It’s hard to believe that December 2nd marks one year since the Ghost Ship Fire in Oakland. Among the 36 victims, many were part of various arts and music subcultures. Art and music has been a key part of both the mourning and healing process. One such example is Hobo Camp Records’ “Run the Length of Your Wildness,” a tribute compilation that includes tracks by the late Chelsea Faith (Cherushii) and Johnny Igaz (Nackt).
We spoke with Randy Ellis, founder of Hobo Camp Records about the tribute album, and Chelsea Faith’s significant other, David Last.
As David Last shares fondly, “Chelsea and Johnny were both people who were instrumental in encouraging others to do and be their artistic best. They were both role models. People looked up to them and were shown through their actions, that with some hard work and a sense of community, you can build something special with like-minded souls around you. That message has been picked up and people have been putting a lot of energy into their own artistic growth. I think as a result of this hardship, we’ll be hearing some very good, very real music emerge in the longer-term.”
The History of Run the Length of Your Wildness
“Run The Length Of Your Wildness” was originally a music label and club night started by Cherushii and Ben Winans (Roche). The weekly dance party was held every Monday night at Underground SF in San Francisco. It was initially started in 2015, in a small rave cave known as The Basement, formerly known as 222 Hyde in the Tenderloin.
As Hobo Camp Records founder and co-owner, Randy Ellis, recalls, “The night started just as an opportunity to DJ and had grown into a gathering place for loyal regulars to come each week. It was a community of music-obsessed weirdos, nerds, scene fixtures, first-time ravers, and eccentrics. It was an accepting and inclusive place where they made it a point to give opportunities to artists and DJs who had never performed out before.”
Cherushii and Roche were creating a sanctuary for house and techno folks, less out of a desire for the spotlight but more organically, through a shared love of the music. As Ellis explains, he saw they were filling a void. “In my opinion, the community aspect of the electronic (and general music) scene in here was slowly waning, at least compared to how strong I’d felt it was in the years before the latest tech boom hit the Bay. A lot of artists were leaving the area. They were creating something great for everyone to participate in, and really pouring their hearts into it for the sake of the music.”
The EP was a passion project to preserve the legacy of Cherushii and Nackt. Through music—the slightest silver lining.
Ben Roche contacted the families of Chelsea (Cherushii) and Johnny Igaz. They took the two tracks that Cherushii and Nackt had previously recorded digitally and pressed it on vinyl. “We did our best to make a nice tribute and package that the community could cherish, and which would benefit their families.…the record came out awesome.”
When asked about how the electronic music community was doing now. Ellis had this to say:
“Tragedies of this nature naturally bring friends together, and introduce outsiders to each other who were similarly affected. I think anyone that has attended underground parties can relate, as we’ve all put ourselves in relatively uncertain situations going to these events…so to a certain extent we can all hopefully move ahead in planning events in safer spaces and also as attendees to have a better perspective on what is a safe or unsafe venue.”
He adds, “In a sense the community has been strengthened on that level to be more tightly knit and to consider safer options. At the same time, I think there has a been a great deal of negative feedback from certain media outlets and the government/police regarding underground events, which challenges the community. These events were never typically welcomed by them and they are likely less welcomed now, however, these types of events are very important as outlets for artists and music fans, and they need to continue.”
We also asked what he’d shout from the rooftops about the local electronic music community, if he could. He had some wise words to say:
“Work together! We can bring each other up, book each other for shows, set up tours together, work on music together, and create bigger and better projects. Obviously, there is a level of quality and originally expected for a collaboration to occur, and you need to be cognizant of the time needed to actually deliver everything properly, but if those items are part of the infrastructure, then great things can occur. I think many folks get so fixated on their own music or projects that often they don’t really end up participating in the whole community aspect of it.”
Chelsea Dolan in a photo posted Nov. 6, 2015. (Cherushii via Facebook)
For many, there seems to be a time before Ghost Ship and a time after.
David Last does not shy away from sharing just how hard it is to deal with the loss. While still private in many ways, his strength is inspiring. “Chelsea and I were life partners and musical partners. We planned to grow old together, and make lots of fun and interesting music…”
For David and Chelsea, music was their world. Music remains a huge part of his recovery process. “I think when something like this happens, everyone feels powerless in the face of it, and just finding some creative project to do together can really help people express their bottled up feelings. The music that has come out of it has been really beautiful.”
David Last, who is still very much recovering, gives this advice to others who might also be in mourning: ”Stick close to people you know you can trust. Get some therapy if you can. If you’re poor, look for therapists willing to do sessions for free; they are out there. Make sure you have someone to talk to who won’t judge you or run from difficult feelings, even if it’s just a family member. And if you’re a creative person, make stuff, every day you can.”
“Run the Length Of Your Wildness” includes four tracks written, performed, and produced by Cherushii, Nackt, Roche, and David Last with Portland artist Lavender. Cherushii and Nackt are remembered as music producers, DJs, and promoters of an all-inclusive dance community.
All profits from the sale of this record will be donated to the families of Chelsea Faith and Johnny Igaz.
“Run The Length Of Your Wildness,” Compilation” EP
Hobo Camp Records, Artwork by Cal Volner-Dison
A1. Cherushii – The Industrial City
A2. Nackt – Next
B1. Roche – One For Cherushii
B2. David Last feat. Lavender – All That’s Left