What made you become a VJ? Who has influenced you artistically?

As a 3D animator and storyteller VJing is my outlet for presenting my work in an appropriate context, parties. I was drawn to VJing early on with my first experience seeing the visuals at Pink Floyd shows and raves in the late 80s early 90s. Hyperdelic Dave and Nick Phillip were doing the best visuals back then and inspired me to make my first 3D animated trip visuals.

In 94 I had my first opportunity to contribute my visuals at the first Cyberfest in SF. I met David Shultens and began collaborating with Dimension 7 (formerly Cyberlab 7) the first SF based VJ crew in 95 and started doing parties. Around that same time I co-founded Minds Eye Media with Sherri Sheridan a high-end effects boutique specializing in 3D Animation for the music and entertainment industry. We did some big budget gigs for Arista, Geffen/Universal, Sony and even had some of our stuff on the 98 International MTV Music Awards and on Amp.

We won awards and had our work in the world famous Cinema Electronica segment of the RES fest. These indicators that the world was getting ready for psychedelic animated films drove me to focus on this as a niche. In 98 I helped with the visuals at the legendary community dance party at Burning Man (same year I started DJing) and in 2001 I hooked up with VJ Arcane and VJ Omananda and founded the Chaos Consortium. Other key artistic influences along the way have been Alex Grey, Giger, Syd Mead, Moebius, Dali and the folks at Disney, Pixar and ILM. Back in the 80s and 90s, musically Pink Floyd, Depeche Mode, Front 242, Sepultura, Freaky Chakra, Orbital, Young American Primitives and Dead Can Dance were among my earliest psychedelic forefathers. My grandmother Therese Vogel is probably the most influential person in my artistic career. She literally put a pencil in my hand and taught me to draw at the age of 2. So with that gift she jump-started my creative spirit. Then my mom brought me to see Star Wars at the age of 4½ and ever since then I was inexplicably drawn to doing 3D Fx. As soon as I heard Serge (who was going to become Total Eclipse) and Yayo’s sets at the Peniche delo’s parties, I fell into the psychedelic side of electronic. When he came to New York in 1998, there was a very small trance scene, it had started a year earlier and Gilles decided to throw parties. It seemed the perfect time, it was new in New York City and there was the same electric energy there had been in Europe six years earlier!


It seemed the perfect time, it was new in New York City and there was the same electric energy there had been in Europe six years earlier! Since he had already a lot of connections from Europe, it took a few months to put on everything and in January 1999, Krisz and Gilles threw their first party with Flying Rhino. It was an immediate success, 700 people came and the Sadhus’s saga started.

How did the Virtual Vortex DVD film project evolve? Who were the key players?

The GEOSPIRIT compilation has been evolving for at least four years. Way back in 2002 we had a solstice party with Deviant Species, Lemurians and Scorb. They all expressed interest in the project and we exchanged some ideas. Deviant Species made it on the first dvd titled Magnus with the track Abyss and Scorb’s track Thundermental, one of his first tracks he wrote, got re-written and put on Geospirit. I had been banging around with an idea to do a themed dvd of 3D animated videos for awhile and around that time the label started coming together and we did some collaborative projects with other producers like Earthling, Altom, and CPU it seemed like the vision for the film finally coalesced.

The spirit that made the dvd/cd compilation come together was our party collective The Phoenix Family. Wichdokta and the rest of our amazing crew were the impetus for bringing out all of these great acts which got the ball rolling on compiling the music. My partner, Sherri Sheridan at our company Minds Eye Media also gave me boundless inspiration and the moral support to hide in my C.A.V.E.* and create the film from scratch.
(*C.A.V.E. = Computer Assisted Virtual Environment)

What software did you use to make the DVD and how long did it take to create?

