John Bagby: The first time I saw your name was in Mondo 2000's User's Guide to the New Edge in the "House Music" section. I had been aware of the rave movement in the UK, but was unfamiliar with the personalities involved. The Mondo piece talked about the UK Summer of Love in 1988, and the backlash brought about by the British government's brutal crackdown on the rave scene. The organizers and DJs became radicalized, and spread across Europe.
Now you're coming over to America. What did you learn from the UK crackdown that might help you avoid a similar reaction when you launch yourself on the US establishment?
Fraser Clark: First of all, we're definitely not going to attack anything- there's no confrontations planned. This is good news for everybody. So what you're really asking is how are we going to operate while some people are still in a state of semi-ignorance, and don't quite realize this is for their own good? A lot of people have been calling me and asking that, and I've been putting them in touch with each othe... ever since the Wired piece.
I mean, we're the Brits! It's a whole new thing! It's a new art form, a new literature-- it's a whole cultural revival. People expect us to bring that. It's a whole new art with a political dimension to it, not just some illegal rave organizing. Megatripolis hasn't had a lot of trouble over here in England with the police. The people at the top know some practical changing will have to be done, and their looking at the ones who might take the violent path-- that's not us. If they go for us, they'll alienate a whole section of youth and make violence more necessary. I think they'll cooperate with the fun people. We are coming so that ye may have life, and that ye may have it more abundently.
JB: I know at Megatripolis video mixing, computer graphics and lighting are a big part of the ambience. Being as Zippies are technically empowered, and follow the shamanic path, what sort of new media do you see in the future for the movement?
FC: I see globally-networked orchestras creating live music, like teams of Mozarts. Looking at names like that, back in those days, only a minuscule percentage of people were able to participate in classical composition. A locksmith, or a poor kid, or a homeless person would never have a chance to consider it. Now, with decentralized technology, the possibilities are becoming staggering, really staggering. We haven't even glimpsed the true human race yet.
JB: On the flip side of that coin, not everybody embraces the technology. You're meeting up with the American Rainbow Family and other hippy types in America, and offering them an atmosphere not unlike what the Grateful Dead originated in the 60's, but on a nineties level. Remember the reaction when Bob Dylan went electric? How can the Zippies attract the neo-Luddite in Birkenstocks, who finds techno music "soulless" and wants to unplug all the monitors and computers in favor of the acoustic guitars and bongo drums? How do you get these people on your bus?
FC:This is really the biggest problem we face, much bigger than the police in my opinion. In England, it's taken five years to get that crossover between the two scenes going, and we had some terrible problems along the way. The 60's hippy type turned out to be the most resistant of everybody. What I've said to them, and what I think they finally remember, is that as hippies we started off to change the planet. Before the rave phenomenon came along, we were down to our last patch of ground, holding on like grim death for the last little free field available for a festival, and we had forgotten what our original purpose was. We just wanted to survive, keep as quiet as possible, as low a profile as possible so we wouldn't be bumped off our last refuge. WRONG!
JB: What's happening with the Zippies is millions of reinforcements are coming over the hills, tens of millions. The reinforcements we've been praying for during the last 25 years... here they come! Accept them for what they are. Now we can win!
FC:I say to the Rainbow people: this is the Goddess' answer to our prayers! This is the middle class, this is the techno people, this is the sons and daughters of the ruling class. This is what we asked for, so let's not look a gift horse in the mouth. The ravers will get lost if they don't have the hippy wisdom. How are you going to get urban youth out into the country unless you offer what they think they want? We're doing a megarave at the Grand Canyon, and while they're at the megarave they discover the magic of the canyon! Then they discover cacti, then they discover Native American culture, and so on... They're not going to discover these things unless there is something to get them out of the cities. This isn't about mega-names, or mega-bucks-- it's just people.
JB: The ambience of a Zippy rave event, Megatripolis for instance, really creates feelings of community. The expanded consciousness of the dancers promotes an almost mystical or religious experience. This happens all the time at Grateful Dead shows. People enter ecstatic shamanic states, and have genuine transcendental experiences. I read a recent interview with Jerry Garcia in which he commented on the responsibility of the artist, because of the potential impact or imprint upon people's minds while in such a vulnerable state. He said if he started to think about controlling the power he had as a performer, somehow tried to fiddle around with it, then it would be perilously close to fascism. What are your thoughts on this?
