El-P, Gary Numan, and extra on Blade Runner’s musical affect

Based on WhoSampled, that endlessly helpful useful resource for figuring out which artists ought to most likely be sued, bits of Blade Runner have been paid homage to—and straight-up pilfered—greater than 80 instances previously 35 years, turning up in works from everybody from Ryuichi Sakamoto to Sigue Sigue Sputnik. Rutger Hauer’s climactic “Tears In Rain” monologue alone has been sampled a dozen instances: GWAR nicked its dialogue, as Revolting Cocks did beforehand, for its 2013 thrasher “Insanity At The Core Of Time.” British digital producer Zomby appreciated the speech a lot, he made it the centerpiece of his 2008 track, “Tears In The Rain.” Vangelis’ mesmerizing synth rating, too—from the cinematic gleam of its “Principal Titles” to the space-noir jazz of “Blade Runner Blues” to the haunting “Rachel’s Music”—has lent its neon shimmers to dozens of songs from the likes of The Future Sound Of London, Dillinja, and Aesop Rock. All instructed, there could also be no extra sampled film in historical past than Blade Runner, a movie whose story about synthetics in search of extra borrowed life has been continued within the many musical replicants it’s spawned.

“I truly sampled it proper off the VHS for considered one of my earlier information—which I cannot say which one it’s, as a result of I don’t need to get arrested,” El-P tells The A.V. Membership. (He’s most likely speaking about Firm Circulation’s “Data Kill II,” however don’t inform the cops.) “After I was developing, most individuals in my style have been nonetheless going with the basic breaks and funk stuff,” the rapper/producer provides. “However I used to be amassing Vangelis. I used to be pulling from these actually moody, synth-heavy movie scores. Most synth use was relegated to a Zapp, funk form of vibe. However movie scores have all the time been enormous for me, due to the emotional connection. And I assumed it was nasty to mess around with that.”

El-P, who even mounted a 2015 Run The Jewels tour modeled on the movie’s design, could also be hip-hop’s—if not fashionable music’s—most seen Blade Runner fan. He’s spent his whole profession paying homage to the technocratic nightmares of Philip Okay. Dick, each immediately (his verse on Mike Ladd’s “Bladerunners” is virtually an IMDB abstract) and in dystopian spirit, rapping his personal paranoid visions of drones and demise squads from deep inside a seething, laser-strobed machine.

“It had a tone to it that I’d by no means encountered earlier than,” he says of first seeing Blade Runner as a child. “It simply had a vibe that was actually fascinating, and it made me emotional. It made me really feel one thing… This sense of being fatalistic and romantic, this rigidity. It undoubtedly influenced me.” Plus: “It had fucking flying vehicles, man. Good lord.”

Run The Jewels tour poster (by way of RunTheJewels.internet)

Flying vehicles apart, the attract of Blade Runner—and Dick’s writing normally—is the way it belies the promise of technological utopia that’s been floated by a lot science fiction. It’s a world the place Spinners glide by way of towering skyscrapers and the rich reside, Metropolis-style, in golden monoliths, however the folks under are squatting in burned-out buildings with leaky roofs and nonetheless calling one another on pay telephones. “It’s primarily based in one thing actual, which is that the long run is stuffed with outdated concepts gone fallacious,” El-P says. “The longer term is stuffed with junk. I like the thought of sentience being this sort of stumbling, fucked-up factor. Do we actually assume that we now have the flexibility to delivery a purer sentience than we’re able to attaining? It was all the time far more a touch upon who we’re than any curiosity sooner or later.”

That very same sci-fi social commentary and postmodern pessimism has lengthy knowledgeable El-P’s lyrics, whereas the rating’s brooding, cybernetic sweep defines his sound—now fairly actually. The man who grew up ripping Vangelis’ sounds from a VHS tape (partly owing to the rating’s irritating, decade-plus-long journey to launch) just lately fulfilled a childhood dream by shelling out round $25,000 apiece for not one, however two Yamaha CS-80s, the extraordinarily uncommon synth the composer used to create it. One keyboard belonged to Eddie Van Halen, whereas he stumbled upon the opposite—which Stevie Surprise had used on The Secret Life Of Crops—in a Brooklyn music retailer.

