January 2010


This months interview victim isn't directly connected to the Human League, but his designs are as inventor of the Linn drum machine Roger Linn goes into details about his groundbreaking invention that played such an important part in the bands big breakthrough as producer Martin Rushnet introduced it on the Dare album.

Interview by Niels Kolling

First a little background. You’re an active musician both as a songwriter and guitarist but it’s as a designer/inventor of musical equipment you’ve really made your mark. Was that always your dream or did the world miss out on a swaggering rockstar?


I've always loved both music and technology, hence my interest in making computer music products. However, I learned early on that I was better at making music products that making music. 


You revolutionised the music industry when you designed the Linn Electronics LM-1 drum machine back in 1980. What was your thoughts behind coming up with this groundbreaking piece of equipment?

The original idea was born out of necessity.


In making my songwriting demo recordings, I could play guitar well, play bass and keyboards fairly well, and drums poorly. I simply wanted a machine that could create the drum tracks that I heard in my head, and sound good. 


Since you only produced 500 units of the LM-1, were you trying to make it an exclusive product or didn’t you expect it to take off in such a big way as it did?

No, the LM-1 was simply too expensive for most people to afford.


Its fame is based on the fact that they were owned by 500 of the top people in music. I was pretty dumb but not dumb enough to intentionally refuse a customer's money. :)


In 1981 The Human League were struggling to record The Sound Of The Crowd. In came Martin Rushent and the rest is history as they went on to world domination with the Linn LM-1 programmed album “Dare”. What did you think when you heard it for the first time?

It felt wonderful to hear "Don't You Want Me, Baby" on the radio. 


They also used it on their successful Dare Tour in 1981/82, did you attend the tour?


Unfortunately I never attended any of their concerts.


It did at times give them some technical challenges, s how reliable was the LM-1 in a live situation?

The early LM-1s had a variety of reliability issues, but we worked them out after a while. 


In terms of using the Linn drum machine in the production, can you name your favourite Human League track?


"Don't You Want Me, Baby" is my favorite because it was, to my knowledge, the first hit with one of my machines.



And favourite track by any other artist?


I also enjoyed much of the recordings by Prince, Madonna, Don Henley and others. 


It’s still very popular today as musicians uses samples from the LM-1 in their production. Was it ever converted into a virtual version?

Yes, the drum samples from my old products are all over the web. I haven't yet

created a software drum machine, but may in future. 


You later introduced the LinnDrum in 1982 and the Linn 9000 in 1984 (used on Human Leagues Hysteria album), any favourite model?

My favorite model was the LinnDrum, which I found to be very useful and a reliable design.


Rushent hail the LinnDrum as “greatest drum machine ever made” and it must give great satisfaction to hear the impact your work has had in music. So how do you look back on your design and its place in music history?


Yes, it is very satisfying to have had some influence on musical creativity.  



Even to this day you still push the boundries of the drum machine as your company is working on the Linn Drum II software. How is that coming along?


Still working on it.


As the LinnDrum II page on our site explains, along the way Dave Smith and I discovered that our respective customers wanted different types of products, so we had to abandon our former "do it all" design in favor of my proceeding with a design more suited to my customers.


I realize it's been a long time but it's a complex product and we're a small company. 


When a song comes on the radio, are your trained ears tuned in to spotting if one of the old Linn Drum machines are used?


Yes, that is often the case. However, starting with LinnDrum we offered changeable sounds, making it more difficult to identify because of the variety of sounds.


The band has some very loyal and dedicated fans that try to get to as many shows as possible on a tour. Have you had the same passion for a particular band? You know, following them around the country, sleeping on train stations as you wait for the first train home?


Sorry, no. I'm usually good for about 30 or 45 minutes at a concert, so I tend not to attend many. However, I do enjoy running across the occasional gem, something truly creative and inspired, a work of talent and artistic merit. 

The technology has evolved at an unbelievable rate in the music business since you started out as software has replaced hardware. How is it working in the industry today, compared to back when?

It's a great time for musicians, given that most recording and production products and software are either low cost or free. But the development tools are also greatly improved and a developer like myself is able to spend more time on design and less on reinventing the wheel. It's a wonderful time.



You seem like a very busy man, so what are the future plans for Roger Linn?


Regarding future plans, the product I'm most excited about is the forthcoming LinnStrument, a completely new concept in a musical instrument.


I posted a YouTube video of the prototype and it's been viewed nearly 170,000 times in the past 4 months. You can learn more about it on our site: