Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images Nine days after the deadly tornado that touched…
- Posted on Dec 7th 2009 3:00PM by Kenneth Partridge
"It was the fact I was just able to change the chord progression of the song that made it work most for me," Portner tells Spinner. "The song sort of stays the same for a while, and it reaches the point where it changes melodically, and to me, it happened very suddenly at first, and I liked that. It was a surprise change, so that's what drew me to the actual sample."
Dead bassist Phil Lesh, who wrote 'Unbroken Chain,' evidently liked Portner's reworking of the track, and the legendary San Francisco jam band bestowed upon Animal Collective its first-ever official sample permission.
A Dead fan since childhood, Portner says he picked 'Unbroken Chain' more for its musical qualities than any personal significance, though he's always been fond of the tune. "Phil Lesh did write some pretty sweet songs," Portner says. "This one and 'Box of Rain' -- the songs he wrote for the Dead kind of stand out."
While the members of Animal Collective are no strangers to manipulating pieces of pre-recorded music -- the group's latest album, 'Merriweather Post Pavilion,' makes ample use of samples -- Portner says they generally prefer tinkering with their own sounds to working within the confines of someone else's.
"I think it's a matter of wanting to do [a song] in a different way," he says. "A lot of what we've been doing for 'Merriweather' has been using a lot of our own instrumental samples, rather than songs that are already in existence. It's a step we wanted to take with this stuff."
When asked if there are other artists Animal Collective might like to sample, Portner says he doesn't approach things in those terms. "I'd be thinking more in terms of interesting textures, if I were to sample anything more," he says, distancing himself from the "crate diggers" that comb record shops and flea markets for breaks.
"I think we would definitely want to get back to less samples in the future," Portner adds, providing some insight into what the next Animal Collective album might sound like. "I think we've reached, for now, the peak of letting electronics be such a main factor in the design of what we're doing. It would be nice to step away from that."