He's been called a lot of things: Narcissist, predator, cult guru. And now, someone who worked closely with Derick Ion on what might be the only documented music video filmed inside the "Ghost Ship" warehouse that burned down on Dec. 2 is defending the man who led the artists collective inside that building
Ion, who made international headlines after his critics blamed him for the fire, refused to answer questions about the building's safety on the Today Show, saying he would rather "get on the floor and get trampled by the parents" of those who lost their lives in the fire.
On the one-week anniversary of the deadliest blaze in the United States in 13 years, Alexander Doré, who was a regular at the Oakland warehouse, provides a window into the art commune that went up in flames, taking 36 lives with it.
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Doré, a former bassist for the San Francisco funk band, "Sly & the Family Stone," posted a link to a music video by a group called the "ROCchilds" on a Facebook memorial page for the victims, calling the space "a real bridge to the black urban music scene in Oakland." "This was not a hippie drop zone, this is some serious s---," he wrote.
The three-minute long video, titled "Do Wonts," directed by Oakland-based producer, Shaan Dimri, briefly shows Ion, and his wife Micah Allison, walking through the rooms of the warehouse to strains of electronic and funk at the 1:36 mark. "Derick produced the video, I set up how the music should roll," Doré said in a phone interview from San Diego, speaking at length about the collaboration that took place in 2014. "It may be the only video that captures the essence of the art and the space. It shows we were serious about the space it was another dimension, a refuge from the rest of the world." [[405710365, C]]
He insists the warehouse wasn't a "Burning Man clubhouse."
Doré, who previously worked in technology, said he found the warehouse while he was going through a really bad divorce. "I couldn’t find a space to do any kind of music, it was terrible. I ended up lost and exposed," he said. Doré started playing at bars and clubs in Oakland, and a chance encounter with a young woman led him to the warehouse.
"At first I was like, whatever … Then I went over there: the place was full of abandoned organs — like 150 organs, museum pieces, foot pedals … It was a really cool space," he said. "Downstairs were the makeshift lofts, upstairs was the mezzanine floor. Derick was excited I was bringing music to the place that wasn’t just artsy hippy."
Doré credits Ion for helping him through the darkest days of his divorce, with "his form of tough love."
He remembers not wanting to stay past midnight at the warehouse. "I didn’t want to leave my car outside. It was a horrible neighborhood: break-ins, prostitutes," he said. Doré eventually left Oakland after he was shot one night near Lake Merritt.
Doré remembers Ion kicking out all the freeloaders when he was there. "They (Ion and his wife) had some problem with their children and the CPS," he said. Ion was also into tantra, Doré said, remembering paintings on the wall and rooms crammed with sculptures. Ion and his wife called their collective "Satya Yoga," or the age of truth, and the collective's Facebook profile picture is that of Kali, the Hindu goddess of destruction who is worshiped by tantrics.
But at the end of the day, Doré said: "It was a family and a home, and for some it was an art space, a roof preferable to living on the streets. Derick shared his food with everybody and cooked with everybody."
He remembers it being a no smoking space: "No candles or incense."
Ironically, a sign that keeps showing up in the video says: "Not responsible for fire or theft."
"Ghoulish and a prediction," Doré said.[[405711515, C]]
Doré doesn’t deny that the two-story building — which had no sprinklers or fire alarms — was a death trap. "Everyone who went there and stayed there knew that," he said. "I don’t think you're thinking of a major disaster at an event when you’re thinking of how to survive."
Doré questions why the city didn’t shut down the warehouse if it was unsafe. Oakland city officials said at a press conference Thursday that building inspectors had not stepped inside the property for thirty years.
As for finding a safe place where artists’ can thrive in Oakland, Doré said: "It’s a greater problem, it’s a city problem, it’s a social problem. The city leaves it up to the non-profits and the wealthy. This situation is very bad for artists."
The mayor of Oakland pledged a $1.7 million grant for "safe, affordable" art spaces after the fire.
In the end, Doré said, "the artists collective was a great idea ruined by the trappings of poverty and city government."
A day after the fire, Ion was slammed on Facebook for lamenting more about the material possessions he lost in the fire rather than the lives lost in it.
Five months before the fire, Ion claimed in a Facebook post he was "the thriller love child of Manson, Pol Pot and Hitler."
Doré said that he got to know the "many sides of a complex personality" while spending time with Ion: He was “a man that suffered the death of his brother early in life (there was a shrine to his brother in front of the warehouse), a man that suffered terribly for his passions of life."
Ion’s critics have vociferously lashed out against him in the media following the fire, claiming he knew about the building’s hazards but didn’t do anything about it. Some pointed at his rambling Facebook posts, calling him unstable, eccentric and even dangerous. Several people who lived at the warehouse or rented it out said Ion would argue with them. One Yelp reviewer talks about Ion’s temper, saying he had slammed a promoter’s head against a door over a booking.
"Yes, he was an a------, but all artists are," Doré said. "He would never willingly harm a fly, but would give his life to protect his wife and children and his external family that he refers to about anyone that is in his circle of trust and honesty."