I’ve got to hand it to Detroit techno legend Kevin Saunderson for his response this week to the piratical Italian “producers” who jacked his 1987 classic “The Sound.” Here’s the story on inthemix, the Australian dance music website that I write for:

Kevin Saunderson rages against rip-offs

These Italian hacks, who roll under the name Supernova, sampled and looped the hook from Reese & Santonio’s “The Sound” (produced by Saunderson and released on his label, KMS Records) without permission, and without adding much of value of their own, and are passing it off as a piss-poor original tune called “Beat Me Back.” Saunderson’s vengeful response was to take Supernova’s tune and guerilla-upload it to SoundCloud, offering it for free in order to circumvent its sales. (He’s also offering “The Sound” for free, I imagine to increase its distribution and visibility in hopes of educating younger generations.)

Here’s the classic Derrick May mix of “The Sound”:

Here’s the Supernova hack job. (I apologize that you have to look at the cheesy photoshopped picture of President Obama and Colin Powell, apparently the work of “DJ Beatmaster B,” who uploaded this track. But anway, it kind of says it all about the culture of bad club music.)

Here’s the letter Saunderson posted on his site explaining his actions. I love the way he attacks the pirates while yet defending the practice of sampling:

Dear friends, fans and members of the music industry,

Today I’m giving away as a free download one of the productions I am most proud of: “The Sound” by Reese & Santonio. I recorded “The Sound” back in 1987 and released it on my own KMS Records label. It was a massive hit at New York’s Paradise Garage and in Chicago and of course Detroit. Once it hit the UK it became one of the earliest Detroit anthems all around Europe, a huge underground record across the globe – a true desert island techno track. It is such a special record to me because it was one of my first really successful productions and I hope that you all will enjoy this free, fresh digital download of my original 1987 version.

The reason I have decided to give this track away for free is because of a situation that recently developed involving the unauthorized sampling of “The Sound” by Italian producers Giacomo Godi & Emiliano Nencioni (Supernova) in their release “Beat Me Back” on Nirvana Recordings. It came to my attention that they are licensing and selling, with considerable success, this track which is nothing more than a continuous loop of the main hook from “The Sound.”

For me to hear “Supernova” taking an extended loop of “The Sound” and claiming that this is their own original composition and production is both dishonest and disrespectful. My first thought was that they were perhaps naïve, but as they have apparently been recording together since 2002 this seems unlikely. In any event this is completely unacceptable; we cannot continue to let this kind of wholesale ripoff go unchallenged and tolerate “artists” who completely sample recordings, add nothing of their own and then release the results as their own work.

I have a huge affection for sampling – it’s how some of the most inspiring and groundbreaking tracks of our times were created. We’ve pretty much all sampled records at some time, and cleared the sample so we can use it on our releases, but it is just not cool to take someone else’s music, create a big old loop of it and then put your name on it, and try to have success entirely off the back of another artist’s efforts. This really has got to stop. For this reason, I have uploaded the Godi/Nencioni version of “The Sound” to SoundCloud so that you all can download this for free if you so wish. These producers and their record label should not be profiting from my back catalogue… This is not their track to sell.

Is it really such a crime that they ripped off Saunderson’s record? Am I not usually philosophical about sampling, even when it’s unauthorized? True, the history of dance music is filled with unauthorized samples and steals and ripoffs, and some great sounds have resulted. Think about all the great hip-hop breaks from the old days, when samples weren’t necessarily licensed. Take the entire history of reggae – there have been so many brilliant reggae “versions” (“borrowed” instrumentals with new vocal tracks) because there are no copyright laws in Jamaica.

But that argument breaks down when you consider that the spirit of hip hop and reggae is innovation – adding your own twist to a classic record or break and passing it on. Being part of a culture that’s shared outside the bounds of music “ownership.” So even though I have issues with the idea of “copyright,” and even though I’m a fan of a lot of pirated music, I’m on Saunderson’s side here. What sucks about the Supernova track isn’t so much that it uses a sample, it’s that it does it in such a lazy and boring way. Sampling (even without permission) is much more justifiable if you’re going to do something new, add to the culture. If I had a nice recording studio and an Italian record contract, I’d sure as hell do something more creative with it. This is just nightmarishly bad club music that has no sense of history, no regard for the culture. And at the end of the day, crap music or not, why didn’t they just get permission?

So these clowns deserve everything they get. And I just love Saunderson’s in-your-face protest. My first thought when I saw this story was, Middle Eastern dictators, Tea Party governors – and now, Eurotrash dance producers.

Check out Kevin Saunderson’s website, where you can find the download of “The Sound” (as well as the link to the guerilla SoundCloud track of “Beat Me Back,” if you happen to be interested).

As a parting shot, and hopefully to erase the Supernova track and the photoshopped Obama from your mind, here’s another supreme classic produced by Saunderson – Inner City’s “Do You Love What You Feel”:

 

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