Mix It, Mix It Good


“Wait, he didn’t burn you a CD, he made you a tape? Aww, that is so romantic!” – Lee, Tarantino’s Death Proof

I have nothing left of some people other than a little cassette. This may not seem like much, but for anyone who’s ever engaged in the mating ritual of mixtape-swapping, it’s possible to extrapolate someone’s entire personality out of the mix that they made you. Song pacing and order convey temperament, a sense of humor; tape artwork gives hints about sloppiness/neatness/artistic ability, and so on.

Mix tapes used to be my primary means of flirting; many of my relationships can be measured by the miles of magnetic tape that accumulated between us. There were sad tapes and happy pop tapes; tapes with themes like Seven Deadly Sins; mixes intended to indoctrinate, communicate and seduce.

It was always so ritualized. As you recorded, mulling over every song, doodling around your track list, maybe even collaging together some cover art, you imagined your intended recipient taking the music in for the first time. Would they feel what you had felt when you first heard that song? Would they feel jarred by a certain song combination? The final product involved sound, sight and touch (and smell and taste, if you were really creative!). A gift that was half narcissism and half generosity, it always begged for a response.

Did you make mix tapes too? Did someone give you a tape that changed you? Slap it on the scanner, scan every piece, and send it to us. Or make a brand-new tape, for other Coilhouse readers. But don’t just send a playlist, really make it! Think up a new theme (here’s some inspiration), decorate the the tape/stickers/box/track list, scan the whole thing and submit the images. The most creative mix tape art will be published in Coilhouse Magazine, Issue 1! You don’t actually have to mail a tape, but I will seek out everything on your mix and listen, in the exact order that you intended.

Top Image:
“Don’t Take My Word For It Mix” by Jonathan Marx from the band Lambchop. Published Mix Tape: The Art of Cassette Culture by Thurston Moore.

17 Responses to “Mix It, Mix It Good”

  1. Eta Karinae Says:

    I understand completely. I still have some compilations on tape made for me by people I knew nearly 20 years ago, and demos from old friend’ s bands… All people I’ ve lost contact with from a long time. I keep the tapes in a box in the basement at my parent’ s home, and sometimes I’ ve tried to get rid of them, but I just cannot. Probably my parents will do the job for me sometimes.

  2. Irene Kaoru Says:

    Oh my do I so love mixtapes. They were my primary mode of showing love to my friends once. I would select a vast pool of songs and note the precise length of each. Then I would prune down a handful for each side of the tape, balancing mood and transitions with the running times, to get the most out of each side, to cram the most possible music onto the tape. Then I would name the mix. Mixtapes are a lost art!

  3. Jemibook Says:

    I adore tapes more than any musical format. Their small size and tangibility are much more stimulating to me than a flat cd or record. I have been collecting a nice collection of tapes for awhile and every so often I come across a mixtape, the only one I purchased though was on accident and it was someone who recorded everything off the radio and it was fun to listen to what was playing back in the day when they made it.

  4. Jim Says:

    Hehe, yeah, I’ve made a few mixtapes; all of a sudden I’m a little surprised I never sent you one. That was back when I owned conventional stereo equipment, though. These days I just include albums people haven’t heard of that I think they should like (not that I think they will like mind you, but should like) in christmas or birthday presents.

    The college radio station here actually has a show dedicated to mixtaping, A-Side/B-Side. They pick a theme every week and each dj picks a half hour worth of songs based on it. It’s got a podcast at underheard.org, which collects shows from independent radio stations across the country and podcasts them.

  5. lucylle Says:

    Ohhh… that was indeed one of my favourite methods of getting to know a person better, as it also meant one was able to deduce (or hint!) quite a lot of things with such a small object.
    The cost of the tape itself was minimal, but recording the compilation took time and assembling both the cover art (and the actual container in some extreme cases) took patience and creativity as well: like other posters here, I still tresure tapes enclosed in origami-like boxes made by flyers, tapes embellished with calligraphy that probably took hours to write and tapes from ex-boyfriends which on hindsight shoud have been classified as “omens” as they contained quite a lot of hints regarding the true nature of the persons.

  6. Zoetica Says:

    I once had 4 shoe-size boxes filled with all my treasured tapes. They spanned years and cities but I got rid of many since then. Maybe I’ll dig some up in honor of this post, though.

    Looking forward to everyone’s submissions, I know we’ll get some amazing stuff.

