'It makes the art form illegal and dangerous': DJ Shadow on sampling, the law and the fight for what's right

'It makes the art form illegal and dangerous': DJ Shadow on sampling, the law and the fight for what's right

In the new edition of Music Week, the legendary DJ Shadow joins the likes of Clive Davis, Max Lousada and Fergie in tackling our Aftershow feature and reflecting on his life and times in the music business.

Ahead of releasing Our Pathetic Age – his first ever double album, which features A-list guests including Nas, De La Soul and Run The Jewels – next month, the producer looked back on a lifetime dedicated to the pursuit of crafting the perfect beat. Yet when it comes to that task, a lot has changed since he made his name with his classic 1996 Endtroducing – a record, it should be noted, that is in the Guinness book of records for being “the first album to be recorded using only sampled sounds.”


In his Aftershow feature, DJ Shadow weighed in on the increased litigation surrounding sampling.

“It’s a bit pathetic, isn’t it?” said Shadow. “It doesn’t matter what’s right, it doesn’t matter what’s moral, it doesn’t matter what’s anything, it’s just, ‘Is it legal?’ The Blurred Lines case with Robin Thicke and Pharrell is a classic example. To say that you can’t be inspired by or sound too much like [something]… It goes against our human essence. Imagine the inventor of the 12 bar blues’ fifth generation heir... They could just sue the entire planet. It’s patently pathetic that the law is trying to establish that every creative output must pretend as though it is completely new. Obviously, that’s not possible.”

In the past, DJ Shadow has been an advocate for musicologists being drafted in to determine who owns what from a song.

“I have no problem clearing samples when the clearance is equitable based on the use,” he continued. “But if you’re clearing one sample out of 18, and they want 50% and everybody down the line wants 50%, then it’s kind of like, ‘Hang on guys, this isn’t going to work!’ It literally makes the art form illegal and dangerous...”

Subscribers can read the full DJ Shadow interview here.

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