This past summer I spent a rainy day cleaning out a room I call the catch-all room. Finding a box of cassette tapes—mixes of music I had recorded and mixed decades ago-- and a working cassette player seemed serendipitous. I began listening. One tape in particular caught me, stirring up memories of late night into early morning sessions in the dark, catching moments while my then-young children were sleeping.
The music also stirred tactile memories of the simple tools I had used create it: Fostex four-track, a borrowed Guild Starfire guitar, a single Yamaha digital reverb box, various bells and hand percussion, a Sure SM-58 Microphone ( still my main vocal mic on stage); a little Casio SK-1 keyboard, endless loop tapes designed for telephone answering machines.
These were pieces of music I had truly forgotten, and now they sounded good to me. I think they had fallen short, at the time, of what I wanted of them—I do remember that I was quite often frustrated by the limitations of cassette fidelity back then, during the clean-sound CD hegemony.
But now I find that I love the hiss, the odd compression, even the distortion of occasional tape saturation. And I notice how vari-speed of tape can be a flexible and expressive tool for changing pitch and timbre. Most of all, I hear now that this music came out exactly as it was meant to, with truth of mood and emotion.
I hope I can take this as a lesson and apply it to current creative situations that might seem fraught with a sense of limitation and frustration; that I can recognize that what comes through is usually what needs to come through. With all this in mind, I’ve released these three songs just as I found them on the old cassette. -KMB