  7. gooby Says:

    I still have every mix tape I ever made from my sister’s music collection since I was in first grade! The glittery, the sparkly, the scratch n sniff and sticky confetti decorated. I used to pretend I was a DJ, and I would back announce after every three or four songs. Really, it was an excuse for me to put my own skits in their too, playing every part on behalf of my stuffed animal collection.

    But then when making a mix tape became a way of flirting with someone, a very safe and sneaky way for a very shy boy to get into someone’s heart, designing the tape itself and the cover, and the hierarchy and choice of songs became a new kind of high art mixed with love sonnet. I could say I would spend weeks to make on tape for some lucky someone, but really, if I took that long I’d lose out, so it was better to be up all night and get it to them the very next day! (Get to school at 6 am, that way you won’t miss them!)

    Nowadays, it is embarrassing to say that I have given out mix MP3 playlists, compact flash cards with a mix on them, and have digitized the songs from some of my beloved old mix tapes so that I can play them on my Ipod in the same order I always remembered them. And as far as flirting goes, I can now judge my endearment toward somebody by my desire to give or not to give them music, which has ceased to be a conscious choice.

  8. Shay Says:

    Zoe – I added to the DVD I sent you a mixtape in CD format (I no longer have access to audiocassette recording equipment *sniff*).
    Didn’t really do anything special for the art, but I did think long and hard about the playlist. Feel free to submit it for review :) (Even though it’s a disc..)

  9. gooby Says:

    So Nadya, Do you still HAVE a tape player, then? Tell me you do, and that you still listen to your old tapes!

  10. Nadya Says:

    The “originals” are in a shoebox in my parents’ basement. But I did bring lots of mix tapes that I made for myself with me to Cali… some of them were chunks re-taped from mixes other people made for me. My tape player is in my car, so all of my tapes are in my car in a big bag. A lot of these are mixes that I taped off the radio for myself when I was 12 or 13. I keep meaning to make lists of all the music, because tapes smash and break over time.

  11. the daniel Says:

    phear my mix-minidisc! i will battle your 80s-stalgia with 90s-stalgia!

  12. Vivacious G Says:

    Aw I miss those! The tapes have all mysteriously disappeared, though I do still have the mix cds from my husband…

    I remember one tape with both Christian Death, The Exploited and Slayer on it.

    And a horrible one with romantic 80’s adult contemporary that some admirer gave me. It made me want to vomit.

  13. Ben Morris Says:

    A mix for coilhouse is in the works. It is still in the gestational stages but its shaping up to be largely but not entirely instrumental, also expect scary folk music about a hanging.

  14. D Says:

    Best mix tape I ever got was just one song (the cover said otherwise), then some awkward scraping noise and her voice through a bad mike ‘Here’s what I didn’t dare say earlier…’ Half an hour’s confession to make me tingle all over.

    Friend of mine always traded tapes with a guy in Berlin. Those tapes were the source of much goodness in bootlegs and fresh singles/LPs.

  15. Paul Komoda Says:

    My early tapes are lost, unfortunately. These were mostly composed of mere fragments of music that I happened to come across midway on the radio, in my desperate search for anything interesting. In some cases I wouldn’t discover who the artist was until years later. Among these aural melanges were many bands that would, in the course of things, become lifelong obsessions of mine.
    I’ve held on to most of the mixed tapes I’ve recieved from others.
    During my art school days I was given a tape of Swans(Children of God) and Nick Cave which significantly affected my musical leanings.
    There was a period when I would invest alot of time in creating text for the cassette labels, mostly in a microscopically precise, acid inspired “Famous Monsters of Filmland”/Robert Williams style. Scribbling with a Sharpie on my burned CD’s just isn’t the same, I’m afraid.

  16. Shay Says:

    @Daniel – w00t for minidisc, the lost format of gold.

  17. Tequila Says:

    @the_daniel – I miss the minidisc, it was my favorite portable media, especially the intricate portable players and multi-colored disc cases. But lets not be silly…in a grand battle Metal tapes could destroy us all!

    That’s what I loved about tapes…you had the low end plastic ones and the audiophile heavy as hell metal ones. They looked beautiful and their cold hardness was in direct contrast with the warm vynil of old.

    Wish I still had all the ones I’d draw and paint on…they were lost many moves ago though…I still remember that old Wax Trax! Records Black Box (the rare as hell metallic version) that had its CD’s resting on layers of unraveled tape that you could spin on to a tape and listen too…