SRL: Survival Rendering Labs-Austin Texas 1997.
A Work in FSU Major/Progress

by Seth Maxwell Malice
Images from Karen Marcelo


This piece written/updated as of April 21st, 1997 still incomplete. Any complaints or corrections (spelling included) should be addressed to Any resemblance to any animals used in this, living or dead, is purely dead.

Any piece of this material to be used for anything else, other then the SRL Web site, MUST have permission of the author and SRL or we'll shoot your ass.


Survival Research Labs (SRL) is a unique Mechanical Performance group, formed by Mark Pauline. Since the 70's Mark has been making machines that rip and tear machine, meat and whatever gets in their way.

Using industrial leftovers, machines are created by the tossed aside components of a previous era.

With the dumpstered wastes of yesteryears' crap, it's all reshaped and reused in an impressive display of civilian firepower.

The machines have name like the Walking Machine, the Inch-worm, and one of the new machines, The Hand of God; a massive hand propelled by an Army surplus bomb loader, created for loading bombs on bombers.

SRL is not a touring band. To put on a show, the amount of labor is intensive.

SRL consists of crews of people and volunteers working together doing everything from rebuilding the machines, "making them come to life" to building sets, cooking meals, living together, and singing camp songs around a warm diesel fire.

An SRL show is like seeing a bizarre juvenile delinquent demolition derby. The performances are loud, large, and impressive. The machines looking like they just crawled out of the earth, caked with rust and oil. It's like seeing a back-hoe taking on a fork-lift, except the machines are equipped with flame throwers, spinning blades and rusty shit, that looks as though it can cut your head off. And it could.

It's amazing to see what kind of military left-overs can be recycled and used in the hands of a civilian.

By seeing a show, the audience itself is taking a risk. Flaming diesel is all over the place; a lot of the props/targets built are pretty menacing when the remains of their debris is flying through the air..

Essentially you're seeing a high-tech circus put on by delinquent mechanics, who want to do nothing more then fuck shit up with their creations.

S.R.L. tends to break taboos, taking the word "controversial" while giving you examples to exemplify their point; like a matador waving a red cape in front of an angry bull; the bull usually being the local law enforcement agencies and/or the Fire Marshall.

The artwork, the flats, are like seeing the facade of a freakshow. Artist Cati, French and hyper-active, paints out the flats of the set, with her demented visions, usually falling the theme of the show. This one being disasters.

Mark's photoshop collages are tiled out into 8 to 12 foot flats. They include everything from an orgy of gay cowboys, to a naked happy camper towering "behind" a Texas longhorn. You know...ironic, yet "offensive." But still, they always tend to put a smile on peoples faces...

The props garish, but incredibly large and staged out. As though you were the first on the scene of a train wreck.

A collaborate effort, SRL is an organization made up of people from all walks of life, every social cast.

The labor involved is a labor of love, from SRL members, to the local volunteers. Each others skills of artistry, mechanics, robotics, pyrotechnics, production, promotion, on-site/on-line networking, documenting, acquisition, all "finely tuned" and integrated with one another...well, to the best of their abilities...

It's all Industrial Strength, Industrial Culture, y'all.

Dear Diary,
Today I think I saw Mark Pauline. He was wearing oil-stained overalls. He was getting an orange in the cantina. Oh, boy, I think it's going to be a great show! Oh, Diary, I never thought it could get any better then this. Today I stopped at Callahans, and bought some real sharp looking Dude-wear! Oh, diary, now maybe the all the other mechanics will be so jealous of me.
Oh, yeah, diary, I hope Mike Dingle doesn't find this. Dingle is the guy who can tell if you've been hanging around with your hands in your pockets or not. A rough character. Mean. But diary, I think he smiled at me...I guess he can be an all right guy. O.K. Diary, I gotta go, Dingle wants me to sweep the race track, and after that, maybe I can have donut, if any are left in the kitchen...
And so it goes...on the plains of Texas. Surrounded by shit-kickers, pick-up trucks, deep in the heart of Texas...

Day One; Arrival....

Pulled in. Massive road rash from driving 36 hours from SF to Austin. About a dozen people from SRL are already out here. They flew in a few days earlier.

South of Austin is where the Longhorn Speedway is located; an oval asphalt racetrack where the SRL show is taking place.

The weather was wet. The rain earlier had turned the track into a swamp, with small lakes formed in the grass on either side of the asphalt. We were bumming out. Rain sucks. Mud sucks worse.

