Tears For Fears’ Curt Smith on artists who sample their songs: “I don't think working with them makes things any better. I don’t”

As Tears For Fears prepare to release long-awaited album The Tipping Point, their first in 17 years, band members Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith have been talking to Zane Lowe on Apple Music 1.

Among the revelations was the band’s attitude to contemporary artists who’ve sampled their work - the likes of The Weeknd, Kanye West and Drake - and how they don’t feel the need to collaborate with these people directly.

Discussing Tears For Fears’ reaction to being sampled, Curt Smith says: “The interesting thing about the Abel [Tesfaye, The Weeknd] thing and going on from there, Kanye or Drake, whomever may sample our stuff… What happened there was, and the problem was that obviously, Abel was a big fan, say. So then management and record company [say] ‘you need to work with these people, right?’ Which is ridiculous because the reason they've used our music is because of us, because we did the music.”

Smith continued by saying: “I don't think working with them makes things any better. I don’t. I think it's difficult enough with two people who are strong-willed and have big enough egos like the two of us do. Adding a third with that would be difficult, I think. 

“But the reason we've been sampled or been used and been covered by various people is because they appreciate what we do. So why don't we stick to what we do and keep doing that?”

This view chimes with what Smith has to say about what he and Orzabal learned while making The Tipping Point, saying that the key was “Not listening to anyone else, initially.”

“Between the two of us, we can find out if we're on the same page,” he continued. “So you can find out if you're on the same page or not as opposed to a third party or fourth, be it management, record company, whomever, who suggests you do something. Once we work out that we're in a place where we're on the same page, then it is actually very easy.”

One recent Tears For Fears sonic reference occurred during Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, Mary J Blige and Kendrick Lamar’s Super Bowl performance, with the piano line from the band’s 1985 hit Head Over Heels being interpolated during Blige’s performance of No More Drama.

However, it turns out that the band weren’t initially fans of the song, as Roland Orzabal explains.

"Head Over Heels was tough,” he says. “Because we were making sort of quite advanced electronic music, this pop song came along and it was like, ‘Well, what do we do with it? We haven't got a clue’.

“So we were struggling. We had the bass part, which sounded great. We were kind of thinking, Take Me to the River, so that's because it's the same beat. But that is such an organic record we didn't get anywhere near it. And it was really... I think it was Chris Hughes, the producer, who identified the strengths of the song. And we just did it very linear, very '80s.

“And you know, it's one of those songs which we didn't really particularly like, but now when we play it live, when we play it live, we get to the end of the set, it doesn't matter what song you play before it, how big that song is, when that intro kicks in the audience goes crazy. It's fantastic.”

Ben Rogerson

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it. 

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