The CS-80’s sweeping tones, surging by way of pressure-sensitive keys that have been splendid for Vangelis’ improvisatory means of composing, may be heard all through Run The Jewels three. And as El-P just lately revealed, he even received to place them to make use of on the last word Blade Runner nerd fantasy challenge: scoring the trailer for Blade Runner 2049, regardless that his take was in the end rejected.

“I attempted to create one thing new that had sure throwbacks, sonically, to what Vangelis did, nevertheless it was a totally new take,” he says. “It was kind of final minute, like ‘ You’ve gotten three days.’ I didn’t even get an opportunity to combine it earlier than I despatched it to them. And you understand, it’s all good. It occurs on a regular basis. However I used to be bummed, I’m not gonna lie. Particularly as a result of, ever since they introduced Blade Runner 2049, actually each single day I get requested on Twitter if I’m scoring it. And I’ve to hit them with the unhappy frowny face and simply say no. So I used to be slightly bitter that I didn’t get the trailer. However I used to be psyched that I used to be requested.”


El-P’s actually not alone there. The second that information of a Blade Runner sequel hit, adopted intently by the affirmation that Vangelis can be sitting this one out, folks have been providing their wholly unsolicited solutions for artists who ought to get the gig: Cliff Martinez, whose tense, ambient-noir scores have twice added depth to Ryan Gosling’s smirks on Drive and Solely God Forgives. Oneohtrix Level By no means’s Daniel Lopatin, whose melancholy synth swirls comprise their very own, equally decaying goals of future previous. Survive’s Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, whose rating for Stranger Issues has refreshed the retro-’80s visions of synthwave for the 21st century. Seemingly anybody who’s ever touched a Moog previously 20 years was bandied about as a contender earlier than the job finally went to director Denis Villeneuve’s frequent collaborator Jóhann Jóhannsson—and even Villeneuve had second ideas, parting methods with Jóhansson and bringing in Hans Zimmer to compose one thing nearer to Vangelis’ unique. It’s a mirrored image of what a frightening job it’s to tread on such iconic floor—but nonetheless, it’s one everybody desires.

“The messages the movie’s making an attempt to convey, the road between human and never human, is one thing that I believe has influenced me subconsciously.”

“I might have cherished to,” says Seth Haley, aka Com Truise, whose name was floated thanks to his own wobbly space-funk, which similarly feel like a warped Memorex version of tomorrow. Haley was actually a Blade Runner late-bloomer, snubbing it for years before finally watching it as an adult, but he quickly caught up. “I’ve definitely watched it at least 300 times,” he tells The A.V. Club. “I literally watched it every night for three months. What I liked the most was the technological aesthetic—the graphics they chose to go on the screens, the computers, the signs, the neon. I tried to capture as much of the mood as possible in my music, that hi-fi/lo-fi feel.” That’s definitely borne out across Com Truise’s albums, where cyborg sighs and alternately jittery, melancholy synth workouts come packaged with geometric pastels and a wry Epcot Center optimism, like a blimp cheerfully touting the promise of Off-World Colonies to the broken streets below.

A much darker version of Blade Runner’s hypnagogic limbo can be found on British label Dream Catalogue, whose vaporous, heavily cyberpunk-influenced artists like HKE, Telepath, and 2814 weave ambient moodscapes that could well function as alternate soundtracks. (Even Dream Catalogue’s logo is rendered in a Blade Runner-esque slashed-horizontal font.) Theirs is similarly a bleary vision of a tomorrow colored by the somber regrets of yesterday.

“Vangelis’ score, along with a lot of that synth-y stuff from the late ’70s to the late ’80s, still sounds futuristic to me,” says Dream Catalogue associate Jude Frankum, who records under the name Remember. “If it came out today, I think it would still sound relevant. It is this past idea of looking toward the future.” Like the rest of his collective—and again, Blade Runner—Frankum’s music is suffused with an intangible sensation of bluish artificial light and East Asian romanticism, echoing with dreamy reverb and underscored by the sounds of unceasing rain. “I love rain, both creatively and in my everyday life. Rain creates a nice shimmer on the lights around you,” Frankum says.

