Category Archives: Vehicle

What do you do with decommissioned gongs?

You recommission them, that’s what.

I had to leave XyloVan’s keyboards behind in storage when we moved from Los Angeles (no room in NYC).

But I brought the disc gongs with me. I finally got around to rebuilding them into something a lot more compact and portable, and I took the opportunity to engrave them all in the style of the two spare-tire-mount gongs, which are at the center of this array.

There’s a lot of energy stored in these, from all the thousands of people who played them since I first bolted them onto the van back in 2010.

I love that I can still play with those souls through this thing.

Pandemic Warning Mask 3, with magnets

This mask was the largest one I could manage to cut out and make wearable from the tin ceiling tile, which was originally a 3-by-3-foot sheet of tin.

It is definitely meant to be worn without sunglasses so that the wearer’s eyes are visible.
I also fabbed a new mask, including magnets so that the faceplates are interchangeable (see VIDEOS at the bottom of this post)- and so that I didn’t have to sew a new cloth liner for every single iteration of this series.

The videos below show how easily the faceplates can be changed, and what they look like in three dimensions.

Mask 2 and 3
How magnets work

R.I.P. XyloVan – 2010-2019

XyloVan began its life nearly 10 years ago as an idea: Let’s build a mutant vehicle so our young kids can ride around even after bedtime and we can all enjoy Burning Man safely together after dark.

The van’s full, rich and musical life ended last month – after so many adventures, mishaps and miracles that I never could have dreamed of – with me stripping off the xylophones and gongs and putting the vehicle up for sale.

It was like building it all over again – but in reverse. (see photos below after the jump)

Deeply bittersweet.

I peeled off the magic, wrenching the hand-made instruments from the 3/8-inch mounting bolts where they had ridden ever since 2010, when my wife and kids and I began transforming a 1985 Ford 350 ClubWagon XLT into the only musically-playable art car I’ve ever met.

I unwired the control pod carrying the digital-delay mixer and Arduino control box, and stowed the electronics and cables for future projects. I put the instruments into long-term storage against the day when I might bee foolish enough to build another musical mutant vehicle. And I turned the van over to … Continue reading R.I.P. XyloVan – 2010-2019

XyloVan is (mostly) FOR SALE

You read that right: This day had to come. We’re moving, and the time has arrived for me to send XyloVan (1) on to its next incarnation. 

Underneath the instruments, (and the patina of wonderful music, noise and love that thousands of people have laid on them during its 9.5-year existence), lies a sturdy old 1985 Ford ClubWagon XLT. It is dying to be reincarnated as a new mutant vehicle – maybe yours.

I’m moving soon to a place where I won’t be able to park its 25-foot length, and I’ve been thinking of changing XyloVan’s basic design for quite some time now.

So, it’s time to split the music from the van, and send both on to new lives.

I will mount the instruments on a new vehicle (design still in the works). And I am selling XyloVan’s base vehicle WITHOUT INSTRUMENTS –  asking price $350.  

Somewhere out there, a fellow Burner with dirt under his fingernails and fire in his eyes needs this van – and can envision a new mutant vehicle built on this beefy, high-capacity foundation. Any questions?

Here’s what you get:



1985 Ford ClubWagon XLT

  • 7.5-L V8 engine, RUNS STRONG
  • Interior seating for 10, or aninsane amount of cargo room if you pull the benches.
  • Standing room on the roof (with a ladder and attachable chest-high guardrails!) for 10-12 people
  • Full-width rear step for easy loading of people & gear
  • Rebuilt V8 cylinder heads
  • Rebuilt carburetor
  • Rebuilt steering box and front end
  • New water pump
  • New alternator and voltage regulator
  • Near-new tires
  • Stereo/CD player with MP3 jack
  • Onboard 12V power system with two deep-cycle marine batteries
  • 12V Arduino panel with 12 RGB/LED light circuits 
  • 120V AC power inverter
  • Extra Flair: Burning Man Department of Mutant Vehicle daytime and nighttime permit stickers and playa vehicle passes for 2011, 2014 and 2018.
FILE PHOTO – roof rack is included

Full disclosures:

  • Xylophones and gongs are NOT INCLUDED
  • No AC. 
  • Some oil leaks.
  • Bodywork will have some holes left by removal of the mounted instruments. 
  • There is no body rust of any size, but the paint is heavily weathered
  • Must be jump-started at the moment, as it has a (probably simple) charging problem I’m not qualified to solve. 

Other than that, it’s a rock with a ton of history and dust in it. It will definitely make thousands of passengers (and a few mutant vehicle builders with fire in their eyes) very, very, very happy.

Want to come by and take a look? Ping me!

