The release of Tech-House 2 last week heralded a milestone for Sample Magic, taking us to 50 sample-based releases across our three labels, Sample Magic, Sample Magic Presents and SM101, since our launch in 2005.
To mark the occasion Sample Magic co-founder Dave Felton embarks on a retrospective of the SM catalogue to date, highlighting his five favourite releases on our half-century anniversary.
So without further ado it’s over to you, Dave…
One of the reasons why Sharooz and I set up Sample Magic back in 2005 was our frustration with the quality of samples on the market at the time. Sure, there was some good stuff – like eLab’s superb Nu Directions in House and uberschall’s seminal Houseworxx. But in a market dominated by just a handful of players, there wasn’t a single reliable sample label whose heart was in the studio and whose soul was on the dancefloor. Cue Sample Magic.
Since that day we’ve released 30 full-size libraries, covering nearly every electronica sub-genre from house to chillout, techno to dubstep. And in those eight years there have been a number of personal highlights for me. Here they are:
I’ve chosen this simply because it was our first. We spent months on it, recording sessions that lasted through the night and then editing each loop tirelessly using the analogue kit that we still use today. We knew that if we had a hit then our new company would have a future – so we put every last ounce of energy (and cash) into recruiting the best session musicians and then shaping a release that would at the same time inspire and provide essential sample fodder for anyone making funky and disco house. Among the many memories I have of that release is recording the ensemble crowd and Latin carnival samples – which were in fact just Sharooz, myself and the awesome Nicole Tyler, overdubbing time and time again to build up ever bigger crowd noises. There must have been about 100 passes on the main ‘crowd’ sample. Happy days.
One of the pleasures of running a sample company is working with so many talented musicians and producers. And with Nu-Rave we knew we were working with someone special. The first demos we got through literally blew us away – I remember standing in the studio rendered speechless by the talent on show. The producer? An as yet undiscovered Phonat – who would, within months, go on to do a load of fantastic stuff. With added production from Sharooz it was about as good a dream team you could get. Everything about the release worked: the sounds, the (new style) artwork – and the sheer number of song-starters in there still makes me smile.
The supremely talented Sami Liuski is our longest serving sound designer – and is the talent behind more SM releases than anyone else. His knowledge of what makes a great sample is only surpassed by his production skills and a studio that would be the envy of many commercial facilities. In organic house he was able to combine two of his fortes – house with live elements – to forge a release that I’ve used on more of my own tracks than any other. The birthing process was prolonged: we did a load of original studio recordings (bass, guitar, keys, vocals) in our London studio before passing them on to Sami to work his magic. There, in the heart of Berlin, he went about editing, re-sequencing, filtering and mixing to create a release infused with the human and yet solidly aimed at the dancefloor.
We started the SM101 imprint to offer those who didn’t want or need a full multi-MB title a taste of the Sample Magic. And in Live Breakbeats the imprint came of age. Project managed by the obscenely talented Hal Ritson of The Young Punx, the attention to detail on show was unsurpassed. When Hal does something, he does something properly – and in the case of Vintage Breaks it was studying not just the drumming techniques and kits involved in the original breaks, but also the kinds of mics used, and the recording techniques – many from a bygone era. Gone were high-end plug-ins and virtually noiseless modern channel strips and back in were rare pieces of lovingly maintained outboard and collectable mics. Add into the mix a superb session drummer in the shape of Alex Reeves and you’re pretty much gauranteed a killer release. When we first heard the demo we just sat smiling. Hats off to Hal.
There are some sample companies who always go for the jugular. Who watch the top 10 on Beaptort and aim every release at replicating that sound. That was never our intention. We wanted to make samples that we loved; whether they appealed to the mass market or not. In Chillwave we ignored the mainstream and embraced the niche. It was just a release we wanted to make. Hell, we can still have fun, can’t we?! With programming by two of the newest members of our still small sound design team, it represented a true labour of love from all involved, with a germination period that stretched across two years and included field recordings and the trawling of boot sales to pick up wrecked old portable tape players and some very low cost synths. If it ever gets too much at SM HQ I just put on the headphones and listen again to the demo. (Oh, and who can’t love that artwork!?)