IKEA. I showed them what was in my trolley and they thought I was joking. I don’t joke when it comes to buying TB-303s.
The 303 is closely connected to the acid house and rave scene. That’s where I first heard it and fell in love with its sound. However, most of the time I use it, I try to do something completely else. The instrument’s capability is very limited. You can’t make chords with it (unless you buy three or more) and it’s mainly a bass machine. In fact, TB is short for Transistor Bass. Despite that, I’ve made an album where all the basses and melodies come from this little mean machine. The drums on this album, entitled TM404, are also classic Roland drum machines from the same period as the Roland TB-303.