Fireball XL-5 – Tank drum video demo

Here’s a quick demo of Fireball XL-5, which I made on commission for Burns. I’m not much of a musician and iPhone isn’t much of a sound-capture device, so the clip doesn’t quite do justice to how resonant it sounds in person. It’s glorious.

If you would like me to make a drum for you on commission, the price is $300 – $250 if you bring your own empty propane tank. Contact me for details.

Passing inspection at the DMV

In line for inspection at the Department of Mutant Vehicles
In line for inspection at the Department of Mutant Vehicles
I’ve often said, because I believe it to be true: A mutant vehicle is a hole in the playa into which you pour money, blood and tears. But it’s still a goddamn mutant vehicle.

There’s nothing so thrilling and rewarding as crawling through the inspection line at the Department of Mutant Vehicles at Burning Man, and realizing you’re surrounded by hundreds of other deluded crackpot engineers hard-working creative mutant-vehicle builders who are also transitioning from the hardest part of the journey to the most wonderful reward: Driving an art car on open playa, bringing your madness into the world.

Inspection went swiftly and painlessly – and sent us off into the wild night with full permission to drive no faster than 5mph completely sober with lasers, high-watt floodlights, strobes and propane bombs flashing in ones eyes – while simultaneously avoiding running down all the drunks, darkwads and overly-enthusiastic hippies who seem to delight in suddenly flinging themselves in front of our four-ton vehicle.


DMV hottie attaches the coveted and hard-to-earn night-driving permit
DMV hottie attaches the coveted and hard-to-earn night-driving permit next to the daytime permit we earned in an earlier inspection.

Our bumpy, gnarly, hair-raising road to Burning Man 2014

loadedI’m writing this months later.

The dust has settled. XyloVan and crew have made a truly epic appearance at Burning Man in late August. And we have survived.
It’s only now – after taking time to unpack, clean up, de-stress, re-enter the default world and process all the wild stuff that we experienced – that I have the strength to share the nasty, hair-raising saga of our stagger-step journey from Los Angeles to the playa.

Friends of XyloVan may remember the 2013 breakdown that led to this year’s Indiegogo fundraiser and our amazing resurrection and team-powered facelift.

But most of you missed out on the panic, noise, danger and gnarliness that ensued. Here, at last, are all the gory details … Continue reading Our bumpy, gnarly, hair-raising road to Burning Man 2014

Shaping the halo

IMG_2132Today Hitgirl, Biomass and I – along with pipe-bending expertise from Bender – shaped the halo of EMT conduit that will support the fabric.

It was finicky, time-consuming work, since each of the 10 lengths of conduit had to be bent multiple times – just so to approximate its precise role in the rough oval of the halo.

We’re deeply grateful to Dan and Carl, a couple of wonderful neighbors (who just happen to do fascinating work ministering to jail inmates in Los Angeles) who kindly loaned us the space in their side yard to do this crazy thing.

Fixed, home and ready to mutate!

Oscar,  proprietor of J.P. Engines,   the shop that rebuilt XyloVan's engine and steering rack.
Mack (L) and Oscar (R), proprietor of JP Engine – the shop that rebuilt XyloVan’s engine and steering rack.
At last, halleluia and w00h00!!

Thanks to our wonderful Indiegogo backers and the wizards at JP Engine, XyloVan had a smooth, steady ride home today – and into the next phase of its life.

Oscar and the crew at JP pulled off the heads of our brutish 7.5-liter V8, machined them, and reinstalled them with fresh gaskets. They rebuilt the front end, with brand-new kingpins and bushings, a rebuilt steering box and repairs to a leaking steering pump. They replaced much of the faulty ignition system (coil, alternator and battery). And they replaced belts and hoses all around.

Less than $2300 later, XyloVan runs like a champ, steers like a fine sailboat (c’mon, it’s still a 25-foot-long 15-passenger van!), stops when it’s told and promises to carry us wherever we want to take it.

So, onward to some wonderful new work. Keep an eye on us as we give
XyloVan a much-needed paint job and aesthetic spruce-up (I’m thinking MoonEyes wheel covers) and some little “trick” accents here and there), design the superstructure and skin for our Burning Man mutation, build some new instruments and create the computer-controlled light system that will give it a visual heartbeat on playa at night.

Stay tuned – and if you contributed to this work in any way – or plan to help in the future – know that we’ll start shipping out our Indiegogo perks to supporters in the next two weeks, and that XyloVan’s crew has a huge vanload of gratitude for you.

You are good souls who have pumped new life into our hearts that will resonate deeply every time a child, musician or random adventurous soul picks up a stick and discovers how to play.