Burning Man Xtra: Origins: Mutoid Waste Co.

September 10th, 2010 by Andrzej

So, given that I devoted last week to Burning Man, I feel it's about time to cover what I consider to be it's ancestors. The most obvious in America has to be Survival Research Lab (SRL) which was started in 1978 by Mark Pauline in San Francisco. That particular group deserves it's own blog, which will happen at some point in the future, but for now I am going to talk about the Mutoid Waste Co.. The Mutoids were co-founded in London in 1984 by Joe Rush and Robin Cooke. I first joined them at Glastonbury in 1987 and subsequently co-founded the Mutoids in Australia with Robin in 1990. But that is a different story. For now, I want to focus on Mutoids in Amerika. Joe Rush, along with Alex, Scotty, Steve Bedlam and a couple of other mates, built this amazing Horse and the covered Wagon behind it (to carry the Sound System) over the course of 10 days for Burning Man in 2008. Joe tells me that Ruby Blues was the person most responsible for wading through all the Burning Man bureaucracy and so definitely deserves an honourable mention.

All Images © Andrzej Liguz/moreimages.net. Not to be used or distributed beyond this website without permission of copyright holder.

I took this picture of Scotty on the Horse last year at Burning Man. See if you can spot the original 1920's Rolls Royce body parts on it (hint: check the front end. And no, its not the grill. Let me know where you think they are - its a matching pair). I had the great privilege of riding around on it for the last few days of the Burn. And accepting kudos for it on behalf of the people who did actually build it. Scotty is from England but now lives in Northern California and he originally met Joe back in the days when Joe was doing Mutoid things and Scotty was managing Eat Static. Or Ozric Tentacles. Or one of those English PsyTrance bands. I can't quite remember which one. But it doesn't matter anyway.

Joe had wanted to go to Burning Man for many years but had never actually been. Scotty was living in NoCal when he decided to try and bring Joe and the Mutoids over from England. The Mutoids never made it, but Joe did. The Horse and Wagon was the brilliant result.

One of my principal hosts at Burning Man was an eccentric character named Daktarri, who is so attached to the Burn that he abandoned regular life a while ago and moved to Gerlach, the small town with a population of under 500 that is the closest 'civilization' to Burning Man. I stayed at his house for a few days before actually making it out onto the Playa and when he heard I used to be in the Mutoids, he insisted I meet his friend Scotty who had an amazing sculpture built by some English friends of his last year for the Burn. And of course, Daktarri told me that he was integral to the sculpture in some kind of way. I never did work out what he did to it apart from some minor repairs, but was happy to go along with his story as he was gracious enough to give me somewhere to sleep for a few days.

Once we got out to Black Rock City it turned out that Scotty and the sculpture were nowhere to be found as Scotty had not been given permission by the DMV (Department Of Mutant Vehicles) to bring the Horse and Wagon onto the Playa. Scotty had not submitted the paperwork in time and so the Horse and Wagon were being held in a compound at the front gate whilst the Burning Man Bureaucracy worked out what to do with it. Yes, I know it seems like a contradiction in terms, but Bureaucrats love to raise their pointy little heads everywhere. Including Burning Man.

So after 3 days of intense debate (according to 'insiders'), they finally allowed the coolest vehicle in sight onto the site. Which is when I finally met Scotty. And realised that the vehicle Daktarri had been talking about for days had actually been built by Joe, the Genius and genuine Don of modern scrap culture. Scotty and I instantly bonded of shared memories and people and I became part of the rolling crew on the Horse & Wagon.

Riding around on the Horse with Scotty was definitely one of the highlights of the Burn for me. It was by far and away the most popular vehicle on the Playa and whenever we tooled around on it the floating freak show that is the majority population of Burning Man would flock to us in droves. They always assumed that I was one the people who had built it and I would always disclaim any credit and tell them about Joe and the Mutoids.

All Images © Andrzej Liguz/moreimages.net. Not to be used or distributed beyond this website without permission of copyright holder.

Started in 1984 by Joe Rush and Robin Cooke, the Mutoid Waste Co. ended up becoming enormously influential. I first came across them at Glastonbury Festival in 1987 when they built Carhenge. As I had already spent several years developing scavenging skills by hanging out at tips and scrap yards, I could completely relate to their scrap aesthetic. They were also the only thing in England at that time which had any real heart as Thatcher was running wild and everything was being flattened into conformity. Apart from the Mutoids.

This picture of Carhenge by the Mutoid Waste Co. was taken at dawn on the Summer Solstice in 1987 at Glastonbury Festival. I had been wandering around the Festival when I came across the Mutoids camp and ended up spending more and more time there. They were a mutant cross between Mad Max and Judge Dredd (not the Sylvester Stallone version) and I felt an immediate kinship. To such a degree that I ended up hitch-hiking to Edinburgh a month later and joining them at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. But that is a whole different story and they deserve more than just this one post. So check in here and I'll tell you some more. And to see more images of the Mutoids check the M.O.R.E. Gallery on this website.

Today I am listening to the awesome World Domination Enterprises, who were the house band for many of Mutoid events I was involved with during 1987 and 1988 in London. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mKYGWvuM8w&feature=related

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