Sometimes it seems like there are millions of mixes in the world all melding together into a giant megamix. Cosmic Crates is a project breaking out of the mix…err…crate.
Started by two friends—Brian Anderson and Andrew Thomas—the Cosmic Crates project takes an original approach to making and sharing a mix. We love that they make you think differently about mixing — proof that creative thinking almost always adds up to amazing.
Oh yeah, did we mention that they are 2,500 miles apart? Check out how they do it, it’s bonkers…
So how did this whole project start?
We met in ’98 or ’99 in a northern suburb of Detroit and started hanging out and going to parties together shortly after that. We rented a house together off of 8 Mile. A few months later we got some turntables for the basement, started buying the records that we were hearing out, and DJing our own little parties at our house.
An old girlfriend who used to DJ around town brought over her crates full of 90’s house and techno which was a huge catalog for us to dig into early on. Around this same time, one of us got a job at Record Time and our love affair with vinyl really kicked into high gear.
After moving to different cities (Detroit and San Francisco), we both continued DJing and pursuing other projects independently for awhile. Then in 2013, we started this Cosmic Crates project.
Tell us about your truly special process for recording these mixes?
Our process is really pretty simple. One of us makes a 45 minute mix as the A side of a cassette tape using new or old records from their collection. Then he sends it to the other guy across the country who does the same thing for the B side using records that complement the mix he was given. We both use Technics 1200s, rotary mixers, and home cassette decks from the 80’s to record the tapes.
We run both sides through LANDR before uploading and sharing out on Soundcloud and Mixcloud. With vinyl, some cuts can come in a little hot or cold despite our best efforts at proper EQing, and there can be some muddy spots with records that have gotten a lot of play. Landr smoothes things out a bit.
How important have mixtapes been to you in the past?
It is not an overstatement to say that mid-west rave tapes and mix CD’s changed our lives. We were driving around with Paul Johnson’s I Need Another Plan in the tape deck until it didn’t play right anymore, and never went more than a day or 2 without rocking one of Norm Talley’s hundreds of mix CD’s in the early 00’s. His Sade mix… oooooweeeee!
We would study them. The records, the blends, the tricks. Then head to Record Time or Melodies & Memories or Detroit Threads to try and find our favorite 12”s so that we could go back to the basement and recreate what we were hearing. It’s how we learned.
How long have your tape exchanges been happening?
We’ve been doing Cosmic Crates for well over a year now, 12 tapes in total so far counting guest and exclusive mixes like this one. You can follow us for a new tape about every month or so and even some special editions here and there.
Does each mix reflect a specific time and place for you guys?
Yes, totally. Like for this exclusive mix… we were fresh off Movement weekend and feeling inspired by what we saw at the festival, all of the new and old friends we were able to spend some time with, and of course some of the best parties in the world: History of House, 3 Chairs, Theo on the patio of Motor City Wine, No Way Back, 1315 Broadway, and more. You’ll hear some of that craziness in the records that we pulled, and catch a lot of references in the tracklist.
Do you think Its important to think outside the box about making mixes?
Sure, why not? It’s music and it’s supposed to be fun. If you’re going to take the time to record a mix, you probably have something in mind… even if it’s just digging up 12 other records to surround the 1 that you’re really feeling at the moment. We’ve done a few conceptual mixes so far: White Light 102, White Labels vs. Black Labels, and a Valentine’s throwback.
How does making a tape differ from just uploading something online?
Making a tape forces us to stick to 45 minutes per side and to lay it down in one take, no edits. When we fuck up, we start over from the beginning. But by removing all digital dependence, there’s no phantom interference or glitches in the mixes, so at least we never need to start over for those reasons.
As Scott Grooves would say, “It might skip, it might even warp a little, but it will never ever crash.” And maybe most importantly, cassette tapes provide a format where we can vibe off of one another on the A and B sides.
We didn’t set out to fit in with contemporary cassette tape culture or anything like that, for us Cosmic Crates is about rewinding the clock and making tapes with music that we love in the same way that our OG idols did… vinyl records, rotary mixers, and cassettes.