Monday, January 24, 2011

Sampler Platter

If, from my perch as a cranky old guy, I could offer you young bands a word of advice, it’s this: I know you think Full Metal Jacket and Apocalypse Now are, like, totally awesome movies ‘n’ shit, but all of the rest of us already know that, too. Please stop sampling them on your albums. I’m just saying Netflix boasted about having 65,000 titles a few years ago, so why not give another movie a try?
I don’t object to samples on albums; I often enjoy them. I just think they’re mostly used haphazardly. I often play the fantasy sampling game when I’m watching a movie. I’ll hear a great bit of dialogue and I’ll ponder how I would apply it to a song. What would it say about the music? Would it influence the lyrics or performance? How would it work in an album context? I don’t think enough people ask themselves those questions when they pull a bit of dialogue from their favorite movie. [Ed. Note: I’m not talking about somebody like Graf Orlock. Their shtick is so total as to place them in a whole ’nother realm.]
I can think of very few examples of bands using samples thoughtfully or for more than a superficial rhetorical point. The first would be Who’s My Saviour’s “Save Your Breath,” an album-closing 90 seconds of sludgy psychedelia that deploys creepy flat toned HAL 9000 from 2001 with expertly counterpointed music to perfectly claustrophobic effect. It’s the kind of song I end up listening to three or four times in a row because it’s so well constructed. The second would be Damad’s second album, Rise and Fall, which trickles bits of dialogue from Swimming With Sharks throughout. The choice to go with a single film and to highlight Kevin Spacey’s relentless asshole boss built a misanthropic theme that jibed with the band’s southern crust style.
I wish more bands were that thoughtful when they reach for their DVD collection. Extreme Noise Terror pretty much admitted the samples for 2010 2009’s return to form Law of Retaliation were largely chosen at random and had no bearing on the songs themselves.
I read an interview with Pig Destroyer’s J.R. Hayes a few years back (I think it was circa Terrifyer) where he talked about why the band decided to stop using movie samples and start creating their own theatrical bits. He said when you hear a sample and identify it, it pulls you out of the music. It adds in other associations that maybe the artist didn’t really intend to be there. I’ve often gone back and thought about that quite a bit since then. Especially after I hear the same samples or the same directors endlessly used to augment a band’s song or aesthetic.
Do I really need to hear the exact same "pain has a face" quote from Hellraiser: Bloodline from both Kataklysm (not a grind band, I know; but they’re a repeat offender so bear with me) and Suffering Mind? Are they trying to imply that their music will cause me pain? Because last I checked I thought they wrote songs for their and my enjoyment.
Maruta and Abstain have both used the – thanks to Glenn Beck – no longer farcical Howard Beale rant from Network in their music. Beale’s character was supposed to be satirical rip on the inanity and venality of television news. Are they asking me to seriously identify with his frothing about being mad as hell and scared of the world? If so, why? According to the FBI violent crime has plummeted over the last decade.
Some movies are just overused to the point of painful cliché. Means of Existence is my favorite Phobia album, but even I have to groan at “Snail,” a midtempo, mid-album instrumental meltdown built around samples describing Col. Kurtz from Apocalypse Now. Audio Kollaps have also pillaged Coppolla’s cursed jungle epic (at least they do it in dubbed German), borrowing the Col. Kilgore hitting the beach scene (but mercifully not "Ride of the Valkyries") on an album that also pays visual homage to the movie. If there’s some sort of take home message from either, I’m not sure what it means. Is there some special commentary about the futility and madness of war (Coppolla’s intended themes) I’m not getting from them.
David Lynch is also a popular target for bands looking to boost their arty, intellectual cred. Remember Hayes said Pig Destroyer decided to stop using movie samples? Cuz they sure didn’t have a problem nicking a line from Twin Peaks for the song “Elfin” on the Explosions in Ward 6 (later 38 Counts of Battery) album. Ditto Circle of Dead Children who decided a bit of the Cowboy’s dialogue from Mulholland Dr. would make a fitting opener for Human Harvest. While the “Let’s get down to it” line does make for a nice bit of intro, am I supposed to glean anything else from their choice? Do they identify with Lynch’s vision or artistry in any significant way? Is Human Harvest informed by the themes of duality, identity and delusion that pervaded the movie? How about the Destroyers of Pigs and Twin Peaks?
So I say this as both an undying fan of film and grind: I get tired hearing the same samples on every fucking album. You wanna surprise me? Next album, sample Steel Magnolias or Terms of Endearment instead and do it in a way that’s honest to the spirit of the music.
I’ve collected some of the more egregious offenders and Who’s My Saviour’s sterling example here. Give it a listen and tell me if I’m completely off base and just a grumpy old man.

