Why We Burn: Heavy Meta

(Returning to my Why We Burn series, I wanted to cast the spotlight on Heavy Meta, a majority woman-built/non-American Art Car that will be hitting Hyperborea (a new Ontario Regional Burn) and the playa this summer. When we last spoke with Kevin Bracken, we spoke about Brooklyn, Toronto and Opulent Temple. This time, I’m so pleased to have spoken to his colleagues, a group of kick-ass ladies who are turning this car into a legit metal dragon. Enjoy this discussion about Burning Man in Canada, dystopian, welding & being awesome. And don’t forget to smash the play button on their favorite tunes from Art Cars over the years!)

Interview by Terry Gotham

After hearing from the team that’s behind this Leviathan, I began to grasp just how different the perspectives of non-American Burners can be. While I’ve spoken to non-American Burners before, there’s a lot of good stuff in this chat, not just including the fact that in Canada, you can get high school credit by working on an art car! Who knew\ “the low Canadian dollar” could be used as a reason when you’re completing your Low-Income Ticket application, so all you Canadian Burners who need a little bit of help, take note!

Kevin: We actually have two teenagers who come to the shop regularly, Jackie and Alex. Jackie is indeed completing a high school credit by working on the dragon, and we met her teacher yesterday! The first time Jackie came in, and Alex too, the American in me was definitely anxious, thinking, “If they get hurt, their parents will totally sue me!” However, Canadians are considerably less litigious than Americans, and each of them came vouched for by a different maker space, which put me at ease. On top of that, Jackie has completed a welding course and a workplace safety course, plus she can lay down a nicer weave than I can on the welder! Obviously we don’t let under 19s drink in the shop (the drinking age here is 19.) Finally, considering I went to my first rave in Jamaica, Queens at 15, I thought it would be hypocritical to keep them out just because they’re young.

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Ten Questions With Terry Gotham: Ingmar Gorman, Psychedelic Integration Specialist

(While partying safely is one of the most important parts of the drug experience, the journey doesn’t end when you come down. Psychedelic Integration is critical to taking what you experienced and actually using it to enhance your life. Ingmar Gorman is teaming up with Dr. Katherine Maclean at the Center For Optimal Living to actually teach people in the New York area how to do it. I’ll be taking this class, because it’s one of the only things I truly think makes me a better Burner. You should join me.)

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1. How would you explain Psychedelic Harm Reduction to someone at the dinner table on Thanksgiving?
People use psychedelics for all sorts of reasons, spiritual, therapeutic, or for fun. In pursuit of this, the contents of one’s mind or their thought process can be affected in unexpected ways. Many people pursue psychedelic use for this very reason, to learn about themselves, to experience the unexpected, but it’s difficult to be completely prepared for what emerges. Sometimes a person needs support while they’re in this sensitive state. As Dr. David Nutt has pointed out with his article about “equasy”, many activities have potential risks, even horseback riding. So, Psychedelic Harm Reduction is here for people who may be experiencing challenges during their experience. The role of the support isn’t to be a therapist or to “guide” the trip, but to act as a calm reassuring presence that can help keep the person physically safe. Something like “ground control,” while a person is navigating their internal experience. Psychedelic integration can include the therapy that comes after the harm reduction, but that’s another subject.

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Why We Burn: illexxandra

(As the last interview before most of us start heading out to that thing in the desert, I couldn’t be more proud to present this conversation. illexxandra is a Burning Man legend, with performances everywhere on playa over the years, including the coliseum at Root Society, Funky Town, Dustfish, Basshenge, PEX, Kostume Kult, Disorient, Nexus, Burners Without Borders, BMIR, Dirty Beetles/Black 22s, Black Rock Boutique, Tsunami Bass Experience, Pedal Bump, and Brulee, as well as the arts cars the Janky Barge, Icarus, the Bump Bed, A Cavallo, the Dodo, and the Nautilus. She & I were able to talk about her journey as an artist and a woman on and off playa. Make sure to read all the way to the end and don’t forget to check out her new mix for Meso Creso! Interview by Terry Gotham)

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Photo Credit: Thomas Egan, http://www.thomaseganphotography.com/

1. Favorite Burning Man Memory?
Gosh, that feels impossible. I remember so many moments, and the years all bleed together. As a DJ, I’ll never forget playing the coliseum at Root Society in 2012. They had opened up slots to the broader community, based on how many friends and fans commented on Facebook in support of a given DJ. Diva Danielle and I ended up getting the most comments, so I got a juicy slot on their big stage. Root Society was where everyone wanted to be. My set went great, but the DJ booth was a mad house. We had my DJ partner DJ Shakey, and my pals Alex and Joanna, and Ganesh the camp’s wonderful sound guy. But then to my right we had a young bearded guy in a shiny gold crown and purple robe who was high on uppers and super psyched about every move I made. On my left was a girl who had followed us up to the booth, naked except for full-body fishnets. Behind me was a super done-up, heavily surgically altered woman and her handler. They assumed I was a big deal because I was playing the hot camp. Halfway through my set, she hoisted her feet up on my shoulders, the rest of her held up by her handler, so that she was totally horizontal five feet in the air. All the while, I’m trying to rock as hard as I can, on one of the biggest stages I’ve ever played on, with high heels on each side of my head, naked people, enthusiastic cocaine kid, and my friends who wanted to socialize and support. It worked out, but gosh was it distracting. As the sun eventually came up, the moon was still clear and large on the horizon. I played a Big Bad Wolf remix, everyone howled at the moon, and all was right with the world. Afterwards, Shakey and I went straight to the BRC airport and went up in a plane over the city for the first time.

These two moments also stand out:

Me Djing on the Dodo to people dancing on the pier from its first year before the galleon

Shakey with gingerbread people at Plug 4 in 2008

So many more stories to tell though!

2. Do you have a day job, or are you able to write “DJ” on your taxes under occupation?
Indeed, I make all my income programming music, most of it in a live setting, most of it at night in bars and clubs and warehouses, and a decent amount of my time on the road. Including hosting karaoke for many years, which I’m very proud of. I have no other sources of support. Although, after reading tarot for many years, I’m moving in the direction of doing it regularly for money. But that’s by choice rather than necessity.

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Why We Burn: Jungle, Mayor of Kostume Kult

(Youth is wasted on the young, but is the playa wasted on the seasoned? Not according to Jungle. One of the most visible, Falstaffian leaders of Kostume Kult, I was honored to speak to him about Kamp Konstruction, Leadership at Kostume Kult, and how the playa has changed since his first Burn in 2007. Interview by Terry Gotham and music by David Kiss)

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1. Favorite Burning Man Memory?
There are lots of them. I’ve spent the better part of my time at Burning Man MC’ing where Kostume Kult gifts the gazillions of costumes to the fine citizenry of Black Rock City. That gifting (and helping build the KK community) is the primary driving force for me attending. I get to live out all of the 10 principles, I get to see people transform into themselves v2.0, I get to see smiles a lot and get to interact with lots of folks. I see lots of folks who are friends from NY, from elsewhere & folks I’ve met while MC’ing in prior years. Out of all of the experiences there, the one that is burned into my conscience is as follows:

I pester folks (tourists) to get them to participate, not just watch. One year, there was this guy on a bike. I guess he forgot what he was doing, because he wasn’t wearing any clothing. so I started ‘pestering’. I suggested that he get a costume, perhaps even merely get something to ‘accessorize’ his dick. After a little bit of time with no movement on his part, I began to deal with others. A short time later, however, I noticed him walking down the runway with a smile, wearing a necklace and a top hat. When he got off the runway, I thanked him for participating; he said that he wanted to thank me for ‘encouraging’ him to participate, as he had Parkinson’s and was very self conscious about his shaking; hence, he never gets off his bike. He said that my pestering motivated him to do it, and that he didn’t shake at all walking down the runway. I really don’t recall anything else about Burning Man that year. There are lots of snapshots like that at our runway.

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Why We Burn: Orion Keyser

(I really need to interview DJs I’ve booked more often. I’ve been lucky enough to have Orion spin at a couple of things I’ve done, and not even because he’s been one of the main selectros in the DISORIENT universe for years. His sonic sense impeccable, and I was honored to talk to him about how music at Burning Man has evolved over the years. Show him some love & if you’re in the city and need studio time, let me do you a favor. Interview by Terry Gotham)

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1. Favorite Burning Man memory?
I guess my favorite DJ memory from Burning Man is playing music for sunrise. It’s always amazing to DJ at the Burn, but sunrise is the most beautiful time of day out there and playing music for it is a rare and wonderful thing. I generally play something a little more sentimental than usual for a sunrise, in order to make the moment more meaningful and to bring a sense of pause into a sound world that is usually insistent or frenetic.

Most of my other favorite Burning Man memories come in the “stumble upon” variety. I usually do a bit of wandering about in deep playa at odd hours of the night, and the things or the people that you run into when you are away from everything are often the best. It used to be just some little lonesome temples and things like that, I remember one burn when there was a full moon I stumbled upon some wooden structure that had a mostly working telescope on it and I was able to focus it on details on the face of the full moon that I’ve only seen in pictures before. Another time I was far away from everything and hungry and confused and I stumbled on an open air Diner serving coffee and grilled cheese sandwiches that was serendipitously staffed by some friends from SF I hadn’t seen in four or five years. Surprises like that are always the best.

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