As we pulled up, the first thing spotted was on of the flatbed stuck in the mud, outside the track. The flatbed pretty much has the rest of the machines and other parts on the back. The first sign of life at the show is the massive tow-truck aptly named "Shameless." -as in the price they charged for pulling out the flatbed.

We were directed towards the Flameblower, a giant Flame Thrower powered by a V-8. Our first job was to rotate the hood 45 degrees, so the blower would shoot out and up, instead of horizontally. That was accomplished with an a-frame (like a tall swing set frame), a winch, and a hand winch (come-along).

The Speedway is littered with debris/parts for the show, strategically placed where that piece is going to be set. In front of the Grandstands, laying in the grass is what looks like a giant erector set. It's the frame for the building of the 40 foot tower...the Charles Whitman Memorial Tower.

Texas History.

On the campus of the University of Texas, is the UT Tower. The UT Tower spans high above the skyline of Austin, containing one of the largest bell collections in the country, along with an red-orange light. In the past, a favorite launching pad for suicidal UT students, failing their mid-terms.

In 1965, a heavily medicated Charles Whitman, doped up on amphetamines, Demerol, and goof-balls, blew away the receptionist and some students, while heading up to the observation deck of the tower. From there, he made a day of it, picking of pedestrians, until the tower was stormed, and his mark was made in history. (for more information, refer to WWW.Mayhem.NET; the Crime archives).

The Surroundings.

The Longhorn Speedway is located off 183, about 15 miles south of Austin. The track is oval, with an asphalt "X" crossing through the center. On either side of the raceway are dilapidated bleachers, with 3 separate entrances onto the track. Besides the asphalt, the rest of the track is grass.

Along the back of the stretch of the track, is where the shop is set. Tarped over, it's the main center where all the tools, lathes, drills, bolts, welding equipment...everything is located. This is where parts are fabricated; formed.

All along the back of the lot, are campers, an AirStream, mobile homes, and a couple of other white trash living quarters for the crew.

On Procuring Living Quarters.

The quarters are oddly scrounged up by Flynn Malfee, one of the main "point men" of the Austin show. Apparently, while driving around, he spots Winnebagos and campers in peoples yards, then hits them up, offering to rent them for a couple of weeks. So far he's been pretty successful. The back lot of the Speedway is looking like a demented trailer park for Urban Refugees. Come to think of it, it is...

Previous entries...

Woke up, started working on The Hand of God. Ralph, one of the main mechanics, is in charge of the project. Canadian. Funny as shit.

"Naw, you want to get cher body out from under the hand of God, lest you lose a limb." He's right.

The hand is giant, with huge digits for the 6 fingers. When fitted on the green army surplus Bomb Loader, the hand "flicks"/swats, whatever's in front of a limp wrist-ed kinda way. I was describing it as the Gay Hand of God. I think Mark said something about it rotating, so it's not always in that fixed's a mechanical nightmare! Remote controlled. The pin on the base of the hand fit's perfectly into the hole on the base/bomb loader. The flange on the pin is really, really small. Using a forklift holding the hand, a crew of 3 people are trying to fit it in, where it perfectly lines up. I crawl under it with a stick in the hole from the bottom, trying to get it to line up, while someone up top is hitting it with a sledge...

Didn't lose a limb. Broke for lunch. Someone finished the job.

All throughout the week is the pain in the ass of getting a hold of The Boat for the show. SRL got a hold of this giant boat. Straight out of the '60s. Apparently, it used to be a floating speed lab, before it was seized. It's history. It's going to be on hydraulics, rocking back and forth with a wind machine hitting sheets of plastic, the plastic sheets being the waves.

Procuring the boat has been nothing but a nightmare, since they got A-O.K. to grab it The bottom is rotting off and the worst of it being getting it back to the site.

John Law, Wendy, and Flynn. 3-person crew to get the 28 foot boat. Insane. Took the whole day to get it, with no help from the boat yard. John Law loses his cool; scares away the head guy on the yard. The boat is enormous. It'll make fine firewood. The crew want to blow it up now. Everybody loves the boat...


Today was bad-ass. Waking up in Austin, where I passed out on Suzanne and Cheesy's (the drummer of Fuckemos) couch. I met up with Scott, one of the SRL film crew, and scored the rest of the 4 foot florescent tubing I found at a housing supply called "Habitat." 400 Florescent light tubes...Tesla coils love 'em.

One of my main concerns was scoring the Meat for the show.

SRL shows in the past usually employ some sort of carcasses to be used as cannon fodder for the machines.

