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Sir Pinkerton Xyloma Interview Part 2

By on December 18, 2011

In the first half of this interview Sir Pinkerton Xyloma talked about the genesis of Dead Man’s Carnival, a “Circus Inspired Vaudeville Variety show” which rose up from the streets of Milwaukee’s River West. In the second and final installment of the interview we learn about the dangers of playing with fire, and the foreseeable future of DMC.

[dcs_hightlight rounded=”0″]JNC:[/dcs_hightlight] Given the nature of your performances what’s the craziest, wildest, maybe even scariest thing that’s ever happened at a DMC show?

[dcs_hightlight rounded=”0″]SPX:[/dcs_hightlight] We’ve had a lot of really interesting experiences because part of our artistic goal is to challenge ourselves, challenge the audience to put on a bigger and better show. Some people want to limit the spectrum of what you can experience because they want to do something that’s time-tested and true and sure. We’ve done some stuff that’s a little more on the wild side, a little more unexpected, so we’ve experienced some interesting things. We’ve had a lot of near misses with serious injury. Once I saw Erik Bang, one of my performance partners, on fire at a show. He does a glass act. I can say without a doubt he has the absolute best glass act I have ever seen. He takes a five-gallon bucket of broken beer and wine bottles he dumps out on a tarp. He proceeds to remove his shoes and get the crowd real amped up — and that’s the most important part. It’s the theatrical timing, figuring out how to put a pretty little frame around it to make something that’s an oddity the type of experience that you’ll be telling people about for 20 years to come. He’s a master at that particular art form—so he then proceeds to jump into the pile of broken glass barefoot. But that’s just the overture. By the end of the performance he’s butt-naked, done a belly flop into this pile of broken glass…

[dcs_hightlight rounded=”0″]JNC:[/dcs_hightlight] A completely naked belly flop?

[dcs_hightlight rounded=”0″]SPX:[/dcs_hightlight] A completely bare-butt naked belly flop. Then he rolls over and pulls out the pieces of glass that haven’t actually cut him, but are still gauged into his scrotum, chest, wherever else. Then he has people stand on top of him. The big, big finale, the edge-of-your-seat-even-the-people-in-the-troop-don’t-like-to-watch-it-type finale. He has an audience member stand on a chair, hold a bowling ball above their [own] head and he puts a pile of flaming dinner plates onto his belly and has them drop the ball, shattering the plates sending flames and glass everywhere [laughs].

When we did this act in Phoenix once he had too much fuel on the plates. Generally what would happen is the impact of the bowling ball would completely or almost completely snuff out the flames. Instead he was showered with a napalm-like explosion. As every elementary school kid knows, when you find yourself on fire you stop, drop, and roll. You can’t do that laying in a pile of broken glass. Long story short: basically a photographer named Lindsey Nack we had on tour with us captured this moment where I’m in a sprint away from the piano I was playing. The emcee is jaw dropped. The burlesque dancers and the volunteer from the audience have no idea this isn’t supposed to happen so they’re laughing their asses off like it’s the funniest thing they’ve ever seen. [Erik] jumps up and punches himself in the scrotum to put out the fire [laughing].

[dcs_hightlight rounded=”0″]JNC:[/dcs_hightlight] N-i-i-ice. That’s definitely wild.

[dcs_hightlight rounded=”0″]SPX:[/dcs_hightlight] He had a burn but nothing serious, nothing on the genitalia. It was just one of those close call types of things. It was a lot scarier than it was dangerous.

[dcs_hightlight rounded=”0″]JNC:[/dcs_hightlight] Definitely unexpected.

[dcs_hightlight rounded=”0″]SPX:[/dcs_hightlight] We always have fire safety stuff on hand. Despite years of doing really, really, crazy shit we’ve never had a real injury. He had a small burn on his hip, and we gave the audience exactly what they wanted. He still did another finale after that where he went out into the parking lot and set off a homemade flamethrower, put a fireball 75 feet into the air, and then had the entire circus crew ride tall bikes, unicycles, rollers skates, you name it, across him while he had a board across his chest.

[dcs_hightlight rounded=”0″]JNC:[/dcs_hightlight] Pretty good considering his testicles had just been on fire.

[dcs_hightlight rounded=”0″]SPX:[/dcs_hightlight] Oh yeah. We had to air out the room because of the smell of burnt pubic hair.

[dcs_hightlight rounded=”0″]JNC:[/dcs_hightlight] You don’t get that sort of thing at most shows [laughs]

[dcs_hightlight rounded=”0″]SPX:[/dcs_hightlight] No. But when I tell this story, I stress we’re not one of those Tijuana blood, piss, and vomit shock value shows. When he presents something like that he puts enough comic relief and charisma into it. The crowd likes him and they want him to succeed. He’s a showman. And while we do some insane circus sideshow to continue the legacy and tradition we’re not a one trick pony. We have some of the best jazz musicians in [Milwaukee]. We have opera singers and break dancers; people who can balance on top of stuff and juggle objects and do things that are awe inspiring. A wide-array of different skill sets. That separates us from a lot of these groups doing similar things around the country. We want to take you as many places as we can during the performance.

[dcs_hightlight rounded=”0″]JNC:[/dcs_hightlight] In American pop culture circuses and carnivals are often given a nightmarish quality. A lot of people are terrified of clowns. You see all these comic book super villains with circus gimmicks. Does DMC embrace this scary image, or attempt to tear it down?

