“It’s always been a way to reinterpret things — sometimes it’s using an element from the past, or sometimes recreating them and fooling the eyes or the ears, which is a fun thing to do.” ~Thomas Bangalter of Daft Punk on sampling, Anthem Magazine(http://www.thedailyswarm.com/swarm/daft-punk-sample-sources-half-list-not-true/), 2007
“‘Thou shalt not steal’ has been an admonition followed since the dawn of civilization. Unfortunately, in the modern world of business, this admonition is not always followed.” ~Judge Kevin Thomas Duffy, from his decision in the landmark sampling case, Grand Upright v. Warner(http://ccnmtl.columbia.edu/projects/law/library/cases/case_grandwarner.html), 1991
In the world of sampling, perhaps the gravest sin is exposing another sampler’s sample source. Considering that artists and audience judge sampled music in degrees of obfuscation (i.e., how unrecognizable, creative, and scrupulous the sampling is), “outing” a sampling artist runs contrary to these unwritten rules. However, since hip-hop introduced sampling to mass culture in the late ’70s, this exception has been constantly challenged. Listeners and artists alike have always wanted to know the secret behind that mysterious “it,” whether that “it” is the unknown break in Kool Herc’s crates or the source of Marley Marl’s crushing drums. Artists seldom let on too much, often because they believe that same hype about an “artist’s secret” or simply cannot comprehensibly articulate their process. Subsequently, sampling, one of hip-hop music’s building blocks, has ironically become its most taboo subject: It’s what everyone wants to talk about, but no one really does.
No surprise, then, that the most lasting tactic in this tug-of-war has been spilling the beans. The Ultimate Breaks and Beats series, which collected (and sometimes re-edited) hip-hop sample sources onto affordable LPs, is rightly credited with branding this approach since its inception in the mid-’80s. The series widely disseminated and made affordable a number of rare and expensive records to inquisitive fans and artists (who are seldom without need of funds) and appropriately spawned many imitations. More recently, spill-the-beans comps have become more nuanced by focusing on the sample sources of a specific artist’s catalog or album (e.g., A Tribe Called Quest, Dr. Dre, Wu-Tang Clan). It should be noted that none of these collections has been commissioned at the behest or with the cooperation of the sampling artists, which has led to an understandably testy relationship between the two worlds. Spill-the-beans comps thereby have the detestable yet magnetic attraction of an unauthorized biography.
Interestingly, this sub-conversation only recently migrated from the hip-hop world into other sample-based territories. Discovered: A Collection of Daft Punk Samples, Rapster Records’ “tribute” to the Parisian dance duo, is perhaps the most notable (i.e., “legitimate”) expose of a non-hip-hop sampling artist. A quick note for those keeping track: The website Palms Out Sound previously outed(http://palmsout.blogspot.com/2007/02/sample-wednesday-27-daft-punk.html) these tracks in February 2007. Although not as extensive as the blog post (though Discovered notably adds Chaka Khan’s “Fate,” which was used by Daft Punk member Thomas Bangalter’s extracurricular Stardust for the 1998 hit “Music Sounds Better with You”), Discovered includes the juiciest cuts. Records that were initially cited in album liner notes — such as George Duke’s “I Love You More” and Edwin Birdsong’s “Cola Bottle Baby” — now sit alongside previously undocumented sample sources, like Jerry Goldsmith’s “The Rec Room” and Eddie Johns’s “I Put a Spell on You.” Though Daft Punk member Thomas Bangalter dismissed half of the samples as inaccurate(http://www.thedailyswarm.com/swarm/daft-punk-sample-sources-half-list-not-true), the compilation is still filled with believable reference points for the group’s disco and pop (re-)visions, such as Tata Vega’s bona fide Salsoul-style jam “Get It Up for Love.”
However, Discovered only furthers the need to question the approach of spill-the-beans compilations. The collection simply contains purported sample sources and lists which song the source is linked to. Devoid of any facilitation or context, Discovered does not address the more substantial question of how Daft Punk went from point A to point B. Knowing that Jerry Goldsmith’s bloop-blippy “The Rec Room” formed a part of the insanely catchy “Around the World” is novel trivia. Analyzing how “The Rec Room” was chopped and filtered into a dance-floor hit requires a different set of tools. Discovered, like its countless predecessors, promises to momentarily revive or resuscitate forgotten tracks (especially useful for deejays and the music cognoscenti that line the walls of your favorite hipper-than-thou venue) and to spark another argument about the validity of sampling. However, a little too much is left to the imagination when the compilation includes no concrete information about the group’s process. That the resulting “debate” inevitably devolves into the familiar unimaginative(http://palmsout.blogspot.com/2007/02/sample-wednesday-27-daft-punk.html#c255211254650988753) versus genius(http://palmsout.blogspot.com/2007/02/sample-wednesday-27-daft-punk.html#c1915504748409505053) argument is sadly regressive and counterproductive. And, perhaps worst, it unintentionally removes the magic behind sampling. Congratulations, Daft Punk fans: another sample bites the dust.