2001: A Space Odyssey
Who’s My Saviour – “Save Your Breath”

Dark City
Luddite Clone – “Oratory of the Jigsaw”
Kataklysm – “1999:6661:2000”

Network
Abstain – “Discriminating”
Maruta – “Replicate”

Hellraiser: Bloodline
Suffering Mind – “Dead Part of Cause”
Kataklysm – “Il Diavolo in Me”

Apocalypse Now
Phobia – “Snail”
Audio Kollaps – “Aussent Welt”

David Lynch
Pig Destroyer – “Elfin” (Twin Peaks)
Circle of Dead Children – “A Family Tree to Hang From” (Mulholland Dr.)

39 comments:

Shanetera said...

To be quite frank, I love the CoDC opener. It's perfect.
I like samples, but usually funny ones. Getting serious samples takes the fun out of the music. If I wanted really serious music I'd listen to death metal or hyper political bands.

Andrew Childers said...

for all my bitching, i do agree codc grabbed a good one. but ever since i read that interview with hayes, it does pull me out of the album for a moment.

the other overused sample: the "can you dig it" speech from the warriors. phobia used it on "hurray for jesus" and i know i've heard it on a couple other songs. i spend two weeks digging through my music collection but i just couldn't find them for some reason.

Shanetera said...

Yeah, Warriors is s common one.
I forgot to mention I love the Star Wars samples XBrainiax use.
Speaking of Phobia, 22 Acts of Violence has some really good samples. I like the Office Space one, the black metal phone call and at the very end they use a FANTASTIC sample from No Country for Old Men.
Also fuck JR Hayes for hiring a keyboard player for a grind band. Fuck that shit eternally.

Bill Willingham IV, Esquire said...

I love Who's My Saviour's use of that sample. It's extra cool that the last song is really the intro to the first.

Most of the time I find samples kind of annoying.

Although, I re-watched Conan the Barbarian after not seeing it since childhood recently and finally saw where Electric Wizard got the sample that starts "Barbarian." That's another one that is well-placed.

Shanetera said...

PS:Crom uses samples in a very pleasant way on "Hot Sumerian Nights". I dig that album a lot for the use of samples and ripping metal.
All speaking of Conan that is.

DesiccatedVeins said...

One of my favorite usages of movie sampling is Regurgitate's use of samples from Todd Solondz's Happiness in portions of Deviant. Not only do the creepy Phillip Seymour Hoffman samples jibe with their aesthetic, it's the things that they don't use that show their relative maturity on that record compared to everything else they've done. While the samples they do use are about missing penises and disturbing sex acts, they decided to skip the grossouts often following those samples about ejaculating in people until it comes out of their eyeballs. I'm impressed contextually when I listen to that album about how what could've been a cheap gore record with the wrong samples became a more meditative and slightly creepy one with samples from the same movie.

da tr00f said...

Crom has definitely mastered the art of sampling, but they also pull from everything under the sun. As much as the Conan the Barbarian quotes make the album, the sampled banter from Cronos is what really makes the album for me.

Population Reduction also manages to sample to their benefit, but maybe that's because, like Crom, they're not taking themselves too seriously. The dialogue in front of "Art Fucking Sucks" is drop-dead hysterical, and the samples preceding both "Hash Smoking Grind Freaks" and "Roadrage at the Farmers Market" add to the comic effect.

And I know Plutocracy samples that "can you dig it" line on one of their songs.

DesiccatedVeins said...

Also, I haven't listened to them in years, but was it Circle of Dead Children that used a sample from Gummo? I know that someone did, but I can't come up with who it is now.

Alex Layzell said...

Ahhh so many films I am yet to see! Personally I don't mind what films bands sample even if it tends to be the same ones, but what I do dislike is when they do the super long samples, for me 10 secs is the cut off point for my attention, if your sample goes longer than that, you best pray to God that your grind kicks ass, or else you wont get much attention from me.
One thing I am suprised at is I would of thought people would of starting using more famous clips from the internet instead of films.

