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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Mix Tape Queen

Right now I'm revising my second novel (or I'm supposed to be, actually I'm procrastinating by writing this blog instead). As you might have guessed there is an underlying musical theme to it. No rock stars like in I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE, but the characters are the kind of kids who would tell the story of their life with music. So when I was writing the book, I carefully picked out a song that represented each character. In fact, at one point I had a song for every chapter. Ok, maybe it was another procrastination technique, but I loved it because it was like making a big mix tape (or CD for those of you born after 1985 or iTunes playlist for you really high tech folks). And back in the day I was the mix tape queen.

I lay claim to that throne because I started creating mixes the really hard way when I was ten. I taped songs off the radio. It sounds simple enough, but trying doing it in the perfect order. You see, the Stephanie Kuehnert mix has to have flow, sound-wise and theme-wise. A portion of the "Stephanie and Katie Summer of '03 Driving Mix" (which is a three-disc set because I always get carried away) follows a geographical path: "Santa Monica" by Everclear leads into "Malibu" by Hole leads into "Dizz Knee Land" by Dada leads into "Olympia" by Rancid. Waiting for a specific song to come on the radio so you can record it in exactly the right order, that's a science!

Fortunately, technology has advanced. By eighth grade I had a CD player and by the end of high school, I had a pretty sweet stereo system that allowed me to use songs from CD, cassette, and vinyl. (You had to know I'm the type to have a serious vinyl collection, right?) I kept making mix tapes instead of CDs until 2002 because for the most part I listened to them in my car, which still had a tape deck. I'm a serious devotee of the driving mix. In fact, I prepared for getting my driver's license by making a mix tape and I made a new one at least once a year, many of which I shared with my best friend Katie. Now, I no longer have a car so I make playlists for my iPod to make Chicago public transportation more bearable. Also my friend Eryn and I travel together once a year and we alternate who makes the mix CD. It's one of the best parts of our trips!

Then, I make writing playlists. You might have heard the one I made for I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE on my website or myspace, but while I was procrastinating a few weeks back, I created my ideal soundtrack for IWBYJR. It follows the storyline of the book perfectly in song, how cool is that? I can't use Project Playlist or anything online to duplicate it because it has some harder-to-find songs on there, so I'm burning it on CD instead and my fabulous webmistress Jenny Hassler has agreed to design some hott artwork. It's going to be part of the prize for my first contest and you can enter to win the CD along with some early IWBYJR promo materials by simply signing up to be a member of my street team. Street team members are volunteers who spread the word about IWBYJR by putting up banners on their myspace or other website, passing out promo goodies (which I send you) around town, or just telling people about the book. Not a huge commitment, but if you sign up before January 15th, you're eligible to become one of seven lucky folks who gets a mix CD from yours truly, the Mix Tape Queen. Who knows, it might become your favorite mix ever.

And if you're wondering what my favorite mix ever is, it's a tape that my friend Tom made junior year of high school. He used some serious old school mixing skill on it, blending snippets of songs from the radio (he demonstrated how overplayed Bush's "Glycerine" was that summer by putting it on there three times), his record player, and best of all, the only full version of a song that he put on was "Loser Fan Club" by the band he fronted in junior high, the Skexies (if anyone remembers what movie that band name comes from I might have to reward you with a mix CD just for that!). I may be one of the few people on earth in possession of a recording of that early Tom Smith classic and now that his latest band Office is getting rather popular that rarity might become pretty desirable. Not that I would ever eBay my favorite mix!

What about you, what's the story of your favorite mix tape/CD/playlist? And authors, name five songs that would go on the soundtrack for your book. Here's a little peek into the IWBYJR ultimate soundtrack: "I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone" by Sleater-Kinney (of course), "I'm Not Dead" by Pink, "Suddenly Cool" by the Methadones, "Ragged Company" by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, and "New Wave" by Against Me!, but you gotta enter the contest to find out more!


Anonymous said...

I love making mixes, too. I wouldn't say that I am too great at it--I doubt mine flow well, but, hey, I try. I love getting them from other people as well, but, sadly, none of my friends really seem to appreciate how awesome mix CDs are. If they do, it's just, "I like these songs so I burned them all on a CD for you." Which is nice, I guess, but not really a mix as I think of it.

Authorness said...

I was a teenage mix-taper too! I won't tell you what went on those old tapes 'cause they're too embarrassing.

I have a few different playlists to help me tap into the emotions of the scenes I write. Sweeping orchestral music for the introductory chapters. Depressing music for the black moment (usually the Smiths, or Patsy Cline). I always play 'You Can't Always Get What You Want' by the Rolling Stones if I'm being too nice to my heroine. Isn't that mean?

Vanessa ;)

Barbara Caridad Ferrer said...

Heh, Steph— I used to mix tapes off the radio too. And these days, MY friends call me the playlist queen.

