Sampling is as old as hip-hop itself. That much we can all agree on. Whether it’s Kurtis Blow clipping Sugar Hill Gang or Nicki Minaj auto tuning Simply Red, samples are the building blocks of street music. Few producers know this better than Den Sorte Skole. Their moniker alludes to a–now defunct–rather bleak school system ethos that focused on memorisation and shunned creativity, but bar the obvious irony Den Sorte Skole are no strangers to buckling down. On the contrary they’ve had their pretty Danish faces digging through endless record crates and obscure blogs for the last year or two in order to revive tracks that most likely had your Turkish mate’s grandfather doing the boogaloo years before you were even a bulge in your dad’s pants. All this has given way to their third full length, Lektion #3, and we sat them down for a chat.
VICE: You just dropped your third lesson. It's been a bit of a process right?
Den Sorte Skole: A marathon, yes. Two and a half years! But it's been alright. We made a schedule and we've pretty much followed it. We knew it was going to take us ages to do this and of course the last six months have been crazy.
The tracks that you are sampling, they're extremely obscure. Where did you come across them?
A lot of them we found on blogs first, like Ghostcapital, but in mp3 quality. When we knew we would be using those samples, we bought them up on vinyl on internet auctions from all across the world. We got a lot of inspiration and new knowledge on those blogs from everywhere from Honduras to Indonesia. Some samples we already had or found in secondhand shops.
Which of the samples are you most proud of finding?
There are so many crazy samples and interesting stories, for example the vocal sample for the track “Hürel”. We made the instrumentation almost two years ago, but couldn't really take the track to the next level. Then we stumbled upon Exuma's first record and his amazing voice. The zombie-vocals from the track "Mama Loi, Papa Loi" tear up the mix completely.
Some of these records must be pretty old and beat up. Ever found yourself in a situation while buying them?
Well, we got really tired of buying boombay mint records from India over the internet. Apparently mint condition in India isn’t all that mint. In northern Mumbai we also bought some records from a guy who soaked the vinyls completely in a big bucket of water before handing them over. He thought he was doing us a favor by cleaning them.
On top of that, it must be a nightmare trying to clear them all, aren't they copyrighted?
They are copyrighted. All of them. But we haven't cleared any! We contacted IFPI's Danish department to clear them all in one go, like TV-stations do, but they refused on the day we finished the record and asked us to clear them individually, which is impossible. It would take us years. More than 10.000 pieces of sound sampled from 250 different old tracks from 51 countries. It would never happen. So it was either trashing the record or doing it anyway.
Genius steals, huh? Have you gotten any legal trouble before in these type of matters?
Yes and no. We've never been sued, but when we did our last lesson, Lektion #2, IFPI asked us to stop spreading it and clear everything.
About that, isn’t it a bit presumptuous calling your records "lessons", do you feel like the music world needs to be taught something?
We are a school and had to close the circle of the lessons, so it had to be so. And yes, the music world can always use some more knowledge. A lot of stuff these days is so party oriented and we wanted to do something completely different. It’s very different from our earlier releases, too.
Indeed. You weren’t worried people might think the teachers had gotten old and weird?
We made a decision very early on, not to think about what our audience would expect and want. That's how we’ve always done. If the teacher asks the kids what they want to do, they will end up playing soccer in the courtyard. And who doesn't aspire to grow old and weird, anyway?
Their latest lesson, Lektion #3, is now available for download via their website. The vinyl version however hasn’t been cleared by everyone just yet.
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