My Primary 3D software is Alias, MAYA (recently acquired by Autodesk) and the compositing/FX software Adobe After Effects. Imaging was done mostly in Adobe Photoshop with a few animated fractals coming out of Artmatic Pro on the Mac. Editing was accomplished in Adobe Premier and Final Cut, web work with Dreamweaver and the organizing with an Excell spreadsheet, Contracts written in Word. Authoring/Encoding was done in DVD Studio on the Mac. Additional programs used as resources: xFrog for plants and abstract life forms, Particle Illusions for additional particle effects, Poser to help with 3D humanoids, Bryce to sculpt landscapes.

All of these programs enhance the main 3D hub, Maya to make each process a specialized and efficient component to creation. I spent about 4 solid months creating Virtual Vortex the film, December through March of 2005. I used the following time to get some paid work in and author the dvd and, with some help, finish the interface and bio sections thanks to Sherri Sheridan and Guillermo Alacron. Then on to cover art for both the DVD and CD and get the final mix for the DVD done, thanks to Ross Dubois’ engineering and both the CD and DVD masters done and encoded then shipped out.

I finally finished everything the day I left for burning man 05 dropping of the package to DHL and off to my manufacturer/top level distributor over at Saiko Sounds in Hong Kong, big thanks Rob!!! So total December through Mid August, half of it 16 hour days doing art (the best part!!) and the other half slogging through the necessary evils!

Describe how you went about making the images fit with the music and come up with the ideas for a few of the scenes?

Most of the time I use my dear partner Sherri’s brainstorming and story telling techniques that she clearly presents in her book titled “Developing Digital Short Films” published by NewRiders/Peachpit and easily found on Amazon. I also spend a lot of time visualizing while listening to the music and making lots of sketches. I usually try to use a visual metaphor from the song title and artists names and some times integrate the existing art direction the artists have established.

For instance the Scorb track featured a charcter “The Scorb” that Ady Conner originally designed for his album cover. I re-created the character in 3D and brought it to life. In the Neuromotor video the name Danger High Voltage I literally took the words and made visual motifs for each of them. Danger = Skull, High Voltage = Exploding electrical arcs and giant electrodes, Neuro-Motor = A giant Engine powered by a little crazy head in the middle zapping it self gleefully. In Chromatone’s video “Mitochondria” my goal was to tell a mysterious tale about how “alien cells inserted themselves into our distant ancestors and in doing so created the impetus to kick start complex life…” to complement the samples in the song and interpret into a visual narrative.

What does the film mean as a whole? Who is the purple figure at the start?

Geospirit and Virtual Vortex each have their own message. Geospirit as a concept for the series is a global vision of harmony through joyous celebration. Our music, this global psychedelic trance is a unifying bond that is quickly forming networks through every country imaginable on this planet and this compilation is dedicated to that mission.
Virtual Vortex as a film is a series of various stories all loosely woven together into a metaphorical and visual narrative. Each vignette seaks to stand on its own as an individual adventure and then as a whole by the end the audience is revealed how each story weaves together to integrate with the others with a wild dimension warping experience where the virtual meets the physical. My goal was to transcend mere trip visuals and take the audience on a continuously changing experience while giving the mind more to do than be dazzled with mind mending visuals. The purple figure in the beginning is named Altron and was designed to look like a mix between the manga-style 3D graphic on the cover art for Altom's second album Groove Control and the Sutro Tower, the giant tower that is a landmark in San Francisco that happens to be above our studio.

He speaks with the modulated voice of Alex Grey that I sampled from the interview in Liquid Crystal Vision, a landmark film for our community produced by Omananda and Tantric Billy. He says, “What I try to do with the work is to show the interpenetration between the physical dimensions and the more meta-physical…” That is the message and the theme for the film and I try to stick to that from beginning to end.

How did you get the artists on the CD and the DVD involved? Who are they and are any of the tracks especially written for the project?

Every musical artist visited us inSan Francisco for a Phoenix Family/Geomagnetic.tv produced event. I integrate storytelling elements into all of my VJ sets and the guest producers get to visualize in the actual party environment what a short film created with a synchronized sound track that they help produce could be like. I am sure it’s a compelling experience because everyone we have ever done parties with wants a video. With the exception of the Neuromotor video where I integrate some designs provided by a colleague, I was the solo artist involved with making the film. I had some help in the final stages of designing the interface and finishing the bios sections. Musically the folks involved from top to bottom are Altom, Chromatone, Random, Desert Dwellers, Mr. Peculiar, Scorb, CPU, Neuromotor, Rastaliens, Earthling, Nomad and Jeremy Tsunami.

