The following questions we were asked by Inga Zimprich
Inga: What’s the idea behind schicky tapes dot biz?
The idea was around for a while until one night two people amused
themselves designing the website. Different friends are busy with
mixtapes and little releases on tape even own tape labels. Add the
internet with it's de-local networking possibilities and you have
Benni: For me schickytapes started in the moment when I realised that
I was speaking with many people in different cities about mixtapes
and we all shared this special kind of passion in producing them.
It is like a reference about yourself, to hand out a mixtape to someone
you recently met and find sympathetic – like a creative identity
card. It tells a lot about people, what kind of music they like or
how the cover of the mixtape looks like...
Jan: The purpose is creative cross pollination of esthetic expressions
and concepts. That is similar in a lot of contexts. The common denominator
here is the cassette tape and probably some degree of a shared fascination
for it´s possibilities and socio-economic properties. Anything
that can be made audiable can be recorded onto the widely available
4mm stereo magnetic tape. The idea is also an implicit critique.
How does it function?
Anyone can offer a (mix)-tape on the site. Because we are greedy,
we like it if we get the tape sent/swapped. We will then scan in the
cover which offers a first impression of what the tape is about on
a visually communicative level. Secondly there should be a playlist
or listing of content of sorts, favourably accompanied by a short
atmospheric description or a few lines about the concept or little
story. At last there is an email address via which one can make contact
with the maker of the tape to get a mailing address for a swap.
Robert: You can just send a scan of the cover and a text file with
a description of the tape and/or a playlist to the schickytapes webmasters
as well. But as Jan says we are greedy bastards and like to expand
our evergrowing collection of mixtapes, we love mixtapes.
The emphasis is on the mode of the trade: Schickytapes are exchanged,
they cannot be bought. It is a trade mixtape against mixtape, but
I guess it's OK to exchange a tape with any other self-produced item;
a drawing, a zine or whatever...
Schicky tapes dot biz is most likely a business. What’s your
commercial interest or vision of business? Whats the ideal idea about
trade within schicky tapes?
Jan: The domainname and design of the frontpage are a bit of a piss
take of the economisation of our lives and is quite obviously contrasted
by the actual practice and object of schickytapes. We are not trying
to make money off of schickytapes. Pan-capitalism is a changing configuration
and one of the recent and ongoing developments is a kind of flexibilisation
as well as the increased importance of cognitive and immaterial work
for capital production/Wertschaffung.
The 'new deal' is that we offer ourselves up to the market with all
our creativity, even emotion. There just does not seem too be much
of an alternative perspective. At least none that is in reach.
There is no ´space´ or context that is not influenced
by capitalist relations, the product mode...
Also at schickytapes we are not free of that. You can only get a tape
if you trade something for it. Who ever has a better starting position,
time and/or capital to produce has a greater trading capacity. That
principle is only moderately lessened by the fact that there is no
fixed exchange rate. Many people will not have the time, money and
education for creative production and thus are disadvataged also in
the 'schickytapes economy'. Yet cassette tapes and tape recorders
are a fairly affordable and accessible standard already distributed
for many years. We also have a subcategory for vintage, that is: simply
outwardly beautiful and exotic cassette tapes.
We do not want to easyly accept the immersion with capitalist relations
and become cynical over it, but neither do we want to pretend it is
not a factor, even at s.t..
For sure, schickytapes is not the key to social revolution, but rather
a hint at something. As we know, classist society and particularly
the bourgeoisie relies on the 'revolution of the means of production'
(Marx) for the creation of new non-saturated markets to sustain the
normality of exploitive exchange.
Robert: Trade in the widest sense means exchange. I think behind the
idea of schickytapes dot biz is some kind of fair trade idea. Giving
does not necessarily imply to me getting the something of exactly
the same value back than you have given. But in my eyes an ideal trade
situation is one of voluntariness. At this point trade, of course,
becomes a moral question. The idea of trade is linked to the motivation
of a "good deal". "Good deals" often involve uneven
relationships in power; all the "good deals" that were made
with the colonies, or other forced relationships based on dependence
– like relationships on the labourmarket. Schickytapes of course
plays in a different league anyway.
Schickytapes offers low threshold technology products through which
you can exchange on a pretty even level personal items with each other.
It is more about the communication involved rather than the material
value of the tapes traded.
I would like to use the terms business or trade in the widest sense
possible. What a trade or business looks like societies have different
definitions of. Mostly the definition is dominated by the western
business model. In many non-western countries this image has been
adapted, but involves a different practice. Many normal day to day
things that have been carried out for centuries are called business
nowadays because the western image of business and success seems so
sexy. For me business in the broadest sense plainly means activity.
