2020 From Mars is a collection of everything we've sampled this year, and includes our latest and greatest: The Wendel, the MPC2000, the MPC 3000, Modular Drum Loops, the Dr Sample, and our most recent release, the TOM.
Like many, 2020 was a challenging year for us. When COVID hit NYC, it was scary, and we had to close the studio temporarily. I dropped a bunch of gear off at my assistants apartment, filled a rental car with everything I could manage, and headed to Maine for a couple months. This was the quarantine studio:
Being away from everything, and stuck at home all the time, put what we do here into perspective. Above all else, I realized that the point of SFM is to spread a little joy during dark times, through sample packs and educating people about cool gear. Like Dave Chapelle said: while we can't change the entire world, we can make a small corner of it pretty nice 🙂.
So during quarantine I made it a point to engage you all in new ways, by hosting a competition, giving away an MPC, conducting a detailed survey, and of course, sample packs!
The TOM is our brand new pack, and we're super excited about it. Also known as the Model 420 (😉), the TOM is the younger sibling of the Drumtraks, and shares that same famously gritty crunch. It is an 80s funk machine, in a small, lightweight package.
The factory drum sounds are sourced from an acoustic kit, and sound almost like a Lo Fi DMX. The kit just SMACKS and is great for less obvious, 80s drum sounds. We captured 16 of the original sounds, at all 32 pitches, cleanly into our API console and Apogee Symphony MKII.
But while the factory drums are great, they can only take you so far! So we loaded our TOM with custom EPROMs featuring classic drum machines (LM1, Lindrum, Drumulator, 727, DMX, DX, 808, 909, CR78 and more), percussion and FX. This comprises the bulk of the TOM samples. We selectively processed many of the hits and achieved a very unique pack, that's like the classic, but with a twist. Recognizable, yet unique:
You can read more about the TOM and what's included here.
Making its debut in 1984, the Wendel Jr. was a lighting-fast drum replacer featuring acoustic drum and percussion samples engineered by Roger Nichols. Based on its $80,000 predecessor (simply known as the Wendel), the Jr. featured the same sounds - most famously used (and created specifically) for bringing Steely Dan’s Gaucho drum sounds to life during failed studio sessions. Ultimately the Wendel itself was awarded a platinum record for "his" contribution.
We'd never seen a Wendel pack aside from a couple one-off samples, so we created the most extensive sample set in existence, sourcing 20 of the original cartridges, sampling 24 pitches per sample, and created a additional "Color" versions of every sample, by recording to tape and processing the results. The result is a killer pack of familiar yet unknown acoustic drum machine sounds:
You can read more about the Wendel here.
As soon as COVID hit, I knew our response, at the very least, could only be a free sample pack, and since the 2000XL was my main weapon of choice during quarantine, it felt like the perfect choice. So I created a fun collection of drums and vinyl one shots.
But I wanted to do more than that - I knew that most people can't afford gear right now (or ever, really), so I decided to create a competition : Whoever can produce the best track with the MPC2000 Snacks pack would win a 2000XL!
First place went to Romanian producer Ballanx - here's the MPC we sent him, sitting in his home studio:
We received SO MANY outstanding tracks that we created an entire album with our favorites. The truth is, ANY of these contestants could have won the MPC - the tracks are all outstanding in different ways and showcase a wide variety of genres and productions from all over the world.
The 2000 pack was fun, but it was just a taste of what an MPC can really do. And while the XL is my favorite for production because of its features, the 3000 sounds incredible - almost like an analog drum machine. With its signature sequencer groove clippable input, old skool conversion, and warm filters, the 3000 is my favorite sounding MPC (yes, even over the 60).
Sampling into this beast was a massive endeavor, if you consider we started around November of 2019, and released the pack in May! But it was worth it - We sampled a wide variety of electronic and acoustic drums and percussion, along with some vinyl, carefully clipping, tuning and filtering on the MPC along the way.
You can read more about the process and what the pack includes here.
Often when we're deciding what to sample next, we think about how we can add value to the collection, and bring in a new flavor. As opposed to one-hits, loops allow us to be extremely expressive, since we can incorporate sequences, grooves, modulation, pumping rhythms, and original drum programming. Our massive Eurorack system seemed the perfect choice to synthesize beats from scratch.
More than just blips and boops, these are club-ready rhythms centered around 120 BPM, ranging from clean and tame to strange and deranged. With a wide array of analog, digital and FM textures, impossible drumscapes, modulated FX sequences and syncopated polyrhythms, these techno-leaning loops can be used in ANY genre - in fact, that's where they shine the most.
You can read more in depth about the sampling process here.
The SP-202 was my first sampler ever, back in the days when I didn't know what a waveform looked like and was full of hopes and dreams (OK, I still am). This pack was a chance to sample it, along with the 303 and 404, and pay homage to the bedroom producer, and people at the beginning of their musical journey.
The lo-fi sound of these "DJ Boxes" is extremely distinct, and something that still can't be replicated in our DAWs in 2020. With onboard pitch-shifting, sampling and re-sampling, adjusting bit rates, filtering, chopping, reverses, adding vinyl simulation and more, these are heavy handed sounds with an obvious digital footprint that could only come from the Dr.
We sampled a wide range of drum machines, vinyl, and acoustic drums, but also capture many textures (perfect for layering), multi-sampled synths, acoustic bass, guitar, horns, and more, selectively process them through our API console and choice outboard gear.
The end result is an epic collection of lo-fi perfection. You can read more about the process and what's included in the pack here.
2020 forced the world to face massive challenges on every level, to say the least. And while sample packs are not saving the world any time soon, they can hopefully bring a sense of inspiration and connectedness within our community of music producers, engineers, sound designers, and gear nerds.
I'll continue to think of new ways to engage you and get to know you (maybe another competition??). But until then, you can sit back at home, pull up a sampler, and enjoy everything we've done this year.