This is a cover song. Dido. I forget if we made this one or another one sound so close to the original that maybe it was stupid but then again I don’t even care about that. I like doing that and I like making a cover that’s totally off. Like we had an acoustic guitar plus two vocalists “around the campfire” version of Killing In The Name Of by Rage Against The Machine.
Oh man I don’t even know what to say right now. Have I said everything I have to say? I’m sure I’ve said before what a nightmare it can be to put a cover on your record. There are two on this record. I bet I’ve also talked about sampling before.
Technically, cover songs are allowed. You can do a cover song and you don’t have to ask permission. You do have to pay though. And if the song is managed by the Harry Fox Agency (they all are, really) then they want you to pay a lot up front. But if you want to sample something, you have to have all kinds of written permission and probably you’ll have to pay. It’s not inconceivable that someone could give you permission to sample something and not make you pay.
I paid 50 dollars to a bunch of Tibetan monks to let me use samples of their chanting CD.
It didn’t used to be that way with all samples. If you sampled a bit of a song, then that would be problematic. But if you wanted to sample a movie line, which I did a LOT of, all you had to do was give it credit in the liner notes. Nobody cared. I guess technically the rules were still the same, but nobody was getting in trouble. I did three records with hella samples in there. Various movie lines and other vocal snippets, never any music samples.
The first record, Martyrs And Heroes, that was fine, I gave credits, it printed, boom. For the next record, Artistic Apocalypse, I had to change printing companies to press it because the previous one had turned out to be overly Christian and wouldn’t print certain stuff. So I turned to Discmakers and they printed Artistic Apocalypse fine. All kinds of movie samples and stuff in there, all credited. Then things started changing. Napster was a real milestone but they weren’t the beginning of all this upheaval surrounding intellectual rights and the new digital media and stuff (mp3s and the like).
In fact the way I remember it, it didn’t even start with the “new media” (that’d be the mp3s copied all around on the interwebs) at all. In fact it was ALWAYS easy to copy music. We’d put records onto cassettes. Then we’d copy cassettes onto cassettes. Then we’d copy CD’s onto cassettes. In fact it only got even remotely difficult to pirate music when people starting caring whether something was a second generation dub or not. Long ago nobody thought about that. Now we try to get an actual COPY as opposed to a dub. What isn’t talked about is that for all this copy protection and shit, you can still just as easily dub something and make a copy. There are 1000 ways to do that now, too.
Anyway there was great upheaval before all that started being talked about. Honestly I have no idea why, but people just started getting in trouble all over the place. Around that same time, sampling became sort of frowned upon in some circles of fans. Like you’d find out such and such bassline was actually a sample from another song and you’d be crestfallen and then you’d hear all these nasty rumors circulating about how “oh fuck that song he stole that bassline! that’s a sample!” — “WHAT?? no WAY! REALLY? asshole!”
I remember that being said about Vanilla Ice’s big hit Ice Ice Baby. Maybe something had happened there where they didn’t get the proper permission to use that bassline, but I doubt it. Companies are pretty thorough and that was a well known line. It’s not like it was a secret.
To me that whole thing of getting disappointed in artists who sampled was just white kids coming into rap not understanding what it was. Rap/hip hop is totally about sampling. That’s half the culture. And it’s not a bad thing. Nowadays sampling is happening just as much, and it’s about paying homage to classic songs and also picking up on known themes as a means of building on that art to find new art. And it’s promotional. And it’s nostalgic. All of it at once.
But sampling ORIGINALLY was born of necessity. The first hip-hop stuff was not sampled, it was bands with whole horn sections and the like. But in the world of hip-hop, the liklihood that a kid with talent for rapping who’s killing it at cyphers and break dance circles having a BAND or being trained in an instrument is just very low. It’s a matter of money. As it turns out I was a hip-hop artist for the same reason. What money did I have for band equipment? Who did I know that could play? And for me, it was also a matter of not necessarily wanting to work with other people. Ironic, because I keep saying how it’s ALL about other people, but for a lot of us, it starts out very personal and even secret.
SO, all that having been said, if you don’t have a guitar and a horn section and you never learned to play anything, but you want to rap over some kind of music or beat - guess what? - you PROBABLY have a record player. So along comes Grandmaster Flash and he’s got TWO! He gets two copies of the same record and manages, through AMAZING SKILL (but you don’t need to do it like him, especially if you’re just recording) and you loop that beat over and over from the beginning of Walk This Way or something, and bam there you go.
