20 of the best tracks that sample Blade Runner
The film’s legacy in dance music is extensive
On July 19, Rutger Hauer passed away. The Dutch actor was best known for his searing performance as Roy Batty in Blade Runner, capturing the imagination of millions who keyed into Batty’s bristling gripes with life and society at large.
The film’s legacy in dance music is extensive; its chilling, dystopic, film noir visuals and dazzling Vangelis score have influenced a generation of dance music producers, with scenes and sounds mightily indebted to, and even artists named after, the film.
The connection between the film and dance music was firmly consummated in 2008 when Massive Attack mixed Vangelis' original score of Blade Runner with the 45-piece Heritage Orchestra as part of the Meltdown festival they curated.
In memory of Hauer, and to reinforce the film’s long-reaching legacy in dance music, we have compiled a list of tracks that sample the film, from its gorgeous Vangelis compositions to its array of memorable quotes and in-film FX.
Dillinja ‘The Angels Fell’
In a conversation with d ‘n’ b don Doc Scott, Martyn explained his vision of drum ‘n’ bass: “there is a sub-layer, with just the bassline; there is a beats layer where something interesting needs to happen; and then there’s this top layer for pads, these sort of Blade Runner-esque strings, or sounds that are piercing on the top… But if these three elements are in my music and they play together, and they make an interesting mix, then, to me, that’s what drum 'n' bass is.”
One example he gave as a “blueprint” of the genre (where all three interesting elements collide) is Dillinja’s hardstep classic, ‘The Angels Fell’, which layers Vangelis’ haunting ‘Blade Runner Blues’ over a pitched down snippet of dialogue taken from Batty and Leon’s confrontation with eye designer Hannibal Chew (which is also referenced in the track title).
According to Goldie, the track is Metalheadz’s finest moment, a huge acclaim for a huge label.
And speaking of Dillinja and ‘Blade Runner Blues’...
Dillinja ‘Silver Blade’
‘Silver Blade’ - which also samples 'Blade Runner Blues' - was first released on Grooverider's 1997 compilation, titled 'The Prototype Years'.
Released two years after ‘The Angels Fell’, it also mirrors the changes that dance music underwent during this period; ‘Silver Blade’ is noticeably more techstep influenced, merging a Boymerang break and ‘Blade Runner Blues’ with some deadly quantised drumwork and a booming bassline. If it’s nice, sample it twice.
E-Z Rollers ‘Synesthesia’
Another techstep release that harnesses a chilling Blade Runner sample. ‘Synesthesia’ starts with a vocal sample taken from the scene in which a Blade Runner is sent to interrogate a renegade replicant, Leon, with a Voight-Kampff machine: "describe in single words, only the good things that come into your mind."
As UIQ affiliate Sim Hutchins told Dummy in 2017, "techstep was either all about sampling Blade Runner, or channelling Blade Runner sound design."
The music made by the burgeoning dubstep scene around the mid-’00s, from Kode9 to Digital Mystikz, tended to gravitate towards darker tones, something that was, quite literally, reflected in the pivotal FWD>> parties hosted at Plastic People, a club often remembered for its low lighting as much as its knock-out soundsystem.
It’s no surprise, then, that Distance kicked off his Chestplate imprint in 2006 with ‘Radical’, a moody number which samples three vocal clips from Batty’s chilling confrontation with Eldon Tyrell: “Can the maker repair what he makes”, “I had in mind something a little more radical” and “I want more life...fucker.”
DJ Oddz ‘Blade Runner’
Released in the early ‘00s, DJ Oddz’s ‘Blade Runner’ begins with one of the film’s most famous voiceovers, delivered by its protagonist. Rick Deckard: “They don't advertise for killers in the newspaper. That was my profession. Ex-cop. Ex-blade runner. Ex-killer.”
The only out-and-out grime tune on this list, it’s still an absolute killer and a testament to the film’s cross-genre appeal. According to Discogs and a Grime Forum post from 2012, DJ Oddz stopped producing in 2005 to focus on his faith. At least we still have this and other bangers like Bump Dis and Strung Up to fill the void.
