Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Zippies - a living, breathing hoax that refuses to die!

The Zippies have made a come-back, this time as a story about a Digital Jesus! The original Hear Come the Zippies "hoax" started by Wired Magazine to publicise the, the worlds first online newservice, hotwired, was killed off when, live, breathing, walking and talking Zippies arrived in America and started arguing about intellectual property, and more specifically a record label started by Fraser Clark.

Some people just didn't want Peace, Love and a fair Prophet. So they conspired against the universe, to stop the tour and even voted the story, one of the top three worst stories of the decade. Then the hoax made an appearance in India, a decade later, followed by swift US reaction against the threat of outsourcing and Zippies.

Who better to convert those evil Zippies to Christ than the Baptist Church which started an outreach programme, and the ads on this page!

So we thought, since we don't seem to have any control whatsoever over events, we would create a Digital Jesus courtesy of Google!

Look out for Silicon Mary and a Virtual Joseph, coming soon!

Monday, March 13, 2006


FC is a product

...lets ship him to Vegas

What with Zippie vs Zippie, there's a lot of bad financial karma surrounding FC it seems.

Here's a suggestion to all those yuppies who want to get in on the act.

Fraser Clark branded incense sticks

Fraser Clark doll that you can stick your boardroom pins into (for pinheads too)

Ye Olde Ipod with Eternal Rock o'Time (includes 20th century groove and 21st century silicon beats) Ye Sacred Speaker Cabinet (with plastic army of sound engineers).

Embossed and ornate 20 000 watt tabernackle of the zippies

A zippie pez dispenser, who knows

Megatripolis Snow Mountain (when shaken turns into a nice scene along with flakes)

His and Hers Hemisphere Harmonisers

Zippie Cosmology Signs

Fraser Clark Breakfast Cereal (tuned to the granola set)


Raver Madness, a shockingly true tale (Part Four)

And Disco Inferno... a story of youthful folley and misadventure at the hands of the zippies

Unzipped: Saint Crasier Flark the Martyr and his highly original Fleet Street Philosophy.

"Hush, my dear," he said; "don't speak so loud, or you will be overheard -- and I shall be ruined. I'm supposed to be a Great Wizard." L Frank Baum, The Wizard of Oz

WHAT Fraser Clark has in terms of a philosophy, is really not all that unique or difficult to express -- Goddess worship, WoManity, Peace, love and a fair prophet. Then there's the "harmonise your hemisphere's racket, which ties into hemi-sync mythology created by cyberpunks. Rewire the brain, using chemicals. Listen to the beats at approximately 140bpm, (124, the heartbeat of the human feotus in the womb according to Clark) everything else is like "banging" unless its "trance" but that's like synthesiser music with a metronome. Sounds pretty surface hype, or is it?

When one reads Clark in his multifarious forms, extracts from Epi, ^evolution, or Zippy Times, you realise that he is really just one of those incredibly interesting characters situated in a pantheon that includes the entire history of psychedelic pop-culture, from Ginsberg to Burroughs and beyond, part Wavy Gravy, part Sir Francis Drake, part Franz Anton Mesmer. But to understand him you have to remember the period in which he speaks to various sections of the community across different generations. For example -- There's nothing terribly profound about wearing a "smiley" badge, unless you're living in a fascist state, and this is where Clark becomes interesting.

He is the master of systems collapse, because everything the Tories and the right-wing say about Clark and the Zippies are inevitably true. In the face of Puritanism and the Christian orthodoxy, Clark is positively satanic -- a breed of Celtic shaman and pagan hedonism that goes hand in hand with a form of anti-authoritarian mysticism.

"The zippies believe that word processors can be used to save the earth and ask you to project "negative vibrations" at the stock exchange to provoke economic collapse." So goes the I-D story published in 1989.

Sadly, it is here that he expresses his early reaction against punk, an "anti-punk" attitude because "punks were the second wave of energy - a negation of what the hippies had become". Ironically the early hippy who created zippy, would come unstuck on the issue of cyberpunk versus techno-hippy. Was there any difference essentially with what was already happening on the West Coast at the time of the Pronoia Tour? The failure of Clark's team to address this and other pressing issues of cultural importance, relegated him and the tour to the status of oddity. Reactions were swift. Clark and his team were denounced as nothing more than a hoodlums, who had come from England to disturb the tranquility of new-age America.

It is one thing to repackage the sixties and to marry the technotribes of the future with the earth people of the south, while plugging Marshell Macluhen and sages like Ram Dass aka Richard Alpert or Alan Ginsberg in a club, and calling the resulting combination "Zippie" it is another thing entirely, to try to doing the same thing in hippy home territory. What was occurring at Megtripolis West and so many of the party's we attended, was that the audience was preaching to the grand converter, the Zippie priest was being lead by his congregation. Clark had become a victim of his own philosophy.

