(Dibia$e and Elaquent via AmheilLaxama)
During Pt. 1 of our interview, Mr. Dibia$e touched on topics such as his life/music/work balance and the benefits mixing hardware and software. For Pt. 2 of 303s and 404s, he breaks down his sampling method with the 303 and 404, gives insight into the beat making process when he had limited equipment, and reveals how he purchased his first MPC.
DJ Sorce-1: The SP-303 isn’t the most advanced sampler, yet everyone from Madlib and Dilla to artists like Beck and Four Tet have used it for recording and performing. I had heard about Madlib and Dilla using the 303, but I had no idea so many people used it before I started researching for this piece. Have most people abandoned it now that there are more advanced Roland SPs and other samplers? Or do you still think a lot of people still use the 303s?
Mr. Dibia$e: I know I keep the 303 because I like the sound quality of it. The difference between the 303 and 404 is that the vinyl sound compression sounds way different in the 303. It has a grittier sound. I know a lot of homies might make their beats on the 404 and then double compress it by dumping it into the 303, and then dumping it back to the 404. There be a lot of bouncing back and forth. I’ll do some of the effects the 303 doesn’t have on the 404, dump it into the 303, use the 303s compressor and vinyl sound compression, and then dump it back into the 404. (Laughs) It’s crazy man. That’s what takes all the time, but it gets a good lo-fi sound. The lo-fi on the 303 sounds different than the 404.
Another feature that I wish the 404 had is the one I use on the 303 when I’m re-sampling to make beats. You know the external source button on the 303 and 404? When the external source button is lit up, it’s sampling the record you got going through the sampler from your turntable. On the 404, say you’re playing some drums that you already got on the drum pads. The record is playing, and you want to sample it all at the same time. You can’t do that on the 404, but on the 303 you can.
(Via Tae Beast)
DJ Sorce-1: So with the 303 you can play sounds over a record playing on a turntable and sample it all at once?
Mr. Dibia$e: Yeah. Say you already have a kick and a snare on the 303 on button 1 and 2 and you're playing the pattern out, and you have a sample on the record playing from the turntable directly into the external source. You just hit record and you can sample that all in and play a live drum pattern over the record playing. So you sample that, and then you can chop that up.
(Via The Gully Life)
DJ Sorce-1: That’s crazy.
Mr. Dibia$e: Yeaah. But the 404 can’t do that shit and it’s supposed to be an upgrade. (Laughs)
DJ Sorce-1: It seems like whenever Roland made an upgrade to the SP series, they would drop some crucial features.
Mr. Dibia$e: And that was the most gangster feature. But that software Maschine has a feature like that. I like Maschine because it does that. If you have the beat playing in the 303 and you’re playing a bass line from an external keyboard, you can sample that on top of the beat live, but you can’t separate none of that stuff ‘cause it’s all on one pad. That’s why you have to think about how to mix your stuff down all in one take and get a balanced mix. Once you get it in there, there’s no lowering or raising the volumes up. That’s why it sounds so raw.
DJ Sorce-1: Right. The limitations of the machine force you to be creative. I think a lot of people are surprised when they learn about who has used the 303 to make dope music. And it definitely maintains a crazy, gritty sound.
Mr. Dibia$e: That’s my favorite stuff…some of my favorite to make. A lot of people label me electronic, which is crazy. I feel like I’m like a traditional boom bap head.
DJ Sorce-1: Do you think that’s because of the effects you put on some of your beats?
Mr. Dibia$e: Maybe. Some of the effects and some of the other albums I dropped like “Machines Hate Me” was more electronic. Yeah, a lot of stuff gets put in that electronic category.
Mr. Dibia$e: Collectin’ Dust is a lot of my old MPC beats.
DJ Sorce-1: To me, that sounds like vintage ‘90’s shit.
Mr. Dibia$e: Yeah, that was close to ‘90s. It ranged from 2000 to like ‘04. My stuff from the ‘90s, those is on four track tapes. I need to get a 4-track. Matthewdavid digitized a few tapes for me. Shit, I’m a little embarrassed to put those ‘90s tapes on the Soundcloud. It sounds a little bugged out.
