Billy McFarland: The Man Behind The Infamous Fyre Festival Disaster | E202 | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "Billy McFarland: The Man Behind The Infamous Fyre Festival Disaster | E202".
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Will you know this coming here today? I didn't know how in depth we were going to go. If I knew the questions, I don't think go to Slut last night. But you were pathological liar. Billy McFarland is the man behind the infamous fire festival. I would get away turned disaster. The fire festival is the subject of two documentaries. I will never forget. When did you realize so gone wrong? We were at the point where the timeline I had come up with was just so off. I wake up some days and it's like we need $4 million by 2pm. Did no one say to you this is fucking craziness. I just didn't have the ability to like okay what's actually happening, how can we prevent this? And like almost like as if on cue. I storm rolls in. Billy McFarland pleaded guilty to fraud charges sentenced to six years in prison. You come back to a shit storm. Yeah. The criminality doesn't stop though does it? But I couldn't like really understand the magnitude and the gravity of the crime they did commit. You'll always try to get you off the 20 year prison sentence by saying that you suffered from untreated bipolar disorder. Do you have bipolar disorder? Um. I did two stints in solitary. The seven month stint was because I tried to do a podcast over the payphone. They put the paperwork into send me to like a terrorist facility. When you're rendered useless and powerless, that just kind of kills your humanity. That's fucking scary. That keeps me up in there. Andy King. Did you ask him to suck a penis? Here's what actually happened. Before this episode starts, I have a small favor to ask from you. Two months ago, 74% of people that watch this channel didn't subscribe. We're now down to 69%. My goal is 50%. So if you've ever liked any of the videos we've posted, if you liked this channel, can you do me a quick favor and hit the subscribe button? It helps this channel more than you know and the bigger the channel gets, as you've seen, the bigger the guests get. Thank you and enjoy this episode. Billy.
Background And Personal Insights
Early Context (02:01)
How are you doing? It's been crazy. A little less than three and a half months since my sentence ended. And really just been a whirlwind of finding the right people, finding the right opportunities. And really just dealing with this overhang of probation and the constant fear that there's someone out there who could send me back at any time by taking a wrong turn. So trying to avoid paying people back in every sense of that word in emotion while dealing with this fear that I can wake up when we're into a phone call saying, "Ha, like jokes over, you're going back." So take me back. One of the things I'm so curious about, everybody that I sit here and talk to is their earliest context and the earliest upbringing and how that's like ultimately shaped who they are today. So take me way, way back to New Jersey when you are under the age of 10. What was that? What was your context? Your parents, the situation in which you grew up? Yeah, I grew up in a pretty normal suburban American household. And I think the defining moment was when I was 10 years old, where I got a cable internet line into my house. And this was the really early days of the internet. And it was pretty much like the Wild Wild West era, where a lot of the framework and regulation and mature social platforms that we have now just didn't exist then. We were in the infancy of HTML and CSS and the practicality and accessibility of some 10 year old putting a website online. And I really found the internet to be this outlet where I could push the boundaries of everything that I thought was possible as this young suburban child. And really as a way to start getting in trouble and seeing what it was like to get in trouble and see where I could go. Talk to me about your parents. I've not heard much about them in your interviews, but I'd love to know the influence they have on you and how that shapes you. I think they're great, super loving, super supportive. And I think I've been asked this question so many times, but whether it's like the jail therapist or the probation department. And I think it's interesting that there isn't a defining moment. I think that kind of set me down the entrepreneurial journey. I think I was just really weird in this desire to make my own path and to really test what was possible. And so I was always kind of looking for journeys to start businesses and really like test the bounds of reality and of the constraints placed at me at various times in life. And obviously like the constraints of a 10 year old are much different than they were when I was 24 in the midst of the fire festival. And then much different at 27 in solitary confinement. But I think the reoccurring theme was trying to find ways to test those restraints. And that took me to the very best times, but also the very worst times in doing four years in prison and, you know, owing the world. Whether that's time, money, friendship, and apology. So yeah, it's been quite the journey. My question still becomes like, why though? So testing the restraints of like what was possible? Why does a kid want to do that? Like what was it about you when you were that age and your childhood or the circumstances you found yourself in or, you know, what behavior was being reinforced and what behavior was being punished that made you go off on that journey. You referenced a sort of a jailhouse therapist and then probably asking you these kind of questions as well. Yeah. Did you learn anything about yourself from those conversations? Totally. And I think there has always been this desire to prove that I was different. And I don't think I really understood like what different meant. I don't think it meant trying to be like the smartest or the most interesting. It was like trying to prove that I could create my own path. I think that's always been the desire.