Thematically, too, it lives in that same disparity between those glassy skyscrapers looking down over dank, crowded street markets teeming with anonymous life. And it similarly captures the way technology has blurred the line between organic and synthetic: “The messages the film’s trying to convey, the line between human and not human, is something that I think has influenced me subconsciously,” Frankum says.


“It was a fear of technology and what was coming with it and how it would change our lives—the disconnect, how it was going to disrupt and separate humans from each other,” Gary Numan tells The A.V. Club of those same themes, which began heavily informing his work around 1979’s Replicas. “The prostitutes wouldn’t be human anymore, they would be machines. Machines are running everything. It’s a very frightening thing; people don’t go out anymore. People are very isolated.”

A devotee of Philip K. Dick since his school days, and a new-wave pioneer whose music has long concerned itself with questions of the relationship between man and machine, Numan could definitely challenge El-P for the title of music’s most obsessive Blade Runner fan, calling it “my favorite film for years.” Though it was actually released three years prior to the movie’s release, Replicas is nearly a Blade Runner concept album, largely inspired as it is by the movie’s source material, Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?. After Numan finally saw Blade Runner, he then spent much of the 1980s “liberating” samples of it across his records. (“Bit naughty, really,” he admits now.) He even copied Hauer’s bleached-blonde Roy Batty look for the cover of 1986’s Strange Charm, where he also recorded the B-side “Time To Die,” whose lyrics are practically a 1:1 transcription of Roy Batty’s last words.

Numan also one-upped El-P by drafting the actual Dick Morrissey—the saxophonist responsible for Blade Runner’s dreamy “Love Theme”—to play on most of his mid-’80s albums, beginning with 1983’s Warriors. “A friend of mine, we were talking about the fact that [Morrissey] was the one playing on the film, and he mentioned to me that he knew the man who’d done it,” Numan says. “I was a bit starstruck, to be honest.”

“Nothing had really captured that vibe the way Blade Runner did. Ever since then, I’ve been chasing art that gives me that feeling again, and trying to get back into that world.”

While the sax was eventually abandoned—along with the former kohl-eyed android’s adoption of more of a fedora-clad, 1940s detective vibe—and Numan remade himself in the mold of Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor, those same old themes of post-apocalyptic, post-human angst remained in his work. Numan’s new Savage: Songs From A Broken World, his first wholly science-fiction record since Replicas, is a concept album about a future world ravaged by global warming that could have sprung from Philip K. Dick himself, if only he’d lived long enough to see An Inconvenient Truth.

“There is no technology, certainly no robots,” Numan says of Savage. “In that sense, it’s almost the opposite [of Blade Runner], in terms of specifics. But in terms of humans being in trouble and it being caused by technology—which to a large degree global warming is, I think—it has quite a few similarities.”


So what would Gary Numan’s career even look like without Blade Runner? What would any of these artists’ careers? “From the film’s point of view, I don’t know that it would have been greatly different,” Numan says. “There would have been different samples on the record, and I might not have had a blonde-haired image—though I had that to begin with, so I might not have gone back to it. But without the Androids book, it could have been significantly different. Philip K. Dick’s influence on me has been significant.”

“It would be less dystopian,” Haley concurs of Com Truise. “It maybe would be a little bit brighter. Just like the film, I have my bright moments. But it definitely dictated my mood at the time, so I do think it would be completely different had I not seen that film.”

“Nothing had really captured that vibe the way Blade Runner did,” El-P says. “Ever since then, I’ve been chasing art that gives me that feeling again, and trying to get back into that world. And to a degree, I’ve always sought out ways of recreating it, in my own medium.” Because he has—alongside countless other musicians, whether they’re simply replicating its dystopian themes or sampling Vangelis’ synthesizer tones, or even dropping Rutger Hauer’s voice into the breakdown—we’ve been surrounded by the sounds of Blade Runner’s world for 35 years now. It’s an incredible musical legacy, arguably as influential as any artist in the canon. And now that the sequel has given it more life, who knows what the next generation might borrow or steal from it?

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