For us our old cars act as musical time capsules that are capable of taking us on an audio journey through memory lane. It seems like they intentionally hide things from their owners then reveal them when their existence is about to slip from memory.
I've had the same car since 1995 which means my car has been with me for my entire adult life. This also means that my car is hiding a lot from me. I’ll never understand how an Ultramagnetic MC’s tape will somehow wiggle its way up from beneath the backseat and slowly make its way under my brake pedal.
In 1995 I first started making beats using software called Hammerhead Rhythm Station, it was free and it was the illest thing that I had ever seen in my life. You could use their included drums or you could even input your own sounds. Hammerhead had a ton of limitations but that’s what made me be creative. It forced me to input very lo-fi sounds (16 bit, 22 khz, mono, raw format) but the tracks came out raw, they were like wu-tang demos that got left out in the rain.
I remember having to program drums then export them, put in a guitar sample then export it, put in a bass sample then export that, this process would keep going until all the layers were complete. Then I’d take these layers and actually mix them on top of each other in Cool Edit (the O.G. free version, one track only). This was a one shot deal with maybe one level of undo, no equalizer and a real crude volume control but it the process was addicting.
There’s no way to accurately count the number of songs that were created in my bedroom using this system but there must have been hundreds. Some of these are on floppy disks and some actually got dropped to cassette tapes with lyrics on top (using a really funky system).
Now it seems that every time I start to think about how terrible modern software is one of these hammerhead beat tapes seems to slowly make its way from my trunk into the passenger section of my car. As soon as I pop the cassette into the tape player my mind hits the time portal and I’m taken back to a time when I thought hammerhead was the future and I’m reminded that creativity evolves from our limitations.
When it’s my time to finally trade my car in, it will be a sad day because for the past 10+ my car has been making mixtapes for me, reminding me of where I was in my life, who my friends were, and how I got to the present. It will be a sad day to have to dig into the spare tire well, the dark corners of the trunk, the lint filled underbelly of the backseat, and the crumb lined carpet beneath the drivers chair to uncover those memories for the last time. Of course I can display the memories in a case or on a bookshelf, but music is meant to be heard, and silent cassettes will stare me in the eye like a solar eclipse. I’ll feel the sounds of my past fade away while I hope to recapture just a small bit of their essence in my sounds of today.
Now to make this post a little more upbeat, today I was lucky enough to find Hammerhead Rhythm Station online so I dug up some of my old 3.5 floppy discs. I popped them into the drive and found that one was now blank and the other was now a backup Quicken diskette.
That leaves with only three hammerhead songs that I know of which are Generate Momentum, Rejuvenate, and Fat People (this is 10 years before the debut of the The Chubby Chasers). These tracks were all recorded in 1995-1996 using some samples downloaded from the old AOL sound archive. I can only upload one of the tracks because the others are still on cassette only, so enjoy listening to the awesome beat making and rhyming talents that I possessed a little over 10 years ago.