FC: It's an even bigger responsibility in the house scene. People must realize that this power will be exercised by somebody; whether it be corporate promoters, the government, or us. If we stand back and don't channel the energy, we're losing the battle on a very significant front. What's important to remember is that you have to be careful it doesn't have any double meanings, because the Universe can't spell, and mistakes can happen.
We've been doing this for the last five years, and I saw immediately that the incessant beat of the house music does decondition people, and sort of empty their minds of previous negative stuff,and they're wide open to being imprinted. That's the power of it. All I can say is we have to make sure the good guys are putting out the messages, and not the bad guys, you know? I don't have any qualms about it because there are a lot of bad guys out there. We can worry too much about these kind of dangers now, it's like a drowning man worrying about catching cold.
JB: On that note, [psychedelic researcher] Terence McKenna talks of using the calender as a sort of hammer, not to feed the confrontation metaphor, but to use the energy and excitement and mythology of the millennium to create a positive option for future realities...
FC:That's an idea we've talked about. We really need a Consciousness Conspiracy. This might be our NEXT tour, to whip up millennial fever. We know it's coming over the next six years, so let's deliberately conspire to push the edge. I'd like to see every individual and organization demand the impossible by the year 2000. Like total disarmament, nuclear and conventional! Free drugs, acid house music and sex on the national health service by the year 2000! Total nudity by the year 2000! We need everyone to stir up the cauldron, which will create a gigantic expectation of massive global change-- then it's so much more likely to happen.
JB: The energy and anticipation generated can be used like a hammer, to be sure, but like any tool, it can be used to create or destroy. What would you say to the golden rule of magic, that it, don't raise what you can't put back down?
FC: Look, we're in such a mess, we're going downhill so fast, we've got to try radical things. We can't pussyfoot around at this point. We've been pussyfooting around for a long time. I've been doing that since the 60's, really, hoping that if we just meditate or recycle long enough things will get better. It ain't happening. We have to stir things up out there. Yes, it's high risk, but I think it's a higher risk to do nothing, or to try and change the system from within. I'm quite convinced of that. We're talking about re-coding or replacing the system, it can't be "put right".
JB: The Zippies live in a big tent. The kinds of people I've seen attracted to events here in the UK include new-agers, cyberpunks, industrial/techno people, hardcore ravers, hippies, travellers, pagans and Christians. They're all coming for different reasons.
FC:The great thing about the whole scene is that it's really a big melting pot where everybody can come together and drop their style and cultural differences and become ravers for a while. It's a key cultural thing that's happening there. I don't know why it's a rave atmosphere, but something had to come along that allowed everybody to feel the same. Now we're coming out of being able to define "rave". We're reassuming our identities again, only within a raver format. I mean, now, everybody's getting back to their roots. You're getting reggae-house, folk-house, and lots more, but you've still got the identification. A hardcore type feels like a raver, standing next to a reggae type, who feels like a raver. There's this common feeling that we're all in this together.
JB: How would you identify with the hip hop culture's use of rap and sampling as a form of political communication? Hip hop artists like Arrested Development and the Disposable Heroes of Hiphopricy can get across concepts to people unfamiliar with the territory. What does the Zippy scene offer urban youth-- like hip-hoppers or the scateboarders?
FC: It's all about feeling pumped up. Techno music does the same thing to young people as hip-hop, or metal, or punk rock-- it's young, fast, exciting music. The adrenalin still pumps, but without any negative lyrics involved. It's nothing but: LOVE! LOVE! LOVE! DANCE! DANCE! DANCE!! Once all these ravers, hip-hoppers and samplers-- the techno side-- connect with the older hippy-types it's magic! You get the energy and enthusiasm of youth, and the wisdom and festival ecology of the '60s. We call it festirave crossover here in Europe. You put the two together and get a cultural synergy that can really work. It's happened in the UK and I'm sure it's going to happen in America, too.