DJ Sorce-1: You had an eight second sampler back then, right?
Mr. Dibia$e: Yeah, I was using a yellow Sony Walkman and a single Realistic cassette deck that you can record on. Basically, how I was making beats back then is how I make beats with the 404 and the 303. It was a form of the same re-sampling method way back in ‘95 that I be using now on the 404. The only thing with the 404 is, when you sample, you gotta do your drums for 2 or 3 minutes. Then you loop the drums and add your sample on top of that for 3 minutes. Then you go back and add a baseline and add mute outs. You keep doing that and add it to a different button. Instead of using the sequencer, that’s how I be making beats on the 404 or 303.
When I was using the eight second sampler, I’d get a drum loop, record it to the tape deck, and let it ride for two minutes. Then I’d take that tape out and put it in the walkman. I’d sample some piano loop in the eight second sampler while the drums was playing in the walkman for two minutes and I’d play the piano on top of them drums. Then I’d get another blank tape in that tape deck, and the piano and the drums would be going into the tape deck. After that, I’d sample the piano and drums together into the sampler, and add something on top of that.
Every time you layered something, you'd be getting extra air and tape hiss. So I’d layer at least three times before the hiss was too damn crazy. Back then, people were like, “Oh man, that hiss is killing me.” Now they make drum machines that have that kind of hiss. Now there are effects and plug-ins that do that kind of sound.
(Via Pocket Calculator)
DJ Sorce-1: Right. Now people crave that dirty, dusted sound.
Mr. Dibia$e: Yeah. I was just happy it was a beat with no lyrics on top of it; just an instrumental. I couldn’t even trip on the quality of it. I was just getting the thoughts out. Later on I got a four track and that made it easier to get the thoughts out and track stuff out. I’d record drums on track one, put some piano on track two, bass on three, and then you have your fourth track and I’d put something on there. I’d bounce that all out, record it to a tape, and put that all on one track. Then I’d have three channels left for raps and adlibs. I was doing that for a minute. There were ways to get around things. You had to get crafty with it. It kept it fun.
Hardware and software have a different sound, but it pretty much does the same thing. At the end of the day, you’ll get the same result if you’re creative. You’ll make it work. It’s way easier to figure stuff out nowadays with tutorials and stuff. With a sampler, it was a mission just to get that equipment man. It wasn’t like you could get it free all the time. I would get stuff from pawn shops sometimes. I wouldn’t even have a manual. So I would have to figure it out. I’d be like, “I’m going to make something before I fall asleep on this thing.” It wasn’t like you could look at the manual online. People who had that equipment back then didn’t want to tell you how to use it.
(Dibia$e and Sunclef Via AmheilLaxamana)
DJ Sorce-1: Did you have a mentor or anyone showing you how to make beats or were you classically trained in music?
Mr. Dibia$e: I just taught myself man. It’s funny how I found out about MPCs. Some of my boys, we would go to this one dude’s studio. He had a 4-track and an MPC MIDI’d up to a keyboard. I wasn’t understanding what MIDI was back then, but he was basically having the keyboard sounds going through the MPC. I was like “Damn, I want to make some Premier type, chopping samples type shit. What drum machine does that?” I was having like these little Boss drum machines and Alesis drum machines that you couldn’t sample with. I even had some Roland R8 drum machines. With the eight second sampler you couldn’t micro chop nuthin’. It was pretty much loops and that was it. They had two second banks, like four two second banks. It was crazy man.
And those beats was sounding off because I was making stuff with swing back then. When I had those drum machines, before I had the MPC, I didn’t know how to turn the swing feature off. A lot of times I would do the drums live into the sampler instead of programming it. I would sample it into the sampler with live timing and do the hi-hats live. The homies was always trying to correct me. This was in ‘95, before swing was a so-called Dilla thing. The drum machine was sounding too mechanical to me.
(Via Vintage Synth)
Anyway, I like my beats sounding like some Wu and shit; that grimy shit. This dude was making these keyboard sounding beats and it wasn’t matching what I was rhyming. So I was like, “Man, I need to start making some of my own beats.” When I was seeing the MPC, I wasn’t sold on it. It sounded like a keyboard, because he had keyboard sounds coming out of it. I guess about a year down the line I went to one of the other homie’s house. They was freestyling and this cat was playing some beats in the van. The beats had samples and he was flipping some grimey, boom bap shit, and even some drum and base type shit. I was like, “Damn, what are you using to make this?” He said, “An MPC.” I was like, “OK, I might need to do some research on this.” This is around ‘97. Then I went to another studio and this cat had a lot of vinyl in his garage. He had an MPC and he was chopping up records. Maybe a couple of months later I made a down payment on an MPC and my moms helped me get it from Guitar Center. I was making payments on that shit forever. This was even before I was working at the park. Once I got the job I just started making payments on it forever.
DJ Sorce-1: MPCs are definitely not cheap. Countless well known songs have made using the MPC. Besides the obvious examples like Madlib, are you aware of any well known songs or albums that were done on the 303 or 404?
Mr. Dibia$e: Shit, pretty much all of the homies were the ones using the 303 at one time. No cats like Premier or nothing. I have seen some of them having a 404 in their studios. They had it, but they were mainly using it for effects and running a CDJ or turntable through it or some shit. They didn’t even know how powerful it was. I even saw Just Blaze clowin’ the 404 on Twitter before. He said something like, “Man, I’m trying to give this shit away.” It was a picture of a 404. I saw like, “Wow.” But what they think is junk is another man’s gold. Madlib was probably the first one that I know who was using the 303. I remember going to certain stores and seeing a 303 with a sign next to it saying, “Madlib makes beats using this drum machine”, trying to use that as a way to get people to buy them.
(Via Stones Throw)
DJ Sorce-1: I question why Roland has never reached out to you, Madlib, Ras G, Nick Tha 1nda, or anyone else who has utilized the 303 or 404 to do some kind of endorsement. Other samplers like the MPC and Maschine go really hard at getting sponsored tutorials online with people showing what they can do with the equipment. It seems like Roland has never co-signed videos showcasing the SP producers who seem to do the most with their product.
Mr. Dibia$e: I don’t know if they really know how crazy the movement is with the SPs. They discontinued them, but they brought the 404SX back. My wife actually got an email from one of the people at Roland. I probably will get at them about something. They should do videos like that. I’d be down to do videos and tutorials on that shit.
DJ Sorce-1: I would love to see some Roland endorsed videos. A lot of the stuff I’ve seen you do with the 404 in your live shows blows my mind. I’d like to see a tutorial of you breaking it all down.
Mr. Dibia$e: Man, that shit was an accident. The first beat set I did was Boombox in LA in ‘07. I did a few little beat shows at Project Blowed with an MPC and 8-track, but Boombox was the first club. One of my homies always said, “Make sure there is no dead space in your set, you want it a constant flow of beats.” So I made a mix because the 303 couldn’t hold that much time. I had a laptop and I ran it through the 303. I was doing the effects live and I had certain sounds on the 303 that I was triggering over the mix I made. It was a 15 minute set. That night it was Flying Lotus, me, Exile, and Cook Classics. That was pretty much the first set I did.
I didn’t have the 404 then, so I was like, “Man, I need some more time.” This one cat I knew wanted to buy some beats from me. He came to the crib and he wanted some spaced out sounding shit. I had made some beats and he was like, “That’s the shit I want.” I think we were talking about equipment and I mentioned how I was looking into getting a 404. He was like, “Yo, I actually got one. I’ll trade you the 404 for this beat and $50.” The only thing it needed was a memory card. That’s how I got my 404. And I still got it to this day.
(Via Roland Clan)
DJ Sorce-1: Just one beat and $50?
Mr. Dibia$e: Yeah, and once I started making beats on there I realized it could hold over an hour. I was like, “I can do hour long sets just on this? I’m good.”
DJ Sorce-1: If I just gave you a 404 and a bunch of records to make a set, how much can you do with internal sequencing if you don’t have a laptop and software to help with multi-tracking?
(Via Harmony Central)
Click here to read Pt. 3.