This is Texas, and of course everybody wants a cow for their machines to chew up and "Bar-B-Q." Seeing that I used to live here, and my friends are all psycho, I pretty much got the job as Corpse Patrol...Makes sense; Press Corpse...

You try rounding up Road Kill.

The night before, I made it into town and ran into this ex-skinhead who turned me onto a few places to score "dead-things."...he kept on going off on this 4 foot long catfish he though you could see that from the bleachers...he clued me onto a few good places, but it was someone else who had his shit together...or so I thought...

On Getting Yer Cows

After calling a few rendering houses, it seemed the best I could come up with was maybe some heads from San Antonio.

Earlier, Wade, an old pal, came to the site, and told me he had a line on some cows...

He gave me the number of a "sort of weird friend of his..."..his girlfriend said there was a drought last year, bunch of cattle died, so mummified corpses seemed to be abundant...

Apparently he lived near the river and had access to a bunch of dead cows. Apparently he also collected them...along with along with other things...I also heard he delivers. 30 minutes or it's free? I want a pizza with mushrooms and cows on it. Hold the shrapnel.

I got a hold of him; the conversation was thus:

"Yeah. Hello. My name is Seth, from SRL"

"Yeahh, you the friend of Wades?" complete slow southern Texas drawl. Sounded like he had a few...a few something...

"Yeah. So what's this about some you having some cows?"

"Hell, we'll getcha yer cows!"

"How many cows are we lookin at?" I was still under the preoccupation that these cows were mummified...

"Hell, we'll get as many as you fuckin want"

"Uh, yeah...?" I felt like I was talking over a prison phone with Leatherface on the other side of the plexi-glass...(see Texas Chainsaw Massacre)

"Wall, it's goanna be like this. The thing about the cows is, it's gotta be at night. We'll go in there, we'll bring some beer and some pills, and we'll get you your cows!"

"Uh...So these cows are mummified?"

"Mummified!?!" pause.

"Uh, like, they're already dead...right?"

"Hell, they'll be dead and pumpin blood out of their brains as yer loadin 'em on the truck!"

"Uh, your not talkin about rustlin...are you?" this time, Dingle, sight coordinator/foreman, and one of the backers of the show have walked into the camper, and are catching some of this conversation...I'm trying to play it down-key, so the backer doesn't freak out.

More of a pause...he's probably thinking I'm some kinda city-slicker...

"You know, cattle rustlin is a hanging offence in Texas." pause... "Let me talk to Mark.. Is Mark there?."

I look at Dingle...No comment.

"Uh, he's not around. He's in a meeting." That'll hold him; that line works in every office all the time...should of told him he was out welding...

Dingle cut in. "Tell him Mark will call him back" I think he wanted his camper back...

"Yeah, listen, I'll have Mark call you back"

"Yeah, you have Mark call me. But tell him not to call too late, I gotta kid."

"OK, no problem. Thanks a lot" Phone hung up.

"You're not going to rustle cattle are you?" It was the backer from Fringe-Ware. He looked a little perturbed.

"Naw. Hey Dingle, forget it, I gotta line on a couple of rendering places..."

The next hardest thing was trying to sum this all up, and explain it to Mark...

Beer, pills and cattle.

Junkyard; Tahoe Boats

Jenna had me cornered in the truck, on the way out to get the Manson Family Dune Buggy. Terry was caught between us. He looked as though he was going to snap at any second and bash our brains in with his golf club...

"Seth, I'll go with you to the rodeo."
"Rodeo? Why do you think I want to go to the rodeo?"
"To get your cows!"
"Yeah, right. You think they're going to have dead cows at a rodeo."

Maybe she had rodeo's mixed up with Bullfights...I was starting to get pissed off at this whole cow thing. Earlier, in a meeting, Mark made some comment to the effect of;

"So what's up with the cow? Is that some kind of Texas tall-tale? Or a bunch of Slackers blowing steam?",

Back in the truck...

"So, how's it going? Are you having any luck with the horses?"

"Horses?!? Nobody said anything to me about getting some fucking horses. I'm having a hard enough time trying to get a stupid fucking cow." I should of said cows. Mark put in an order for one, where John law wanted to have two suspended from the Charles Whitman Memorial Tower where they be dropped and pendulum into to each other, in a pretty sloppy head butt.

"Didn't Mark tell you we're going to have horses in the show? We're going to have Rodeo girls go around the rack before the show!"

"You gotta be kidding me. Those horses will freak out and spook!"

"No, they'll be taken off the track, then the show's gonna start."

