When I was a kid, VCR was all I knew. My brother and I would open them up like they were our little surgical patients. We’d clean the heads with cotton swabs and alcohol, we messed with belts and screws and loved being fascinated by the ins and outs of how it all worked. I knew then how to record from television. It was like second nature, without even flinching I’d connect the AV cables, grab the remote, the VCR would skip the tape forward a few seconds before starting a recording, and I knew at the end, to pull the tab off the tape to stop anyone from recording over it, and, yes, there WAS a big difference between SP, SLP, & LP (there still is). Those were the things that I forgot about until embarking on this tape project.
I can’t help but remember when I was just a little bit older. Young enough that my childhood ghosts hadn’t come back for me yet, but I wasn’t old enough to have anything more important to do than go to a friends house late at night to hang. It was that sweet in-between spot where I’d clutch a couch pillow that wasn’t mine, the huge wood grain entertainment center staring back at me, and I’d settle in for the night. For the party. For the sleepover.
It was the transition from the 90s into the 2000s and most of my friends still didn’t have DVD players. So, at a certain point, someone would put on a tape. Maybe it was an MTV music video compilation, a porno with LOTS of bush and cowboy boots, or a rental that someone had picked up on the way because it looked super weird. The tape in the VCR would play while my friends and I drank screwdrivers, talked shit, and laughed until we either got sick or passed out. It was simple. It was everything.
Over the summer I worked on a massive tape project. “Massive” meaning it’s taken me twice as long as anyone else to do it because I have ADHD that I don’t take meds for anymore AND I’m a perfectionist. I planned to make a VHS mixtape of my very own. A compilation of clips from the films I’ve reviewed here on the blog, with added snippets of cartoons and other nonsense that I love. A sleepover mix, if you will. One that you can pop in the VCR and let play in the background while you drink screwdrivers and talk shit.
Outside of the mental hinderances, the wedding planning, the fiction classes, the working full time until late July, a major reason it took me all summer is because I hadn’t the slightest fucking clue what I was doing by making a VHS mixtape (entirely analog) when I had never done one before. I’ve wanted to make one of these mixtapes for years, but in the beginning of this process, all I knew was how I wanted it to look. I was adamant about doing it all by myself, so this babe had to learn some shit.
You know the saying that you should write what you wish you could read, and I’ve been doing that here on my blog for years. I guess the same could be said for making what you wish you could watch, so that’s what I did. I watched transfer tutorials on YouTube, asked questions to tapeheads online who’d done it before, learned about Media Mail, and even busted out the ol’ VCR Bible by Brent Butterworth himself; all to make this mixtape the way that I wanted to. Which is to say, a very femme ode to this VHS culture and the horror films I love.
So, there I was, going back into all the knowledge that had been sitting dormant in the vast wasteland of my child brain for so long. I was that kid again, opening VCRs for the fun of it while the Phoenix sun burrowed into my skin. Only this time, I was 33, sitting on the floor of my room, fixating on bizarre transitions, stressing on getting all the cuts I wanted so perfectly that I was forgetting to eat.
I’ll go ahead and say it; Making a VHS mixtape is the least ground-breaking thing on the fucking planet, but there is something magical and creative about it. There is no way you can leave and let it ride, it takes all of your attention. It makes your mind work in new ways. I could feel all those film editing classes I took in university helping me through the process. I would go to bed with tape fuzz hiss and eject sounds floating around in my head, with a smile on my face.
Of course, it’s not perfect. During the process, the intros didn’t turn out the way I had hoped. I made sure to end the tape with my logo and homemade jingle instead as a way to still get it in. The transitions I spent days agonizing over sometimes really didn’t go as planned, and the time that I took to do this whole thing was infinitely more than I ever expected. But I loved it. I loved everything about it. I love stuff that isn’t perfect, that’s what life is. This whole process was incredible.
Because I was embarking on this new mixtape journey, I decided to start a little production company. It’s called BubbleGum Video. The idea, mainly, is to have a label for creative endeavors like this mixtape release and other fun time consuming shit that I will continue to do. Really, it was just an excuse to make something.