If you read "Morning of the Magicians", by Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier, first published in Paris 1960 as "The Dawn of Magic" you'll be amazed to find a form of new age patois current doing the sixties and the title of the first chapter, just two innocent looking words- Future Perfect! If that were not clearly amazing in itself, there is an entire chapter on the thought of Gurdjief. Stuff like "A man is immersed in dreams, whether he remembers them or not does not matter...[but] what is necessary to awake a sleeping man? A good shock is necessary. But when a man is fast asleep one shock is not enough. A long period of shocks is needed. Consequently there must be somebody to administer these shocks... a man may be awakened by an alarm clock. But the trouble is that a man gets accustomed to the alarm clock far too quickly, he ceases to hear it. Many alarm clocks are necessary and always new ones." Sound familiar?

The idea that we "have to wake-up" is common to a lot of new age thinking. What isn't common, is that we have to "wake-up on the dancefloor" or "use a laptop computer" in other words, create a new-fangled alarm clock. It was Clark's genius to suggest elaborate methods of consciousness raising that really got people. The man was more accessible than either John Lilly who "talked to dolphins" or Tim Leary who had turned to virtual reality as a form of psychedelic, or Terence Mkenna, who has gone from describing aliens and mushrooms, to talking about the I Ching and computers.

Clark didn't need a psychedelic, there was no prescription except acceptance of an earlier state of conscious, call it an awakening - the "summer of love" which had hit Britain in 1988 and crossed the Atlantic in 1989. The Berlin Wall came down. The Cold War ended. Clark proceeded to create a "Magic Maggie Healing Doll", "You are invited to participate in the most important psychic experiment in history...whether you think Maggie is good, all bad, or a bit of both, the fact is that she in a position to affect the destiny of every psyche on this planet."

We were invited to make use of "acupuncture points" to help open "Margaret Hilda Thatchers' heart centre. "this will fill her with peaceful energy and love for all life-forms, thus arousing the living goddess within her. We consulted a range of healers and acupuncturists about the prime minister in order to arrive at these particular points" and so it goes, in a classic example of what is known as "magic politics".

Reading Clarks' EPi, meant that you could partake of the counter-culture without necessarily taking drugs. Drugs were just a side-effect, not the cause of a youth rebellion against the status quo, that had decided to use the iconography of the sixties as its starting point. This innocence was lost on the Pronoia Tour, when instead of invoking the sixties as a counter-balance to the nineties, resurrecting the swinging decade became an end into itself, an old-timers reunion, which was not surprising seeing as how literally every baby-boomer had jumped on the band-wagon, and expected us to deliver, not only hippies, but drugs, and even better young children smashed on acid or heroine to exploit, and a vision of me dying at age thirty. My response is -- you must have wanted this insanity really bad, you wanted it so much, look now you've even got another Vietnam!

Not only is Clark, a follower of Gurdjief, but he subtitled his club Megatripolis, (just another joke) "the future perfect state". However, to understand Clark, one has to understand not just the people who inform his philosophy but the milieu in which he operates. The early nineties for instance were a hot-bed of counter-cultural activism and this activism eventually found its way into rave culture. Naomi Klein in her chapter "Reclaim the Streets", mentions a particular creative combination of "rave and rage" which proved "contagious, spreading across Britain to Manchester, York, Oxford and Brighton, and in the largest single RTS event to date, drawing 20 000 people to Trafalgar Square in April 1997." [Klein, 315]

It was memes like this which created the "Zippy Intervasion of the UK" and the "Paradigm Jump off the Grand Canyon Rave.". We wanted to reclaim the internet from the straights and use it to "spook John Majors Criminal Justice Bill, which sought to outlaw dancing and banned "music with a repetitive beat." As Paul Staines says in "Acid House Parties Against the Lifestyle Police and the Safety Nazis". "Imagine a regime so totalitarian that it will not allow its young citizens to dance when they want. Imagine that this regime introduced a law which banned dance parties unless they were authorised by the state, and even then the parties would only be allowed to be of limited duration and on state-licensed premises. Naturally this regime would, in line with its ideology, only apply these laws to parties held for profit."

Thereby forcing the "wicked and evil" dance promoters into the untenable position of throwing parties for nothing. It was this ultimate sacrifice of the notion of profit which would force much of the counterculture during the nineties, into giving away virtually everything of value, including the music, which we all were encouraged to "copy and burn". The result would be traumatic in terms of ones personal status and bank account. Very few people actually made any money, and of those who did, invariably they were damned as the "sell-outs", artists signed to studios and record companies producing industrial-issue dance music that had little going for it, except the beat and a passing reference to the underground.

Continued in Part Five

[copyleft 2006, some rights reserved, please request permission to republish from the author, at]


Raver Madness, a shockingly true tale (Part Three)

And Disco Inferno... a story of youthful folley and misadventure at the hands of the zippies

Your Messiah will arrive much later than expected.