P.S Check out Devastation of Life, not sure if the samples are from films or elsewhere, but really good stuff.

Wet Nightmare said...

@ dessicated

phobia used a sample from gummo. "this shitty ass rabbit stinks....."

gamefaced said...

kiKURAChiyo and AMTERRORXP have refined taste in samples. impeccable even.word up.

Jordan F.Talbot said...

To me, Plutocracy and ANB have the edge in sampling. Plutoc's whole cop hating, urban hardcore thing is totally represented in their sampling. Probably the best examples of this are on the 'Sniping Pigz' l.p.

Miskatonic said...

Deceased used a sample from "Messiah of Evil" in the song "Morbid Shape in Black". It is creepy as hell.

I also liked when Suffocation sampled The Usual Suspects with "The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist". I swear I heard a grind song lately that sampled it as well. Anyone know?

Once a sampled has been used, it should be off limits (mostly).

Andrew Childers said...

@gamefaced, yes orfee and karlo have taste but i was sooooo tempted to add pump up the volume to the list of overused movies.

*cough*

just sayin'

gamefaced said...

andrew.

christian slater shames you.

talk hard.

orfee said...

Is The Texas Chain Saw Massacre overused? At the beginning, a drunk old man rambles "i see things", have you heard this one before?

"lawbe"

law be, lobby.

Zmaj said...

gamefaced: HAR HAR HAR :)

Andrew: For real? I don't recall hearing Slater anywhere. But, fuck, that's still got to be one of the greatest teen movies ever.

TALK HARD ;)

Zmaj said...

And about sampling in general and why I often dislike it: like it says in the post - for the most part, bands seem to use samples for an added cliched, shallow aesthetic of brutality / extremity (yet, when you reconsider, it obviously goes with the cliched, brutal music and all, doesn't it?). Simply put, I prefer when samples are integrated as integral components of the track / album, not just intros, outros, etc. Orfee knows best. ;)

Andrew Childers said...

actually, z
the reason i left it off was (while yes, i've heard it on a couple of other songs), i was afraid i was more motivated by my hatred of pump up the volume. i think that movie is painfully manipulative with just perfectly evil teachers/parents/government officials against the righteous force of teen honesty. i remember being a teen. i didn't know shit. life is never that clear cut.

but don't let me besmirch the fine name of hard harry.

gamefaced said...

wwcsd?

someone needs to sample some kuffs.

Andrew Childers said...

that i could get behind.

and i'm shocked there's not more heathers samples in the world.

Ryan Page said...

What I find bizarre, (even though i've done it myself) is sampling music from movies. Like left hand path and that conan the barbarian track from gorlock.

Also, Graf Orlock seems more like a parody of the use of sampling and movie influence. There are multiple levels of weirdness, and irony (not in the way its typically understood). It's just a very strange kind of use of pop culture. I don't know, a lot of shitty bands do it, but I think their take on it is interesting. It relates to my recent ideas about citation in art.

I guess I should have more to say since much of my music is influenced by film, I don't know. I guess if it helps to articulate something already there in a somewhat subtle way it can work. If you're sampling the army guy in apocalypse I don't see how you can possibly expect to be taken seriously...

The point about it taking you out of the music makes sense, but only if the place you're supposed to be is specific to begin with. I think sometimes samples can express a montage of overlapping perspectives, if done correctly. Or even if you're are expected to follow a narrative, and are viewing the sample from a third person perspective. The only real example of this I can think of is on terrifyer, right after grave dancer, I think, there's the overlapping samples with the macbeth bit...

Andrew Childers said...

if everyone was thoughtful about it, i wouldn't be bitching like a geezer clint eastwood. but most band just go "zomg that's a cool sample, let's use that."

and if i can back the convo up, i gotta disagree on crom. i love the cocaine wars as much as the next guy (and probably more than most) but i think that's a band that emphasizes samples at the expense of the song. i spend so much time playing "spot the sample" that i often miss the music.

WillH said...

I can't believe nobody has mentioned the Slayer Live samples. You know, "Do you like SPEEEEED metal!?"

Crom, and a bunch of other punk bands and stuff.

Zmaj said...