Several of the tracks were written or re-written specifically with a video in mind. With the opening track “METADIMENSION”, we (Tom from Altom, Chromatone, Random and Myself aka Phoenix Family) created the track with a theme of magical mystery and artistic exploration. While the track was being composed I was also designing the key elements in 3D and synchronizing the animation movements.

I planned motion on the bullet shaped mega-structure to move with the bass line in the track with Tom, actually sketching out animations to match the notes. Mitochondria, Higher Sensory Perception, Killer Dope and Thundermental were all re-written or remixed with the video in minds as well.

Who is the Phoenix family and how did you come together?

The Phoenix Family as a party collective came together after a few key parties, the first was a free gathering at the Golden Gate park Bandshell titled “The Phoenix Gathering”. At the legendary event and the afterparty many of the key members for the crew all met and started planning the now legendary and infamous NYE 2000 outdoor/indoor event “Escape to Trance Mountain” in the trinity alps located at Area 101 3 hrs North of SF in Laytonville. For three freezing days several hundred nutters had the time of their lives on 3 epic continuous sounds sytems provided by TAO, Full Circle and Amalgam, the three founding groups behind the Phoenix Family. As the years went by some of the talented crew of djs and musicians started producing killer tracks. When the time was right we banded together and formed a collaborative studio.

First with Arcane and Omananda during the production of Magnus, then later reformed in its current iteration as both a high end 3D special FX lab and several fully featured audio production creation stations with all the modern trimmings. So the Phoenix Family as a music production group formed by the creative union of all these proactive and creative minds living and working under the same roof consisting of Lawrence Hoffman“Chromatone”, Ross Dubois “Random”, Myself and some of our other talented producer friends like Rob Watson “Rob-Ot”, Raphael Pepi “Helios”, Aeon aka“Aeon”, Greg Farley “Mubali”, Aaron Peacock “Ocelot” Moontribe Treavor and Kepi “Desert Dwellers” as well as more and more others. Look out for other rising stars the Loomi brothers, Quasar, Alien Mental, Greg On Earth, Viral, Infinite Web, Miranda and More!!!

You have also been making music for many years and Djing as we see in the last scene of the DVD. What music style do you make and play?

Back in the 90s my music style was very 303 and 808 based as I was passionately inspired by the program Propeller Head - Rebirth. I also bought a killer synth in 95 called the K-2000 by Kurzweil. With these tools and some old mac hard disc recording gear I put together an album of tracks and even played at a couple of parties with this music. At Burning Man 96 I first encountered goa-trance at the CCC camp, 7 miles away from the rest of the event.

I couldn’t tear myself away from the party for 3 days gleefully watching the sunrise over the mountains surrounding the dusty wasteland dance floor of Black Rock Desert where the unique festival takes place each year. I I finally found the music I was still hearing echoing in my head on a trip to London and then came back and happen to have my new cds with me began djing at Burning Man 98 almost by accident when my friend Michael Gosney was leaving a killer party with no DJ! He said “go get your new music man!” and when I came back he had left and X-Dream's "Radio" was on half way through the CD. I jumped on to the decks and I guess the rest is history. Incidently my birthday is Aug 31st, smack dab in the middle of Burning Man each year, so the festival has influenced my music style and direction in many ways. Now, years later I am finally starting up producing music again after focusing on VJing and DJing for the last 8 years, all the while making 3D animation.
My musical tastes are diverse in the psy-trance genre. I have often been dubbed a “fluffy” dj for my love of melodies (it is still trance music right?) but as any one on the dance floor knows that only means my range is vast and you never know what might come next. The deeper dark sounds I believe strongly compliment the full on “Power Fluff” that is basically refined Cyber Trance with 145 BPMs (I still love it =). I also know that as the trauma trance side of dark psy comes of age and evolves higher levels of production and mastering techniques the style will mature and takes its side squarely with more poplular and main stream psy-trance. So my compilations will reflect these amazingly passionate styles of trance and new styles like the Phoenix Family crew’s “Maximal Trance”, Full On and Driving with dynamic melody, groovy funk and bathed in deep soul pounding rhythmic delights. I want to range from moody melancholy flavors through powerful and uplifting anthems. I see the range as a necessary component to most psy dance floor experiences.