"I am Oz, the Great and Terrible. Why do you seek me? L Frank Baum, The Wizard of Oz

THERE were always elements of the messianic about Clark's mission. Part of his charm and allure was in recasting the yuppie as a hippie holding a computer with an innocent vision of dancing outdoors on the grass amidst a bigger dose of millennium fever than most. Indeed there is nothing wrong with being characterised as some kind of holy man carrying a laptop computer while riding on a donkey, even if this makes you look like the Jesus Christ of rave culture as Time or Newsweek would have it, (Christopher Columbus as I still maintain) it is another thing altogether to actually tout oneself as G-d or to claim to embody the spiritual physicality of a Christ without stopping to consider that there could well be a pantheon of gods out there that include Buddha and even the Zoroastrian embodiment of the god Mazda?

We arrived one night at -- Terence McKenna's ex-wife, Kat Mckenna's houseboat in Sausalito somewhere, and we are instantly thronged by worshippers who insist that I am Krishna and Fraser is like God. They all circle us like pixies at a fairy wedding and dance and sing a song too horrible to imagine. I think it has something to do with Fraser's birthday, but I am too stoned to remember anything more than that.

It would be a while until the infamous "Smells like Zippy Spirit -- the stillbirth of a supertribe" piece in OUTside Magazine was published, along with the terrible quote "I'm just a guy. Jesus was just a guy, too, of course." I could never figure out exactly why Hampton Sides wanted to pronounce the Zippies "Dead on Arrival", but then you have to figure in the exploitation angle. The fact that none of us were getting paid, and as the "new supertribe" multiplied, so did the number of promoters eyeing his bank account.

Being so close to a superego like Clark, can be dangerous. It is one thing to stand next to a real Saint, a Mandela or a Tutu, and to get a wiff of actual greatness, but being situated next to Clark, at any time of the day, was, as the saying goes, "like being absorbed by an unstable supernova about to explode,"He had the ability, armed with a concoction of psychedelic folklore, to make even the smallest detail seem completely trivial and yet "oh, so significant", to literally mesmerise your mind, hypnotizing you with his bardlike, rhyming verse -- yes the man as so many critics like to tell us, had the real gift of the gab, and was indeed some kind of stoned leprechaun spouting poetry and persuading you that things were, far from being stillborn and over, just about to start .

When the "Here come the Zippies" story was breaking on the West Coast of America during 1994, Bill Griffith, the creator of a cartoon character named "Zippy" expressed his concern that people like myself were simply "cashing-in". Even though I could not afford to wash my socks, we were "cashing-in", perhaps on Zippy himself?

"I've always longed to be a Mascot" says Zippy the Pinhead in the comic strip - "Yippie, its Zippie", about a "bunch of weirdoes who guzzle mashed enzymes and get communal and stuff" "Good!" says Zippy's ultra-rationalist partner Griffy, "Fantabulous! Now I'll get this out on th' Internet and we can start licensing - I see 'Zippie' screensavers, 'Zippie' flavoured teas! 'Zippie' clam dippies!! You'll be huge!!."

While it seemed to an ultra-rationalist as if Clark was making money off the odd appearance, cadging a dollar here and there, and generally mooching his way around while conning masses of hysterical new age wannabes, all of whom wanted to be in on the action, he was far from being a Sai Baba or Maharaji. In fact being Jesus Christ was not all that desirable, since one of the side-effects of being cast as an impoverished beggar on a donkey was that the apple power-book was always out of date or on loan, a simple prop. Indeed a marketing opportunity that failed to alert brand managers or the faithful to some potential high-tech shenanigans that could conceivably have enriched those whose lives depended upon making money.

Clark raised the issue of his status as "guru" one night.

"I'm reading 'On the Guru Trail', what do you think? he asked

"Dunno." I said. We haven't eaten for days."

Aside from the enormous marketing opportunities which failed to materialise, and the claim to a demographic that could be measured in the hundreds of thousands, and which still today measures something in the absurd region of a 300 million plus audience on the Asian Subcontinent (if you believe Outlook India), there were the association with technology companies that were exploitative, the media which exploited us, and the expectations that if we were not already being exploited, or exploiting those teen spirits, then who the hell were we to even ask for money?

When Clark eventually left for England, he went home to a council flat and a welfare cheque. I on the other hand, had to rough it back in Africa, a "third world country" which sometimes makes India look like a summer camp on a hot day.

Picture a scene in a boho cafe off Height St, Clark surrounded by hordes of teens who all want a piece of zippy nippy, and the promoters of this zippy spirit who all want a piece of teen. Either way, I'm stuffed. Whether I like it or not, I still end up being some kind of purveyor of jail-bait at the end of a publicity hook that had threaded sharky school-moms who only wanted Fraser for dinner. Cut to the Moscone Centre techno fair, innocent me, accosted by adult techno-tourists, and still I go down in the history books as, " a new species of gibbon" to use Hampton Sides' phrase, a "new age groupie".