I didn’t just stop there, though. To commemorate starting a personal little film company, and my first ever mixtape that pays homage to all things Horror Fashion, I HAD to do a photoshoot for its release. The idea was to capture the ultimate bubble gum blowing photo because I couldn’t come up with a moniker with “bubblegum” as the title and NOT get that photo.
I was invited to a real studio by an incredible local photographer to make these photos happen and I was so excited to have the chance to do these. If anyone in the Boise area is looking to make their aesthetic dreams come to life, I would highly recommend the talent and energy that goes into VisionKit Studios.
These photos really speak for themselves. I’m thankful that I got to live my bubblegum teen bedroom fog machine tape sludge slumber dreams at this studio. It was such a great experience.
This photoshoot was everything I could have hoped for. A pink monochromatic sleepover mirage with the beautiful juxtaposition of the hardness and dark VHS tape reels.
I’m thankful to the Record Exchange where my fiancé was able to snag a box of these old European PAL tapes that they were just planning on tossing.
You’ll be blown away to know that we only destroyed 6 tapes to get the full effect of this tape sludge bedroom takeover. It was shocking that it didn’t take more than that. The rest were just there for setting, looking pretty stacked on top one another.
I’m excited to use all these tapes and recycle them into a physical art project. This winter I’m going to build a giant, stand-alone tape monster out of them. I’m imagining that it will be quite tall and something that my partner and I can display in our movie room.
I’m thankful that VHS is still around and the universe is giving it another pass under the sun. Now it seems like everyone is seeing it shine. Though it’s very different this time than when it was first here, I wonder to myself if this revival would be happening in the same way without the internet. As it stands right now, without the social media connection of collectors today, VHS would still be privy to live inside the pages of zines, forums and newspaper distributions. We would go to tape swaps like the old days, or pick up gems from collapsed video stores and yard sales as our only way to engage and keep the spirit alive. It’s not like things used to be. Maybe it’s not better or worse, it’s just different now. We certainly have modern tech to thank for this new dive back into the old world of retro-tech. It’s a weird dance. It’s a strange and beautiful thing to watch and be a part of.
By the time I finished my tape, I realized that I’d been getting frustrated. As a multiracial, bisexual, feminist woman in this predominantly-male VHS resurgence that’s been happening, I’ve been looking for more creations, mixtapes, zines, blogs, hands on how to’s, and art that’s made by women. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about hot babes showing off their tapes while they harness that bomb-ass female energy in photos. That’s why I was excited for the photoshoot and I’m thankful I did it. But I’ll just say it here and now, in case y’all need a refresher. Women are more than their bodies, they are more than the tapes that they own, and they are more than their tits and ass.
It’s been harder to find women that are creators and makers. I wish there were more women pushing me in this creative direction. Especially online in the horror and tape communities I’m a part of.
If there are any more females out there that are making mixtapes and doing cool dumb zines, or making art, or writing, blogging, building, sculpting…etc., please email me or reach out to me via my instagram link on my homepage. I’d love to meet you and support you and maybe we could collaborate on something in the future.
Excited for my world of Bubble Gum Video X Horror Fashion to come to life. Through mixtapes, low-budget films, events, and more cool weird VHS stuff, because I’ll be damned if I don’t do shit that I love before the darkness comes for me.
*For all those that purchased my mix, here’s a little “clips” list*
Slumber Party Massacre II
Killer Klowns from Outer Space
Bloody New Year
Garbage Pail Kids
Orgy of the Dead
Friday the 13th
Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers
(In order of appearance)
⁃ The Pink Panther – Pink Posies episode from Prehistoric Pink cartoon collection tape 1997
⁃ Sailor Moon R The Movie 1999 (German version recorded from German television gifted to me by an exchange student that I grew up watching so much I was able to understand it)
⁃ Alice In Wonderland Disney Masterpiece Collection 1994
(in order of appearance)
All shorts from California Images Hi-Fi For The Eyes Pilot Video LP 1985
1. Speed – Visuals Philip Hopper – Music Alan Brown
2. Allegretto – Visuals Oskar Fischinger – Music Ralph Rainger
3. Revelation – Visuals A. D. Venezia – Music David Shapiro