A desire to prove yourself (05:53)
Why did you want to create your own path and prove that? I hear this word proving a lot throughout your story. I could desire to prove yourself right and prove yourself to others. It comes up over and over again in the conversations you've had. Where did that desire to prove yourself come from? I think, yeah, I remember back to like getting an alpha smart in, you know, early grammar school. And I was so desperate to like hack the teachers like admin password for the alpha smart to change the settings on it. And just wanted to show or I think it's really proving to myself that I could do something different. And I never really did well in terms of like a structured learning environment. I was always either like super disinterested or very, very passionate about something, whether it's technology or computers or the internet. And just like wanting to dive in and just like almost testing against myself what I was possible and what wasn't possible. Did those around you like teachers and your parents have high hopes for you in your opinion? I think so, but they were also, you know, I don't want to, I don't like the word like realistic. I think they're very like realistic and structured hopes. And my path was certainly frowned upon by teachers, you know, friends, etc. throughout the years. Even when you were younger people, even I was younger. Yeah. I think like teachers were always concerned that like, why is he starting a business and not focusing on his, you know, math test. So it was a problem since a young age. Do you remember getting sort of like critical or pessimistic feedback at a young age about your ambitions and what was possible for you? Yeah, absolutely. And give me some examples. Yeah. So it's like, I started a social network a couple of years later when I was 12 years old. And this is early days in my space before Facebook, I'd really gone outside of like Harvard and the initial Ivy League schools. I created private social network for my middle school. And like out of nowhere at the site blew up and, you know, it was like the talk in middle school for a few days. And the teachers basically called me in and said like the internet is not safe, you know, you have to stop this right now. You have to get rid of the website. And how did that make you feel? It made me feel like I thought I was creating something of value, but I felt like that what I viewed as value wasn't, you know, agreed upon by everybody else. They don't was created. It's like reinforcement or like, no, I know it's just tangible. I know this is real. And I know people like are enjoying something I made. And I felt it was just so cool to have at the time, it was hundreds of people, whatever, but having hundreds or a couple of thousand people using something I made as a 12 year old was just really, really interesting to me. And I think it kind of created this deeper, disell shell and like desire to prove whether it was to those teachers or to the friends who like weren't supportive that there is a different way than, you know, the way that we're all taught. What did your parents want you to be? You know, like, I think my mom wanted me to be, I actually remember my mom's from Nigeria. She didn't get an education. I was born in Botswana in Africa as well. And my mom, I think, wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer. Okay. I think she was actually on doctor. What did your parents want you to be in your own opinion? I don't think they really cared as long as I followed the traditional path of like, super studying hard school, doing well, going to a good college, having a good college experience. I think beyond that, they didn't really care too much. I went to school to study computer engineering. Didn't last very long. So didn't really study computer engineering, but that was the intent. What's the defining difference between both of them? You know, like, my mother is ex in terms of how characteristics my father is, why? If you had to describe them in a couple of words each, what words would you use? I think entrepreneurial, you know, quick, like in terms of like, you know, quick minds are sharp, they're smart. And like, honest, I think integrity is like the big thing. They're very honest, good people. And like, that's, you know, has been part of the hardest part to me is them, and not just them. It's like other family members and friends trying to understand how it could go down this path where I was just lying. And, you know, lying to investors and partners and employees and whatever it may have been, just like understanding how I got there from, you know, the path I had taken. Have you had that conversation with them? I have. And it comes down to, I think you nailed it super early on. It was just this desire and I think more than a desire, probably a need to prove myself. And fast forward many, many years later with like fire in the fire festival, that need was to these these investors who basically took a chance at me when I first dropped out of school and had been backing me for five, six, seven years before the fire festival came to be. Like, my life, I felt, and it sounds so silly to me now, but my life, I felt to me at that time was making them happy and making them money. And obviously, like the initial investors, if fire didn't work and didn't work, honestly, they probably would have been okay. And they would have been far more understanding than the fact that I ended up lying at the end to get their support. But it's like need to prove that I could do it. And the ones who