‘People said: “Nobody’s going to listen to instrumental trip-hop.” But I was thinking of huge soundscapes, like the ones by Pink Floyd or Beethoven’
By 1991, sampling had entered a golden era with De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising, NWA’s Straight Outta Compton and the Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique. I was a senior in high school, frustrated that I couldn’t afford turntables, let alone a sampler. I was doing poor man’s sampling by cueing records directly into my four-track cassette recorder, trying to fool the industry that I was more equipped.
I pooled all my money, went down to the Guitar Center in San Francisco and bought the Akai MPC60. When anybody buys an instrument, they always say that they go home and stay awake for two and a half days, just playing. That’s exactly what I did. You could only sample 2.5 seconds of stereo and store 13 seconds, so I would do the beat, melody, percussion, and go to the studio of Dan the Automator, a producer who had an early form of multi-tracking using VHS tapes. For the seven-inch mix of Stem, I wanted to sample Heat, the 1995 movie, so I said: “Make sure you’ve got a VCR. I’m gonna go rent the movie.”
I wanted people to understand that sampling has a long lineage, so the credits are right there in the liner notes. James Lavelle from Mo’Wax said: “Give us a list of the big eight.” So I identified the samples most likely to cause issues, such as Metallica, Björk and the piano on Midnight in a Perfect World that comes from 1969 song The Human Abstract by David Axelrod. A few weeks later I said, “Do you want some more?” and he said, “We still have our hands full, thanks.”