Having been to Burning Man for the last three years consecutively we can vouch for its life-affirming effect. Despite the constant complaint from some veterans that it’s changing for the worse, you can’t help but be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of love, creativity, out of this world experiences and general mindblowing weirdness. Both this year and last we were fortunate enough to be able to spend time there with French DJ Dyed Soundorom, who lost his Burning Man virginity in 2014. Upon our return this year we hit him up for a chat about his experiences…
When did you first find out about Burning Man and what gave you the motivation to get over there?
I first heard about it a long time ago, I guess around 2000. My brother used to live in New York and he had some friends who were from San Francisco – they would talk about it but I had no idea about what it was exactly. Around 2008 a bunch of my friends went out there, Jamie and all of the crew, and they came back like… they couldn’t even explain it! [Laughs] They were like, “We went to this amazing thing, you have to come but I can’t explain it to you”. They’ve been trying to bring me there since that first time. The thing is, that year was my first season in Ibiza and, as you know, it’s always really hectic there – I was worried I guess, thinking it was going to be an intense week of partying on top of an already crazy summer. But my friends told me it was more than just a week of partying, it’s good for your sense of self, it’s all about giving and there’s no money and so on… it was interesting. I finally decided to go last year, my girlfriend brought me there.
How was that first experience?
It was beyond what I expected, It’s funny because you hear about things and you create your own idea of them. I was like, ‘Ok, it’s going to be like a big festival with parties all the time’. But I was wrong because ultimately the first year I went there I barely partied, I was out there on my bike discovering the art, meeting all different kinds of people. I was really blown away by the fact that you’re there for a whole week and the last thing you think about is money. It’s a beautiful thing because in the world we live in today it’s the complete opposite. I don’t know if it changed me at all, but it opened my eyes to different things; like perhaps thinking material things are important, which is what real life teaches us. Burning Man is a great example of how things can work. You’re out there for a week, in different locations from your friends, with no mobile phone or anything but everything seems to be easier than normal life. For all of these reasons I went back again this year and it was even better because I was even more free, mentally, I knew what I was going back to and I was more open to discovering new things. Even though it was my second time, I was even more blown away than I was the first time!
How do you feel about the criticism of Burning Man from some people?
I hear some people saying, ‘Oh, it’s not as good as it used to be’ or ‘There’s a lot of hipsters who go to Burning Man’. Yeah, that might be a part of it, but there’s over 60,000 people in Black Rock City – if you don’t like it, go and start your own Burning Man. There are no rules, you jump on your bike and go and discover what’s out there. I get the feeling some of the people who say these things have never been before. I was probably a bit like that, judging it before I got there, I just wish that those people could go and experience it for themselves before they start saying it’s like this, or like that or it should be like this or that.
Totally. We’ve seen so many articles where people complain about the ‘rich elite’ who go there and have servants in their camps and so on. The thing is, Burning Man is a temporary city and, as it grows, it’s becoming more and more like a microcosm of society, so of course there’s rich and poor, hipsters and less fashion-conscious people. As long as your heart is in the right place, then I don’t see any problem with your wealth or social standing.
Exactly, exactly… but there’s one thing that’s for sure. I will go back next year!
Was there anything you found particularly challenging?
Honestly, everything went pretty smoothly. This year I was staying in a yurt, which was different – I really enjoyed the camp we stayed at, it was a very diverse camp; people who were not just there for electronic music, so we spoke about a lot of different things and exchanged a lot of opinions and ideas. The only difficulty we had to deal with this year was the dust storms, which were pretty intense at times. One morning, when I played at Disco Knights… actually that was amazing, I was supposed to play with Dan and Shonky as Apollonia, but for personal reasons neither of them could make it. So they gave me the whole morning and all my friends turned up, which was so nice. At the end of the set there was a huge huge storm. As you know, Disco Knights is pretty far from everything, but thankfully some guys with a bus drove us all the way back to our camp. If the only option was to ride on my bike I wouldn’t have made it. It was impossible… In fact, I don’t even know how the guy who drove managed to do it. It was a really nice moment, I really felt like I was in a Mad Max movie!
What I also enjoyed was bumping into people I didn’t even know were going to be there.
One of the lessons you really learn at Burning Man is that if something is supposed to happen, it happens. Sometimes you’ll be chasing something; friends, a party, an event or whatever and it doesn’t happen because you’re trying to force it. Whereas other times, you’ll be riding around without a care in the world and something, or someone, appears and it’s an amazing, mindblowing surprise. Which art pieces did you really like this year?
There was a little cinema, which blew me away. I love the big woman (see pic), unfortunately I didn’t stay until the end, so I didn’t see the temple burn. I went to the temple, but I couldn’t get in that day because I think there was a band playing traditional music. So I couldn’t get in and get the same feeling I did last year. I also heard about a little mirrored house in the Deep Playa. I kept looking for it but never found it! I have to say as well, what really impressed me was the Octopus art car, it was fucking amazing. Ridiculous.
When you visited the temple last year did it have quite an emotional effect on you?
Yeah obviously because we’ve all lost people we care about. Being there, there was no noise at all, it’s just peaceful – seeing all those pictures just reminded me of all the amazing moments I’ve had with people I’ve lost. It was really powerful because I realised there’s a lot of people I don’t spend enough time with, I cried to be honest with you. I cried. It was one of the most powerful moments of the week. I felt alone and at one with myself, I got really deep into myself and all the emotions came out – the people I’ve lost, new people I’ve met. I was only there for less than an hour, but I was really dealing with my life in that short time. At some point I had to get out because I couldn’t handle it anymore. Especially because, right before Burning Man, I lost someone who was really important to me. I even felt as though I was talking to him.
That place has a magic to it for sure. There are a lot of people at Burning Man that have a similar outlook to people like yourself who believe in being good to one another and so on. Did being there strengthen your beliefs at all?
Yeah, another reason I want to go back is because of that. Between this year and last year, the amount of people that I’ve met and interacted with… I really felt like everyone was there to share, to look after each other. There was no bad energy. The thing is though, I don’t know what those people would be like outside of Burning Man because life is full of stress and it can change people. Some people might say that it’s hypocritical for people to be nicer at Burning Man, but that’s not the feeling I had – they’re out of their comfort zone and that’s why something good came out of them. It’s beautiful to see so many people like that, and I will use the word harmony you know. In such a short time seeing all those people, riding around on their bikes smiling at one another, calling you in to their camps. In the real world if you try to talk to people on the street some might respond but others are going to be scared. It feels good to be able to share, to pop into a camp anytime and feel welcome (unless they’re sleeping!). It’s nice, I just felt like there was harmony all the time. It’s a very positive thing you know.
Do you feel like you learned anything about yourself or about the world?
I guess when I see over 60,000 people in one place, and in a week I see no aggression it shows it’s possible to have a better world. About myself, I sometimes care about certain things, but being there with nothing, just a bottle of water and a bike, no phone and all those things and I’m actually happier than when I’m at home with all the stuff we use on a daily basis… Society always makes you think you need more but you don’t. It reminds me that you don’t need much to be happy – that’s not what I’ve learned there, I already knew that, but it’s a good reminder.
Are you spiritual at all?
No, not so much. I was a church kid! But no, nothing… I respect people who do all of those things; yoga, meditation, ceremonies and all of that, but I don’t do anything myself. I wouldn’t be against trying some of those things.
As long as you’re a good person, that’s what counts. You don’t necessarily need anything more than that.
Yeah, I don’t like to make people feel uncomfortable, I hate aggression. For me, life is easier when everything is smooth and I’m cool with everyone. This is my philosophy for life; treat everyone how you want to be treated, you know. It’s simple.