“VHS is the new vinyl,” Jack Dangers states as he approaches the cash register of Village Music, holding a conspicuous lack of wax. Dangers' video-tapes and DVDs make the white-haired store owner's eyebrows shoot up. “This is the first time you've been in here and didn't buy a record, Jack,” says John Goddard, the man who has sold records to everyone from members of Grateful Dead to PM Dawn. It's no small statement.
Releasing more than a dozen albums during the past 18 years with Meat Beat Manifesto and under his own name, Dangers has sampled, remixed and composed key foundations of electronic music — not counting the seemingly endless list of side projects and remixing gigs with industry titans such as Nine Inch Nails, David Bowie and Depeche Mode. While Dangers was cementing his status as a sampling icon, Village became his hometown source for all things ancient and vinyl. “I was doing some recording for Consolidated at Skywalker Ranch in 1992 when I was first out here, and a friend just brought me down,” Dangers says. “I think I left with literally 500 records. I had to take multiple trips to the car.”
Thirteen years since that spending spree, the man who mixed DJ Spooky's new genre-bending metal-electronica experiment, Drums of Death (Thirsty Ear, 2005), stands in a store full of cheap, rare vinyl without a single record. Nada. It seems like sacrilege, yet the blasphemies continue. “I've been phasing out record buying entirely,” Dangers confesses in the store's cloistered back room, surrounded by floor-to-ceiling racks of old 45s in dusty brown sleeves. “I have about 15,000 records in my collection in two separate rooms, and I just don't see the point anymore. I think that's enough for this lifetime.” He glances toward the aisles around him. “Besides,” he says, “there's not much I haven't heard.”
There's plenty that Dangers hasn't seen, though, which begins to explain today's hunt through the video racks, as well as the latest artistic turn for the cardinal of cut and paste. Simply put, Dangers' sampling has recently gone horizontal. Not content with mining the vein of available audio in the world, Dangers has broadened his sampling to all media. His shows are now 50 percent video, and he doesn't use any audio samples without their video corollaries. This isn't some trippy VJ light show; it's a studied and stunning visual bibliography of his influences. Dangers likes to mine early jazz footage and the old movies from which he's always sampled. Rock solos, interviews, lots of live shows and single lines from films have appeared in his recent performances in Osaka and Nagasaki, Japan. A longtime film and jazz-riff stealer, Dangers is now showing his methods.
For example, Dangers might lay down an old jazz drum break by a legendary artist while playing archival footage of the artist onscreen. On a separate screen are the vocals or instrumentals, which can come from anywhere but are never easy fits. “It's a lot harder than it looks, maybe 10 times harder than audio sampling because you find the right image and a good clip, then it'll be out of key or in the wrong key and you have to find the right key,” he says. “It's like sampling times 10. But the right clip just inspires you and lights a fire in you, just like a good audio sample.”
Dangers terminates, loops, reverses and performs all other AV effects with a custom software program called Xxovoxx designed by friend Chris O'Dowd. Dangers digitizes clips prior to showtime while technicians spend six hours setting up the complicated AV system with two projectors. The lights go down; he boots his Apple Mac G4 laptop and Xxovoxx, which loads an archive of hefty AV clips. Xxovoxx interfaces between the immense files and MIDI keyboard triggers — hit the assigned key, and the audio-video clip fires. Dangers uses a Sony digital video camera as a monitor.
“There's a lot of VJ tools out right now, but I find them sort of limited,” Dangers says. “Often, all you can do is scratch and play, so I'm looking forward to Korg's first audio-video sampler that's supposed to be out next year. Until then, we use Xxovoxx with O'Dowd's newest plug-ins for almost the entire show.”
His latest audiovisual work is available in a new DVD called Tino Vision (Tino Corp., 2005) as well as on the most recent Meat Beat Manifesto CD, At the Center (Thirsty Ear, 2005), an album of jazzy breakbeats accompanied by lilting horns and flute. Dangers will be showing his latest video finds on tour throughout the fall, perhaps incorporating some of the following Village Music selections:
Louie Bellson and His Big Band (V.I.E.W. Video)
He was a great drummer. I got this video for the drum breaks and the live footage — I sample both in my songs. This has lots of noodling solos but nothing for looping on this one. There is a great solo on a pennywhistle, which tickled my fancy.
Rock, Rock, Rock! (Cleopatra)
There should be good stuff of Frankie Lymon talking and soloing, so you can terminate the clip and loop them backwards. A lot of the '50s vocal groups had solo harmonies at the start and end of their records; that was the formula for the period. It's perfect for transforming while scrolling forwards and backwards through the clip. There's also probably some funny evangelical stuff on the devil in here.
Live! Jazz Legends: On the Live Side From Around the World, Vol. 5 (Quantum Leap)
This is some German bootleg of dodgy '80s fusion. I'm hoping to get some good visuals from here, maybe of Billy Cobham playing and making that face that's on the cover. It has an awful solo of an instrument called a ewi, a wind controller for a sampler. It is so crap that I'm definitely going to use it. I already have a bank of video samples of bad '80s electronic instruments — there were some stinkers, like the synth axxe. I just look for what's visually interesting and memorable. We use that “Dueling Banjos” scene from Deliverance with Burt Reynolds [pantomimes a hillbilly thrashing a banjo] and this shot from Can't Stop the Music, the Village People movie, where Leatherman is trying to sing this note and he's making the most hilarious face. [Makes the noise and face.] We run it backwards and forwards, and it just kills.
Soul Comes Home: A Celebration of Stax Records and Memphis Soul Music (Sony)
Anything might be good on here. It's tough to say. We'll maybe use Michael McDonald's whistling section in “Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay” or the theme from Shaft.
The Vocalists: The Snader Telescriptions (Navarre)
Sarah Vaughan's voice is amazing for a start. This has nice intros and outros for people who like to call themselves “video rangers.”
The Yardbirds: Where the Guitar Gods Played (Rhino)
Clapton, Beck, Page — this should have good interviews and samples, the usual rockumentary fodder. It has a great live version of “For Your Love.” We already use stuff from Keith Richards talking, but we don't use anything without respecting it. We don't just whack all this stuff together. We try to understand its context and history, what it is and where it's come from. It's almost an obsessive-compulsive disorder. We keep taking it apart to make something new: creative destruction. Did Christopher Guest model his Spinal Tap character on Jeff Beck? They look identical.