Yet another appearance at the same venue, packed to capacity with San Francisco's youth. Fraser laughs and shows me the cartoon. I am introduced to an overfed, leering man in a suite as "a zippy" and still I can't even get a drink. Eventually all I manage is a glass of mineral water -- apparently zippies live exclusively on a rare minerals mined at the bottom of the ocean. They don't eat meat or drink wine like you or I.

The crazy thing in this image, is I imagine my beatific facto-facto girlfriend there too. I imagine her, fending off the teenagers, the both of us, escaping from this weird scientific laboratory from the fifties. Dissected. Redirected. Injected. All because of the west coast fantasy industry. The need by the media to possess your soul and to literally own a piece of the new energy without actually paying for it -- the new media the new techno resource -- and all because of Clark's original sin -- the neat switch that created Zippy as the supposed antidote to the Yuppie and the result into Jesus Christ with a laptop computer on a donkey. Ashes and sackcloth beating a bible of "ravelations" on your forehead. Son -- You can be a technopagan and still work in an office if you want to. Girl -- you can be an office party and still live in the wilderness. We can all liberate our desktops from the dance floor. We can all club ourselves conscious, at least if there's still something conscious left to club for.

Continued in Part Four

[ copyleft 2006, some rights reserved, please request permission to republish from the author, at]

Friday, March 10, 2006


Raver Madness, a shockingly true tale (Part Two)

And Disco Inferno... a story of youthful folley and misadventure at the hands of the zippies
"Tell me something about yourself, and the country you came from, said the Scarecrow..."
L Frank Baum, The Wizard of Oz.
AS FAR as Clark was concerned, I was already a part of his "conspiracy." While hanging at the new club, I find myself quickly roped into doing things for him and the obvious reason why any of this is significant to you or anybody else, is because the media event created by Jules Marshall's "Here Come the Zippies" cover story, had mutated into a plethora of verbiage on all things Zippydom.
As I would eventually learn, the High Times version of events was only scheduled for publication in February 1995 of the next year. Hampton Sides excellent imitation of Tom Robbins' new journalism, appeared only at the end of 1994 in December. If the meme carried by the Daily Newspapers had seemingly dried out, and Wired Magazine's letters pages had begun to slip into snearing condescension about "the zippie techno poseurs" it was only because the roller coaster had stopped to take on some passengers "still in the stone age of personal computing" -- and all of us, including those who were merely in it, for the hell of it, were still very much part of the cyberdelic ride. For some, just being near the tickle of America's latest orgasm would produce media convulsions.

So we're back at that morning in early October. A phone call from Clark etc etc. And now it's later in the morning I'm just casually doing my small task, for a man, a friend, who I know very little about actually, when suddenly my complete and total attention is demanded. (Folks - nobody can be accused of holding a gun to my head, I simply acquiesced in following the leader but it's a diabolical plot nevertheless)-- one minute you're following the yellow brick road, the next minute you're being transported by flying monkeys to the palace of Brumhilda the Bad Witch with the Tin Man --- Basically I'm picked up in a car driven by someone's mom. As far as everybody is concerned this is hype heaven in hippyland. "We need more zippies" says Sionadh Craigen, packing us all in.

Fraser's adolescent girlfriend is basically in charge. We drive off and I struggle to remain composed, nonchalantly I tell her that seriously all I promised Mr Clark was a flyer or two, nothing more.... and it all seems to happen in slow motion. I guess you could also say I was abducted by a flying saucer never to return home to normality again. I'm a little queasy in the pit of my stomach. "We need more zippies." A strange inexpressible emotion, -- "you don't even know me that well, and already you're telling me who I'm supposed to be", but foolishly I ignore the warning signs, my own inner voice, and float downstream, go along with the carnival. What I probably should have been doing is making an appointment with the "teenager inside my twenty-something body", if only to reassure him that all this was not a commitment to a lifelong fraud, a simple hoax, a publicity stunt -- Hey I'm just a professional, an associate, an equal, my whole life is still ahead of me.

Quaint stuff like this would soon melt under the pressure to become an arbitrary, totally anonymous "Zippy".

As I write this, Time magazine has published a cover story called "Secrets of the Teen Brain". Apparently research is "revolutionising our view of the adolescent mind -- and explaining it in mystifying ways."[Time June 7] No doubt the mystery of life is unfolding, but research like this invariably comes too late to save me from teenage expectations of who and what a Zippy ought to be, even way back in 1994.

As those who are perhaps already familiar with this demon of an issue, getting treated like a new species of teenager was only half the problem of being associated with Clark's new "posse". The other problem was putting up with "adults" like Peter Booth Lee, a perpetual four-year-old, who had literally taken over the cultural persona of Wired's "Here Come the Zippies" cover -- knitted cap, tecnno glasses and all. If he had been a real "mensch" he would have probably gone all the way and "outed himself" as a Zippie, but to do this would mean living up to the expectations created by "Pincus the Cyborg" who had joined the tour in New York where, according to Clark, he’d been earning a living posing as a cyborg statue on wall street.

