Taken from the April 2006 issue of Dazed:
Every Monday night, Roger Linn drives from his house in the north Berkeley Hills down to the Gaffe Trieste coffee shop to soothe its patrons with mandolin renditions of traditional Neapolitan songs. When the weather's good, he even invites people up to his house to listen to jazz and world music. So it comes as somewhat of a surprise to hear that RZA, one of hip hop's most illustrious producers, regards the unassuming mandolin player as one of "the true foundations of hip hop."
Linn, you see, isn't only a mandolin virtuoso. That's just his hobby. What he's really known for is inventing the world's first programmable, digital drum machine. Without him, artists like Brian Eno, Prince, Dr Dre and Kanye West would have found it a lot harder to push back the boundaries of popular music. Yet somewhat ironically, Linn's legacy stems not from an infatuation with beats, but from guitars.
The son of an opera singer and a music professor, Linn took up classical guitar as a child but soon got distracted by the rock'n'roll revolution. Combining his passion for guitars and technology, the 14-year-old Linn took an afterschool job at a guitar shop in Hollywood, where he learnt how to install pick-ups. A few years passed, by which stage he had gained a reputation for fusing together existing guitar effects pedals to produce unique sounds. Fanny, an all-girl underground rock group, bought his first product – a customised distortion pedal.