The String Cheese Incident is known for its ability to jam out in practically every genre, but three times a year the band teams up with outside forces like Nova Han to take their “Incidents” to a different level. At the apex of the jamgrass/tronic outfit’s Electric ForestSuwannee Hulaween, and New Year’s Eve runs all sorts of insanity cuts loose.

Dragons, whales, and UFOs fly overhead, hundred of massive balloons and inflatables are poured onto the crowd like sprinkles on an ice cream sundae, confetti cannons blast the audience while 20-foot columns of flame erupt into the night sky as fireworks light the skyline as far as the eye can see. These moments of complete chaos are affectionately known as “The Whole Shebang” and they take months of active collaboration from multiple entire teams of lighting designers, sound engineers, and visual production masterminds like Han to pull off.

With Suwannee Hulaween this weekend our own Rex Thomson, a.k.a Rex-A-Vision, decided it was high time everyone awestruck and dancing in these crowds got a chance to meet one of the main folks who makes these sensory overload spectaculars a reality. Having already made an hour-long documentary about the effect these “Shebangs” have on the Hulaween crowd we figured who better to talk with the visual artist about the process and, most importantly, the teamwork it takes to make it all happen. Enjoy!

This conversation was edited for length and clarity

Live For Live Music: When you were a little kid did you ever think you’d grow up to become the kind of person who makes magic happen?

Nova Han: Well…I don’t know about magic but I think I’ve always wanted to help entertain people.

Live For Live Music: What is your official job title? Is it “Wizard” or something equally cool?

Nova Han: I used to have professional business cards that said “Professional Mind Blower” but that got me too many unsolicited comments from random men so I just go by “Creative Director” now.

Live For Live Music: Well, real quick I’d like to apologize for…well I guess my gender. But, back to the topic at hand…you’re like a stage wizard now. Did this require any extra schooling…like some sort of rock and roll Hogwarts?

Nova Han: Unfortunately it’s one of the things that happens growing up female and we tend to get used to it. I went to school for theater, which was actively more in the acting realm. I started a stage performance company and a circus back in 2005. I learned to never be afraid to ask questions.

Back when I was much younger I was a cheerleader and a coach for a competitive cheer squad and I think that was great training in how to run a team. In the cheer world, you have 90 seconds and you have to rehearse that 90 seconds over and over again until it’s perfect.

These giant moments with String Cheese…we don’t really get the opportunity to rehearse. We have a concept and the actual show is the first time, the only time we get to try it. The show is the dress rehearsal.

Live For Live Music: With the scale of everything…the inflatables, the fireworks…the crowd needed to keep all those plates spinning so to speak…you couldn’t possibly practice it without throwing a completely whole other show.

Nova Han: I mean, if we had the luxury of this being a set the band toured on, and they played the same set, the same act, show after show on a tour, then you could actually have the luxury of a dress rehearsal. But with Cheese it’s just these one-offs. You just do it one time and that’s it.

Live For Live Music: How big a team do you bring together to pull off the Whole Shebang?

Nova Han: I usually have at least my admin/producer and a production manager, the festival has a production manager, the band has a production manager, their own lighting and sound. It really all becomes a big collaboration between several different people from several different teams.

Live For Live Music: With all those people involved…is it still fun? Is it frustrating…exhilarating…does any one word or emotion fit better than another?

Nova Han: It’s all of the things. It can be fun. It can be frustrating pushing against boundaries. It can definitely be like an amalgamation of every feeling possible.  You’ve been working for six or seven months to design something and a prop fails so only a piece of it comes to fruition. And this one, at Hulaween, it’s always outside so there’s that. It’s frustrating, sure, but exhilarating as well. You’re always pushing against boundaries. It can definitely be like an amalgamation of every feeling possible.

Live For Live Music: How and when did your association with String Cheese and their Incidents begin?

Nova Han: My first one was at Oregon’s Horning’s Hideout in 2010. They asked the company I was with at the time to create, direct, design, and produce their Shebang at Horning’s Hideout. In 2012 I formed my own company and from there we’ve all just been lucky enough to work together over the years. It’s been a great relationship.

Live For Live Music: When you say you’ve been lucky to work together…was it a comfortable fit from the start? Did everyone’s visions of what could be aligned easily enough?

Nova Han: Actually…it’s more like they trained me to think bigger. Their manager, Jeremy, kept telling me to think “Bigger.” We had a UFO come flying into the bowl….it was huge. That felt very innovative to me. Jeremy pushed me to go places I hadn’t because I hadn’t had the capacity, or just actually the budget for before. If anything they helped me.

Live For Live Music: That’s a pretty wonderful and unique way to get to work. How much notice do you get from the band so you can connect concepts with reality? A few years back there was a Stranger Things theme and that brought with it some unique inflatables from your folks, like the pair of giant Rubik’s Cubes. I mean clearly you weren’t just sitting around playing with those at home in your yard.

Nova Han: The Hulaween themes don’t come that quickly. Sometimes I actually do get an idea before I know but I tuck that in my back pocket. It’s usually like two months so it’s not a ton of time. They usually bring me a theme for Hulaween’s Shebang while I bring them theme ideas for New Years’ Eve and Electric Forest. It’s definitely satisfying and very collaborative.

Live For Live Music: Do you have any of these ideas you hang onto, for want of doing them right at a later date?

Nova Han: I don’t really think I have any…at least none come to the top of my mind. I go through a million ideas in a minute. I don’t hold my ideas so precious that I have to have them at some point in my life. The ideas just flow through me like a river. One day they’re here the next day they’re there and I’m thinking of something else.

Live For Live Music: That’s as perfect an answer as someone connected to The String Cheese Incident could give, imagery-wise. Where do you go from here? Like…the Super Bowl? Or…Disneyland? Or maybe we could get them to have the Super Bowl at Disneyland!

Nova Han: Okay, that WOULD be awesome!

Check out the magic for yourself at this weekend’s Suwannee Hulaween and see what the band and Han’s collaborative energy produces this year! Also, if you have a moment (and a  couple dollars to spare) drop by the Hulaween Merchandise tent and check out “The Whole Shebang,” an art print by Rex-A-Vision depicting a collage of some of the best Hulaween themed “”Whole Shebangs” from throughout the entire fests run! It’s a mind-blowing array of inflatables, lights and fireworks in glorious black and white that you can see below!