Last summer the Beat Junkies were honored with an invitation to DJ Jazzy Jeff’s 2nd annual Playlist Retreat – a private invitational hosted by the Magnificent himself at his home in Deleware. Man. As you can imagine it was a beyond amazing week of collaboration and inspiration, all in the company of wonderful, talented people. One of the many highlights at Jeff’s retreat were the exclusive first looks at the newest DJ hardware from the music industry’s leading companies, which is where Roland officially introduced the new DJ 808 controller.
I’ve been DJ’ing since 1988 and have always played on turntables throughout my enitre career. That being said, I have for years been reluctant to step outside of my comfort zone where digital technology is concerned. I’ve never played a set on CDJs nor been the least bit interested in making an attempt to perform on anything other than turntables, if for no better reason than sticking to what I know. However, thanks to the good folks at Roland, the Beat Junkies were gifted the new DJ 808 controller and were asked to choreograph a performance showcase on their behalf. As an artist, the last position you ever want to be in is unprepared for a live performance, so it was imperative that I learn the DJ 808 and had a thorough understanding of at least the very basic functions, for starters… Essentially this meant I would need to reprogram myself as a DJ in a few ways, probably the most significant of which was to acquire a feel for 2 jog wheels that do not move (as opposed to a motorized turntable). As with any new instrument, the DJ 808 can be intimidating at first glance – 4 channels, multiple effects, faders and buttons everywhere, a drum machine sequencer that syncs with your tracks.. It’s certainly a lot to make sense of all at once. However, after dedicating a few days of practice I was able to get comfortable with the general functions and overall feel of the unit, and within less than a week I was able to exercise all of my turntable techniques on the DJ 808 and felt confident I could compose a “Beat Junkie Style” set that would include both creative mixing and scratching.
I have since had a few opportunities to showcase the Roland DJ 808 at various events, and other than “how do you like it?”, the question I get asked the most is about digital latency. To be completely transparent, there is a very slight adjustment that we as DJs need to make where hand control is concerned. Apart from that, the DJ 808 responds very well and is extremely accurate in translating DJ techniques. In fact, to all DJs worldwide, I can say with 100% certainty that the new DJ-808 is without a doubt worth consideration for everyone. Roland has created something special and is truly an organization that respects and appreciates the art of DJ’ing. Special thanks once again to DJ Descry and the entire team at Roland for continually creating new ways for us to play and make music. Let’s all keep an open mind where technology is concerned and keep pushing the art.
by DJ Melo-D