I'm no better off in a maroon bomber jacket, grey tracksuit and khaki trainers -- since I admit now to the entire world, that I wouldn't have been able to figure out the street fashion of San Francisco in '94 either, even if Nike had paid me $1000 000 and told me to like swoosh. I'm lost in the fashion stakes, much to Sionaidh's dismay. While we're driving in the car to yet another "photo opportunity" I ask her what's up. She updates me in her boho lilt: "the zippies have already had a press conference, and a eco-friendly fashion show, you know, like with hemp products..." and it all sounds terribly cultish, and exciting and I want to be a part of what one could call the carnival, but like whose backing the zippies?

You know I know the Zippies like as in Fraser Clark created them and the Zippies are US, but is that one ZIPPY with a "Y" or many Zippies with an IE? When you're having the wool pulled over your eyes its usually because somebody wants you to be a sheep, -- I was slaughtered simply because I was "white", South African, and nobody thought Y?

We end-up downtown in silicon alley. RU Sirius, my cyberpunk friend is there, being interviewed for a television spot I guess, and it's an interview conducted by some young brat who is covering the incipient counter-culture, probably with a student loan and his dad's video camera. I'm told to just sit on the floor or like "wait in the kids room". If I had a portable rocket from the future I would get out of there, but all I manage is to chirp-up that actually, in reality, I'm nearly 26 and a publisher of sorts, in fact I have published fanzines down under in South Africa etc, etc. The video guy just looks at me, like I'm worse than a redneck, white-trash, on the inside of his politically correct televisionland brain.

Fraser does the interview. I try to network a little: "Names Dave Dei," I say struggling to appear cool and using one of my newly aquired net-names (as it turns out, from the Domain of the Cuddly Deity). Big mistake. Because, since Shionadh doesn't know that Fraser already knows me from London I am marked as some kind of an attention-getter or worse, one of those complete nobodies who grab microphones while you're on still stage, grandstands a little or goes out of the way to steal your thunder.

Jules Marshall wrote recently in his "decade after the zippies" piece commissioned by Wired Magazine about something familiar to all of us: "I caught up with Fraser at a party just outside Santa Cruz." says Marshall, "Fraser was introduced to speak beforehand, when suddenly this weirdo called Pincus, dressed in body armour, fur and cow horns as i remember, grabs the mike and announces HE is Fraser Clark, and goes on to spout complete gibberish for ten minutes." According to Marshall "This guy had at some stage attached himself to the zippies, or one half of them as it had become by now, it seems."

If the man bothered to read the script between the lines, it is quite obvious from postings made by myself and others on the Well Bulletin Board, that I had by implication then "attached myself" to the other half. Yes there was a split and no, I wasn't even party to that split. What happened in reality, it that I had become a useful part, of what Clark would always term "the reinforcements we were waiting for" and as such was an easily expendable commodity in both media terms and in terms of THE ZIPPIES, after the news story seemingly dried up. What am I doing here? Obviously the problem is not too difficult to sort out looking at it from the year 2004.

As High Times says: "Clark decided to pull the plug on the Zippies' Canyon party and re-direct his energy towards opening a Megatripolis-style club in San Francisco... Then he caught wind of the European press, which was hyping the mega-rave as the Woodstock of the 90's... hype had overtaken reality; the show had to go on."

While Fraser was being touted by the press as some kind of cult-figure surrounded by a horde of acolytes, on the one hand, the reality was completely different. On the other -- there were no "true-believers" only variations of what can only be described as a rag-tag army of techno-hippies and cyber-anarchists -- the reinforcements he had been looking for since the sixties.
While people like Earth Girl and Michael John seem to pop-up in story after story about the Zippies, it is probably because they were already well-known and Americans to boot. Very little is ever said about the actual tribe that accompanied Clark from London, and this criticism is not a new one. In fact in a piece posted on the web shortly after the tour fell-apart, (the pronoia tour was supposed to continue on to Hawai and a 1/4 million rave with the KLF, followed by an Eclipse after-party in Peru) an anonymous author makes the startling point: "Take the very question of who these people are: How were they educated? What parts of Britain are they from? What do they do for a living? Who are their parents?"

And comments: "This was barely touched upon for those who were the nucleus of this movement, and not at all for the late-comers, who form, by [Marshalls estimates] about half of the 200 000 zippies."

I'm not trying to include myself, here, but Americans like to honk their own horn, and it is probably safe to say that the closer you were to the nucleus surrounding Clark, the least likely you were to actually get heard --- since the man was quite capable of telling everybody to shut-up while having a conversation about topical profundities like "we don't want to be all commercial or have stars". The thought police and people like John Bagby were only too happy to oblige in following orders.

