Ever had the pleasure of listening to a really good radio show? One with a diversified mixture of music, sounds and tracks. One that surprises you and instantly grabs you? Probably not as such shows and radio shows pretty much don’t exist anymore. Maybe a good DJ-set could provide help on this. But there’s only a few with such quality. But don’t be afraid – help is just around the corner in form of DEN SORTE SKOLE. The Copenhagen-based collective is one you should definitely experience live and on record. A producer/DJ-team that dedicates itself and their live shows to the power of sampling. They take tiny bits and pieces from musical influences all over the world and from different times to create their very own sound.
And it’s this sound that knows no boundaries. It’s all about the vibe and the flow. With their latest album Lektion III (free download right here) DEN SORTE SKOLE invite the listener to a fascinating ride into the heart of darkness and groove. Exotic influences team up with fancy beats and melt together in a constant flow of music. NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION recently discovered these guys as support ofn TRENTEMØLLER‘s tour and we instantly fell in love with this great concept and sound. So we took the chance to ask Martin from the band a few questions about their special work ethics, the art of sampling and all the legal problems that sometimes go hand in hand with their music.
If my research was correct your name means “The Black School.” What a tough name. The idea behind it?
In Danish “Den Sorte Skole” or the “The Black School” refers to the strict school system in the 1930ies and 1940ies where things were learned the hard way! Where pupils would get a slap for not listening. Also we started out playing “black” music, so the name had a double meaning in Denmark.
You are all about sampling. Past, present and future combined into one sound. What’s the fascination behind sampling?
Well. big question. For us sampling is about authencity. That certain sound something from the 70’ies or from Indonesia can have that you can’t recreate. Then it is about treasure hunting. About searching, finding and presenting unique moments from our forgotten or remote cultural library. And then it is about transformation – to take something and turn it into something new or combine it with other things to give it new life. When you sample – and only sample – it is also a way a limiting yourself and your musical method which can be very helpfull in a creative way.
When did you first discovered your passion for sampling?
We both started out as hiphop dj’s and eventually found that sampling is one of the backbones of hiphop. At least until the big copyright cases (the Biz Markie case for instance) put an end to that. But it was natural for us to go down that path when we started doing mixtapes. And finally we took the step to sampling.
Your mixtapes feel like a really cool radio show. Like different genres, mixed up to create a certain dark atmosphere. Why the dark undertone?
That’s our sound I guess. All our tracks are in minor and we are both fascinated with dark, melancholic and haunting atmospheres. You could argue that “death” is a theme on Lektion III and “death” is both dark, melancholic, beautiful, haunting and liberating and I think this mixture describes the sound we always end up being drawn towards very well.
You’re coming from a DJ background, started as a hip hop and reggae DJ crew. But you’re fascinated by all kinds of music. Do you think there’s a lack of bravery for a lot of DJs since they tend to stick to just one genre?
A lot of DJ’s and musicians definitely live in silos. But things have changed in recent years. Many people are very open minded and the internet has made a lot of good and weird stuff available from all over the world. And record labels such as Finders Keepers and Sublime Frequencies have done a very important job to open peoples ears. But I guess you are right that our stuff is exceptionally eclectic.
There are a lot of oriental influences in your music, arabic and indian sounds I guess. Do you think Western society needs to open itself more up to these sounds? Or do they already have?
And Asian! I think in general we have to move past the ethnocentrism of earlier centuries. We tend to think that we are the epicenter of ideas, culture and development but that is simply not true. Unfortunately we have succeeded in spreading our western culture to the whole world which makes it hard to see past that. Musically the traditions of the arabic and asian cultures are so extremely rich and offer atmospheres, sounds and rhythms that are super super intense and interesting.
You ever had law-problems with sampling? Is it a grey area?
Yes! We had to stop sharing our second mixtape Lektion #2, because IFPI came after us. Lektion III is a whole other question though – a true grey area. One could argue that we have created a unique composition to such a degree that we would fall under the “fair use” transformation rule under american copyright law for instance.
What do you say to people who are suing people over the usel of samples? Do they have the right to do it?
That depends. I think it is obvious that you can’t rip a Michael Jackson hook, add four to the floor and make a lot of money. However we think sampling should be legal, but that you should register what you have done and have a system for distributing the earnings. Today the system favors the big corporations, layers and the biggest musicians. Those that have enough money to clear a sample and then make even more money; those that have made hits that can never be sampled unnoticed; and those that own all the mechanical rights. All the smaller artists which compositions are ripped and recordings sampled without clearing and mentioning are loosing out!
What aspect play hope and passion in your music?
A lot in the sense that a really intriguing and authentic soundscape for us is balancing on the edge between light and dark, hope and despair. And we like to describe our music as quiet demanding and for those passionate about life!