AND I make writing playlists too—(in fact, I just made one for my revisions that are due in, oh... two weeks.)

It's funny, I think we both have some really obscure stuff in our music libraries, but from such opposite ends of the spectrum, it might send some people's brains into major meltdown. *G* Kind of gives me a warm fuzzy feeling, that.

jennifer echols said...

Yeah, I make an iPod soundtrack for each book I write so I can listen to it and brainstorm while I run. The soundtrack for BOY IN BLUE:

Sweet Home Alabama by B.A.M.A.
Good Is Good by Sheryl Crow
Don't Cha by The Pussycat Dolls
Feel Good Inc by Gorillaz
Sugar, We're Goin Down by Fall Out Boy
To Be Alone With You by Sufjan Stevens
Leave It by Yes
Photograph by Nickelback

I was a huge mix-taper back in the day. A few years ago when I figured out how to burn CDs, I made a mix-CD and mailed copies to all my old high school buddies. ;)

But my high school boyfriend was the king of mix-tape. He would record a song from the radio, then record it again, then play both versions while taping them on a third deck. Tape decks run at slightly different speeds, so the song would sound normal at first and then one beat would start to run over the other. Then he'd stop it all, switch the tapes in the decks, and move it back the other way. The result was a very funky-sounding song. We lived in a small town and had lots of free time.

eryn said...

Mix tapes are seriously a huge part of my life too. And I too got my first cd player in 8th grade as well. I am always making mix cds. Best ones are those yearly reviews, of all the new songs that came out that year that you liked, not like a no. 1 hits kind of thing, just like ones that you remember playing on the radio when you where on your way driving to a friends house, excited for what the evening to come. Ones you come to like out of no where and find your self singing them. I made quite a few mixes this year. My usual yearly mix, and then a road trip mix from Seattle to Portland of all live songs of favorite bands, and ones that inspired the Seattle or Portland music scene. Then I made a “Fix what’s Broken” one for myself from a terrible break up I went thru, with my boyfriend of 7 years leaving me for another girl. So that one has helped me, plus the one I received from Stephanie. I also made about 3 more other mixes I forget, their all on my itunes, which I just LOVE to make mix cds. But five songs that would really explain my life, would be “In the meantime”- Spacehog, “dollskin- Toadies, “In my tree” Pearl Jam, “only you know” Veruca salt and “Fight Song” Jucifer. But that also can change time to time, my mix cds are like endless, I wish my heart was a walkman instead and I could constantly have music to fit whatever I am doing at anytime. Like always walking in a music video!

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

Teenbookreview- Yep it sounds like we share the same opinion about the true nature of the mix cd. It's cool to share songs you like, but that doesn't make it a true mix. You've got to add a personal element. Like with my BFF's mixes I always throw something nostalgic on like the old Degrassi High Theme Song.

Vanessa- Love what you listen to when being too nice to your heroine. Me on the other hand, I might need something for when I'm too mean to my heroines. I put them through a lot!

Barb- if we combined our music libraries we might have almost everything and that really would be awesome!

Jenn- That is quite a varied playlist, I love it! That makes me sooooo curious about the book!

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

Eryn- Glad my mix helped you and that you made your own. You are totally my mix twin and you know it! xo

Kelly Parra said...

I wasn't that much into taking the time of mixing tapes when I was younger. Everything was fast, fast, impatient, want now with me. haha! So I'd buy soundtracks to movies, because I was the movie queen. Loved them, and the soundtracks put together for them.

The only song I know for my book off the top of my head would be Graffiti Girl by Mark Pickerel. :) :)

taltebrando said...

Oh, I was sooo into making mix tapes. They all had names, too. My best one, which got copied endlessly and passed around in high school, was called the "Tazmanian ToastMaster Mix." [In high school, people called me Taz. Long story.]

I don't make official writing playlists but I definitely gravitate to specific music for each project. Here are a few songs that would absolutely be on the playlist for What Happens Here:

Viva Las Vegas by Elvis Presley
Modern Kicks and I'm a Pretender by Exploding Hearts (the whole Guitar Romantic record, really)
Monkey by Low
Wall of Death as recorded by REM


Stephanie Kuehnert said...

Kelly- I love Mark Pickerel and that song!!!

Tara- Again, the play list you mentioned makes me want to read the book even more! Especially since you are a fellow Low fan!

Little Willow said...

I love making playlists for books. The funny thing is, I post them at my blog rather than actually MAKING the mix tapes or burned CDs...

caralockwood said...

Ah, the mixed tape! I couldn't write without a playlist. For Wuthering High, my songs were:

1. "Walking with a Ghost" by the White Stripes

2. "Soul Meets Body" Death Cab For Cutie

3. "I Will Follow You Into the Dark" Death Cab For Cutie (had to have both songs!)

4. "How to be Dead" by Snow Patrol

5. "Everything Ends" by Cold Play for Six Feet Under

Noticing a theme here?