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The Art Of Making The Perfect Metal Mixtape

Plus a killer mix from one of metal's great masterminds to get you on your way.

One of my favorite films is High Fidelity (2000) with John Cusack and Jack Black. It's about music nerds that work at an independent record store and spend their days passionately debating the merits of music, obscure and popular, existing in a perpetual state of arrested development. To say I identify with these fictional characters would be a gross understatement. This is the protagonist's take on the "rules" of mixtape making:

I used to make my own mixtapes as a kid: giddy in my creativity, structuring it like an actual album, segueing a Testament instrumental "Urotsukidoji" into Megadeth's "Ashes In Your Mouth". I thought I was really clever, and of course I would wear those tapes out, in a headphoned cocoon at high school, or riding around in my brother's first car.

When I was all growns up, I began making mix CDs for the metal bar I worked at in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Duff's. I describe the regular patrons of Duff's as the guys in the front row at Cannibal Corpse, Amon Amarth, and Watain shows. These are the diehards, the motherf-ckers wearing classic metal patch-laced denim vests 24/7-365. Metal is a lifestyle, not just a weekend excursion: long haired, bearded, tattooed, clad-in-black, headbangin' sonsabitches. Thankfully, the girls didn't have beards.

Here's a sweet mix I did for Terrorizer a few years back, in full adolescent styling.

At first, my mixes fell somewhere between trying to play stuff that I personally enjoyed, pleasing the Duff's faithful, and showing off my diverse and knowledgable musical taste. Over time, I stopped trying to placate everyone else or impress anyone with my nerdisms. I am on my 9th mix CD, and with each one coming in at 16-18 tracks, I've only repeated bands 3 or 4 times, but my goal is not do any repeats if I can avoid it. Because I've been doing it for so long, I have been forced to keep unearthing hidden gems, and records and bands that I had forgotten about.

I don't have mixtape rules etched into stone, but I do have some loose guidelines I try to follow. I suppose these rules apply if I was DJing as well:

- Don't be too obvious: If you are going to include a Metallica song, it shouldn't be "Enter Sandman". That shows that you aren't being creative. Metallica is big enough to play an album cut or odd cover tune.

- Dig deep to try and find stuff that may have been really popular at one time, but just hasn't been on people's minds in a while. They will thank you for reminding them.

- Keep it diverse: I try to keep a good balance between classic metal, hard rock, death metal, metalcore, hardcore, prog, '80s, '90s, and everything in between. And don't be afraid of throwing a curveball.

- I always present at least 1-2 brand new bands. Make an effort to educate the audience by exposing them to new music.

- Have fun and make something you would want to listen to from beginning to end, but keep in mind that if it's only stuff you like, it will fall on deaf ears. There is a delicate balance between self appeasement and populism.

Without further ado, here is Doc's Duff's Mix #9:

Goatwhore - "Alchemy Of The Black Sun Cult"

This track accomplishes a couple things as an opener: it's a straight-up headbanger to get things going, and Goatwhore have about as much credibility as anyone in Metal. It's undeniable.

Prong - "Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck"

One for the people. "Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck" is a heavy metal hit that you just can't stop. You play this on the jukebox while everyone is good and toasty, and people will lose their shit. Gotta give it up to this '90s classic.

Decapitated - "Spheres Of Madness"

This is about as close to a "hit" song you will have in death metal outside of "Hammer Smashed Face". Decapitated made a huge mark with this song and album. On the first 3 tracks of this mix, I'm coming out swinging some hard grooves.

Municipal Waste - "Sadistic Magician"

I'm keeping the energy up, but changing the vibe to some modern re-thrash. If you like beer and metal, than Municipal Waste is probably in your wheelhouse. The album is called The Art Of Partying. I will say no more.

Ratt - "Back For More"

Everyone knows and loves "Round and Round", but "Back For More" is still a hit, fun as hell, and will keep the bar rocking. The diversity of the mix is also starting to expand.

Refused - "Elektra"

Now, I'm coming in with something new from an established band in the field of post-hardcore. This track is unbelievable: catchy, energetic, and still has that distinct thing that only Refused can do.

Painted Wives - "Hollow Bones"

You may remember Painted Wives from the "15 Bands You Should Be Listening To In 2015" list I did at the beginning of the year. This would fall under the guideline of exposing some new acts in the mix. They are a killer band, and I want more people to hear them.

Ill Nino - "If You Still Hate Me"

Ill Nino is one of more underrated bands that rose to prominence in the nu metal era. This track really brings some explosiveness to the mix, and those fans of the band will really appreciate this. Again, I'm keeping the diversity of the mix going with the first entry from this genre.

White Zombie - "Electric Head Pt. 2 (The Ecstasy)"

This is one of those songs you forgot how good it was if you haven't heard it in a while. Astro Creep: 2000 is just a pure rocker: excellent production, fantastic songwriting, and superior to the more recent Rob Zombie solo output, in my opinion.

Ice Cube - "It Was A Good Day"

This is my token curveball in the mix. This isn't a metal song (obviously), but it's a song most of us know, enjoy, and would give a pass to break up the monotony. At least Ice Cube has some heavy music cred, doing tracks with Korn, and hitting the road with The Family Values Tour and Lollapalooza.

Quicksand - "Dine Alone"

Quicksand is one of those bands that if you don't know, than you need to do some homework and get on board. They are so unique, dynamic, and just take me back to an era in the NY/NJ Hardcore scene that was very, very special.

Nothing More - "This Is The Time (Ballast)"

Although Nothing More are a fairly new band, "This Is The Time (Ballast)" is a bonafide hit at Active Rock radio, and the band is quickly ascending to notoriety. I am always trying to keep the balance on the mix steady between old-new and popular-obscure.

All Out War - "Claim Your Innocence"

This is a nod to late '90s northeast hardcore and metalcore. Not many bands did it better than All Out War, and they deserve more recognition. This song makes me want to kick a motherf-cker square in the chest.

Born of Osiris - "M∆chine"

This is a little mix trick of tying different eras together that share commonalities. Born Of Osiris represent some of the best of what modern metalcore has to offer sequenced directly after All Out War. You get a good feel for how much the genre has evolved. This song is a ripper.

Cradle of Filth - "Cthulhu Dawn"

Perhaps overshadowed by their controversial public image, many people forgot that Cradle Filth actually has written some really awesome songs. This was a nice trip down memory lane, and I am glad I could include some gothic black metal in the mix.

American Head Charge - "Song For The Suspect"

I always felt this band had so much unfulfilled potential. "Song For The Suspect" is my favorite song from The War Of Art, and feels like the best song Faith No More never made. The song still gives me goosebumps. This is part of the curation; unveiling a hidden gem. I'm glad these guys are giving it another go.

Pantera - "Throes Of Rejection"

Pantera is a metal royalty, but like I said in the guidelines, I'm not going to be obvious and put "Walk" or "Cowboys From Hell" on the mix. "Throes Of Rejection" is an album cut, and arguably the heaviest Pantera song ever made. The solo, the ending breakdown...good lord.

Smashing Pumpkins - "The Beginning Is The End Of The Beginning"

I like to close with something moody and ominous. This song fits the criteria. I discovered it when it was used in the trailer for the film Watchmen (2009), and I became entranced. In fact, it was originally part of the Batman & Robin (1997) soundtrack. I'm not even a huge Smashing Pumpkins fan, but a good song is just that. The source is irrelevant.

Check out the mix, and tell me what you think, and share some of your playlists in the comments. If you are ever in Brooklyn, be sure to stop by Duff's on 168 Marcy Ave. It's the most legit metal bar around. And be sure to play some tunes from Doc's mix on the jukebox.