Dom & Roland ‘Mechanics’
The first of three tracks on this list from drum ‘n’ bass mainstay Dom & Roland. ‘Mechanics’ - which was released during the artist’s ‘Bladerunner era’ in the mid- to late-’90s - opens with cavernous synths, pads and FX before rolling out into some fierce breaks.
Hauer's famous “I’ve seen things you people wouldn't believe…” line chimes in and out of the track, adding to the dystopic feel of the track, one that glimmers with the film’s eerie, metallic coldness.
In February, the artist released a remastered version of the track, which you can grab on his Bandcamp.
Dom & Roland ‘Deckard's Theme’
Harsh and hyper, ‘Deckard’s Theme’ - the title a nod to Blade Runner’s protagonist - features two samples from the film in its cinematic breakdown.
The first is of a Geisha advertisement seen intermittently throughout the film; the second is a Batty line, “Come on Deckard, show me what you're made of”, delivered chillingly to Deckard at the start of their showdown.
Both samples capture, and enhance, the haywire atmospherics that course throughout the track.
Dom & Roland ‘Through The Looking Glass’
‘Through The Looking Glass’ is ushered in by a too-good-to-be-true advertising slogan which is broadcast from one of the many blimps that pockmark the film’s Los Angeles skyline ("A new life awaits you in the Off-world colonies. The chance to begin again in a golden land of opportunity and adventure”) before launching head-first into some heavyweight techstep.
Both ‘Through The Looking Glass’ and ‘Deckard’s Theme’ were released twelve years after ‘Mechanics’, yet another reminder of the film’s enduring influence.
JDL ‘The Runner’
While a lot of tracks that sample Blade Runner tend to lean on the film’s murkier, dystopic stylings, JDL’s ‘The Runner’ is a much breezier affair.
The ‘Blade Runner Blues’ sample rides softly over a choppy yet soft drum arrangement that calls to mind LTJ Bukem’s early work, particularly ‘Horizons’.
Jeff Mills ‘Deckard’
In an interview with Resident Advisor in 2010, Surgeon explained how Blade Runner helped him to reconnect to Jeff Mills’ music: “I was in Japan at the beginning of May, and I pretty much listened to the soundtrack to Blade Runner non-stop. I was really, really jetlagged and I was walking around in this kind of haze and it was really amazing. I've kind of got a bit obsessed with the soundtrack now.”
“I remember a long time ago Jeff [Mills] saying how big an influence Blade Runner was for him. So the whole thing kind of made sense when I heard his set on [a Japanese streaming] site. I saw one of his records that he was playing, and it said "Blade Runner" on it, and the whole thing came together..”
'Deckard', originally released on Mills’ 'The Art of Connection' compilation and re-released as part of a three-track 'Blade Runner' EP in 2005, sees Jeff sample the ‘Main Titles’, in particular Deckard scrolling through and enhancing a picture found in Leon’s bathroom, complete with all the clicks and bleeps made by the device. This samples intermingle with a topsy turvy beat that lurches from synthy lulls to polyrhythmic fluster.
Trace and Nico ‘Replicant’
Back to the techstep; ‘Replicant’ also samples ‘Main Titles’, as well as another segment of Deckard dialogue (“replicants are like any other machine”). However, unlike Mills’ effort, it is far more minimal in its approach but all the more devastating for it, deploying a super gritty Reese bassline and potent drums.
The track came out as a white label in 1998 on Idiosyncratic Records; the B-side features a 20-second snippet of the main Blade Runner sample.
Zomby ‘Tears in the Rain’
Another track that samples Batty’s driving final monologue, using it as a base to launch into a bass-heavy roller. It features on Zomby’s hardcore homage, ‘Where Were U In ‘92?’ (all recorded on an AKAI S2000 and an old version of Cubase running on an Atari ST).
Was there any chance of him contributing to Blade Runner 2049? Unlikely.
Extremely fun fact: the vocal sample that appears around the 01:42 mark also appears on 'Rumors & Revelations', which was originally released as a single-sided 12” on Brainmath in 2008.