We return from yet another fashionable appearance at the Marconi Convention Center, go up to the apartment and one of Clark's goons, from the bad side of London clubland, asks me "are you gay you know like a fag". His name is Ronnie, and he's shooting a movie about the tour, and "do you get it in the backside, you know, like in the arse?"

"Can't say I you? I seem to reply, but instead I play dumb, not wishing to appear so ultimately stupid, but then what is Ronnie actually doing here, making history with a capital H, with a bunch of gay-bashers in San Francisco of all places? According to Ronnie, the Zippies are having trouble with a bunch of club queens (in particular one promoter) and they need a couple of extra zippies, you now like for the support.

The totally anonymous monkey creature inside of me still wants to shout some totally queer and outrageously camp expletive: Sure I'm a Zippy supporter, what club soccer do you watch? Zippies FNL, Zippies Guiness Cup or the Zippies United Local?

Except where I'm from this kind of cultural bickering is taken seriously. Politicians often feel the need to feel popular by rigging the polls, bussing in supporters who have no idea what they are supporting, and press ganging people with little else to do, except go along for the ride. I ask myself the question -- am I just one of the crowd -- the mob -- the passing parade whose presence has no effect on the outcome of events whatsoever?

I have no answers. The reality is that I've spent the last ten years thinking a particular event was possibly significant, when in fact the truth is, it was just a side-show and as insignificant and impossible to believe as King Kong on a rollerblades, dancing down the Nile, or as futile as owning one of those quaint do-hickeys for someone else's brand new Beetle (1960s pretty boy reissue) -- you know it does something probably useful, you know it is probably vital to the workings of the man and his car engine but what? If it falls out and the car still goes, you do nothing, tell nobody and go about your business blissfully unaware, and for all they know, internal combustion could be the result of a wormhole in space-time.
Continued in Part Three.
[ copyleft 2006, some rights reserved, please request permission to republish from the author, at ]


Raver Madness, a shockingly true tale... (Part One)

And Disco Inferno... a story of youthful folley and misadventure at the hands of the zippies

"Your commands shall be obeyed,"said the leader; and then, with a great deal of chattering and noise the Winged Monkeys flew away to the place where Dorathy and her friends were walking." L Frank Baum, Wizard of Oz.

IN THE aftermath of the much vaunted "Zippy *Pronoia Tour to US", in which 15 club kids from London, were taken on a publicity tour to America, Cubensis, aka John Bagby the magic mushroom-advocate and self-proclaimed communications director began relating a wild story. In particular a tale about one fateful night at the Crash Palace on Divisidero Street in San Francisco during July 1994, and a moment that signaled the break-up between various factions of rave culture vying for attention. The publicity tour started by Wired Magazine to promote its new online news service, would continue in the absence of Fraser Clark the man responsible for a particular brand of "technoshamanism" and who had ostensibly coined the term "zippy".

(* The sneaking suspicion that others are conspiring behind your back to help you. And you them.)

The legendary one night event called "Zen Inspired Performance Publishing" (ZIPP) achieved mythic status on his website. Cubensis, in his own words says: "This event originally began as an idea of Mark Heley's (publisher of Clublife Magazine - SF). It was to be the launch of the Zippy Times USA, created in a live, interactive, creative environment. Unfortunately, this was the same week the Zippy Pronoia Tour split with its spokesman Fraser Clark. Seeing as Fraser was the original editor of the UK Zippy Times, we thought it inappropriate to create a "Zippy Times".

Annoying for some, I was to become part of Clarks "lifelong, unending mega sci-fi novel," -- and later, de facto "editor of the Zippy Times USA" . But to put this nut in a monkeyhouse -- I was never party to, nor a part of that stylish ZIPP party -- neither the "Zen Inspired Performance Event" nor the much touted "Omega Rave". However I came to know Clark intimately and followed him for much of the period subsequent to the split. This is a tale about youthful folly and my own misadventure if you can call it that.

Briefly, ZIPP was not the only such event, in which performance art and publishing became intertwined with zippiness and human destiny. However what is significant here is the fact that Fraser Clark, the "Columbus of Rave Culture", and the leading figurehead for the Zippies as far as the media were concerned, was obviously "not there", the result of a "split" between two factions of "zippies" which was to impact on my life for years to come.

While this parallel universe was unfolding, and a lot of counter-cultural hocus pocus was busy being organised in and around San Francisco, I "joined the tour" and in the ensuing confusion left people wondering whether or not there was actually one tour or many? Undoubtedly there are bound to be several different versions of the same theme of Zen Inspired Pronoia or whatever, each with its own team of zippies, yippies, psychodippies.

