Name: Michael Wells aka Force Mass Motion
Nationality: British
Occupation: Producer
Recent release: The new Force Mass Motion EP You'll Never be Back, is out September 2nd.

Tool of Creation: Roland 303
Type of Tool: Bass synthesizer
Designed by: Roland Corporation
Became available in: 1981
Force Mass Motion on his reasons for selecting the 303 for this feature: "I have chosen the 303, as being creative with it really does go hand in hand. You’ve got to try to step it up each time you turn it on, it really is important. Annoyingly it does have the ability to make you lazy and settle at a first idea but if you start to pay attention and save the first second and third ideas you’ll really start to notice where the strengths and weaknesses are showing up in what you are trying to achieve. Remember it's always going to stand out in a track, it’s always going to drive a track on, pull energy in too so make sure that it’s doing precisely that."

If you enjoyed this interview with Force Mass Motion about the Roland 303 and would like to explore his work in more depth, visit his official website. He is also on Facebook, twitter, and Soundcloud.

forcemassmotion · Back To Back - Soundcloud EDIT

What was your first encounter with the 303?

"Stakker Humanoid" – what an epic use of the 303. A dominating main riff and groove, all into one.

Just like any other piece of equipment, the 303 has a rich history. Are you interested in it? And if so, what are some of the key points from this history for you personally?

Of course I’m interested, how could you not be!?

But in saying that I must take a step back and perhaps see it from a newcomer's point of view. They wouldn’t have grown up hearing all those classics and uses of the 303 along the way.

As we know Roland made it as an electronic bass generator. Yes it can run a muted bassline but also can rip through the mid range to make stabbing riffs and grooves.

What, to you, are some of the most interesting recordings made with the 303?

I previously have mentioned "Stakker Humanoid". What about Hardfloor "Acperience". Pump Panels remix of New Order. Should I go on???

I’ll probably get slated for saying anything at all - oh you missed that one and this one. But that’s the point isn’t it. It’s been in HUNDREDS of monumental tracks.

What interests you about the 303 in terms of it contributing to your creative ideals?

Groove – it just has a way of making a groove. Sliding from one note to another like you’d never be able to program on anything else. Then moving from a bassline into a mid-line and then a top line.

What are some of the stand-out features from your point of view?

We could all say it’s the knobs, you crank and wind until this and that. But you can’t do anything with those until you have a sequence programmed.

So for me the most stand out feature is the sequencer. I know that thing backwards and forwards, everything. I have literally used it for 30 years, since my first 303. I can jam away on that thing and arrive at great ideas pretty quickly and then tap ‘write’ and ‘back’ through it, modifying pitches and accents until the point where it really is grooving with the track, just how I need it to.

Then shortening a sequence running it around half a bar or a quarter bar. Bouncing that out and running another loop, even with a key change. Just fantastic ...

Prior to using it for the first time, how did you acquaint yourself with the 303? Will you usually consult a manual before starting to work with a new device – and what was that like for the 303?

Yes you’re right, a bit of kit these days does need a fair bit of ‘learning’. I don’t blame them wanting to add features and things in there that might be called on for live sets or controlling with USB, all the functions we love.

With a 303 I remember just being shown very quickly and then just tapping in chord structures into the thing. So like an arpeggio of a chord, then hitting write 16 times and running it. Then back in to edit mode and hitting ‘slide’ on a few notes and really learning what it is doing and then what you may like to achieve. Or bin it and start again.

I’ve never had a manual, just never needed one to be honest.

Tell me a bit about the interface of the 303 – what does playing it feel like, what do you enjoy about it, compared to some of your other instruments?

It’s very ‘clicky’ and plastic but that gives it the potential to be fast. You can really move around its interface quickly. I love how you can tap backwards and swap out notes, slides and accents. I hated that in the Behringer TD-03; I had one for a day and gave it back.

I have the new TB-03 here as well, that is FAR better. You can click ‘back’ on that multiple times and swap out notes and slides just like the original. I do have the TD-03-MO, sonically it’s interesting but I don’t ‘reach’ for it. It has a sub-oscillator and I have started to play around with that a bit. The knobs are a bit stiff to twist and they go ‘out of range’ pretty quickly.

It can end up sounding like a mess instead of grooving along nicely.

How would you describe the sonic potential of the 303?

You can run it flat, straight out of itself. You can run it half baked through some distortion, just flicking on the more course notes or you can hammer it. Sonically VAST.

I went through the 90s rave into progressive house, through nuskool breaks and into trance and now back to nu-old-skool (whatever that may be!!). It’s all over my stuff. It still fits and works 100% in everything if paid attention to.

I really try and mix it ‘up’ in the mix but not so it’s overbearing. A good compressor takes care of that. It needs the attention it deserves, otherwise it really can sit too far away to bother with. Or it can be sonically overpowering, then the track is ruined  ...

In which way does the 303 influence musical results and what kind of compositions does it encourage / foster?

That’s up to the composer. I know what you’re getting at and does it really move a composer into a thrash acid producer!!!? The answer is NO, not at all.

Like I previously touched upon, I have used it in my compositions over 3 – 4 clear genres of music and I wouldn’t say that its pushed me into a corner with each one. I’m not a renegade ACID master. (laughs)

But seeing as I have picked here a timeless classic it’s hard to not continue a tradition because the actual thing itself is doing exactly that when turned on. Also you must bear in mind that things have been done a million times before. So making it groove in your chosen place is THE MOST important part of using it.

I just love the groove and punch I can get out of the thing, it’s just great.

More generally, how do you see the relationship between your instruments and the music you make?

Soft synths have MASSIVELY changed that angle now.

I used to have a FULL studio and would sit endlessly programming every sound on them. 20 years ago that’s what you HAD to do. We now have soundpacks for so many pieces of software it can be hard to start. I really do try and limit the amount I use.

I have a core of GOTOs and sat around me here I have 3 303s. The TB-03, the TD-3-MO and a real 303 plugged into a KMS-30 midi to sync converter. I have an SE-02, warm analog, tough, round and cool. An Arturia MicroFreak, it’s odd, I love its oddness. I’m going to hammer that in all my next batch of tracks. So for sound making I’m pretty much sorted.

I just got an ASM Hydrasynth, that's MEGA and I do really owe myself a MOOG at some point ... I tend to steer them in the way I want things to be heard and not the other way around. If I’m not getting there, I’ll switch it off and move along.

Could you describe working with the 303 on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?

Early days there was no way to sync it with my Amiga so I had to just get the timing right and then bounce a line of it in. I can't really pick one out, there’s literally been about 50 or so or more!!!

How does the 303 interact with some of the other tools in your studio?

Now the TB-03 is USB so I can run it and run all the automation through Cubase, I’d have flipped out seeing that back in the day!!!!

And of course the TB-03 has CV gate outs and runs into the SE-02 very nicely, it sounds MEGA. So more of that for sure.

Are there other artists working with the 303 whose work you find inspiring? What do you appreciate about their take on it?

I hate 303 clone sounding things. I can tell, they sound thin and just wrong. COME ON EVERYONE JUST GO TREAT YOURSELF, maybe not an original £3000 or more these days.

But I will hold my hands up and say the TB-03 is really rather good!!!