JB: Here in the UK, the proposed Criminal Justice Bill has targeted certain groups and classes of people, notably ravers and so-called new age travellers. These are people who want a certain flexibility, freedom and independence from the system. What makes them such a threat to the conservative Tory government?
FC: The government has simultaneously discussed legalizing cannabis and increasing possession fines hundreds of percent. I don't think they've got a clue as to what they want. I KNOW they don't have a clue. The more they increase these penalties and that sort of stuff, the more clear it is how helpless they are. All they can do is sit in the cabinet room passing laws they don't have the money or manpower to enforce. The scene is so big, all they can really do is observe.
JB: We know that a lot of conservatives are by no means dumb. The dominator-types who are threatened by what the Zippies represent recognize the potential of this, so don't you fear a cornered beast sort of reaction?
FC: In any kind of structure, any kind of authoritarian set-up, there are splits. I'll answer that in British terms, by way of example. You've got the Prince Charles camp, and you've got the Duke of Edinburgh (Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth) camp. The Duke's camp are saying they want to crack down, that things should never have gotten this loose. Let's get back to the good old days, knock a few heads and sort it all out.
The Prince Charles camp, the Oxbridge graduate pot-smoker types, see that a redistribution of power, wealth and all the rest of it needs to happen, and they're trying to work it so it happens peacefully. They are prepared to go along with change, as long as it's peaceful, and by consent, and in a happy, fun sort of manner. I think they back us, because it's a chance for peaceful change. The last thing they want to do is antagonize the Zippy-types. They'd be stupid to bang us in the head. You've just said they're intelligent, right? The only real danger we face is the rouge elephant, the old CIA Christian fundamentalist type.
JB: Dodge the dinosaur as it falls...
FC: That's it! That's right! But if you go too far and enrage them... the point is not to enrage them but to invite them! We always invite the police. When I first put out my magazine, I sent out copies to the local police stations, asking for comment or whatever.
JB: What sort of feedback did you get?
FC: None! (laughs) I'm sure it went straight into the file, but that's not a bad thing! If they ever have occasion to go back and look us up, the first thing they find is a letter saying we want to help you and we want you to help us. The only danger is to go too far and enrage a diehard, unchanging individual who will want to crash into you personally, and take you out. They can take out individuals, they have that power still, but they can't stop the movement. But, people can hurt along the way.
JB: A lot of the people involved in the movement don't have a lot of assets or property...
FC: That's right, all they can do is lock them up.... and the jails are overflowing. Here in England they're talking about setting up camps over by Stonehenge, to stop all this, but the camps will turn into festivals and the "prisoner" won't want to go! (laughs) We will have taken back Stonehenge by invitation.
JB: If the Zippy Pronoia Tour to America is a total media, spiritual and financial success, then what comes next?
FC: The whole thing has always been unpredictable. This is a left brain-hemisphere operation all the way. We're riding a steamroller-coaster. I've a feeling we're on this wave going West. Maybe Japan next. It's a global thing. I don't think we'll ever really go "back home" again. I mean, home will become the planet. If it's even half successful, I can't see us pulling back into Megatripolis Monday morning. That will then be seen as a booster rocket which got us up to a certain level. America has always been in the forefront of our minds. From America, it's broadcast to the rest of the planet. This is a cultural virus. That's the Mistress Plan! (Grins) As opposed to the Master one.
JB: I think some of your biggest opposition in the States will be the status-quo fundamentalist type. Christian versions of Zippies, televangelists and the like, won't think you're so great. No matter how open your arms are, you're still a hedonistic kind of movement. How do you build that bridge?
FC: We're not dropouts! They can't dismiss us like that. Hedonistic, yes. But, we have Christian Zippies at Megatripolis! They're fragmenting, and a lot of them come over and join us. We have arguments over the pagan nature of what we do, and we're accused of rejecting Christianity. We're not against anyone. We're not monotheists. Those are the planet's biggest danger, there's no doubt about that. The monotheist would rather blow the planet up to "save" us. There is no simple answer.
