EXCLUSIVE: 5 Minutes with Graham Massey of 808 STATE

Widely regarded as one of the most influential Acid House pioneers of our time, we caught up with Graham Massey ahead of 808 State‘s live performance at KOKO on the 8th October with Phuture, DJ Pierre and more. Formed in 1987 in Manchester, taking their name from the TR-808 drum machine, Graham Massey, Martin Price and Gerald Simpson, went on to release their debut album, Newbuild, in September 1988 with “Pacific State” peaking at #10 in the UK Singles Chart. 808 State’s next album was released in 1991, Ex:el, which featured vocals from Bernard Sumner and Björk. Other hits included “In Yer Face” (UK #9), “Cubik Olympic” (UK #10) and “Lift” (UK #38)

Hey Graham, This will be your first live show back at KOKO for a while – with a big support line-up. What are you most looking forward to about the night? 

I think the last time was 2009 during Camden Crawl – there’s a great mix of acts, we’re obviously excited about Phuture being on the bill, such sad news about Spank Spank. Their music changed music. Great to have µ-Ziq on too.


When did you last play a show with the rest of the Acid crew: Phuture, Robert Babicz, u-Ziq? 

We did a show a couple of years back at Incubate Festival in Tilburg with DJ Pierre and Gerald. The 808 State current sound has acid DNA in it, but funnily enough our last London show along side Square Pusher and The Comet Is Coming seemed like more of a natural place for what we now do as a live show. Having said that Gerald & I did a full on pure Acid set at Dekmantel Festival in Amsterdam this year under the name REBUILD using tables of old and new Roland equipment.


There seems to be quite a revival happening with Acid music right now, why do you think this is? 

People have been telling us this for 30 years now, there was an acid revival in 1990 before it had even gone cold. It’s a pure form of trance music that is very effective in removing you from real life quite quickly, there’s always a demand for that! The rawness of the early acid records have something about them, their imperfections become delightful over time.


The recent remix from Bicep seems to have hit off really well. How did this collaboration come about? 

Well, my teenage son was always playing them, I started playing them in DJ sets and I then heard that they’d done edits of Cubik (one of our singles from the early 90’s) so I just asked them. We ended up playing the same stage at Festival Number 6 in 2015. I think we quite surprised them with our live incarnation, they said it was the most punk rock thing they’d come across, which ties in with a quote from Tony Wilson back in 1988 where he dubbed us as “the new Sex Pistols” after a gig above a pub in Bolton.


Are there any artists you’re particularly into at the moment? 

DJ Marfox and the whole Cargaa thing from Portugal (on Warp), It leads me into immediate Dad dancing.


What are your top 5 albums of all time? 

I don’t know about such a list – but here are 5 aspirational records that have never let me down. 

    • Santana /McLaughlin – Love Devotion & Surrender
    • Sun Ra – Nubians Of Plutonia /Angels & Demons At Play
    • John Coltrane -Selflessness
    • Magma -Live
    • Miles Davis – Live Evil


Are there any key pieces of equipment you find yourself using regularly? And how does this differ to the equipment you were using in the early days? 

We are still using mostly analogue synths, I must say the Novation Bass Station 2 has become my main on stage lead, I have my trusty old Mini Moog, which on a good day is awesome but often in the heat of the moment will be out of tune. We will take other antiques out with us if we are in the UK, like Juno 106 or the Pro One. I still use the Roland D50, it’s full of the presets we used back on the 90 and Ex:el albums and it’s a tough old boot. I may take a SH 101 sometimes, Jupiter 8 was on the last gig. If we’re abroad we hire kit so we may end up with all sorts of random gear – we are pretty okay with most synths. We’ve been using the AIRA equipment, it’s great for spontaneous jamming. We’ve got a great clock called a Sync Gen Pro so drum machines will sync-up with out feeling sluggish. 


What can we expect from your performance at KOKO on Saturday 8th October? 

When it says ‘full live band’ it means we have additional musicians on stage with us, so along side all the synths there is a live drummer. We have had some amazing drummers in our band over the years our current one Carl Sharrocks is no exception. He grew up a few streets away from the recording studio where we recorded 90 & Ex:El. When we met him he knew more about the arrangements than we did. He’d encourage us to dust off some obscure B-sides and has an objectivity that comes in handy. We normally have Paddy Steer on bass – he’s probably been on stage with us since about 1998. He brings so much music to the bottom end. Unfortunately, he is away for this show. We do a mix of material from all our albums – there’s enough going on improvising wise to keep us engaged and hopefully we deliver the full cathartic mind wash!


808 State will be playing live on Saturday 8th October at KOKO with PHUTURE- Live, DJ PIERRE, ROB ACID, U-ZIQ, CEEPHAX ACID CREW, PIXELORD. Grab tickets here:




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