Amon Tobin: “sampling captures the energy of a recording like a photograph”

“You can tell what happened before and after but, in that frozen moment, you have the energy of both encapsulated”

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Amon Tobin

Experimental electronic music producer Amon Tobin has recently discussed sampling in detail and compared pulling a snippet from a song to capturing the “energy” of a moment by taking a photograph.

Tobin, who became renowned for his innovative approach to sampling in the 1990s, spoke about the production technique during the latest episode of the My Forever Studio podcast.

After mentioning that he doesn’t sample any more, the Brazilian-Irish producer recalls: “It was about capturing the energy of a recording like a photograph,” he tells hosts Chris Barker and Will Betts. “If you think of sports photographs – someone in midair, jumping – you can tell what happened before and what’s going to happen after but in that frozen moment, you have all of the energy of both encapsulated in that moment.”

“That’s more or less how I viewed sampling. It managed to trap the energy of something much bigger than its little component. Then, when you re-contextualise that and put it among lots of other [sounds] that are pulling in other directions, you end up with a dynamic and interesting sound.”

He goes on to discuss capturing a snapshot of a wider piece of music even in smaller grain-sized samples, saying that even when a sample is that small, and such an “abstraction of where the origin is”, grain-sized samples can still retain its original intention.

“I took sampling as far as I could take it and that was way back in the 90s,” he says. “I went to like synthesizing the samples. I’d make field recordings, and then I’d synthesize those, I’d turn them into waveforms and have a lot more sort of a liquid property to them, where you can pull them about in different ways, you know? That you can’t really do with waveforms. So yeah, sampling is long gone for me, but it’s definitely informed the way I make music.”

The My Forever Studio podcast in partnership with Audient sees artists, producers and engineers create their dream fantasy Forever Studio, wherever they want in the universe. However, there are strict rules in the Forever Studio. The guests are permitted a limited number of items in their creative space, so they must choose carefully.

Check out all the My Forever Studio podcasts.


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