I wanted to find out more about the man behind the mixtapes- Charles Pates and his impressive catalogue of vinyl. Read my interview below, then check out PatesTapes for yourself.
I found out about the site a while back and have since gotten everyone in my office to listen to it regularly. Where did the idea for Pates Tapes come from?
Well first off, thanks for converting the people in your office.
I relocated, and all my tapes were packed in boxes – normally I have shelves stuffed with them so I can pick and choose, for the first time I was forced relying on shuffled digital music. That was tolerable for a couple of months, and then it became annoying, because if I’m alone or with friends I like music to do what I designed it to do. So I started to drag the tape boxes downstairs, out of the attic where they slumbered. I had a new audience and everyone loved the tapes; the computer had not improved on the human experience. So slowly but surely the collection is going online, and now everyone can sit at my stereo and play whatever tape they want to.
You’ve clearly got a certain encyclopedic wisdom about music, especially from early eras- what do you attribute that to? Were you a musician? Are you simply nostalgic?
I’ve always loved music, always been a collector, combine this with years of hanging out with people who also love music, and you have a rich musical stew.
I don’t really see it as nostalgic, although there is an evocative side to music that does stimulate memory. You look at paintings and you don’t think of them as nostalgic. Music like the visual arts is an ongoing story, and I’m trying my best to record some of it. In regard being a musician, I play the guitar, but I wouldn’t call myself a musician.
What was the process like, extracting files from tape to digitally?
Long, it’s real time and I’ve been at it a year. I’m about 30% into digitizing the collection, and I have about 10% of those tapes uploaded and online. So the site will not be fully loaded for years to come.
Do you feel that the quality has been lost through transferring?
No, I play the tapes and I’ve listened to it streamed, and I haven’t noticed any difference.
There’s a distinctive feel to sitting down to listen to records.
The playlists were made mostly at night when I was in the groove both metaphorically and literally – I think that comes across. They can be listened to like concept albums with a certain reverence I suppose. They can also be listened to in the background – the only difference between background and foreground is volume.
On the site you can’t take the needle off, I think this is really important, people are listening to music they don’t have access to, their trusting the taste, and not blowing things off. These days it’s so easy to skip, fast forward and chop and change…new technology is developing short attention spans. Maybe my contribution can get us ‘back to where we once belonged.’
Out of all genres posted- which one is your favorite?
All of them. I don’t ‘play favorites’…well I do ‘play favorites’…but …ahh you know what I mean.
How many records do you own? How do you go about finding and collecting them?
I have around 2,000, most of them were ordered or came to me from ‘bin dives,’ some came as promo’s from record company’s when I was in the magazine business.
Which are your favorites?
All of them really, but I suppose collectables and great graphic design are high on my list of criteria’s.
How do you go about crafting a mix?
There is definitely a musical narrative and it tends to be built around pace and mood changes, which come around every 12 to15 minutes. So you end up with 3 or 4 episodes in 45 minutes, it’s like making a film or designing a magazine, – I’ve done both so the disciplines come in handy. The hard piece is getting the end of one track to go with the start of another. Even harder than that, is knowing when the records sound, will hit the needle – exactly at the time you release the pause button on the tape deck. I didn’t work on the turntables and mixing units that are available now…the turntable went one way…forward. If you get your timing right Eureka! Well almost…then you have to rewind the tape and see if it worked…often it didn’t. It’s a serious labour of love.
Do you listen to any contemporary music- if so, what do you listen to?
Absolutely, all the playlists except Café contain – or will contain new music. I’m listening to reviews in MOJO, because there’s precious little on the TV, or on the Radio. Great name for a band…almost?
Most young people my age who write about music are constantly consuming whatever the newest/latest/most hyped bands- can you suggest any older artists that would be required listening for this generation?
All of them, I don’t think it’s just young people, it’s all people. Music is one of the few things, that when played, forces you to think.
What is the most popular mix you’ve posted? Are you surprised by this?
The Peel Sessions is the fav fight now, but as the site goes increasingly more international, I’m expecting that to change.
I’ve noticed that you’re also an artist- is that a hobby or a career?
I’ve painted for most of my life, but that doesn’t pay the rent
Do you see PatesTapes growing?
It’s growing, and I can’t see it dying.
Any new genres to introduce?
No I think I have it covered.
Will it ever be available for download for those of us that don’t have iPhones?
You can’t download it. It’s available on everything but Androids at this point.