Paul Addis, the man accused of setting torch to The Man, the wooden totem at the heart of the Burning Man festival, has drawn his share of fans and detractors. Chris Radcliffe, who's tangled with the organizers of Burning Man over various issues, even paid thousands of dollars in bail money to spring Addis from jail. But aside from a statement sent to blogger Scott Beale of Laughing Squid, he hasn't spoken to defend his actions. Until now. In an exclusive interview, Addis, who's been charged with the felony of arson, spoke to Valleywag as a friend drove him from Fernley, Nevada, back to his home in San Francisco. The full interview follows.
Valleywag: When did you first get involved with Burning Man?
Addis: I first attended in 1996 with [a group called] Cyberbus. I went in 1996, 1997, and 1998. In 1997, I helped build The Man, and I participated in the burn as security.
Valleywag: Why did you stop going?
Addis: I started to believe that because of the way the event itself was transforming, I started to see thatBurning Man's social impact and efficacy in having a substantial role in domestic policy and personal growth was nil. Burning Man had degenerated into a postindustrial disco.
Valleywag: So why'd you go this year?
Addis: friend of mine from Los Angeles, a photographer, goaded me into going. He asked me why I wasn't going, in front of a group of friends. And I said the only reason I would go was ... "blank." The only reason I went was to keep my word to a friend of mine.
Valleywag: "Blank?" By "blank," do you mean "to burn down The Man?"
Addis: It has to be "blank," I'm on charges. You can't print that.
Valleywag: In your statement, you attributed the actions to an operative of "Black Rock Intelligence." Is this a real group? If so, how long has it existed?
Addis: Black Rock Intelligence was founded in August 1998.
Valleywag: And what's its goal?
Addis: The gross violation of individual liberties in the name of the preservation of Larry Harvey [the founder of Burning Man]. Black Rock Intelligence has believed that Larry is a danger to himself, and the danger increases the closer he gets to a microphone. We figured we could save him from a severe case of amoebic dysentery if not diarrhea of the mouth.
Valleywag: Come on.
Addis: If the torching of Burning Man was a prank, follow this through to its logical conclusion.
Valleywag: What's your plan now? Where are you headed?
Addis: I'll be back in my apartment tonight. My arraignment is on the 25th of September, at 9:30 a.m.
Valleywag: How do you intend to defend yourself?
Addis: With a lawyer.
Valleywag: Isn't it true that you're a lawyer yourself?
Addis: I am a retired intellectual property litigator and a twice-ordained minister of the Universal Life Church and the Church of the Subgenius.
Valleywag: Any words for the people at Burning Man this year?
Addis: Have a great time. I think it's an incredible opportunity for a unique experience and community bonding and to consider their emotions and the catharsis possible now. People who got their early got to see two Men burn for one low price.
Valleywag: And do they have you to thank for that?
Addis: Black Rock Intelligence takes credit for that two-for-one offer.