Words and interview by Jennifer Smith
Initially, Franz Aliquo may have been late to respond to my request for an interview, but holy hell, was it worth the delay. After being introduced to his work through a mutual friend, I quickly became aware of his ferociously interesting ideas and projects. I couldn’t wait to pick his brain and expose his talents. Franz launched several concepts that have spread like a plague including Streetwars, The Rental Car Rally and as I soon found out through my interview, much more than I could have anticipated. His wit and intelligence have captured not only my attention, but “The Supreme Commander” as he is often called, has caught the attention of people across the globe.
Franz: This is embarrassing. I totally flaked on responding to you here. I’m gonna try to give you as much info as possible and hopefully make up for the lost time.
Jennifer Smith: No worries. Flake-to-flake, I am not the most reliable when it comes to response time myself. Tell us your story Franz, where you’re from, what happened in your childhood to make the you the man that New York Mayor Bloomberg told The Sun, “could probably use psychiatric help.”?
So, where I’m from, NYC. I was born here, when it was dirty. Grew up on Roosevelt Island, exploring the myriad of abandoned structures on the Island, being a kinda weird kid and getting beat up a lot. Went to Stuyvesant High School, where I was surrounded by even weirder kids, which made me kinda normal in comparison. During high school, I passed through a crap-ton of cultural scenes, never really finding a single one that felt like “home” – I was in the metal scene, ska scene, NY hardcore scene, hip-hop scene and eventually bottomed out as a raver. (He pauses to laugh at himself about this). After graduating, I spent 2 horrible soul-destroying years at SUNY Albany and then transferred to NYU.. After graduating with a double major in Philosophy and Sociology – and a minor in Psychology – I went to law school, and hated it. That said, my disgust with the schooling pushed me to find other ways to cater to my personal interests. During my time in Law School I founded a tech company that did SMS marketing and one that brought ghetto b+w porn to Palm Pilots (SkyHampton and PornAgo). I also had a short-lived Public Access show called The Manhattan Project, which chronicled underground NYC culture and events. And I started a food “zine” of sorts called No Reservations – the articles came printed on stuff that looked like old school recipe cards, image on one side and article on the other.
Already, you seem to have had some accomplishments underway…
I’m a Cultural DJ. Maybe that’s not the right term really but, it gets to one of the things I’m good at – taking pieces of pop culture and remixing them. Most of my projects come from pop culture and making that more accessible to people or putting it in a more open participatory format. It’s not culture you consume, as much as it is culture you experience. That’s one of the things that pushed me to doing what I do. I was sick of being a passive consumer of culture. Watching TV or playing video games or even reading are all passive activities. I feel that people get the most value from an experience the more they are actively involved in it. The crap I create is predicated on giving people a memorable, active experience – one that will teach them something, help them grow as people and maybe change the way they think or interact with the world.
Which brings us to Streetwars
It’s a citywide water gun assassination tournament. The playing field is the entire city, the game is on 24/7 and lasts 3 weeks. Basically, it’s like living in an action movie for a month. You are tasked with hunting someone, while at the same time being hunted by someone who you don’t know.
Are you kidding me? An entire city as the playground, people getting “hit” in their office by someone dressed up like a Fed Ex delivery person, going out on fake dates, car chases, rooftop jumps all with little to no injuries (knock on wood) and taking action in places like New York City, Vancouver, Vienna, San Francisco, L.A., London, Chicago and Paris. Different methods of killing depending on the city, makes each experience unique on its own, and lucky for us they are organizing another LA Streetwars game this summer.
Let’s talk about Rental Car Rally, since that is coming up first.
It’s a 36-hour city-to-city road trip competition between 50+ costumed teams. It’s like Halloween on wheels. Specifically, an overnight, backroads-mostly driving competition between crazily-festooned teams competing for cash prizes and a golden gas pump, Halloween. There are usually between 25 and 60 teams per event. It’s ballerhouse tits-out crazytown. If you’ve ever seen the movie Cannonball Run it’s also kinda like that, but with better mustaches and even less respect for nuns.
Coming this June as a matter of fact, RCR is pitting two cities against each other for the very first time- and making them fight to the high-octane death! Two starting lines: One in SF and one in LA. This is surely one not to be missed.
Not only has he helped to create the ridiculous and outlandish acts we just discussed, but his talents are not limited to said games. A few months ago he made a Kim Jong II shirt because he was his favorite dictator.
“Like bugs bunny cartoon type dictator. Thought it would be funny to imagine what he would look like in heaven now. Found a propaganda image he used to use, repurposed it as a Tshirt. Created pop culture.”
As you mentioned earlier in your career, there was a time when food was involved in the mix. And apparently, it has never really left the picture. I heard that you have some crazy “douche” burgers that you sell… Can you tell us a little about them and what makes them so G.D. good?
