Over the last year or so I’ve been trying to get rid of stuff. Stuff I never look at, stuff I don’t need, stuff that’s just sitting in a box. After a while it just starts to feel like extra weight, like a burden. Maybe with the exception of the instruments in my studio, I don’t really want to own much of anything at all. I’ve had weird dreams that on the day I die I won’t own anything. Just lying on an old wooden floor of an empty 2nd story apartment. Would certainly make it easier for whoever needs to take care of the situation after I’m gone, all you’d need to deal with is a body.

I have hundreds of these old cassettes just sitting in milk crates and plastic tubs, most of them contain songs I’ve finished, songs I didn’t finish, songs that my friends an I worked on, guitar ideas, horrible synth ideas, live jams, spoken words, songs I love, songs I hate, skits I did with my sister and brothers when I was a kid.

They contain a lot of memories. But they just sit in the closet. Taking up space. Taking up mental space.

I must have spend thousands of hours recording stuff to cassettes. Started with a portable Panasonic recorder, recording what I thought were awesome piano ideas, and incredibly retarded 7-second improvised a cappella songs. I moved up to my mom’s boom-box, and did some crude multi-tracking by playing one tape recorder while recording to another. Sounded amazing, as you may have guessed.

Then finally the day came and I bought a Yamaha MT120 4-track. Came straight home from school every day and sat in front of this machine for 12 hours straight. I must have at least a thousand songs in various states of completion, just sitting there as magnetic particles encased in plastic. From the looks of it, I have at least 100 tapes that I recorded on my Yamaha 4-track, and another 100 tapes that I recorded on a newer Yamaha MT8X 8-track. And at least 60 in my series of “Tune Tapes”, where I’d just record skeleton ideas, musical sketches, guitar parts, keyboard ideas.

What the hell should I do with all of this music?

Let it sit and slowly degrade and demagnetize? Or spend months and months listening through all of this stuff to find the gems? Import the cassettes to my computer? And then do what with it? Now they’ll be sitting on a hard drive instead of in a milk crate.

I could upload unfinished stuff to ccMixter and see if anyone wants to remix it. I could do some sort of strange performance art piece where I do perform the music of one tape per week in various locations around the US. I could actually finish some of these songs I never finished when I was sixteen. Or I could just throw everything away.

After all, they are just memories. Like the photos of my childhood that sit in a shoebox. I look at them every few years, and it refreshes my memory. But it’s also a time that has passed, a time that is getting less and less significant with each passing second.

So, on my last day on this earth, do I really want to still have a crate of cassettes by my side, just to remind me of my past?

Untitled Instrumental
An instrumental I wrote when I was 17 or 18

Wrote this for my friend Scott in ’97

Wrong Planet
My idea of a song, in 1984-ish?

Midnight Cowboy
My friend Adam and I did a cover of Midnight Cowboy (in the style of Faith No More), sometime in high school…

Weggy Wah Solar Neutrino
I like this one. Not sure how to explain it though.

9 Responses

  1. I’ve gotten mine down to about one box. But yeah, I feel like I need to digitize this shit. I’m not sure why, but at least it’s just taking up virtual space instead of actual space. That I can live with.

    Also, I can’t believe I’m saying this. Maybe it was watching the recent Faith No More reunion concert on youtube, but there are certain cassettes I kind of miss.

    What I miss most is the second side of the casette. The flip-over and/or sound of the auto-reverse deck. I suppose there are vinyl purists that say the same thing about LPs.

    That aside, cassettes sound like absolute ass and only get worse and worse sounding as the years go on and they sit in the closet collecting dust.

  2. I remember making my friends listen to Q when I was a freshman in college and they were all like “why is this guy not a famous millionaire yet?”

  3. Man I miss cassettes. That’s how I learned to play, write and record, with my trusty old Tascam 4 track (which still works by the way!).

    I too have a couple of crates filled with basically my musical childhood. I’ve never been able to bring myself to throw them away but at the same time I’ve never been able to go through them all either.

    I think what you have posted sounds great. It’s a shame people don’t accept cassettes anymore. I miss all that from bands like Sebadoh and Guided by Voices etc.

    I don’t think you should chuck them, they are probably more a part of you than many other possessions, even if they do remain hidden away.

  4. So what did you do?? I’m looking for inspiration. I have the same problem, but mine is Nascar VHS tapes. And photos. And well…. lots of other stuff. I’ll never need it and it gives me anxiety to have it or to part with it. What to do?? Good Luck 🙂

  5. dude, i think it would be kosher for you to use this stuff on the collaboration album! i mean, “Untitled Instrumental” has a fretless bass on it–you were obviously a completely different (and much more sensitive) person back then.

  6. Hi Ethan,

    Here’s my take on it:

    Take a weekend and reverse back on every single one of the cassettes and the sounds and memories they contain. As you do, take back your energy from every one of them. When you finish each one, imaginally sweep it off to the left. Once you’ve done this for all of them, then get have a big ceremonial bonfire and burn them all. When we get rid of the old, we open a huge space for new things to come in – make that the intention of the bonfire.

    : )


  7. I’ve got 1 brown furry cassette holder from the 80’s with a bunch of 4-track tapes mixed in with some other junk (I think there’s a weird al tape in there too). I have a smaller box of ADAT masters from my high school band in there too … those definitely need to go. I have 2 unfinished tracks from the same band that were recorded in cubase in the 90’s so I can’t open up the sessions any more … maybe i’ll try to resurrect a copy of cubase and unearth those. … also a bunch of raw tracks from friends’ bands I’ve recorded over the years. I think these unfinished projects occupy more space in your mind than in your house.

    HAHA!, just listened to “Wrong Planet” and I don’t think your lyrics have changed much 😉 nor your feelings about life.

    I think it’d be freeing to let this stuff go. Like in Top Gun when Tom Cruise throws Goose’s dog tags off the aircraft carrier into the ocean … yea, like that.

  8. Thanks heaps Ethan!

    Very helpful to get that confirmation there. I’ll have to try to find a way to modify mine, to get it turning the tape! Gah! 🙂

    Thanks. Maybe I can find a junked one somewhere. Who knows.

    Cheers again.

    – Murray

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