Let's Rave On; Tap That Tape

Everyone’s done this. At some point in time between grade 1 and grade 12, at least one teacher will run out of ideas to get through the last month of school and ask you to put together a time capsule. This is useful for two reasons. The first is that the teacher gets a chance to open these up a year later and inwardly laugh while presenting to the class what everyone deemed awesome enough to share with the future, and the second is that it, possibly for the first time, makes the students ackknowledge their ever present (from that moment on) mortality. So what, specifically, is your teacher silently mocking? Pokemon cards, perhaps. Maybe a copy of Crossroads, or maybe the Da Vinci Code. Almost without fail, there will be music in everyone’s time capsule, and almost without fail, if you’re in grade school and doing this, it will suck. But that’s not the point here. The point is that just about everyone agrees that our future selves (or people from the future that wish to study and categorize us) will find music just as much of a necessity as we do.

Now, I’ve heard lots of speculation that the age of the LP is over, and that singles are perhaps a Blue Monday away from taking back their rightful place atop the musical landscape. But I remember back when I was 8, travelling across Canada in a motorhome, with only a small tape deck that picked up the odd radio station where I would record top 40 songs and make mix tapes with the copies, and back then I didn’t think too much of the LP. What I loved was Saturday mornings when the Top 40 countdown happened, when I’d tape the ones I loved and let all my friends hear them secondhand. I knew these full lengths existed. I owned a few (Barenaked Ladies baby!) but not nearly as many as I had blank tapes filled with radio hits, cut rough with DJ’s peeping in and out in places where I couldn’t be totally clean.

And why was I taping stuff off the radio? At first, it was because it was a toy and something I could muck around with. I was 8 and loved things that served this purpose. But eventually, it became about sharing, and in this I learned some very important life lessons, such as a really shitty mix tape will ruin a friendship while a great one can get you laid. I didn’t learn that second part until well after my ninth birthday, but the former happened around there. I had this friend, Paul, who I thought would like a new tape of some pop stuff (ROCK, I called it back then when trying to pinpoint the real difference between Jane’s Addiction and Janet Jackson). I gave it to him and he didn’t speak to me for a week. He said my tape got him in trouble. He played it loud in his room and there was a swear word in one of the songs, his mom heard it, and he was grounded for two weeks. I think we got into a fistfight about it, but I’m not completely sure.

Since that time I’ve realized that mixtapes are extremely powerful things. Fifteen or so well selected songs have always had the ability, in at least my case, to alter in great ways a relationship with someone. Everytime I see my dad he’s asking for one. Everytime I make one for my mom she’s so happy she can listen to something other than Jack FM (the devil spawn in which John Mayor endorses and I will write up at some point soon). Just about every girl I’ve ever liked has at least one CD I’ve put together, as do most of my friends. I don’t know what it is, but meeting someone new immediately gives me the desire to give them some of my music. I guess I consider it sort of like those suits on Bay street when they exchange business cards. Wouldn’t it be great if that was the social norm? “Hi, I’m Kyle, here, listen to this, see if you like me?”

When I got a CD burner, I switched from making tapes to CD’s. Same basic thing, though. Still an hour’s worth of time to say what you want to say (“I want to dance with you!” “I want to cry with you”, etc), still a fairly captive audience (how do you not listen to a CD someone just give you because they think you’ll like it?) and still a cool idea that somehow never became heavily marketable (because it’s personal and in such useless to a mass audience) or cliche (hallmark, for whatever reason, never delved into what could have made them a ton of money). A mix tape (or CD, although I still call them ‘tapes’ for the same reason I call CD’s ‘albums’) is probably the perfect gift. It’s inexpensive (provided you already have the music), thoughtful, and creative. It covers all the bases a diamond ring doesn’t. I hope some hipster goes out and proposes to his hipster girlfriend with an Iron & Wine mixtape. That’d be sweet.

But Kyle, you decry, what about the almighty Ipod (or it’s equivelant)? It can hold thousands of songs, and folks can put together their own playlists and randomize everything and I’m sorry sir, but your mixtape idea is just so obsolete. How are you going to compete with that? By going along with it, making giant, thousand-song playlists, trying to keep THAT personal and evocative?

Man, can you imagine someone giving you an Ipod filled to the brim with songs that made them think of you? Wouldn’t you just freaking melt? I would.

The fact is, just because people are carrying more music in their pockets doesn’t at all mean that they are carrying good music around, and the great thing about being a guy who likes to make mixtapes for folks is that we usually make them for people who need to hear new and better stuff than they have. Call it egotism. Call it sympathy, but whatever it is, it’s there, and we feel a need to broaden the horizons of those who “Like just about everything” but actually know very little. A girl you like can have thirty gigs of stuff on that bulge in her pants, but that won’t mean she still won’t hug you and kiss you and call you George for putting together something you think she’ll like. It doesn’t even matter if she owns half the songs you pick anyway. Hell, that might even help. Folks love it when they think there’s a connection there. If some girl gives a guy a mixtape of all the Korn songs he really loves, he’s going to think it’s great, and he’s going to listen to it even though he owns all the other ones. He’s going to do it because she gave it to him and it’s special and he loves her and the disc rocks. That’s more than enough reasons to listen to something.