Theo Parrish ‘Solitary Flight’
Theo Parrish boasts an uncanny ability to pick and choose material to sample in his music, from soul records to roads, and reframe them in his own signature image.
On ‘Solitary Flight’, he samples an orchestral rendition of Vangelis’ ‘Memories Of Green’, which was performed by the New American Orchestra in 1982. The track - a sprawling, hypnotic ten-minute journey - harnesses the beauty of the sample, pushing it along with dusty drums and analogue warmth. Maybe Blade Runner wasn’t all doom and gloom after all.
Kuedo ‘Flight Path’
In 2017, Planet Mu stalwart Kuedo explained to Boiler Room, “By the time I was listening to electronic music, I already was referring back to Blade Runner and processing it through that prism. The album ‘Severant’ really nakedly let itself be enthralled to Blade Runner.”
One of the album’s cuts, ‘Flight Path’, interpolates Vangelis' 'Blade Runner' (End Titles), smoothing out the original’s jagged edges and injecting a tad more swing without sacrificing any of the urgency.
In 2017, Kuedo revealed via Twitter that he helped Flying Lotus to score the Blade Runner 2022 anime.
Vex’d, comprised of the aforementioned Kuedo and Roly Porter,, released ‘Angels’ on their debut album, ‘Degenerate’, in 2005.
The track samples a Batty line - “Fiery the angels fell / Deep thunder rolled about their shores / burning with the fires of Orc” - pairing it with a pneumatic beat that marries a 16-bar grime structure and UK garage drum patterns with an industrial-leaning bassline.
The Future Sound Of London ‘My Kingdom’
On ‘My Kingdom’, legendary British duo The Future Sound Of London sampled a pitched down version of Vangelis’ 'Rachel's Song', Mary Hopkin's original vocals sounding vaster and more ethereal than ever before.
The foreboding music video, which depicts London slowly being consumed an otherworldy invasion of sorts, adds to the peculiarity of the track, both of which remain mightily indebted to Blade Runner’s dystopic explorations.
‘Fever’ appeared on Moving Shadow's 1996 'Trans-Central Connection' compilation, which showcased drum 'n' bass being made in the Midlands. The track samples background noise in the film, coupling it with a roaring Reese bassline to devastating effect.
Last year, the tragic news broke that Tango had passed away, though his indefatigable discography lives on.
Jonny L ‘More Life’
In 1993, Jonny L released 'Mother', a bouncy, techno earworm that features a sample taken Leon’s Voight-Kampff interrogation scene: “I’ll tell you about my mother.”
Two years later, he released ‘More Life’, a choppy d‘n’b track that contains an array of gargled, and suitably brutal, Batty soundbytes, particularly “I want more life” and “time to die.” What a difference two years makes.
Rufige Kru 'Manslaughter' (Part One - Runners Edge)
Goldie’s love of Blade Runner is well-documented, using the film as a reference point for his music, his early graffiti and even his PR.
On ‘Manslaughter (Part One - Runners Edge)’ (released under his Rufige Kru moniker), the Metalheadz head honcho incorporates a haunting Batty quote around the breakdown at the 2:28 mark: “If only you could see what I've seen with your eyes.” Proper creepy and, like the film it sampled, way ahead of its time.
Special Request ‘Replicant’
Last but certainly not least, 'Replicant' featured on the Yorkshireman's 'Stairfoot Lane Bunker' EP on Houndstooth in 2017, the same year that he contributed sound design for the Blade Runner 2049 trailer.
The track features a vocal sample taken from Deckard’s second encounter with Rachel, an advanced, Nexus-7 replicant, and Deckard’s eventual love interest: “You think I’m a replicant, don’t you?”. The vocal clip is sandwiched between the kind of meticulous break patterns and fierce basslines that Woolford’s Special Request project has become known for.
Check out the 'Nexus 7 VIP' of the track, which made its way onto his 'Belief System' LP, for more Woolford/Blade Runner goodness.
James Ball is Mixmag's Weekend Editor. Follow him on Twitter
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