Andrew, my apologies for discussing Pump Up the Volume rather than the point of your post, but I'd say that "not knowing shit as a teen" is one of the main motifs of the movie. For a concrete example, the scene when [spoiler alert] that suicidal kid calls Harry in a desperate need for attention. The kid kills himself, whereby Harry feels responsible; he quits broadcasting, he realizes that he's a plonker and a wanker. But he also understands that most people are, no matter their age.

Harry's rebellion stems purely from repressed frustration, yet the "teenager + rebellion = senseless" equation is systematically arrogant. And hey, nobody knows shit as a teen. It's not about being a teen; it's about taking responsibility, becoming an adult without becoming a tool in the process. "Find your voice... Use it!" Harry's broadcasts are direct attacks on an oppressive [school] system, but it's an obvious caricature (realistically, who didn't have teachers that he really liked? things like that). I mean, it's all romantic and blown the fuck out of proportion, but I see the notions as much too uncomplicated and "cool" to be manipulative (in a negative way, at that?). Cashing in on teenage frustration is what it is.

Heathers is cool.


And uhh, about "samples", I also find stuff like that Man is the Bastard / Mumia Abu-Jamal "split" very interesting (for anyone else interested, Alex posted it recently on his eyehateblog.blogspot and all) + don't buy into the whole "corruption of pure, apolitical music" deal. [No sense discussing whether the music is better or worse - more or less than before - with attributes other than aesthetically pleasing sounds.]

Andrew Childers said...

haha. pretty impassioned defense of pump up the volume. we'll just have to differ no this one.

i think political samples are a whole different critter, which is why i focused on movies. i think the "it's time to go out in the street and shut this country down" sample that kicks off enemy soil's casualties of progress is probably one of the best and most memorable. i don't think i've ever heard the same political samples used over and over like i have with movies.
i guess my bigger problem is somehow, whether unconciously, we've adopted a limited set of horror/war/sci fi films that can be sampled. it just seems to narrow and leads to stagnation.

"upphyper" yes this topic makes me upphyper.

orfee said...

you can sample from "Night of the Living Dead" because it is public domain, good luck sampling any Star Wars movies, for example.

"mieutme"

Andrew Childers said...

shhh nobody tell george about xbrainaix

Luke Oram said...

I never really liked samples.
I think they are usually and attempt to make up the level of hard-hitting smash the music has failed to attain.

The only sample I ever came close to using was Werner Herzog saying the base unit of the universe was muder, from the Grizzly Man voiceover.

Didn't use it though.

Strawberry said...

the Slayer samples used on "hot sumerian nights" were also used by Charles Bronson.

Shanetera said...

Mr. Childers, how do you feel about thrash bands using samples involving...well thrash. Municipal Waste and Thrashin' In the Streets are perfect examples of this.

Andrew Childers said...

haven't really listened to either so i've never given it any thought. beyond sepultura and the twice decadal big four binge, i pretty much quit listening to thrash in high school and never looked back.

Shanetera said...

Bummer man. A lot of the big four suck huge dick. Anthrax and Slayer are cool, but yeah. Check out some thrash bands that have FUN! I guess a lot of the "thrash" I like is more crossover style thrash as opposed to straight up thrash metal a la Overkill, Metallica, Death Angel, S.O.D etc. I prefer the Suicidal Tendencies/Cryptic Slaughter camp.

Andrew Childers said...

pretty much the only thrash that still gets me going at all is sepultura from schizophrenia through roots because it has that awesome hardcore edge, especially beneath the remains/arise.

and mercifully they broke up right after roots and never recorded another album or did something stupid like try to hire a cheap replacement for mad max.
*sticks fingers in ears*
lalalallalalalalalalalalala i can't hear you.

Anonymous said...

soulfly!

Andrew Childers said...

I SAID I CAN'T HEAR YOU DAMMIT!

orfee said...

i shouldn't say this but, i comprehensively saw full metal jacket for the first time this past month... and well, the sample that struck my memory the most was used by 2 live crew, wasn't it? you know the feeling you get of seeing a sample's source from a song you've been listening for years? i get that a lot, to exaggerate a little.

"jordestu"

gamefaced said...

luther campbell is running for mayor of miami. he wants to raise money by imposing a tax on stripper earnings. typical pimp.

Andrew Childers said...

quick somebody call jack thompson. city council meetings are about to get as nasty as they wannabe.