The use of sampling in music has been around for some time now, and at points the use of it has approached levels of extraordinary musicality and ingenuity. At other points, of course, it’s been used in obvious, unsubtle ways – and as a result frequently becomes something of a monster hook. And why not? Not all songs require vocals, and sometimes a well-placed sample transforms a track.
So, this week, I’m looking at some of my favourite uses of sampling – and I’m looking beyond the rather ubiquitous Full Metal Jacket for these ten!
Endtroducing made a good case for sampling as art form upon it’s release, and even more staggering is that fifteen years later it’s still peerless. It’s entire construction is of samples of other artist’s work, but what is most remarkable is that from the disparate sources – this track, which Wiki counts as having seventeen different sources for samples, from 60s soul to A Tribe Called Quest to Metallica (!) apparently has the most identifiable sources of all – somehow emerges a coherent sound and feel. Really, this album is perfect, and was (and is) such a refreshing change from just about anything else that you might hear before and after.
Another extensive sampler was (and is) Rob Zombie, generally sifting out the killer quotes from his beloved B-movies, but on occasion he went out on a limb and sampled Charles Manson victims, pr0n, oh, and Shaft. This track is also proof that good use of a sample doesn’t need to be an extensive one, either – this simply uses “I Just Said Up Yours, Baby“, and the track roars into life. Yeah, there are other bits of Shaft in the song – and other sources – but it’s the killer opening that does it every time, and not to mention making the track instantly recognisable.
Talking of Charles Manson…this is not the only use of this sample – I’ve got at least three other songs, from memory, that use it – but for me it’s this one that is the most effective. Demians make richly textured, slow-burning prog-metal, with soaring melodies and an icy restraint that leaves an awful lot of space in their sound. The first time you hear the sample – as I recall it’s a famous quote from his televised interview with NBC in 1987 – it’s hidden in the music, before being revealed fully, later in the track as it builds to a marvellous climax. To be honest, Demians never got as good as this again.
With the ‘Puppy’s – well-deserved – reputation as seriously intense, dark industrial trailblazers, not to mention highly skilled users of samples from early on, there are still certain moments that still have me chuckling at their jarring use. None more so than the Perry Mason-samplathon, and early career high-water-mark of this. I mean, a pulpy fictional TV detective talking amongst Nivek Ogre’s stream of consciousness vocals and dense beats and electronic chaos just sounds like a recipe for disaster, on paper at least. The fact that they pulled this off, and it became an industrial classic is to me a good pointer of just how creative this band were, and still can be.
Source: Vangelis, Rachel’s Song from Blade Runner Soundtrack
Up there with Full Metal Jacket, surely, as one of *the* most sampled sources in music, particularly in industrial music, elements of Blade Runner – both the soundtrack and dialogue from the film – has popped up all over the place in the near-thirty years since it’s release. It’s most perfect use, though, was in this languid, dystopian epic by the masters of ambient electronics, who subsumed the feel of the film into their own take on a decaying city, but one that was very much more real.
Ah yes, dystopia. A common theme for science-fiction, and for music, although here the sample was transposed for something very different. It opens with the sample from the film: “I hate purity / Hate goodness / I don’t want virtue to exist anywhere / I want everyone corrupt“, and instead of referring to the hell of the film, it’s a glimpse into Richey Edwards’ head. Particularly as the rest of the driven fury of the song is James Dean Bradfield spitting Richey’s apparent manifesto of self, and it’s a thrilling ride, despite the sad story that followed this album.
Talking of fury, FLA’s blistering tale of a madman on the rampage used an appropriate sample – that of Michael Douglas’ famously bad day at the office in Falling Down, and in particular where he snaps and shoots the white supremacist. A film that was something of an allegory for hatred of the greed of 80s America, Vigilante wasn’t far behind in it’s expression of scattershot rage, even if the subject was slightly more ambigious.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, horror films are well-represented in music that uses samples, particularly in metal and industrial. Johan van Roy has never been afraid to use sampling, and many of his albums are riddled with recognisable ones. One of my favourites, though, is the repeated title refrain from this one, that comes from the 80s horror nastiness that is Hellraiser, and from a particularly grim scene, as I recall. This is from back before Suicide Commando descended into something of a clichÃ©, too – only ten years ago.
One last horror film, and remarkably for it’s quotability, one that I can only recall being sampled in one other song than this (although I’ve now forgotten what it was!). The closing track to the first release of this cracking album, it’s surging industrial dance rhythms dovetail perfectly with Vin Diesel’s character’s ruminations on God. And it really makes me want to watch the film again, too.
Finally, for something lighter, we turn to C/A/T. But rather than the booze-filled mayhem of Smashed, it’s the, um, sister track from the same EP that never quite hit the same heights, despite getting something of an upgrade. While there are many samples being used to fill out the killer dancefloor rhythm – all with a common theme, of course – it’s the moments from the Missing Kitty episode of Arrested Development that are the (synthetic) core of the track, and the most memorable quotes, although the closing kiss-off from 25th Hour is pretty awesome too.