From there you get creative. Maybe you let the bassline come in or you find another groove with no words, you invent scratching, or whatever. And just as prevalent as records are cassettes at this time, and dual well cassette players are in wide use, and a whole other subset of hip-hop artists like me create a whole other way of doing this called Pause Loop Beats. Capitalized that for emphasis. Pause looping is easy in concept, but like DJ’ing, VERY tricky to master. But with patience, possible, no matter how poor you are (other than having dual well cassette decks!). You just record a section of a beat to another tape and stop it when it’s past where you want. Then you play back that new tape and pause it RIGHT EXACTLY IN THE RIGHT SPOT at the end of the phrase and record engage. Then pause the original tape RIGHT EXACTLY IN THE RIGHT SPOT at the beginning of the phrase, then record-play exactly together and create another loop and then keep on doing that!
I made 100’s of these. I’d do a whole 3 minute drum track then get a third tape and put stuff on top, then I learned to overdub, etc. That started my recording career, but there were literally 100’s of songs I did before I ever wrote a note of music. It was a long time, actually, before I discovered cheap enough gear that I could make “original” music to back my stupid macho 14 year old raps.
So THAT’S where sampling of music comes from. Nobody ever thought of it as stealing, and the whole notion that you’ve revealed some naughty secret when you say someone sampled something is stupid because it was never a secret, in fact you LOOK for recognizable beats or basslines or what not, because rather than being something you’re trying to pawn off as your own, sampling is about adding your verse, your contribution, to a known song. It’s ABOUT it being recognized as a sample. The reason white guys in Minnesota don’t get that, honestly, is because they don’t recognize the old songs because they were busy listening to Pink Floyd or classical music or whatever. Basically it’s due to the long history of segregation and dual cultures laying on top of each other in this country, where there’s a whole long African American tradition that most white people have no idea is even there.
So when you hear that little bassline in Dr. Dre’s tune that sounds original to you and find out later it was a sample and think “damn”, it doesn’t sound that way to Dr. Dre and his family and all the guys in Watts listening to it. They immedietly hear Tighten Up or whatever it is and say “OH YEAH!” and then it takes a new direction and it’s like a nostalgic reinvention of a song and it’s loveable and danecable, original and recognizable at once. It maybe partly came from simple resources reality, but maybe it didn’t. Maybe it was genius to begin with. Maybe Grandmaster Flash makes a choice to get those turn tables instead of a guitar. Hell even Ray Charles was taking known gospel tunes and writing new more racy lyrics for them!
…But… I was talking about the upheaval. Third record I did, Frosted Mini Wheats, had a bunch of snippets, from movies, video games, even a cassette tape of a stage performance of The Crucible. All credited, etc. Sent the record to discmakers and they called and said they wouldn’t print it! Sent me a form, which is now a standard part of their package when you send them a record, where I was supposed to get written permission from every sample. Hell one of them was Bobby Kennedy taken off of a Michael Jackson record. Where do I get that permission? There was no way. So I shelved the record mostly. Printed a few copies myself with stick on labels that melted or bubbled up or caused the CDs to spin wrong in players. Ugh. S’ok, it was probably better not to end up with 1000 copies of that record. I still have 700 of Cult Of Nice and that’s a FAR FAR FAR better piece of work.
So from then on out, and I KNOW I’ve mentioned this before, the rules and regulations and forms and suing and people freaking out and everybody being so “mine mine mine” about their “intellectual property” has totally changed the way *I* make art, and the creative decisions I make - and many others like me. I think it’s crazy but I can also feel for people. I mean you spend your whole life doing this stuff, and all you want is enough money to fuckin buy a sandwich, and suddenly you hear something you created out there in the world, making somebody else enough money to buy a sandwich and a coffee? Come on at least share the turkey a little.
Of course, there’s nobody in my realm that wouldn’t share the wealth if any ever came. Like I’ve mentioned before, I’m really thorough and careful about making sure I have it set up to share the proper wealth with contributers to my records. But I owe each of them about 4 cents each, so *shrug*.
Speaking of 700 copies sitting in the garage. Here’s something I just said in an instant message to a buddy:
“It feels like sitting on a huge pot of gold - 10 years after the world decided gold was just rocks.”