The intention of our bussiness certainly is the stimulation of activity
– exchange of feelings, ideas, atmospheres.
Jan: For us the main objective is to get beautiful things in the mail
from anywhere in the world.
Will there be a catalogue, a store, events, t-shirts, productions,
new tapes and covers?
What of them likely/unlikely/for sure not and why?
There is a catalogue.
Jan: The catalogue is on the internet.
There probably will be appearances. Lets see…but schickytapes
is not a hip business model, but basically the facilitation of a self-generative
principle. We see that very sober.
Robert: There already have been appearences. We had a release party,
we played records at a venue that already has gone bankrupt. Some
friends came along. That night even generated a new schickytape, the
schickytape launch mix.
Benni: Schickytapes is our first e-bizness start-up. It works quite
fine but we are not experienced in advanced marketing strategies.
Robert: Mmmh marketing, we spread some flyers in various european
locations. Maybe we're gonna print some T-Shirts for ourselves.
How does the ultimate compilation tape come to exist?
There is a link on the links page where Jack Tripper elaborates on
exactly this topic.
Robert: There are many different criteria for making an ideal mixtape.
I am quite conservative with my own recipe. I mostly make genre tapes,
the combination of the music is most important; the end of a song
in relation to the beginning of the next one, the atmospheric flow.
In some of the mixtapes I made recently I worked much more conceptually:
combining songs with contradictory or similar messages. A mixtape
should certainly not be arbitrary. It is important that you can feel
the songs were chosen with care.
Benni: For me everything starts with one song that I makes me think
about starting a mixtape because the song is influencial in music
history ....inspiring ....unforgetable. Then I just follow my feeling
and experience as a DJ. Sometimes the next song samples a bit of the
one before or it has the same theme. Or the lyrics go deeper. Sometimes
I can't explain. Like Billy Holiday.
Compilation tapes in my history were tapes with titles as “smell
of the end of summer”, often given to me by boyfriends,in any
case mostly by men.
Which advantages has the mix-tape for you, and which personal tradition
I made mixtapes since my adolescence. Mostly I made genre tapes because
there are many records that just have one or two excellent songs on
them. The album as a whole might be unlistenable. So you compile all
the brilliant songs you wanna listen to, like a condensed collection
of atmosphere generating elements. Very often I copied these tapes
for friends to share the music I liked, and they did so as well. It
was like an analogue form of peer2peer filesharing.
I made tapes for girls I liked too, but normally I didn't give tapes
with a certain message. I considered a tape with music I liked a sign
of affection anyway. Of course you think too about what the person
could prefer, but mostly within what I felt music-wise at that moment
anyway. This is valid for all people I gave tapes to, I think. Often
I take a lot of time to make a mixtape and put a lot of consideration
into the design of the cover. These tapes I copied and gave them to
my friends, and they did so too. Some people consider this cheating
because you do not design the tape specifically for one individual.
I believe reproduction is totally legitimate as it is inherent to
the technology of the tape. But still the mixtape has a very personal
aura: It is not mass-produced. It mostly remains an artefact that
transports a message that is personalized.
Benni: For me it is a very personal thing, because to make a mixtape
communicates a lot. Many tapes I made for special occasions, for example
when we went for summer holiday with friends - so we listened to the
tape in the train or in the car-radio. Or it was to send some love
to my girlfriend who was miles away.
Jan: The advantages of the mix tape are fairly obvious to us. First
off they are a means of communication, an intentional succession of
songs and other audio-formats with shifting and overlapping continuims
on the 'narrative' layer or any of the musical layers of the previous
and subsequential song or other element. It is probably more interesting
than listening to a whole album straight. It means things like choice,
expression and communication … you know.
Tapes are cheap and solid technology. I´d like to think that
I am not nostalgic... At least I don´t have illusions about
“the good old days.“
Walter Benjamin said that ´progress is what we see passing us
by while being thrown out of paradise´. Maybe he somewhat overestimated
the intrinsic corruption of new technology. Every new technology is
most of all a tool that can be put to different uses. (While currently
of course their development already stands in a market context and
follows objectives of marketability and market expansion. Think of
the limited possibilites of a microsoft interface, the Fischer price
video camera, the intentionally limited lifespan of light bulbs or
better developments of a technology that are known but put on ice
to be released onto the market at a later date and have everyone upgrade
again. Have you ever wondered why multi-track recorders are such rareities
these days?) It is of vital importance to appropriate everyone of
the new technolgies for emancipatory practices. Yet, looking at the
systemic function of the ´revolution of reproductive means’
in a capitalist context, Benjamin´s metaphor remains valid and
my sympathy for tapes can be missread as nostalgia. I hate nostalgia.