One Pronoia tour itinerary I downloaded from the net is mysteriously dated "03-April-97" -- perhaps there was a repeat performance? As I write this monograph of sorts, there is precious little, in the way of fact -- no way of knowing for sure, whether or not anything actually happened during 1994. Could we all be victims of an elaborate hoax? I raised this issue with Jules Marshall who had written the initial story in collaboration with John Battelle, executive editor of Wired, and his response was to write a background piece, giving more substance to what had really been an over-hyped "confab".

"Could you play up the tour a bit more" Battelle had requested.

The result was a record smashing cover story by Marshall, syndicated around the world, including appearances in Polish Playboy and Paris Elle. Batelle's cyberdelic passion "play" had taken on a life of its own, promoting Wired's new target market as the Zippies struggled to hold onto their own interests and swam in a semiotic maelstrom that is still being contested to this day.

As an obviously smarting retort from Wired suggested recently: "In May 1994 Wired Magazine [had] "announced that a confab of techno-pagans at the Grand Canyon in August would spark a cultural wildfire that could change America forever. It was the next Woodstock, the inauguration of a millennial culture."

The same magazine then went on to dismiss Marshall's cover story as "one of the most heinous examples of a non-event accorded disproportionate attention. In fact there is some question as to whether the people involved were simply circulating a hoax, with the deliberate aid of Jules Marshall, its author."

"A cynic might view the scene as a willful media hoax. To Clark and his loopy posse of Zippies (or Zen Inspired Pagan Professionals) it's yet another symptom of "pronoia" -- the sneaking suspicion that others are conspiring behind your back to help you." Sarah Ferguson, High Times, Feb 1995.

Presumably, as one of the contributors to this hoax, how did I end up becoming party to an open conspiracy, a global intrigue or confab as Wired would have it? How did I end up typesetting the same "Zippy Times" that would probably have also been part of the "Zen Inspired Publishing" night sponsored by Mark Heley, and why had Clark decided to seek my help, in renaming his publication "The Megatripolitan"? I don't claim to know all the answers, but what I presume to tell here, is a semblance of the truth and at least my half of the story.


It is mid-morning in October 1994. I'm living in a unfurnished room with my de facto girlfriend at the time Rehane X**, opposite the "projects" in the Lower Haight district of San Francisco. Fraser is on the telephone: You see David, there's this Orb of History, and we all dive into it, and we will wonder one day why we never did this before..."

"Gosh, that sounds like incredible fun, come over." I reply, "let's do it."

When the "caramel maned" rapster arrives at my rented room in an unfurnished apartment and inexplicably insists on paying me for my rudimentary services. I don't pretend to kick up a fuss or strike a big movie deal, because I need what little money there is, even a fiver would do, besides the man is flashing a clipping from Newsweek, which describes him fending off a couple of rangers in Arizona's Kaibab National Forest. The rangers offer him "a list of reasons why amplification and lighting equipment are prohibited on national forest land." and Newsweek describes the plot "Behind the rangers backs, a white truck carrying two dozen speaker cabinets and 24 000 watts of power bumps its way up a closed seven-mile road -- sans headlights." Heady stuff.

With the polite "approval" of the establishment, Clark has committed some kind of an eco-crime and it all seems so normal, in spite of warnings that: "The confluence of subcultures gave the remote area the aura of a 21st century tribalism, a dash of Mad Max mixed with a Robert Bly retreat in the midst of a hippie love-in." I ignore the advice from my cute facto de girlfriend, who tells me to "flee, before the hippies get to you."

And so I eventually extricate some kind of a commitment from Clark "Not to worry," says Clark, "I'll pay you for the flyers" he promises. "Zippies are not just hippies, I tell my brown-eyed factotum. "They also have a lot of professional people helping out, you know, like Internet experts and sound engineers and this could lead to bigger things."

I would soon learn to my detriment, the difference between making a sane career choice and "a paradigm jump off the Grand Canyon. I ended up joining a bunch of amateurs stumbling along on some kind of a peyote laden joy-ride, not real professionals hacking the system for all it was worth.

In fact Jules Marshall seems to acknowledge this when he agreed with me "to be honest...there was an element of hacking wired," but obviously not enough. This was a "bone fide youth trend" and people wanted to get in on the action. Steering clear of these users who had wizened up to the wizards tactics would become a full-time obsession for Clark, who quite frankly, should have retreated back to Britain as soon as the press got wind of a looming legal battle over ownership of his club -- Megatripolis -- and the subculture he had created behind it -- Zippie.

However even the "fact" that Columbus had discovered rave culture not "invented" it, would fall into question, like so many things that start off being solid and then disappear in a shower of sparks, fire and brimstone. More on the "who created Zippie dispute, later.