did believe in me, the need to prove that they were right to believe in me just really led me down this terrible, terrible path of however long it was where I was lying. That need to prove myself, it can garner some fantastic results in life because you end up striving and being ambitious and it acts as a source of motivation. But then it can also, because I can relate to it, it can also get ugly at some point when that need overshadows the need to be like ethical or to even have work, life, balance, whatever it might be. Have you ever managed, in all the time you've had to reflect on it, have you figured out why you, of all people, had that and you used the word need? Not desire, you refer to it as a need to prove yourself. Like where did that come from? Do you know? I don't know. And as I said, I've been asked so many times by people, obviously not as smart as you. I've been asked by a lot of people and I don't think I've given a good enough answer and that's probably something that I need to think about. Because it's dangerous if you think about self awareness here and if that's still driving you from the back room of your subconscious, where that might take you again in the future, right? Agree. And I think it's more about where I can find fulfillment and making people happy because they've made money or invest in a success probably is most likely the wrong formula in a lot of different situations. And I think like especially prison has made me very, very relationship focused and I feel stronger need to be trusted by someone more than to make them happy. And I think that's the furthest area that I've improved in over the past five years. I've never had you talk about the conversations with your parents in the wake of everything that happened. And what have been those conversations? If I was privy to some of those conversations in person, what would I have seen? Yeah, I think I've just tried to find the way to apologize and it's been to everybody. It's been to close friends who I think were hurt emotionally as well, other family members, other supporters. And it's just been trying to explain to them like why and finding the real words to apologize. And it was just so crazy as I've had all this time to obviously reflect about it. How I thought I was trying to make people happy, but I was really just like burning down these relationships and hurting them along the way. And it just messed up that pursuit and path really was. Have you actually apologized to your parents? Oh, absolutely. And what's their stance been throughout jail and before and even now? What's their perspective been? It's been like close families different because obviously we're in touch and everybody, families are family. And I think for like childhood friends who was probably closer with like on an emotional level, it's been a little weird when I essentially was on the sideline in a way for four years or whatever the timeframe was. And then during that time, I'm kind of sheltered from like the media and the comments and everything. Like I don't necessarily hear or even see everything that's happening. And so like the bulk of that is directed towards other people, like whether it's family or friends. So after so long of like being the target just because I'm not there to be the target, they start to like, you know, form different opinions and their minds start to wander. And then I think when I've seen people for the first time, like since jail, and then I can kind of see like a switch flip in their face. After like a switch flip in their head, after like four or five minutes, like, oh, okay, he's the old billy that I used to know. And they start like acting normal again, which like really crazy to me that when I was in jail, I just didn't really understand or appreciate the terrible shit, basically, that close people to me had to go through just because I wasn't like available to be at the receiving end of everything that's happened. What did they go through? I think like the emotional trauma, right, and people are looking to blame someone and to, you know, throw shade and hate and deservedly say I want someone. And if I'm out there, like to be able to take that hate because I'm physically locked away somewhere, people need a target for it. And, you know, unfortunately, I think for a lot of people who, and I learned this in jail too, a lot of people in jail, the ones that take it the hardest are the friends and family. Because they're not the one, they're not the reason why you're there, but they suffer almost the most from it. It's just, it's not fair. Did they tell you that they had been on the receiving end of that abuse? Yeah, and a lot of friends too. What kind of abuse, do they tell you explicitly what kind of abuse they've been on the receiving end of? I think it's just like the mental, and it's like emotional anguish. I've had like friends even who didn't work with me, but, you know, who were super close and around for a lot of the buildup of the events, whether it's from like their family or their friends or their employers, like, how could you not know? How could you have been with him? And people are looking for, I think the public looks for someone to blame. And if I wasn't there to receive that blame or wasn't responding to it, that blame, they just look for other targets. And I think that's what crushed me the most is on this limited contact with friends or family, whatever from jail, like hearing the sadness and abuse they were taking and being able to do absolutely nothing about it. Just like totally powerless.
