Four Lessons in Sampling We Learned from Dam Swindle

Amsterdam legends Lars and Maarten dig into the art and history of sampling, and how it underpins the Dam Swindle sound

By: Katie Hawthorne

Soul, funk, disco, techno, jazz… Dam Swindle brings everything to the party. The eclectic sample masters are celebrating their tenth year with the Keep On Swindling trilogy, a series of records that bridges their past, present and future with a little help from the scene’s rising stars and longstanding legends.

The Amsterdam locals also have a sample pack on the way (a digital library of sounds) so other DJs and artists can get involved in reimagining the duo’s trademark style. Ticketswap sat down with Lars and Maarten at ADE to learn how sampling continues to shape their career.

Creativity Comes First

“Sampling was our first love,” says Maarten. “When we got into production, we had no idea how to make music. We’d listen to these disco and funk songs and it was like, oh wow – I like this part. Let’s take that and see what we can make of it. Now we add electronic instruments, live instruments, and make our own little blend. I love it, it’s pure creativity.”

But you can’t be lazy about it, warns Lars. “If you take the whole idea of a track, just add some extra percussion, and call it your own - that’s not creative sampling. [You have to] switch it up, slice it up.”

Know Your History

In 2020 Dam Swindle made the proactive decision to change their name from Detroit Swindle – a moniker designed to pay homage to the formative music scene and sampling culture of that city, but which the pair later decided inadvertently laid claim to a predominantly Black American history.

Lars explains, “It didn’t make sense: here are these two super privileged white guys that are using a certain style, a certain city, a certain idea, that we didn’t live. We didn’t feel comfortable using that name anymore.”

“All the inspiration we had came fromJ Dilla type producers, who had done all the groundwork for what we’re doing now,” explains Maarten. “The way he sampled was completely new,” adds Lars. “He’d take these slivers of an existing track and make a completely new arrangement. It’s like, wait a minute, I think I recognise [that song]… but it’s not that! What is it? Obviously he inspired a lot of producers.”

Stay Open to Inspiration

As Lars puts it, “inspiration is in everything!” – that is, if you’re open to opportunity. “You might find a one euro record with a little drum break, and that’s it! That’s what you use for five minutes of music, because it sounds exactly like what you’re looking for.”

“And we sample ourselves as well,” adds Maarten. “In the studio if one of us is playing, Lars usually just presses record straight away. We have this whole file and sometimes we skip through it – it can lead us somewhere new!”

Dig in to the Swindlers’ own Sample Pack

“For the first time people are able to get the Dam Swindle sound without ripping off any of our songs,” laughs Maarten. “People can use it, do whatever with it. I’m curious to see what comes out!”



Catch Dam Swindle this ADE:

Baskèts & Dam Swindle present: a night at Koepelkerk for ADE 2022, Saturday 22 Oct 2022, De Koepelkerk, 21:00 – 04:00


Katie Hawthorne writes about music, art and culture for the Guardian, CRACK, the Scotsman and more. Edited by Kate Pasola, Content Editor at TicketSwap.

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