To get back to my story, I was stuck and didn't have any money, flat broke in a foreign country, when Clark suddenly called, and that's probably why I jumped at the opportunity. I trusted Clark and he saw me as his lap-top toting secretary or so it seemed. Making a couple of dollars doing some flyers and a newsletter was about as far as my "financial" ambition over this zippy phenomenon extended. It was no big deal, I was just a writer who had happened to be at Megatripolis UK the previous summer. Clark had actually even invited me then to join him in his conspiracy "to tour America". But as luck would have, it all sounded too much like a proposal you make when you're a bit stoned, not something as serious and illicit as hacking Wired Magazine and hauling equipment through the Kaibab national forest, so I politely declined.

It was August or September 1993 and I had made my way to Britain from my own country, South Africa, had then bumped into one of Clark's "Megatripolitans" on the tube, a modern merry prankster who had handed me a flyer for the club night You have to "experience", a night with the "Zippies" hadn't I heard about them? "The future perfect state every Thursday at Heaven." In fact Clark and I had already been corresponding for a while via his "Encyclopaedia Psychedelica International" or Epi for short. Nothing particularly unusual, for the editor of a small counter-culture zine in South Africa, isolated from the rest of the world by sanctions and a cultural boycott.

I had edited Kagenna, a small fanzine, from 1989-1993. The only way of keeping in touch with the outside world had been to write letters and trade magazines, one of them being Epi. As RU Sirius can probably testify, I had been writing letters to a number of west coast publications like Mondo 2000 and had even had letters published under various pseudonyms like Ted Head. So you can say all my "sneaking suspicions of positivity" were confirmed by finding a copy of Clark's next venture, the ^evolution in a bookstore in West London, with a small contribution from a South African "buddhist queen" called Samten, a regular contributor to Kagenna, the magazine I was now hawking around the globe.

So I end-up on the tube, going to one of the Megatripolis parties, basically a great big technoclub with a nice ambient lounge and good vibe. Mixmaster Morris on the decks, couple of kids taking acid, probably for the first time, and of course, a dancing granny and a small inner circle surrounding Uncle Fraser, who seemed like a warm old man who wanted nothing more than for everyone to have a good time. It was all rather innocent, until he took me aside and mentioned offhand that he was going to America, and "won't I join him, I can introduce you to people, you know -- like Tim Leary".

I laughed it all off as some kind of a practical joke, and left for Camden with one of the many rabble-rousers on the night-bus. If anything, Clark's offer only confirmed my own plan to go to San Francisco, do a tour of West Coast Counter-Culture, and basically meet people like "Tim Leary" on my own steam. Leary, as far as I was concerned, was making a drug-free come-back with virtual reality and his new stance on pushing computers instead of psychedelics had intrigued me enough to actually publish an article by him on the "new wave" of cyberpunk peaking in the 1990s.

I bought a cheap six month return ticket to California, (which later turned out to have a one-way code) and hopped aboard a United Airways flight to San Francisco, not expecting that it would take a while longer than I expected to get back home.

After interviewing people like RU Sirius in an Indian Restaurant in Berkeley, I headed for LA, to meet some extropians, and hang with them for a while. This is how I got to meet Tim Leary on my own steam. While this was all happening "according to plan" I suddenly got caught-up in an earthquake, lost my return airticket to the scalpers and spent a good few extra months simply eking out a living and trying to survive. Then suddenly the "Here come the Zippies" cover appeared. "Cool!" I thought, "They've actually gone and done it." I myopically contemplated jumping aboard a bus right there and then, heading for Flagstaff right away to join the tribe, but this plan was quickly dropped as being impractical, besides, I had no money.

Nevertheless I enthusiastically followed events as they unfolded in the papers and on the internet. The alt.zippies topic on usenet was one of the most popular topics and hundreds of postings mere made, but compared to what was happening back home in South Africa where a country had just been liberated, this was kids stuff, "let them have a good time," it thought, "maybe I'll go to a rave". Some of the extropians on the West Coast were dismissive. "Youth nazis" they said. "They're good guys, what's the problem?" I responded.

By the time I got back to San Francisco, Megatripolis West was about to be launched. I spotted a flyer in a clothing store and simply pitched-up. It was October 1. "Free Festival at the Trocadero" "Opening night speaker -- John Perry Barlow (Grateful Dead/Cyberologist/Founder of Electronic Frontier Foundation) talking about "The trouble with You Kids today." "Your participation is invited in our opening ceremony with Aum dancer and the Kiwi Theatre." "Everybody is a star" and so on. I join the crowd outside and Clark is welcoming a long line, a veritable queue of guests. Practically everybody in San Francisco.
"There's a familiar face," says the "lord of the new techno shamanarchy" (according to the New York Times), greeting me.

(Note: **Rehane X = Rehane Abrahams, an actress and performance artist from Cape Town, South Africa.)
Continued in Part Two.
[Extracted from "The Flying Saucers Apprentice (or How I was outsourced by Fraser Clark and the Zippies and got Zip from the UFO) by David Robert Lewis, copyleft 2006, some rights reserved, please request permission to reprint from the author]

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