Back in the 1930′s, the union of musicians in the US went into strike, trying to stop radio stations from using recorded music instead of live musicians. We all know who won that battle eventually…
Since then, many musicians have been fighting against technology. Multi-track recordings, drum machines, synthesizers and finally, samplers, have all been ridiculed or posed a threat to studio musicians, while making those musicians redundant in many cases. Sample-based music certainly had to fight for its legitimacy. “It’s not real music”, said some, “it’s only taking other people’s music and stitching it together. It’s just what a DJ does anyway” said others.
But even if some of these notions may occasionally be true, DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing….., released in 1996, is widely regarded as one of the best records of the 1990′s, and surely a cornerstone in sample-based cut-and-paste music. Josh Davis (aka DJ Shadow) has painstakingly assembled dozens of bits and pieces from other people’s records, most of which were long-forgotten gems unearthed from the bins of second-hand shops. He managed to crystallize raw emotion from those samples, truly creating new and exciting music from the building blocks of other records.
In 2006, Dutch funk combo Lefties Soul Connection took Organ Donor, one of the more upbeat tracks on Endtroducing….. (or to be more accurate, the Extended Overhaul version which appeared on the compilation Preemptive Strike and the Endtroducing….. Deluxe Edition Bonus Disc), and played it live using traditional instruments. The outcome is breathtaking – a cover version of a samples collage, which actually sounds as if it was the original track that inspired DJ Shadow in the first place. They took Shadow’s track, and with a big, hot, steamy iron, melted all the stitches that held the various samples together, and made a solid, homogeneous, complete piece of music out of it – without losing the depth and body of the original.
In a way, this version was made by a group of “real” musicians, who were giving their stamp of approval and legitimacy to the sample-based music of DJ Shadow. For a cut-and-paste musician, perhaps no honor is bigger than that.