"Listen, the only fucking horses I'm getting are going to be dead. Maybe one might break it's leg, but I don't think they have dead horses at the Rodeo."

She was bummed out. I knew she really wanted to go to the rodeo. Somebody should of sent her there with a gun, and my job would of been over.

Tahoe Boats was another I the line of many, many scrap-yards around Austin. This place was littered with remnants of boats, with the back of the lot being littered with everything else. It was the ultimate toxic waste dump.

The goal; Picking up what everybody called the Manson Dune Buggy. A decreped piece of junk. Fiberglass frame, big head lights...the works. The other object was this massive tank for the Steam generator.

Other then that, we got to roam the yard looking for scrap and other weird shit to use in the show. One was a really rusty "cage", another, some scaffolding.

As we were doing this, we were all being stalked by this parasite from KQED. A "journalist." I was beginning to wonder why journalists tend to come out of the woodwork for these shows...I mean, personally, I'm in it for the money...but I wouldn't exactly call this "journalism" friend Oppenheimer described it better as "Journaljism."

For all the scumbag journalists, I swear, you only tend to see maybe one or two articles...usually being on the 7:00 news, and the local newspaper...maybe even the "alternative" newspaper. But don't count on it.

They always hang out...just in case someone dies. They're hoping someone kicks it. That way, they can be "stringers" for such hit shows as "Real TV" or "Strange Universe", cash in on their snuff footage (if they're "lucky"), selling the rights to their specially edited version on the Bizarre Cult of the Survivalists Research Laboratories.

It's amazing what you can get away with, with press credentials...I mean...I get fed every day out here, along with living in a luxury trailer with air conditioning and electricity. Who needs money?

All I ask for is one free foot, so I won't fall over when shoving it up the ass of another journalist.

Meanwhile Terry found some pipe for the Donut Cannon.

The Donut Cannon

From day one, when we arrived, Chuck Hell, (from the band Blort) was making deliveries of donuts to the kitchen. Apparently worked at a donut place, and was delivering donuts as much as he could, to the point that there were more donuts then us.

When Kimeric arrived, the idea of a donut cannon became a reality...

"Yeah, what we're going to need to do, is get some pipe. About 4 inches in diameter. Maybe six, to really pack some donuts in. Maybe some sewer pipe." Kimeric is an expert at pyrotechniques. His mind works in a way, that if you mention something to him, like the Donut Cannon, his brain instantly puts two and two together, piecing it all out.

"It's really very simple. All we have to do is get a real thick piece of steel plate, and weld it on the bottom. Then we'll just pack the hell out of it with all those donuts...." I forgot to ask him what he was going to use to detonate it...

For some reason, to me anyway, it seemed that donuts were really the theme of the whole show. Besides the donuts, Chuck Hell was also supplying 30 to 40 gallon of donut glaze for the snot cannon.

The Snot Gun

The Snot Gun is located on the front of the giant Walker. A new add-on to the Walker. Eric Paulous, one of computer experts, was out there with a laptop hooked up to the walker trying to coordinate the firing sequence of the snot gun on the Walker.

Meanwhile, the construction on the tower was coming along fine, the second 20 foot section was standing in place, alongside the other, and more of the machines were being assembled.


Today woke up with people from the Speedway tearing through the scrap-pile behind our trailer. Wanted to grab a gun and start shooting back, just so they could get an idea of the noise. I swear, I'll never understand people who get up at 6:00 in the morning on Saturday, just to move metal...

Today, a new batch of SRL arrived. They're all hanging out around the kitchen. They're assembling a group to go to "Bubba's" place, a scrap-yard down the road. It seems like everybody's excited about meeting Bubba.

Apparently Bubba's quite a piece of work. Although to me, I really think a lot of these people have never seen white trash before, so it's kinda like a field trip for them...whatever..They're going to grab a 30 foot crane to use in the show; something to grab and pull equipment while all the mayhem is happening.

Right now, I'm sitting in the press box, up in the bleachers of the speedway, typing. Which, when you think about it, is where I should be anyway.

Fuck you Sports Illustrated.

It's a great view of the Speedway. Asphalt and grass.

One of the main concerns of the show is the machines getting caught in the dirt/grass, and losing mobility; not moving. A lot of them are limited to the pavement.

From the press box, the site looks like it's own scrap-yard, with the machines looking like abandoned farm equipment, lying out in the field. In the center of the "X" , is the frame of a Teepee, made out of three telephone poles, roughly 30 feet in the air.

How to Make a Telephone Pole Teepee.

Tools needed;