go home go to catalogue get more information here go to super go up  





disclaimer: Statements on this page do not necesserily reflect the opinion of everyone publishing on schickytapes.biz nor those otherwise involved.


The following questions we were asked by Inga Zimprich

Inga: What’s the idea behind schicky tapes dot biz?

Jan: 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 schicky tapes.
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.

Inga: How does it function?

Jan: 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...

Inga: 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.

Inga: 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?

Robert: 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.

Inga: How does the ultimate compilation tape come to exist?

Jan: 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.

Inga: 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 in life?

Robert: 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.

Inga: Why tapes?

Jan: 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 it's technology.
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?

Jan: 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 free cooperation…WOW.
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.

Inga: …and in how far is the internet interesting for you?

Robert: 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.

Inga:. 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?

Jan: 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 order…
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 standard.
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 I guess.
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.

Inga: 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 production class.
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.

Inga: Is there a heavy Metal compilation.

Jan: 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

Inga: Which compilation would you advise me to listen to?

Jan: Zurück zum Beton, Party Crime and Music ... and Mindthrilling Jazz.
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...

Inga: Which question would you like me to ask you, and what's your answer?

Robert: 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 to b_cassetten@yahoo.de.


go home