[dcs_hightlight rounded=”0″]SPX:[/dcs_hightlight] It’s just like say, zombies. It’s something that’s captured the universal consciousness of people. It’s something that’s really appealing or ridiculous I guess. There’s an absurdity to it. But there’s definitely an angle to that in our shows being the Dead Man’s carnival. We don’t particularly go out of our way to be overly stylized in that sense. I think one of the things that separates us on a national scale from many of these other groups on the West Coast, a lot of these other Burning Man-type circus groups is that they have a convoluted absurdity to them. They’re not themselves. They go back to L.A. and they have whatever their day job is, but on the weekend they put the masquerade stuff on, and there’s nothing wrong with that, I don’t want to put that down. I have no intention to. I love to go to those kinds of events. But our approach is much more heartfelt. We might be goofy sometimes but we don’t get out there and talk like we think a carnival person would talk; “LADIES AND GENTLEMEN…” sort of clichés like that. We’re not a theater troop pretending to be a bunch of carnies. We’re a bunch of carnies. We don’t go out of our way to pigeon hole ourselves into some sort of typecast archetypes.

We will reference that stuff. We’ve had some spooky, darker themes. The first group bit we ever wrote, we were trying to come up with a narrative storyline for the skillsets that we had. We had a clown bit about a drunken hobo that actually turned out to be a brain surgeon who was operating on an insane patient who ends up getting killed during surgery because the surgeon is drunk. He ends up becoming a zombie, escaping from a straitjacket, and killing everyone [laughs]. So we’re definitely playing with that darker them there. My favorite joke in the whole bit is after everyone is killed including myself, the narrator, the only one left is the saxophone player. He’s looking around trying to find something to protect himself with. He doesn’t know what to do. He grabs whatever he can find and puts it in front of him like a shield. It ends up being a pamphlet for PETA. The zombie is going “brains, brains!” then he reads it and goes “grains, grains!” and runs off stage. Since then we’ve been trying to find more ways just to be ourselves.

[dcs_hightlight rounded=”0″]JNC:[/dcs_hightlight] Is there any advice you’d give someone who’s going to see a DMC show for the first time?

[dcs_hightlight rounded=”0″]SPX:[/dcs_hightlight] The thing that makes it a show is we’re all gathered together. It’s an event. There are very few places in life where you’re given permission to create the situation that you want. You’re given the tools, your encouraged to be a participant. We also leave it open-ended enough where suddenly if the show turned into a dance party I wouldn’t be offended. It’s a “Live at the Apollo” type feel. It’s an electric atmosphere. The more enegry people bring to it, the better it will be. I encourage people to come armed (mentally).

[dcs_hightlight rounded=”0″]JNC:[/dcs_hightlight] And wear some asbesto underwear just in case.

[dcs_hightlight rounded=”0″]SPX:[/dcs_hightlight] Exactly.

[dcs_hightlight rounded=”0″]JNC:[/dcs_hightlight] Is there anything else you’d like to cover, before I run out of space on my recorder?

[dcs_hightlight rounded=”0″]SPX:[/dcs_hightlight] We are currently recruiting. We have a very ambitious goal for next season. We are changing the format of our show. We’re going to have one every month instead of every other month, or third month. We’ll be at the Miramar Theatre [in Milwaukee] the first Friday of every month starting in April [2012]. We have an open cast call not only for performers, but street crew, tech people. What we’re doing with this show is we’re going to be documenting it with a camera crew. And depending on how long it takes we’re boiling it down into a web-show. We’re going to be bringing a lot more national superstars from this particular scene. Veteran West Coast, East Coast, whatever. Our main focus is to connect the dots between all the mid-sized Midwest cities. Kind of like Minneapolis, to Chicago, to St. Louis, to Detroit to everything in between—Indianapolis, where ever. We want to make something worthy of the history books instead of “oh, that was a good time.” The web show will be a montage similar to some of these questions you’ve asked. “You guys do all this yourself? From making the graphics to building the sets?” Something to help people learn. This isn’t something we own. This is something we hope passes on to another generation of performers.

[dcs_hightlight rounded=”0″]JNC:[/dcs_hightlight] Sort of spread the sickness if you will?

[dcs_hightlight rounded=”0″]SPX:[/dcs_hightlight] Exactly.

Following the interview Pinkerton informed me that the Dead Man’s Carnival is interested in bringing their unique brand of entertainment to small towns. If you’d like to bring the DMC to your venue, or you’d like to assist as a street team member call Pinkerton at (414)-364-4796 or e-mail him at

The DMC’s 2011 season finale will be December 31st, 2011 at the Miramar Theatre in Milwaukee –

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J. Nathan Couch

About J. Nathan Couch

J. Nathan Couch is an author and paranormal investigator. He is part of the Wisconsin-based Paranormal Investigation and Research Society, and guides ghost walks and bus tours in support of Washington County Paranormal. His new book Goatman: Flesh or Folklore? is available now.


  1. J. Nathan Couch

    December 18, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    Superb looking, and I’m always happy to bring stories of flaming balls to my fellow Wisconsin Sickos.

    • Chuk

      December 19, 2011 at 2:12 pm

      The site really felt like it was missing something before. I think flaming testicles is just what it needed.

      • J. Nathan Couch

        December 19, 2011 at 4:29 pm

        You’re right… when I visit the site it does feel more complete now.

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