Part 9: The Question of Sampling
The ninth in an occasional series from Rick about his life as a musician – where it all started and what it has come to now
In previous pages I was remembering how I used to take a cassette recorder around with me to record anything of interest. This could include machinery sounds from a factory or building site, snatches of conversation or sounds of the natural world. Cassettes would accrue and my audio library expanded accordingly. Before the invention and manufacture of the Sampler in the 1980s, a few people I knew were already using ‘found’ sounds in their own music. This could include snatches of other people’s music. Once the Sampler was on the market and out there, this trend became commercially rampant in the ensuing years and the inevitable cries of ‘rip off’ could be heard widespread. There were a few high profile court cases involving the richer, or more visible, musicians and record companies. Settlements were arrived at through the legal process. Lower down, more tacit agreements were achieved. Lower down still, you just took your chances.
Some artists are outraged by such ‘referencing’ but some are flattered. Some had their careers re-ignited by someone else’s use of their music. It remains a lively debate. Personally, I try to always avoid the obvious. Though I have never owned a Sampler, I have used extracts of other people’s music over the years. I never use it verbatim or wholesale. I always put it through some creative process of transformation to sculpt it to suit my purposes. It often becomes unrecognisable from its source. It is this process of transformation which, for me, justifies such action.
If I were ever to be sampled by someone else, I hope that I would welcome it as an affirmation of a good idea. I can never imagine that there would ever be any question of financial remuneration.