Name: Boris Klompus
Hometown: Stamford, CT
Current town: Brooklyn, NY
Job description: Musician; fabricator; writer
Bio: Helped construct “a huge, multi-person sized floor step sequencer tied to eight flame cannons” for LEMUR, and a mechanical bull for Red Bull; involved with building jet-powered ponies for Madagascar Institute, where he has also taught shop classes
Select links: borisklompus.com
Describe your current state of mind.
I feel happy. I was just away working for like three months, and that was kind of terrible because I'd just moved in. I'd just gotten set up and I went away to work; I was on tour working with a musician and he has people that have been working with him for like 30 years. Everybody's sort of locked into this sort of...all the energy of the day is devoted to setting up the show. Personal time doesn't really exist and so everybody's kind of miserable. I feel great to be out of that, to be home, and to set up finally. I can actually work on music, which I haven't done for a really long time.
Tell me about your music.
I make electronic, ambient music. Sometimes it's dance-y. It's always groove-oriented; I like repetition, not so concerned with making dance. I use synthesizers and beat machines. But it's also environmental. It’s not like a soundtrack that follows you around, but it becomes part of the atmosphere in which you're walking down the street. It’s not that it's only there in your ears, but it might bring out emotions or maybe create something that's not there.
I've been listening to a lot of techno music, so it's kind of coming through in that sense. I like the way that when you go out and you're listening to [techno and dance music] on a big sound system, it is this ambient experience made up by the music and the people and the atmosphere of the place. It’s not like you go out and see a band and hear these performers, and here's the music coming off the stage. But it's this immersive space. The music creates a space where it's not about the music. It's not even really interaction because you could always press play if a DJ's doing something. Or, if somebody's playing live they're doing something and you're not really interacting with it. It’s this kind of false interaction of listening to it and walking through it.
How did you get involved with Madagascar?
I got into working with Madagascar through LEMUR, particularly around the time they had their block party.
I was working at LEMUR a lot and I did sound for their sound stage. Then after that, Hackett got in touch and he wanted to make a jet-engine ride of some kind. I definitely wanted to work on jet engines. That just sounded fun, so I got involved that way. Since then, there have been different projects that we’ve worked on. I was running classes for a while, promoting them and organizing them. Now everything is a bit more quiet. I feel like the last year was things started getting built and there was a lot of energy. Then last year was sort of a lull again. I think things are regrouping now.
We didn’t really know we were making jets, and eventually we had most of these jets built. We were going to present at a Gadgetoff. We had these qualifications of: “It’s got to have jet engines, and it has to include horses, and it’s got to be a ride of some kind.” So we just discussed different ideas and eventually it was sort of: “What can we do in the amount of time with our resources?” It happened organically after that: “Not only should it spin around, but the centrifugal force should arc you outwards while you’re moving around.”
It’s not just building the machine, but it’s also [about] how to present the machine and how to get people interested in getting on the ride.
How do you make a “dangerous” ride safe?
We built mechanical bulls for the Red Bull event this summer, and the axle, that got used to spin the bull around, was a little thin. So at the top of the bull were skinned tires. Somebody would sit on top of that, and the sheer weight of that would bend the axle - a solid piece of steel. Eventually, it had to stop running that because it was going to do some damage.
I think some of what makes the carnival rides to fun is this leap of faith. It’s home-built. It’s probably loud. It might look jankety. There are signs warning you away. Some of the rides are definitely more intense than others.
It’s funny that the carousel, that is probably the most dangerous ride we have…people take for granted how fast it moves while they’re on it. They’re having a good time and want to let go of the handlebars - and sometimes they end up falling off. We do say, while we are running the thing: “Don’t let go of the handlebars.” On that ride there, are plenty of nasty pinch points – direct drive wheels - and it isn’t only one, but eight. So it’s a big thing that I [when] people’s feet slip off the pedals, to not try to put them back on, ‘cause there are seven other wheels forcing the ride forward.
