It goes without saying (but we'll say it anyway) that without the tapes, Tiny Mix Tapes would be just Tiny Mix. Sure, it's short and sassy like a new summer 'do, but it's not complete without the "Tapes." Regardless, it also goes without saying that it would be goddamn irresponsible of us at Tiny Mix Tapes to not report an exhibition featuring tapes and "cassette culture" in general. It would be blasphemy. It would be sacrilege. It would be something, that's for freakin' sure!
Leave it to Printed Matter, Inc. and Heavy Tapes to go completely against the grain -- and just when we were all working so hard to maintain the grain -- and present an exhibition called "Leaderless: Underground Cassette Culture Now," running now until May 26 in Printed Matter's 195 Tenth Ave, NYC space. Hmm, mid-May? NYC? Yessirsandmadams, the whole shebang is on at the same time that No Fun Fest is on at The Hook (May 17-20). "Leaderless" will feature guest curators Chris Freeman (founder of cassette distro Fusetron), Dominick Fernow (Prurient, Hospital Productions), and the ubiquitous Thurston Moore (apparently a musician of some renown) and is situated in the non-profit organization's back room, subsequently turning it into a den of tapehead culture, with cassettes blaring from ghetto blasters and many specimens available for purchase.
Considering that a top-of-the-range iPod can hold the same number of albums as 1,500 cassettes, it's not too surprising that tapes don't figure prominently in recent news columns. Introduced in 1963, the cassette actually sorta rivaled vinyl in sales for awhile and hit its peak in the late 1980s, when cassingles were the shit. Now companies are refusing to replenish stocks of blank cassettes and tape players are going the way of Cooperalls (anyone, anyone?). But, as any packrat, collector, or serial killer knows, sometimes you just have to keep that concrete reminder of a happier or at least memorable time in your possession.
Records might be cool and sexy, but many people will admit that one single cassette says more about someone than a large stack of black vinyl ever could. Tapes kicking around old cars for so long they have a legal deed on the thing, creative or stupid hand-made j-cards labored over for ages, making mixes for friends and hopeful future partners, knowing every single stretched bit of tape on an over-played classic, buying cassettes at thrift stores just to see what nonsense was on them (usually bad radio mixes or voiced nonsense)... cassettes conjure up memories. There used to be fewer things as sad in life as a favorite tape finally giving up the ghost or breaking or getting lost. In fact, it is apparently believed by tapeheads all over that when this happens, an angel gets its wings by rolling its '79 Camaro into a ditch. I can't confirm this, but I have to believe in something! Cassettes are still important because cassettes equal culture and culture never dies.
[Case in point: my girlfriend still has a tape of herself singing a French song to her father when she was an infant. At the opposite end of the cute-important spectrum, I had a cassette kicking around for ages that featured me and a friend reading excerpts, in scary "metal" voices no less, from a Hit Parader interview with W.A.S.P.'s Blackie Lawless, while I crashed a cymbal overtop of my friend playing his guitar through his digital delay and flange pedals (jeesh, I really wish I wasn't such an open book all of the time because that is so embarrassing... see what I go through to entertain you?!). That tape, thankfully, is long lost.]
Labels participating in the "Leaderless: Underground Cassette Culture Now" exhibition include 23 Productions (WI), AA (MI), American Tapes (MI), Animal Disguise (MI), Bone Tooth Horn, Callow God (CA), Cherried Out Merch (OR), Chondritic Sound (MI), Drone Disco (OH), Ecstatic Peace (MA), Fag Tapes (MI), Fuckit Tapes (NY), Gods of Tundra (MI), Hanson Records (MI), Heavy Tapes (NY), Hospital Productions (NY), Iatrogenesis (OR), Ides (IL), Friendship Bracelet (MA), Loveless Tapes (NJ), Middle James CO (ON/CA), Monorail Trespassing (CA), Nihilist Productions (IL), Not Not Fun (CA), Psychform (WA), RRRecords (MA), Rundownsun (BC), Since 1972 (NY), Spite (NY), Stammer Tapes (NY), Swampland Noise (CA), Throne Heap (NY), Tone Filth (MN), Trash Ritual (NY), Troniks (CA), and many more.