Blood on the Reels: Pouring Your Heart Into A Mix Tape


With the stuff they got now, you can watch anything, do whatever you do on the net, and have every piece of music you own (provided it’s digitized) right inside this thing that goes in your pocket. There’s many things I’ll be part of the last generation to witness. TV dials, phones with chords that attach to the wall, arcades, joysticks, beepers, dial up internet connections, the list goes on. All in the name of making gratification more immediate and leaving the house and interacting with other people less necessary. Think of the children!

I listen to music on mixtapes I make to play in the car.

Yeah, tapes. They still got those. I bought my car new in 2000, I had the option of a DC player, a tape deck, or a CD player/tape deck combination. I went with the tape deck. I knew that if I had opted for a radio with a CD player, I would get lazy and just carry my CDs around. I wouldn’t bother to burn them into mixes. I’d be less and less open to records- which sound better than any other format and were replaced because CDs are more convenient. The path of least resistance is easy. But it frequently lacks character. It often is devoid of Soul.

To me, tapes have a mysticism that new gadgets lack. I’ve been digging through my older cassettes and playing them as I cruise around with the window rolled down, remembering times I’d forgotten that the songs bring back. The flow makes bits of my memory that I had lost come rushing back. Conversations, furtive glances, hours and times. Experiences circa the recording. Weeks old, months old, years old. A little aural postcard from the past, a journal entry from the either. I am an Analog Man in a Digital World.

I sit like an Indian on the floor in front of my Old Man’s Marantz, the CD and the record player, and I make a little audio snapshot of what’s going on in my head. Then draw something on the case insert equally evocative and throw one more in the Rockomobile.You can record from records, tapes, and the radio. And interweave bits of songs together by physically stopping and starting the record, I like to mix different versions of songs. And you sit and do it in real time, you have to listen to it as you make it. And when I start, I always take it in a different direction than I thought I would. Chasing the groove. And as I do this, I draw something on the case. And since this is the way you have to do it, you don’t have the option of doing it quick and easy. Which you automatically would do just to get it over with.

Making a tape is something I do by myself in a way that I use the work of someone else work to express the feeling of a moment. For me, nothing will ever do it better. Making a tape is a physical, real, time consuming act. In taking the time to make a tape, as I listen to each song, I am in the act of creating. Producing. No skipping. I get one shot, and I have to make it work. I choose different songs than I had originally intended and the groove goes in unexpected directions. I’m pulling out records, smelling them, looking at them as I spin them and trying to make every beat compliment the one before. To be played on my surround sound car speakers and not out of little earnubs.

The idea is to make a tape that will require no fast forwarding or rewinding. It has to be an experience, capture a moment. It’s not a passive act. It’s a mission- you must make these songs build to something and take the listener to someplace in particular. And since I make tapes for me, it has to be someplace I want to go. This is all part of a medium that cannot be replaced or improved upon. Certainly not by instant gratification. I think we’re losing track of the most important and basic acts- Making palpable art for the appreciation by oneself is an important part of the human experience. This is part of mine. It wasn’t always so solitary, back before technology left me behind for good with a 45 in one hand and can of pomade in the other. I won the heart of the first girl I ever dated with a mixtape. Also used them to foster friendships. I’m pretty good at laying voodoo on somebody through music, and the tape used to be my Weapon of Choice..

Mine never had any technical info written on the insert.. No song titles, nothing. just a crude drawing. If you want to know what’s what, you’re going to have to talk to me. It’s very rare for there to be anything in the world today you can’t learn everything about in a google’s heartbeat. I miss that elusive buzz of trying to find something out as much as I enjoy being the guy who is well versed in something.

Too bad you can’t mix 8 tracks.

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