So where am I going with this?? Ok, so the smart ones amongst you recognise the Arthur Brown quote at the top, but exactly what am I warbling on about this time??? Forest fires? A fire in the belly? Or the fact that I may soon be Fired for spending too much time blogging instead of working??? No, today for no other reason than I feel like an ‘ooo, check me out girlfriend’ blog, I bring you my sane, perfectly rational hobby – firebreathing.
Yes, firebreathing. And I’m not talking about the bad tempered variety either, but the totally logical voice in my head that sometimes says “Hey Assassin, what could compliment this balmy English summer’s evening better than gargling with highly explosive liquids and then playing with matches?!!”. Hey, who are you calling a nutter???
My fascination with this legendary circus show feat began several years ago after chatting idly one night with my best friend and Chief Protagonist Kwerky Kirk. For years, around more mainstream and respectable forms of employment, he’s been running Kwerky Kirk’s Circus, a loose (so very loose,) association of circus performers, sideshow freaks and dubious carny geezers. We were imbibing a few beers when I happened to comment to him that I thought fire was one of the more instant ‘crowd-pleaser’ stunts since everyone loves the thought of a guy possibly setting fire to himself. He, in turn, expressed surprise that I had never wanted to try it.
Several more beers later, history was made. Now before you all imagine that my first experiments with fire occured whilst drunk, let me shore up my friend’s reputation by assuring you all that my first session involved me spitting nothing but water at the side of his house. Which makes a pleasant change from the reasons people normally spit at his house.
In fact, safety has always been paramount during the whole time he’s been teaching me (a process that continues to this day) and throughout all our flame-based fun we have NEVER practised without a fire extinguisher and a first aid kit very close by. So why worry so much if we’re these exciting, on-the-edge performers?? BECAUSE IT’S FREAKING DANGEROUS!!!!!! I won’t give away the secrets of the materials and methods we use, but the fuel is a derivative of the same stuff they use to fuel aeroplanes. Yes, planes. Suddenly the extinguisher looks a little less pussy, no??
Luckily for me I live on a relatively small island with lots of open spaces where I can go less than ten minutes from my house and practice on stunning beaches without people turning heads – our island’s population has a fairly high FPM2 rating (Freaks Per Square Mile). This has led to many nights where impromptu crowds have gathered to watch us, cheer encouragment, and count the number of bits of metal through Kirk’s face. Dog walkers have been startled, small children have been scared to tears, and one guy even asked us how much an ‘accident’ at his business would cost him. This is how urban terrorism starts.
Luckily, as upstanding pillars of the community we would never act with disrespect for the law, so that building is still standing. Which is more than you can say for us sometimes. You see, fire is a fickle mistress. If you bought fire a pair of Jimmy Choo’s, it would complain they weren’t Christian Laboutin’s. (Ask your wife/girlfriend.) The upshot of this is that much like marriage, just when you thought you’d done nothing wrong it turns round and bites you in the ass. Or face. For every 20 foot fireball we pull during a show, there is a burnt lip or singed hair in practice. For every mushroom cloud you ooh and aah at, there is a burn dressing and lots of swearing behind the scenes. And on one memorable occasion, the answer to the question “why can I smell burning hair?” was “because your lower face is on fire, dude”. Still, no pain no gain, right??
So why the hell do I continue to firebreathe when I rarely have time away from my ‘real’ job to attend gigs (for which there are many lucrative offers), run the very real risk of burning myself severely, and come away dirty and drained, smelling like I just tried to copulate with an oil tanker? Actually, that only happened once…..
The answer is the same as the reason people jump out of aeroplanes or throw themselves off bridges – the enormous adrenaline rush. The feeling of intense heat coupled with the roar of the flame (and when you pull off a big flame trust me, that roar is LOUD!) followed by cheers from the crowd gives that old familiar buzz of performance that any stage artist can describe to you. In a primal, man-conquers-fire kind of way, there’s also something satisfying about taming a natural phenomenon and shaping it to your will – most of the time. Mind you, watching the wind change mid-blow (insert pun here) and the fireball you just blew do a 180 in mid-air and head straight for your face provides a wholly different kind of adrenaline!!
And also there’s something about Kwerky and I that brings out the best/worst in each other. Let me give you more of an insight into how a normal practice session between Kirk and I normally unfolds, and you may understand why perhaps our particular brand of firebreathing tends to lead to a more on-the-edge performance. We typically start with a few standard fireballs, progress on to some shaped flames and fakir work (running flame over the body,in the mouth etc etc) and then pause for a break and re-fuel. This is where the trouble starts.
Kirk: Hey man, have you ever wondered what would happen if we both breathed, but crossed the streams into one giant fireball??
Assassin: What, Ghostbusters style? Wouldn’t that involve us blowing fire toward each other??
Kirk: Yeah. Reckon that’d be a problem??
Assassin: Two lunatics who know no self control blowing 15 foot sheets of flame at each other? Plus the variables of wind, distance and so on??? Sounds like a freaking crazy idea if you ask me.
Kirk: So that’s a no then?
Assassin: Nah, screw it, let’s do this…….
You begin to get my drift.
Among other tricks we’ve tinkered with over the last few years is a beaut we refer to as “The Matador”. This is our variation on a classic move known as the ‘ground bounce’. This involves blowing the flame directly at the ground in front of you so that it bounces up off of the floor before exploding in every direction. Now, substitute one normal fire performer for one Kwerky Kirk. Place in front of him one Assassin, brandishing a matador cape. Can you see where this is going???? As my thankfully trusted friend blows an enormous fireball into the ground in front of me, I (hopefully) twirl the cape ‘TORO!!’ style, dragging a sheet of flame behind me. Looks amazing, but you can imagine the practice sessions for that one……
I won’t say too much more here, since I’m hoping you’ll take the time to click the comments bubble at the top of this blog and ask me some questions about this – some of you readers have a great sense of adventure, and I’d love to read your input. One last thought though…… be careful next time I’m round yours and you ask me to light the BBQ……..
MAYA CON DIOS.