What I Do When I Don’t Know What To Do: Nicholas Mortimer on Mixtape Pedagogy

YY With Nick Mortimer cassette cover

How do you overcome creative block? Designer Nicholas Mortimer talks Yin Ying Kong through his process in this audio love-letter to the mixtape…

In October 2017, I was a third-year design student at Goldsmiths University, back in class after the summer and staring down three terms of hard work, tempered by doubt and hesitation. Nicholas Mortimer was one of my design lecturers and, tasked with alleviating our anxieties, he delivered a lecture for us called, brilliantly, “What I do when I don’t know what to do is I think about hip hop” – a reassuring account of his twenties, when he thought of being a DJ or producer, and spent his days sampling tracks and making mixtapes. For Nicholas, this love of making music turned into an experimental design practice, based on borrowing, adapting, and reorganising.

Fast-forward three years, and inspired by his sampling techniques, I interview Nicholas in the Royal College of Art sound studio. Amongst the sounds of fried eggs and tape squeaks, we discuss how deeply the mixtape has influenced his person, in his expression of care, his experience of time, and his relationship with failure and subjectivity.

Listen here to the A-side and B-side tracks:

Nicholas Mortimer during lockdown, 2020

Interview conducted and edited by Yin Ying Kong

Images, from top: Mixtape j-card with fictitious artists and tracks by Yin Ying Kong; Nicholas Mortimer during lockdown, 2020

Find out more about Mortimer’s work at nicholasmortimer.net

Listen to his recent work with autonomous radio DJ poet Yokcushlu: a neural network trained by Mortimer to generate scripts – using thousands of cyber manifestos since the dawn of the cyberpunk era, ancient Hindu love poems, medieval notary spells on memory recall, and critical texts and interviews surrounding surveillance capitalism and the politics of technology — on mixcloud

Posted on 07/10/2020 by thedoublenegative