Tape-Tastic: Meet the DJ With 1,000 Walkmans

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Why you should care

This Spanish DJ performs with ’80s portable audio machines and cassettes. Why? Because he says the sound is better.

Look closely at this DJ playing music at a friend’s wedding party in Huesca, in Spain’s Aragon region, and you’ll see something curious. He has all the moves of a music-mixing machine: hunched with headphones, finding the next track to play to the dancing crowd. But something is missing: There are no turntables, no vinyl in sight. Because Lorenzo Charlez (aka TJ Autoreverse) is using two portable cassette players instead.

Yes, personal audio players — or the genericized “Walkman” — which brought portable music to the 1980s.

Charlez, who also refers to himself as the Tape Jockey (or TJ), performs only with Walkmans. His collection began with his father’s TPS-L2 from 1980. Then, in 2013, he found a rare Sony Boodo Khan (a device he was looking for some years ago) by chance in a local flea market. And now TJ’s house in Zaragoza is home to more than 1,020 devices and 700 cassettes.

Why portable audio players? TJ argues that the quality of the sound from a tape is superior to any digital sound, and even some records. People at his DJ events are “astonished with the sound,” he says, because many “think new formats are better than the old ones. But it’s not true.” And while the Walkmans come with their own (analog) bells and whistles, it takes skill to DJ with them. To get the next track ready, he explains, you need to prepare it well in advance, and that means knowing how to play with the rewind button, slow down the player and press pause at the right moment.

TJ is an analog kind of guy, with little patience for “big data,” and this stretches to his other art form: photography. Nondigital cameras have “much less distractions,” he says.

One distraction he would like in his life is performing for a much larger crowd. “My dream is tape jockeying at the Glastonbury music festival.”

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