666 Burgers are made with a meat blend of sirloin, brisket and short rib, and spiced with salt and pepper. They are cooked medium rare, which is the only way to cook a burger made of good meat. Our burgers are served on a toasted potato roll, with a dab of ketchup. Fuck brioche buns.
That’s it. That’s all you need for an amazing burger eating experience…anyone tells you different and they’re hiding something wrong with their burger. Our meat is locally sourced from cows that have been raised humanely…fuck that actually, humanely is a common word used by every motherfucker that makes “high end” burgers nowadays – it means nothing.
Our cows were treated fucking awesomely. They ate grass to their hearts’ content, they freely roamed fucking picturesque scenery and chilled hard. They became delicious. Basically, they led a great, comfortable life and when time came for them to die, that was done with respect for the animal and painlessly. No fucking around with meat processing plants – this shit was like a religious sacrifice – the comfort and psychology of the animal was first and foremost.
From animal to meat to burger, we respect the sacrifice the animals make on our behalf…that’s why we highlight the beef, not tainting it with tomatoes, lettuce or other toppings. Toppings are a sign the burger is lacking, that it needs more flavor. Here’s a fucking crazy idea: how about you just make a burger that is amazingly delicious in and of itself? No need to throw crap on top – it will blow your mind solo.
Crap to know before ordering:
1. Don’t ask stupid questions.
2. No special orders or requests.
3. Know what you want to order. It’s not like we have a crap-ton of options…
4. The customer can often be wrong.
5. There are no vegetarian options (by definition a burger must have meat in it).
6. We reserve the right to ignore our own rules.
Hmm… are we channelling a little soup nazi here?! Franz, you have several specialty burgers to choose from on your menu, including the 666, the Satan, the Beelzeburger and the Rotating Regional. The two that have peaked my curiousity and I have to ask you about specifically are the 666 and the Douche Burger.
The 666 Burger is a custom locally sourced grind, grilled to juicy, mouthwatering perfection. An extreme level of deliciousness that all burgers should strive for, but which only 666 can attain. The Douche Burger costs $666.00 and consists of a fucking burger filled and topped with rich people shit. Kobe beef patty (wrapped in gold leaf), foie gras, caviar, lobster, truffles, imported aged gruyere cheese (melted with champagne steam) kopi luwak bbq sauce and Himalayan rock salt. It may not taste good, but it will make you feel rich as fuck. Douche.
As if you do not do enough here, you also host events called Flavor Tripping. Tell us what this is all about?
Flavor Tripping is an ongoing series of Bacchanalian food tasting smackdowns that occur about once a month, beginning in February ’08 in NYC and SF. Our events are smallish affairs held in an undisclosed location – not (only) because we’re wanted international criminals, but because we dig switching things up and matching the spaces to the events we’re hosting. The first series of tastings center on miracle fruit (Sideroxylon dulcificum if you want to get all scientific about it), a cranberry-sized West African berry that that numbs your sour and bitter tastebuds for a couple of hours after eating it. That means that everything that used to taste sour now tastes sweet. Fo’ reals. It’s like a candy Willy Wonka would have invented – after eating one stout beers taste like chocolate milkshakes, grapefruits taste like pixie sticks, cheeses taste like frosting, it will make even the crappiest tequila taste like lemonade (and strangely enough, it will make all wine taste like Manischewitz).
That sounds like some fun, and next time I am back in NYC we better do EVERY one of these activities. Maybe we should start organizing now. What can we expect from you in the future?
The apocalypse. Hopefully. In terms of the art/business I make, I expect to grow a lot more. I think until recently I didn’t really have a focus or foundation. It was just a bunch of different crap I was doing with no stated theme. This past year, I’ve spent a lot of time doing research on political and philosophical movements, as well as alternative art…and form that I feel like I’ve finally found an anchor for my work and, more importantly, an overall theme/guide/aesthetic for what I do. I’m still trying to come up with a proper name for the universe I’m in but, at least now each of my projects has an umbrella under which it operates, that guides its message and aesthetic. For example, Streetwars and Rental Car Rally and, to a lesser extent, Gunz n Chikn, are what I term Pervasive Reality Games.
It has been quite a pleasure to interview Franz, as he has so much going on it makes my head spin (in a good way.) Between the Rental Car Rallies, Street Wars, Flavor tripping, and Satanic Burgers, he is certainly considered one hell of a creative genius. I know I speak for everyone when I say we are excited to see where you take things next. I’m just going to go out on a limb here, but I do hope to see some boats involved… Don’t forget to sign up for Streetwars & RallyCar Racing LA!!! Happening SOON. As for the rest of you, and in the words of the late Notorious B.I.G., “If you don’t know, now you know.” – Jennifer Smith