A couple of weeks ago I got an email saying that this guy found a song particularly good because of a memory of his girfriend. That’s what mixtapes are meant for, man. They’re meant to be a chronicle of moments that a relationship has had, or they’re meant to be a rocket, boosting into the orbit of new memories. More mixtapes are made out of love than out of anything else. Almost none are made out of hate (though that would be one bad ass calling card). New technologies don’t dilapitate the mixtape. No, they only broaden the spectrum of meaning that can be found in however many songs you select.

I was in this book club back in November called National Novel Writers’ Month. The best thing that came out of that club was not the writing, but the CD exchange. It was an idea that all of our books had a soundtrack of some sort, so what we did was put together a CD and make enough copies for everyone in the group, and then we’d meet up and distribute. Everyone got thirty new mixtapes, and everyone was really happy about it. Sure, there were some stinkers in there, but who cares? Even if you only find a couple CD’s worth of good tracks, it’s more than you had before. Everyone wins. Think about this next time the office has a lame ass Secret Santa. Not only would you not have to buy a new set of pens for George in accounting, but you could end up meeting Darla in Finance, because you both put Wilco on your mix CD’s and “wasn’t Yankee Hotel Foxtrot just f*cking awesome? Hey, want to get together later? My place? I’ve got this awesome CD collection. You’d love it.”

You get the idea. Mixtapes are good because even if they someday become currency they’ll still be cool because they never stop being about the individual. Every single person is unique, and thus so is every mixtape. What are you waiting for? Go make one now! Anyone with a tape deck or CD burner can make one. Anyone with even the most basic DJ skills can put one of these together no problem. That’s not to say it’s easy. Mixtapes are like Tetris; easy to learn, impossible to master.



Barenaked Ladies

Jul 30 – Randall’s Island – New York

New Order

Jul 31 – Fuji Rock Festival – Naeba


8-9 – Malaga – Pizza De Toros
8-10 – Velencia – Sedavi
8-12 – Bilbao – Bilbao Festival
8-13 – Budapest – Sziget Festival
8-15 Colmar – Colmar Wine Festival
8-17 – Toulon – Toulon Zenith
8-19 – Valais – Gample Festival
8-20 – Hasseft – Pukkelooo Festival


9-2 – Vitoria
9-4 – Palermo
9-6 – Milan
9-7 – Munich
9-8 – Cologne
9-10 – Berlin
9-11 – Hamburg
9-12 – Amsterdam
9-18 – Tinley Park
9-21 – Colombia
9-22 – Tulsa
9-24,25 – Austin
10-14 – Asheville
10-15 – Atlanta
10-22 – Rio De Janeiro


Gloomchen is reason number one that I think we could be a monthly magazine if we wanted to.

Tom D’Errico discusses Ozzfest and subsequently Jada Pinkett Smith’s band, Wicked Wisdom.

Mathan Erhardt brings up something that kids in school have been making fun of me for YEARS, man. Scar Tissue abounds.

I think absolutely nothing negative about Shawn M Smith and his 21st column celebration.


Lyrics To Live By

Remember in As Good As It Gets when Jack Nicholson puts in the tape he made for Helen Hunt and told her to listen closely to the lyrics, because that’s how he feels? That’s why I do this. That’s also another reason mixtapes rule. They say all the things you don’t properly know how to say.

Long Day Continues/We Sound Amazed – The Polyphonic Spree

Until tomorrow. Until tomorrow.

The only voice was far away. Until tomorrow.
The only sound was my mistake. Until tomorrow.
It’s all I can say.

Take the time to find the world another way.
I wanna be more than yesterday and
some how find a way to this new religion.

If the world could compromise another faith
I want to be more than yesterday
and somehow find a way to your new religion.

If the world collapses, I know, I wanna be yours in time
and some how find a way to your new religion.

If the world collapses, I know, I wanna be yours in time
and some how find a way to your new religion.

It seems it’s more than I can carry on.
It seems it’s more than I can take.
It seems the time is finally now,
I think I have the right to speak.

(Take them all together shove ’em off.
Keep them all together and keep ’em warm

Take them all together shove ’em off.
keep them all together and keep ’em warm

Take them all together shove ’em off.
Keep them all together and keep ’em warm)

(It’s the sun, it’s the sun)

(Hey it’s the sun, it’s the sun)

(Hey it’s the sun, it’s the sun)


Next week, I’m going to compare and contrast Hair Metal with Hip Hop. I hope I don’t get fired for this one.

Party On, Garth.