Maybe schickytapes also makes a bit of a theoretical point.
Benni: For me it is also some kind of resistance against the appearance
of the burned CD since the end of the 90ies. It is just frustrating
when CD's are jumping or not readable at all. Above that the burned
CD mostly has an ugly outlook, because most of the people do not take
the time to make a special cover or write down the playlist, which
is in the opinion of passionate mixtape producers an essential part
of the whole thing.
Robert: I think that the inherent quality of the mixtape is the timefactor.
There is a process that is undergone making a mixtape. And that is
fundamentally different than pulling some files into a folder and
burning them onto a CD. Making a mixtape means listening to songs
over and over again, even finding some new brilliant songs in your
own record collection, never consciously realized before. It's about
an intense discourse with music. I believe it's totally legitimate
to share digital audio formats via the internet, but thats something
different. The mixtape has material qualities that are intrinsic to
Benni: For me it means that the medium tape appears everywhere in
the world in the same time: NOW. And people all over the world are
developing their own tape culture. When I brought a mixtape to Sri
Lanka people could play it in their homes.
Inga: What does "decentral" mean to you?
Decentralisation is a good idea. Decentral and rhizomatic ways of
working can in fact be much more effective and powerful than rigid
hirarchical structures of command and control. The new entrepeneurs
also know that. You can view it as a kind of ´technology´
as well. In a capitalist context it means extremely individualised
competition, but imagine it under principles of free association and
Robert: An exchange system is always a complicated organisational
task. It is really annoying if one or two persons have to organise
the whole thing. Share the work and the responsibility and it's easier
for everybody. Of course some people have to take care of the website,
but thats quickly done. The schickytapes catalogue does not work as
a WiKi. Maybe that would be an improvement. But on the other hand
it's nice to keep contact to all the people taking part. Decentral
means that there is no need for a Vermittler. The communication is
direct and much easier.
…and in how far is the internet interesting for you?
It is the immateriality of the information carrier. The internet can
be accessed from all over the world; of course by many people still
not. The outreach is just so much bigger than the one of a paper catalogue.
A paper catalogue would be a lot of work to produce, complicated to
update and a waste of precious paper resources and money.
Jan: ...and difficult and expensive to distribute.
The internet is an extremely interesting technology. I am only at
the very beginning of discovering it. But again, sozio-economic relations
and not technology is the key, even if telecommunication marketers
like the ITU (International Telecommunications Union) that recently
organized the first WSIS (World Summit of Information Society) would
like us to believe so. And realistically the majority of the world´s
population won´t have significant access even in the future.
Really, we have to start where we are at, instead of waiting untill
everyone is connected. But the internet can be an interesting edition
to excisting communication structures, for example to create hybrids
like mircopower radios with an internet hub. It has also proven to
be an extremely important communication and organizing tool during
recent mobilisations. But maybe all emancipatory organizing on the
net will soon be banned under a cyber-cime or cyber-terrorism act
or impeded by extreme surveillance. Let's hope not.
Benni: In the context of schickytapes, the internet is just a proper
way to get in trade-contact with tape-lovers all over the world. Yesterday
someone from New Hampshire wanted to trade my reggae compilation.
This is magic-get-in-touch.
I imagine schicky-tape-trading very complicated: i see a tape that
I like, contact the contributor and offer my possible tapes. Then
I buy stamps and an envelop, send mine and wait for the traded tape.
Why so complicated?
Try it out …maybe it is the tactile quality of it.. After all
we are physical bodies. Maybe it is the analogue against the digital
There are incredible amounts of audio recordings on cassette tape.
It is an excisting culture. Why should that be made inaccessible?
And if we think just a little bit beyond the previledged classes in
the postindustrial centers, it is simply a question of accessabillity,
inclusiveness and internationalism. Cassette tapes are a very common
Robert: Sorry, but I think it's not too much work to write an e-mail,
to make a little parcel and to bring it to the post office, isn't
it? Receiving a parcel has certainly a bigger excitement factor than
downloading some tacky soundfiles, compiled by another person. That
wouldn't make any sense to me. The interesting thing of downloading
music ist that it is so easy to compile it by yourself. Thats the
difference. The mixtape isn't just about the music stored on it. Actually
the digital audio format with it's unlimited reproducability totally
destroys the sense of the mixtape. Anybody can copy and download songs.
That could be a different project: Creating a pool with soundfiles
in combination with favourite music lists or reviews, so everybody
can learn about new music and immedeately compile their favourites.
