Ghostship fire survivor and Bay Area musician Aaron Marin shared some of his intimate thoughts with us as well as his musical history. His roots run deep in the music scene as one of the most prolific bass players to hit planet earth. His past revolutionary tribal gypsy funk project Beyond Race inspired many and resonates til this day. Aaron was the only survivor from the 2nd floor of the tragic fire that took place in Oakland. He mourns the lives lost and is finding purpose in his life through his music. We are thankful he’s alive and ready to funk again!
Interview Meikee Magnetic
Where were you born and where are you now?
San Francisco. I live in Portland Oregon now.
At what age did you pick up your 1st instrument and what was it?
I was the age of 12 and it was the piano.
I’d love to hear about your love affair with the bass guitar, what drew you to it and what does it mean to you?
The very first rock concert I went to was Iron Maiden and the bass player was Steve Harris. His silver plated Fender Bass guitar glared into my face and I lit up with a purpose. He blew me away! Now I’d have to say it’s a tool to express my emotions through music.
Let’s talk about the origins of your early tribal, funk, spacedelic 90’s band Beyond Race, how’d it start, how did you meet?
After a band I had in San Diego named Green Thumb dismantled I moved back to the Bay Area and started a new band with my old time friend Steve Anderson. We were at a concert in Golden Gate Park on mushrooms and noticed all the diversity of the crowd. Steve looked at me and said we should name our band Beyond Race! We eventually met Daniel Merlot who attended our shows and wanted to join us. Dan and I connected through mutual friends and family which became an instant bond. Our vision became one of a beautiful multicultural musical world. It started with the three of us and the rest became history.
Tell us about your early San Francisco South of Market underground Beyond Race parties that reached a 1000 person capacity. What do you remember about those events?
We knew that we were on a cosmic mission to bring together people from all cultures to express and create consciousness through metaphysical, celestial magic, beauty and culture with our music. From this a movement was manifested. It was a magical and powerful time in our lives, new and exciting. To manifest a group of magical star children with a mutual quest light years ahead of the rest. An alien futuristic yet pre-historic royal element of pure beautiful energy was among us all. I remember people dressing as if they were feeling their past lives stepping into the present. We created a night that was unique where like minded future gypsies could step into themselves because after all we were and are star children.
Burning Man 1994-1995 (<CLICK) you performed the main stage including 30-40 dancers and performance artists. You were the original live Burning Man act, true old school original OG’s! I wish we had Social Media back then so we could look back to the glory of those performances. Let’s have you be our mental Social Media, describe those times for us:
There are no words to fully describe adequately those times. We were one of the 1st bands to perform at Burning Man. It was definitely the beginning of an era and a powerful movement of cosmic, magical energies that was surreal. Larry Harvey saw this and invited us to Burning Man to be part of his festival but had no idea we were going to perform. From that point on he gave us the main stage for our performances the next few years. There is rare footage of Beyond Race in a video that Fernando del Sol made about our band and Burning Man below.
I believe you created and influenced a next generation of performers such as Beats Antique and The Yard Dogs. How does this make you feel?
Honored and not surprised because we were all family. Those groups formed out of that time and era. There are no words to express my overwhelming gratitude for that music existing now.
You were also a guest musician for Perry Farrell (Porno For Pyros) on the Enit Festival and Lollapalooza you played the side stage. Take us back to those times and what you remember:
He came to San Francisco looking for talent for his shows and had heard about us. He met up with us at a club called Cats Alley in San Francisco, he loved us. That night Daniel Merlot and I were playing snake charmers in Perry’s hotel room, he looked as us and said “oh my god, I want you to play onstage tomorrow night with Porno For Pyros”! That was the beginning of a long and great relationship with him.
You are the only 2nd floor survivor of the horrific Oakland Ghost Ship fire. I know this is extremely hard but what do you remember or would like to share with our readers about this tragic night?
It was the most horrific, surreal and scariest moment of my life. I will never take life for granted ever again. It all happened so fast and it was so surreal that it’d given a whole new perception of life. I will never forget that night as long as I live.
You told me you tried to help save people by shouting as loud as possible to follow you to the window. It was as if a voice somehow came into your head helping you escape, please elaborate on this:
It was the survival voice in my head reminding me in that split second that there was a window in another room that I could escape from. However this was not obvious to others due to giant objects in the way, heavy smoke and darkness. I myself barely made it through the thick smoke, holding my breath with eyes closed, hands out in front reaching for what I knew to be a window. I was desperately pushing the window open as the dark smoke engulfed me and I screamed for help, saying people are dying in here! Get a ladder!! There was no time for a ladder, the heat was overtaking me so I climbed through the window, hanging on to the window seal with the tips of my fingers. I jumped blindly to the ground below regardless and in disbelief that I landed without injury. I looked up hoping others were behind me! Sadly there was nothing but smoke and flames.
Bay Area band Beats Antique had you sit in during a song on bass recently at the Oakland Fox Theater Ghostship Benefit. I know Primus was among some of the artists who performed. Tell us about this amazing moment and how it impacted you as an artist:
It was like coming full circle. Feeling the love and appreciation of this event was overwhelming. I had a quick thought in my mind of how it’d be nice to play music with them and that very same day Tommy (Beats Antique drummer) asked me to perform with them. We rehearsed for maybe an hour and the next thing you know I was onstage in front of 3,000 people that generated almost a million dollars for the benefit. The familiar feeling between fans and performers struck a chord in my soul that let me know my mission in life is never over. Now my mission is to give back.
What are your plans for 2017?
The very next day after the Oakland Fox Theater I received a phone call from Ivan Deprume the drummer from White Zombie telling me that on the same night of the fire his bass player was just killed in a hit and run accident. He said that I need to play music with him which I immediately accepted and today we are creating a new project. I can expect this project to be everything I’ve ever wished for and more. So rest assured it will be cosmic, beautiful and powerful. To create amazing music from my heart and soul. To never take life for granted. I want to give back in a positive and powerful way. Being hopeful and feeling connected to everyone and everything.
What does Dark Beauty mean to you?
There is beauty in everything… light and dark… balance is the key.