"I do like mixing music, but I like to do a lot of things. I like to cut and shape aluminum. I like to talk to people. I like to study architecture. I like noticing patterns in chaos, what's controlled and what's uncontrollable," he says intensely, smoking cigarettes and drinking strong coffee as he fidgets on a leopard-print chair.
Most recently, what Sweet likes doing best is brainstorming ideas for his new underground music-and-art space, a multi-media locale known as the Recreational Vehicle. Since landing the space three months ago, the RV has become ground zero for Sweet's plan to become a cultural catalyst for the city of Denver. Using models he perfected during a ten-year stint as a DJ in New York City, Sweet and his like-minded contemporaries recently hosted the first of many "events" to be held in the RV. It was an evening of music, dancing and performance and visual art that wielded a few surprises, even for the group of roughly 150 underground sophisticates in attendance.
"We had Khan, an old-school German producer who's been into everything from house to trip-hop for fifteen years, and everyone was expecting him to just perform. But he got on the microphone and was singing, talking to the audience. He got up on the table and stripped down to his underwear, and everyone was laughing and dancing--they were able to interact with the artist as he was making his art.
"People came up to me after that and said, 'Whoa! I've never seen anything like that before.' That was very satisfying."
That the Khan event took place on the RV's maiden voyage seems appropriate, as it exhibited just the kind of unexpected and inexplicable element Sweet hopes to bring to every hodgepodge evening he hosts. More than raves or straight techno dance parties, Sweet envisions RV happenings as multi-media events including live and DJ music and performance and visual art, where the environment is as much a part of things as the more tangible, performance-oriented attractions.
The building, housed above an architectural antiques shop in an industrial neighborhood, is vast, airy and only slightly dilapidated--a few windows missing here and there, a few loose wires. When not serving as a bizarre backdrop for fetes bordering on the otherworldly, the RV is the place Sweet and his dog Micro call home. Sweet's currently constructing a Murphy-esque bed to slide in and out of one of the walls--a handy little invention that allows strains of domesticity to vanish when appropriate. On a sunny afternoon, a large portion of the space is enveloped by an enormous, billowing inflatable sculpture, essentially three or four gigantic plastic tubes ironed together at the seams and attached to box fans. At times the structures look like luminous pillows, at others they resemble huge candy wrappers, or sea creatures, depending on one's angle and inclination. A swing set fashioned from simple hardware sits quietly under it all.
"I want people to think of the RV as kind of like a movie set in action," says Sweet of the interior. "I'm inviting people to come and be in a movie with no script."
Though Sweet's goals may at first sound lofty, he could actually be capable of pulling them off. Before finally settling in Denver earlier this year, he spent a year and a half bouncing between Boulder and New York, and in both cities produced and deejayed under the persona of Dr. Decent. For the better part of the decade, his company, Recreational Vinyl, hosted multi-media parties and events encompassing everything from avant-garde jazz and poetry to underground theater. The combination once led the New York Times to name one of Sweet's productions, held in Andy Warhol's old Factory, a "perfect New York event." Sweet also refined his knack for creating interactive, inspiring environments while building educational installations for the Brooklyn Children's Museum. Sweet's enthusiasm for the projects of the past and future has an infectious quality, and listening to him expand on them produces an effect not unlike the trance induced by the electronica music he spins.
"People are always asking me what these events are, what we do. Simply put, I want to create a multi-media art happening in a fun and safe way. To combine the visual and the tactile and the sonic. I want people to use their imaginations.
"People can come here and they can dance; they can have an experience that they can feel and touch. It won't be so loud that they can't meet and talk to people. But they can also just sit on a chair and daydream."
At press time, Sweet was finalizing preparations for the RV's second event, a performance featuring New York's DJ Swingset and locals DJ Ivy, Allen and DJ Skunk, to be held Wednesday, August 4. As will be his method for publicizing future Vehicle happenings, Sweet spread the word about the swinging affair through fliers and techno-oriented Web sites such as the Boulder-based www.radiovalve.com.
Sweet is currently in conference with other residents of the building, planning a large event, tentatively slated for October, that will encompass three spaces and use five DJs in each room. While he's trying to work out logistical bugs (such as the fact that there are no common doors between the spaces), Sweet expects DJ Dimitri from Dee-Lite and DJs Olive and Lloop from the Boulder band We to be among those spinning. He is also building the foundation for Recreational Vinyl, the record label, a Denver-New York crossover that would recruit talent out of the Big Apple and be managed here in town. And like the Vehicle parties, the label's mission would be to expose and mingle the best work of various artists, both well-known DJs and unknowns. It's a good bet that once the label is under way (Sweet hopes to release a first single by spring), Denver denizens can expect to see Vinyl acts coming home to the RV mother ship.
"This is meant to be a youthful, playful environment," he says. "Even if people don't know anything about electronic or dance music, I'm sure they'll find something here they recognize, something familiar. Basically, I'm just inviting everyone to my big, weird parties."
The Recreational Vehicle, 1320 27th Street (27th and Larimer). RV events are open to any person over 18.