But that kind of thing already exists anyway, not on one site though
Eehhm, what Jan said about the standard I am not so sure about that.
I think that the CD technology is already quite widely distributed
around the globe, but maybe I am wrong.
What is your relation to the fanzine scene…
Jan: I've been very inspired by the d.i.y. and fanzine scene. It is
something that friends do and therefore fairly personal. D.i. y. esthetics
have a lot to do with the forms of reproduction that are easyly available
at any point in time. Xerox fotocopying certainly was a little revolution
in that sense. Everyone became a potential mini-publisher. It was
enhancing decentrality. Cut and paste has become a kind of signifyer
for d.i.y. (in the visual more than in the sonic order) and there
are remnands of that esthetic resurfacing (as simulations) in glossy
life style magazines. While this esthetic is most commonly identified
with d.i.y.; I think it can be considered fairly d.i.y. if a bunch
of people get together and produce a magazine on a computer, whether
just on a wiki or for print. As this technology becomes more of a
standard in the western world we can also see the birth of a new precarious
Unfortunately part of the advancement of new technologies is a corresponding
esthetic that can become a bit of a regime. Zines that still use older
methods will be seen as overrated because of their appearance. Believe
in technology has a long history. Not only marketing strategists work
that the esthetics of a new technology come to stand for what is considered
contemporarry and relevant. Most people will not even advance to the
content layer anymore if those standards are not met.
Here we are in a bit of a reactive position (if we want attention,
which of course we do) with little room to influence this perception.
Most peoples attention spans are fairly short these days. This is
a given which speaks for good communication design. Other more 'messy'
stuff ends up on some kind of artistic fringe or in crystal palaces
of multiple encodation that limited amounts of people can be expected
to 'read' and which has a tendency of self reference, … but
this is a whole other interview. I simultaniously feel that actual
drawing gets increasingly validated again amid floods of images that
are digitally produced.
Is there a heavy Metal compilation.
If I had enough good metal I would make one. 'Music' under 'consumer
tapes' has a good metal song or two on it.
Benni: Have a look at the schickytapes discount corner.
Robert: I think a heavy metal revival is nothing the world would need.
Jan: Robert used to be a metalhead
Robert: When I was twelve.
Benni: Then I was Megadeath
Which compilation would you advise me to listen to?
Zurück zum Beton, Party Crime and Music ... and Mindthrilling
Robert: It's difficult to say, because I even have not listend to
all of them. There are already more than thirty tapes in the catalogue.
A tape I really enjoy, and that is because of the memories it carries,
is a compilation of the best bits and pieces of a radio show we made
in an Amsterdam pirate station. It's called Dubble Yuck Radio. It's
well worth listening.
Benni: More of that shit. Ohhh, but that has not been published yet.
Watch out for it, it will be coming soon...
Which question would you like me to ask you, and what's your answer?
I think one thing I still would like to say something about is the
nostalgia complex. Why did we start the project now? I mean it was
weird, just when we started the project I realized for the first time
that the tape was considered to be a redundant technology. Recently,
when I made an excursion to London with quite a few people from my
university course, I had a tape on me I wanted to listen to. But nobody
had a walkman, just discmans or even MP3 players, people even found
it weird that I asked that. That really shocked me. I am not anti-technology,
not at all, but for me the tape still was just a normal everyday medium.
Exchanging music amongst friends was a thing we did for years, the
idea of formalizing this habit was around for a while. First Rico
wanted to make a catalogue on paper, but that never materialised.
Later, the idea of doing it on the internet came up, Benni started
to do a website on his own, which than maybe inspired doing schickytapes
dot biz. While making the site, browsing through the net, looking
for all sorts of informations about tapes and other mixtape-projects,
we discovered many articles that reflected the compact-tape: 40 years
of the compact cassette but now it has done it's job. Others speak
of a "generation mixtape" and sentimental youth stories
about the good old mixtape days arised. Already now the mixtape has
been museumized and is the object of scientific social research. In
Hamburg there was an exhibition about people and their mixtapes-stories,
organised by the anthropological faculty and the faculty of communication
at the Hamburg university.
I don't know whether the mixtape will become retro-chique soon or
whether it will just dissapear. I believe it's just much less exciting,
the mixtape will continue to be lived because there are still so many
people around that value its qualities. It still is a lived thing.
In future there might come a moment when it will become rare and develop
curiosity value. But that's not what we speculate upon. For us it
has a everyday use-value.
Jan: It feels like a kind of retrospect of something that is now being
burried, like a funeral oration at the graveside.
Benni: For more anwers send an e-mail with a question in the body