I’ve never see anyone get seriously hurt - and nobody wants anyone to - but some of the appeal of the rides are definitely that there is no promise of your safety. Usually what ends up happening is that if someone is going to get hurt by a ride, it’s usually one of us, and it’s usually while building or running it. And we’ve gotten used to it, and started to take for granted that it can hurt you. Like the carousel, usually after a few hours, you end up wanting to climb all over it - even though it’s in motion – at Detroit Maker Faire. I lost my balance a bit, and almost fell into the middle. After that, I was a lot more careful.
What are some misconceptions about what you do?
I think with the Madagascar stuff a common misconception is that it's a job or something. And it’s definitely not. It's all volunteer. It’s all for fun. And it’s kind of chaotic.
What brought you to the city?
I had done a year of college at home, in Stamford, and so I applied to the New School.
What year did you arrive?
What did you study?
How did you like that?
I enjoyed some of the other classes better. I worked more in music than I did my class work, when I was at school.
Where would you want to live if you didn’t live in New York?
Hannah and I went to Berlin for a week. But I like New York. I haven't really found a place quite like it.
How would you describe Berlin?
It was a cool place - not as affordable as everybody says.
It’s kind of funny. We were on tour in Europe for six weeks.
My seventh week, I just went to Berlin, met Hannah there. It was still such a whirlwind coming down from work. Walking around was quite nice. It's hard to get a feel for a place after being there a week without knowing people there, where to go and what to do, kind of ended up doing a lot of touristy stuff. It was winter and it was cold. But we did a lot of walking.
Is there a place you haven’t been but want to travel to?
I wanna go to South America: Colombia; Bolivia; Argentina.
Do you speak Spanish?
I speak terrible Spanish.
Sometimes it’s difficult to say no to other projects that sound fun or interesting. I wanna be involved, but sometimes, especially lately, I just want to focus on my own thing.
It’s difficult to concentrate fully.
I think it's communicating with just the eyes or that kind of intimacy, when you don't necessarily have to say anything, and nothing's even necessarily suggested. But there's some sort of dialogue going on.
Built up and suppressed anger and frustration that eventually comes to a head.
I went out to go dancing maybe a month ago. There’s good DJs coming into town and I haven't been out in a long time in New York. It was down the street in some warehouse here, and I had gotten tickets online. But the person in front of us bought their tickets at the door. It was like $40 at the door. I guess that’s the way it goes in New York. Then you get in and [have] to buy a bottle of water (there’s no running water, only Port-A-Potties setup). Water is $4 for a little Poland Spring bottle. Beer is $6. It was highway robbery the whole way. That was pretty offensive. I felt taken advantage of.
How would you describe your political views?
Pretty apathetic. It’s kind of hard sometimes. I was born in Russia and my parents are Russian, so they grew up during the Soviet Union. Their generation, for a long time, was either apathetic or just nervous. I think a lot of them kept it going for so long [out of] fear. I feel like there are just too many people with too many opposing wants and desires to keep everybody happy. My views don't come into the majority's views. I understand that's democracy, but I keep my head out of it or else I get upset really fast.
What about your religious views?
What’s your greatest fear?
I’m afraid of getting disinterested in everything or the things that I have passion for.
If you could change a moment in your life, what would it be?
I don't think I would change anything.
Traveling for work.
I have been through a huge part of Europe. I have traveled the States pretty extensively, both for work and not for work. You are in a place for a day and then you move on mentally.
It’s just the nature of work that I did. Sometimes you get three hours in a day to explore. It's really constricting.
Now a lot of people think it's glamorous, but I don't think it's very glamorous at all. Then you get to stay in a hotel or something. [The conversation becomes:] “This hotel is better than that hotel,” but it is all the same and you get caught up in this bullshit.
I think life is pretty underrated for a lot of people. Time is spent complaining or being miserable. I try to be happy as much as I can, see as much as I can, learn as much as I can. There’s so much out there to experience.
What are you nostalgic for?
I try not to get nostalgic.
What are you looking forward to?