How has the San Fran scene evolved, what do you think it needed for it to grow?

Well SF started as the home of the psychedelic revolution and by the early 90s underground psy parties liked Club Floppies at an abandoned apartment building in Oakland were happening and full of the depth, flavor and mystery that we see still blossoming today. Trance and ambient events at the King Street wharehouse, the old Cannabis Buyers Club, The CCC, The Cookie Factory, The Noodle Factory, The Book Factory were the predecessors to all of the big and small trance parties from the beaches to the bars, from the rivers and forests and deserts to the mega and mini clubs and now legally on SF owned property thanks to efforts from the SF Late Night Coalition headed up by Trance Politician John Wood at the legendary SOMArts Gallery. Burning man and the numerous legal and renegade street parties continuously helped expose psy trance to “the rest of the world”. These annual events like the SF Love Parade, the Howeird Street Faire, The Castro Haloween ultra freakout, and the big Peace rallies served to give all sorts of “non trance people” a chance to hear the music and look forward to finding a fairly regular outlet for the events and music surrounding this psychedelic trance phenomenon. When I have seen people who have never heard the music who are not on any drugs who wander up and start to go crazy and really feel the vibe I know that what we are doing is special, unique and truly a blessing to the people who are touched by it. It actually changed my life. In a wonderful and all consuming and yet completely complimentry to my dreams and aspirations way psy trance seems to offer a similar bliss to many others that it reaches as well. I long ago stopped being attracted to doing any psychotropics at events as I have found that the experience I have being lucid then entering the trance state via the music and visuals and party environment and dance-floor vibe are just as or even more powerful, and as a bonus you can clearly recall the whole event as well! The music is starting to reach other audiences of the night life community like the goth/industrial scene and the jam/reggae band fans. Also I think the roots of psy parties, integration with various genres, needs to be focused on. I see parties with two rooms of trance, dark and light, happening, as well as parties with Breaks and other urban sounds being integrated on the same dance floor. I mean why does a psy party never really get going till 1 or 2 am? And the breaks parties are over around 3 or 4. So there must be some happy medium and I believe the vast “non-genre denominational” types of people will embrace whatever phat beats that a skilled dj provides for them.

What was it like VJing and DJing at the Burning Man?

Burning Man is the annual art capitol of the cosmos as well as the third largest city in Nevada. The big events at Burning Man used to be more focused as they were fewer and farther between. Often the Community dance after the burn was a focus for many of the revelers. Now everyone and their sponsor has a giant stage and is vying for a spot on the corner of the esplanade and the 2 and 10 streets the are the location of most of the big sound installations (read mega parties) that go on all week. The corners always get the best turn out and the unlucky ones at the edges have to hope that a few of the nearly 50,000 folks who are turning out will drop by for a few minutes.

It's short-attention span theater at all times on the edges and at the myriad mini-parties (if even 1% brings a sound system the is still 500 separate amplified parties in a several mile area. VJing is actually a real challenge as the gear is dust sensitive so its best to have the projectors and mixing gear some how protected (inside a motor home!!). Djing is an amazing pleasure at Burning Man. You inevitably turn a lot of new folks on to the music and save others who have been searching for good tunes all night. Once in a complete white-out duststorm a party I was DJing at on the last day was the only source finding their way for people lost in the dust. Then later the giant dome that had been carried out in front of the dancefloor (but not staked down) vanished in the dusty windstorm, to be found rolling 35 feet straight up on its side down the street (luckily it didn’t hit anyone). People thought it was a huge art car as it loomed at them through the 10 foot visibility dust. “This year when our 30 foot scaffolding blew down narrowly missing some dear friends I yelled out we have been blessed, No one was killed!!!” It can be dangerous and mind blowing, full of surprises and it can dash your expectations, new friends are found, old friends are put to the test. But Burning Man is not just about the parties. It's about the art and about making art and sharing it and participating in it. It's about Community and togetherness and expression. Psy-trance communities all over the world embrace this common ethos and that is why I am sure that Burning Man and psy-trance will continue to evolve hand-in-hand.

