Respect Yourself: Exclusive Interview with the “Dr. Dre Started Burning Man” Whistleblower

March 07, 2011

Duncan Cooper spends a lot of time on the internet. Every other Monday, he pays tribute to the hours spent with original video and audio. This week he celebrates the Dr. Dre Started Burning Man conspiracy with an exclusive interview.

When I broke the "news" on the Dr. Dre Started Burning Man conspiracy nearly a month ago, it was with a fair bit of skepticism. An incendiary Tumblr posted a handwritten letter dated February, 1995 in which Dr. Dre outlines plans to bankroll Burning Man, introduce entrance fees and "make some loot off these… crazy, naked motherfuckers in the desert." I maintain serious doubts, but the spread of the conspiracy—with mentions in the Huffington Post, New York Magazine and the official Burning Man blog—suggests some fundamental truth. Even if Dr. Dre didn't really start Burning Man, deep down maybe he did. When the site's owner, who to this day remains anonymous, reached out a second time, I was lucky enough to Skype my way into an exclusive interview and meet the burner behind the curtains.

My secret favorite part about your site is the quote, "to know the truth is to truly live." I searched for it online to see if you were referencing something, and I was happy to find only three instances, and they were all you.
So many people live with the wool pulled over their eyes, like situations like this where people are profiting off them over and over again. There's a great comfort in not knowing, a fantastic ignorance-is-bliss way to conduct yourself. One of the least painful ways of going through a life experience is to know very little. But, there's a completely flip side, and I think this Dre thing is a great representation. Sometimes once you know, it might be evil mixed with the most interesting thing you've ever heard, which is what happened when I realized Dre was mixed with the Burning Man people. Think about the money, which is obviously an important part of it: we're talking about millions and millions of dollars.

Does that bother you?
It's not like it's not going to exist. Someone is going to have those dollars. Who should that be? To me, I'm glad Dre is the one. I love Dre, he has always been a hero. I don't personally know the ins and outs of his financial interactions on a level I could pose any type of judgement, so I don't really have a position on the morality of how he makes money. But I do think he's really good at what he does, and his success is no surprise… One of the ultimate goals of the whole thing is the hope that once enough people understand the mysterious back room of Burning Man, maybe in the future he could actually attend Burning Man openly. The secretive aspect of it I think is unneeded, which is why I chose to be a whistleblower with the campaign.

Do you think you'll ever see him again?
I haven't seen Dre since that time period. I was a really young guy, you know. It's not like he would recognize me, I just worked on a crew. And in some ways it's really not cool that I stole a letter from a hotel he was staying in.

He's going to be mad at you.
I don't think so. It's something to think about. But to be honest, it's a little late for that. I don't really think anyone is at fault. With a thing like Burning Man, how can anyone be at fault? If I do bump into him, I'm not going to say, "Hey, remember me? I'm the guy from that Hype Williams shoot." I'm not going to tell him it's me. I'm going to ask him to comment on it.

What's your dream response?
My real dream, my super dream response, is if he was funny about it. He wouldn't be pissed. He would be like, "You're right, it was time for everyone to know." The actual words I truly dream of are: "I'm Dr. Dre, and I started motherfucking Burning Man." That's the ultimate.

Do you have dreadlocks?
No, I don't have dreadlocks, dude. You need to make that really clear in this interview. Things I don't have: I don't have dreadlocks, I don't have tattoos, I don't have a dog named Kaya or Zion. I don't have a dog at all. I do have a car.

What do you make of the public's reaction?
The whole way that this has unfolded is pretty incredible. I've received some personal emails from people that are pretty amazing, to be honest. Facebook was pretty funny. Here's a person who will go unnamed that I really liked. A lot of people came with the "where have we met?", which is a good question when you're befriending someone on an open public forum with first name Dr. Dre, last name Started Burning Man. I probably got that question 2,000 times. I said: "Perhaps in Austin or at Burning Man, if we have at all. I'm trying to spread the word about some pretty interesting info I know about the festival. We probably share mutual friends on this site. I'm a real person and I hope you don't find it offensive for me to want to share this information with you. Thanks for your acceptance." And this guy replies: "Huh. Okay. I'm dealing with a stalker, so you can understand my hesitation. Conspiracy? With the whole Burning Man thing? Not surprised." That's mind-blowing shit, in a way.

From The Collection:

Respect Yourself
Respect Yourself: Exclusive Interview with the “Dr. Dre Started Burning Man” Whistleblower