Dance Music’s Newest Deviant: Nick Abarca of “Under the Electric Sky”

Nick Abarca shaves his entire body, wears spirit hoods and booty shorts to festivals, and may or may not have used a Desert Eagle pistol as a sex toy on more than one occasion. He has almost no private life to speak of: he posts risqué photos with multiple partners from the lavish parties he throws on his social media avenues, leaving few details to the imagination. While some might cite Abarca’s lifestyle as an example of the excesses of rave culture, a closer inspection reveals that it’s only the start of a much bigger conversation.

Nick Abarca alongside camera equipment used at one of his events.

Nick Abarca alongside camera equipment used at one of his events.

Right now, for example, he could be fighting any one of the numerous fires raging in Northern California in 24-hour shifts. “It’s a super difficult and demanding job, but I secretly get a sick pleasure knowing I can do it,” Abarca admitted to DJOYbeat during a rest day in between two such stints. “I love challenging myself and pushing the extremes so it’s perfect for me. I even get paid to work out twice a day!” When he’s not at a festival catching DJ sets (bass music artists like Pretty Lights and Figure among his favorites) or organizing parties that range from open admission to invite only, he certainly stays busy.

Abarca’s strong sense of self-discipline doesn’t end at his professional life, either. His father (who, along with his affectionate mother, attempted to raise him a Christian, ironically enough) taught him skills like carpentry, framing and electrical engineering from childhood on. “These skills are what have enabled me to build the fantastical world that I live in,” he explains. “I became very interested in accumulating knowledge at a young age and began teaching myself anything that I felt could help me succeed in life.” One such culmination of his thirst for life skills took the form of the Sensory Overload Chamber, an invention of Abarca’s featured in the recent documentary Under The Electric Sky, which followed a handful of attendees’ experiences of the 2013 edition of the Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) Las Vegas festival. Regarding the device’s conception, he recalls:

“At my very first EDC I was standing in front of a giant stack of subwoofers and staring into the sea of lights. The bass was so intense that I could feel the music inside my body. I had found it: Absolute euphoria! When I got home I decided that I was going to try to build something to replicate this natural high, so I started by making an interior chamber with a memory foam mattress. I put two-by-eights, two-by-tens and two-by-twelves in it along with a full sound system, a full lighting system, a ventilation system, and a touch-screen computer – all of which are manually controllable by the user to create an endless variety of environments to suit your mood and tastes. There’s two feet of insulation to keep in the massive amount of bass. I built a gall-wing door just like a DeLorean because that shit is badass. You can fit two or three people lying down or eight people sitting up.I built this with a single user in mind, but it turns out it is really fun to ‘ride’ with your friends or have wild sex adventures in.”


Inside Abarca’s Sensory Overload Chamber.

And although he holds that the details of his creation (as well as any of his other ideas) are open source to anyone, the commitment involved likely falls outside what the average hobbyist would be willing to devote to recreating it. Even with Abarca’s skill set, the prototype took him three months to build. Construction and electrical equipment aside, the raw materials cost about $4,000 – and even though it’s only halfway done, expenses for his new model have already cleared $15,500. Abarca maintains that he would be honored to see somebody improve upon his designs or even build one just to enjoy with their friends, but has also announced that commercial models will be available for sale in the next couple of years.

More importantly, he considers his invention to be one part of a much grander vision. “I created the Sensory Overload Empire as a lifestyle brand to encompass all of my creative work and give it an identity,” he says. “All of my projects focus on creating the most intense and pleasurable experience obtainable without synthetic chemicals. Partying sober is much more healthy and sustainable for the future of our culture and I believe it is possible to greatly reduce drug use by creating an environment so epic that no drugs are needed.” Whether or not illicit substances are an ingredient of any given partygoer’s experience, no community-conscious EDM enthusiast can deny that sober role models do the movement good – if for no other reason than because they take off heat from the mainstream media.

Which is not to say that all of Abarca’s strong opinions will resonate well with the EDM community. “Additionally, I work on the creation of a flawless social group through meticulous social editing and selection,” he says, “with the eventual goal of creating a raver utopia where other like minded people can live a 24/7, 365 alternative lifestyle free of the problems that plague our mainstream society.” Aside from the obvious criticism – that such a lofty goal seems more than a little unrealistic for somebody planning to achieve it through working in the entertainment industry – it’s also principally similar to elements of social engineering contrary to the inclusive ideology of peace, love, unity and respect (PLUR) widely regarded as the fundamental tenet of modern rave culture.

But everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, and the people who are capable of influencing a wide audience often have strong, even controversial ones. A certain measure of ego is necessary for anyone to be able to assert themselves to the degree that Abarca has – and at that, he’s doing nothing that would outwardly harm others. Despite being an open advocate of polyamory, after all, he’s not without his own value system. “I have a very strict set of moral standards that I hold myself to… The main concept that I live my life by is ‘If it doesn’t hurt other people, the earth or yourself, do whatever makes you happy,” he says. “If some people perceive me as objectifying women, it only comes from insufficient information or a prude mindset. Girls bring me more happiness than anything and I treat them all like the princesses that they are. All the girls around me that express themselves sexually are doing so because they want to and because I have created an environment where they can do so without being judged.”

Members of Sensory Overload Empire and Lady Luck Productions at the last Neon Paint Party. Front and center: Nick Abarca (left) and Arielle Zippi. Top left to top right: Kelly Eubanks, Jake Smith, Chris Elisarraras, Leighann Graham, Drew Miyahara, Desirae Yvonne and Robert Petersen.

Members of Sensory Overload Empire and Lady Luck Productions at the last Neon Paint Party. Front and center: Nick Abarca (left) and Arielle Zippi (right). Top left to top right: Kelly Eubanks, Jake Smith, Chris Elisarraras, Leighann Graham, Drew Miyahara, Desirae Yvonne and Robert Petersen.

Dance music already has its fair share of sex symbols, but Nick Abarca is more. In the early days of the scene, warehouse parties were themselves environments of open sexuality and freedom from judgement; as much as anyone might want the participants of rave culture to focus only on the music, it’s been about much more than that since its conception. Abarca is an active contributor to the sexual identity of the culture surrounding this musical movement. He’s a case study in and of himself, a hard “yes” to the question of whether those who live outside social norms can lead productive, respectable lives. If nothing else, he’s a civil servant putting his life at risk to quell a pressing natural disaster as of this writing.

Abarca promotes his projects on Facebook through his personal profile as well as the Sensory Overload Empire fan page. His next event is Neon Paint Party VI, a collaboration with Lady Luck Productions in San Miguel, California on August 23.

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