The answer has to be a complex, subtle one. It's the kids that get turned on, first of all. The top fundamentalist has a daughter. We can read the good parts of the bible to acid house music, and send them copies! Love thy nieghbor, especially if they're a raver! (laughs)
It's really hard to pinpoint cause and effect. But, you know it's happening, we saw it in the 60's. The aristocrat children joined the hippies because that was the most fun. They gave up the materialist alienation. The millionaire who's all locked away "secure" in a compound, and dying of heart attacks and cancer and schizophrenia and all the rest of it, he's never going to be healthy and happy if he doesn't start sharing. Let a rave happen! Meet some young people! Everybody will be happier. You have to trust that people are intelligent and sensitive, and in the final analysis will wake up. If I'm wrong, well, we're doomed anyway. We might as well go out dancing!
JB: That's another roadblock-- the apathetic cynic.
FC: That's no problem! Leave them to us. Just get them or one of their friends to come ONCE to our techno teepee... We're talking about bringing back out the original Shamanarchy in the UK record as Shamanarchy in the US, and replacing some of the UK bands with American ones, and the cover will have the Grand Canyon. Shamanarchy needs defining. I'm not into anarchy. Total anarchy would be the worst possible news right now, but Shamanarchy! In other words, with some kind of spiritual model behind it so that the anarchy naturally flows into its organic shape. You need the background for it to grow into, otherwise it just grows all over the place. Shamanarchy is a key concept of the whole thing.
Everybody is on the guest list, including the sheriffs! We cannot do this without everybody's help. We're putting out this cultural meme, and hoping it will trigger America like it triggered England. We're doing a press conference in Central Park in New York on June 9th. In July, the Rainbow GatheRave at the Rainbow Gathering in Wyoming will be a really big thing, but even that's a step towards the Grand Canyon. We're hoping for a mega rave in October with 250,000 people, but we need everyone to get out there and netweave! Let's make it happen together for the good of everybody! The Goddess is recruiting your help. Bring your mums, bring your dads, bring your policeman cousins, and your Senator father. Bill Clinton, hey, he's invited!
JB: Well, Al and Tipper's daughters brought them to a Dead show a few years back... I heard they loved it!
FC: (Laughs) Bring the family! We're doing a Sunday ambient version of Megatripolis which attracts kids over five for the arts and crafts and fun atmosphere. We're trying to bring some REAL family values into it. We've also tried to put emphasis on what we call the "parallel university". Rather than open up in the afternoon with music, we like to offer various info booths, workshops, philosophers, etcetera, like Lollapalooza, and build up to the rave in the evening. That way, you've created a community spirit. Half the people come just for the rave part, come at 11 p.m. to start dancing. In actual fact, they're coming for that feeling of belonging, the community spirit which was created among the other half who came early and participated in all the other things. That way, you've got a community that exercises a certain influence on the people in attendance. Quite different than everyone arriving at 11 and starting to dance, with nobody knowing anybody. We're just a nexus for different people to meet, with the common purpose to have fun. You then can move on from there, once you've been Zippified. In the States, we're looking for different people to speak, from Terence McKenna to Noam Chomsky. If you're out there Noam, you make a lot of good sense man, come talk! You could do with a bit more of the mystic, perhaps, but, hey-- come on down! I know you're playing that double game in true Zippy fashion, but it's getting safer out there, you'll see! (laughs)
Another thing people need to remember is that a lot of old hippies have wormed their way quite high up into the system. These Zippy moles have learned to play the roles, and have spent the last 15 years eradicating every trace of their hippy past in order to climb the greasy pole. They're never going to come out of the closet until we can get half a million Zippy ravers in the streets below. Then they'll look down from their ivory tower windows and they'll suddenly realize the time has come. They'll pull apart their business suits like Superman, and yell "Hey! I was there since '65! I'm one of you!"
It's not just a young thing. In England, we've got people dancing from 14 to 80. We're not ageist, sexist or racist, or any such thing. The first step is getting there to dance, to the shamanic tribal dance.
So, watch out for the Zippy Pronoia Tour to America, this summer! It's edutainment! We've worked out a lifestyle the planet can be happy with, and it's becoming fashionable. Isn't that what we need? America is the biggest threat to, and the greatest hope for the planet really. That's why we're coming.