Chromatone did the audio mastering on all of your releases and he co-produced 4+ tracks with you and Random. What's his musical history?

Lawrence Hoffman aka Chromatone psytrance project and Morphonic downtempo/Breaks project came from a lead from one of the early Phoenix Family Producers, Wormfood and praised by Phoenix Family collective co-founder St. Carl. I checked out his album length promo cd and was totally blown away back in 2001 or early 2002. He started making goth/industrial music before that, then heard Simon Posford and X-Dream and was hooked.

Now he is the Mastering Engineer at Geomagnetic as well as one of the flagship producers for the label. His new fusion with Geomagnetic recording artist Random has become an international phenomenon. He released a compilation on his co-owned label Vaporvent called Vaporize (2 is on its way!) and basically created the whole Mechanic Castle 2 Disc CD by moving to France in a castle with Fred and Gilles and some other lunies and collaborating on 10 of the tracks on the comp and heavily engineering and mastering all the tracks. Now he is ready to release an album is currently being wooed by several major labels so look out for his new artists album coming soon. Geomagnetic is also proud to announce the highly anticipated artist’s album Random available early spring. Random has been creating psy-trance since 2001 and DJing goa/psy since '96.

What would you like to say to the world scene?

I want to thank the local world scene first starting with the SF labels like Cieba, Soular, Mistress Of Evil, Drop-Out, PsyBooty, Monad Nomad, Aura Quake and some new ones that are in the works as we speak. To the SF collectives and promoters who have kept great events and musical magic flowing CCC, Koinanea, Love Projecors, Community Trance, Fusion, Thump, Tantra and the new ones starting up, and the LA/SoCal scene with Psytribe, Green Sector, Moontribe, DeserTrance, Kagdila and the ones I surely forgot. To the Oregon and Seattle folks. Many Thanks go out to the New York crews Alladin Project, 28th Day and John Tsunami. To the Midwest blessings and much love to T.O.U.C.H. Samadhi and P.S.I. and Texas the great crews in Austin. To the best Mexican collective by Acidize and the Ambivalent Systems crew in Guadlajara. To Diogo in Portugal for always having a great selection of San Francisco talent at his amazing BooM parties.

To the psy-trance music and visual producers and independent crews/labels/collectives scattered all over the US and other American continents and all over the globe: Here is the call to action to band together to create even tighter networks and gig sharing/artists sharing communal projects and festivals. We are actively seeking submissions of music and visuals for our regular upcoming releases. We offer mastering and publishing, manufacturing, distribution and promototional and web hosting services complete with streaming bandwidth. We create music/visual/online packages for other labels as well.

The US is a community of very good people (almost too good/naive in that we are letting our corrupt government walk all over us). Don’t give up on us. The tactics that our country is pioneering to inflict mind control and mass hypnosis is a highly engineered art form that has been scientifically perfected over the years to cause exactly the reaction that is happening. It is up to us conscious folks to expose the illusions and double speak that is so plainly enforced on the mainstream people in such an all pervasive way as to appear to be “reality” to more and more of the good and honest folks who are inadvertently paying for this international holocaust that is our media coup controlled quasi-dictatorial scoundrels that have usurped the power from the people in this country. The US has troops in 90% of the world's countries and uses their influence to force these smaller governments into puppet mode with regards to policy and technique for influencing the populace. So learn from what is happening in front of everyone here and try to thwart the tactics in your countries in any way possible.