Your entrepreneurial journey (16:08)
Going back into your story, I was reading through all of the sort of entrepreneurial endeavors you did as a young man, even before the age of like 15 years old, you'd started companies, you'd sold companies. Just just a long, long list of continually starting another business. Starting at like nine years old, you started programming 13, you start this outsourcing startup, which eventually gets sold on an auction site called your Hot Site, I believe. And then at 15 years old, you create a company called 24 Scene, which is eventually sold to Buddy TV when you were 15 years old. You graduate at 18 from high school, we call it different things in the UK. You go off to university and then you drop out and start a company called Spling, and you raise $400,000 in a series A round for this company called Spling at 18 years old, right? The financing round today are a little different. Sorry, this is like 2010, but crazy on the world's change, right? Yeah, yeah, yeah. So you raise that capital at 18 years old. Yes. Is that your first sort of window into the fact or point of awareness where you think, "Fuck, I can raise capital for things that I have ideas for?" I think the biggest thing there was having someone so much smarter and older and like more successful than me actually like believe in me and back it up. The idea to like any friends and any family that I'm taking time off school or dropping into school is totally not okay, but the fact that I can point to like a small group of people, a small group of these early investors who were clearly like established and you know, like amazing, almost like icons in their own fields. That was when I was like, "Look, I have this real group who is supporting me beyond their words, and I need to show not just them, I need to show the world that these people are right, and everybody else who is saying like what I'm doing is wrong is incorrect." Who was saying you were wrong at that age of 18? Who was betting against you? I think like every peer, you know, all your friends, all your family members. All your family members? Not all, I think the majority. And I think that the big thing with like my friends at that age who especially like the ones who like did better in school and you know, probably a little bit smarter, it's just really as much as like they can't admit it. And I know I do this to other people too, so I think I see it as much as they can't do it. Like they don't want to see someone, obviously we're super young at that age, but succeed beyond them. And it's like, "Hey, I'm studying 70 hours a week. You know, I know I'm smarter than he is, and I'm working just as hard or harder than him. You know, why can he go and do this and I can't?" So I think that's kind of like a mantra that you know, I've noticed a lot amongst like close friends and obviously I see that same behavior in myself. So yeah, I think that part just sucks. Unspling. Yeah. It was an avenue for you to eventually move to New York. Yes. It happened to that company. Eventually failed. Yeah. So moved to New York actually in the second ever WeWork space in New York. This is 2011, I think. Yeah. So second ever WeWork space in New York. And Spling started as a social network and that was kind of like parlaying off of what I'd built in, you know, middle school and high school and had this really small, you know, websites that ended up selling, which is great. The social networking aspect of Spling never really took off and ended up making software and started to sell it to like these record labels and TV networks. And I was like the suburban kid who was already weird for programming. And now I'm the suburban kid who's weird for programming, crazy for dropping out of school. And now I'm sitting in the office with, you know, the heads of these like massive media companies that we've all heard of that like I didn't even know really existed. Like to go meet with like the boss at Def Jam or Hearst or like discover your Disney like all these companies that were just like a logo on TV for me as a young kid. I was now like tangibly there and they were like paying for something I was building. It was just a wild experience to go from, you know, being in a dorm room in the middle of nowhere to in the midst of the entertainment world in New York. And so at some point you make the decision to close Spling down. So Spling was going and I just got super distracted by these entertainment companies that I was going to. And like I kept trying to tell back like these childhood friends. I kept trying to explain to them like what was happening. They didn't really believe me. And that was really the genesis of Magnisys was that I wanted to take like the 19 year old me who wasn't working at Spling and give him access to this world of like entertainment and fashion and like media that I was like finding myself stumbling into in New York. And so I'm trying to get to the point of like there becomes a day where you go. I mean I've had this in my life my first time as well when I was literally 18 and then I left it at 20 my next business but there's a day where you go fuck that I'm going to do Magnisys instead. So I basically said fuck that I'm going to do Magnisys but like still keep Spling going. So yeah so Spling now is like my biggest mistake. So Spling kept operating for you know a few years with let's say 10 to 15 hours of a week of attention. Whereas like you know the vast majority of my time was focused on Magnisys. I think like one of the recurring themes is just not seeing things through and like it happened again with Magnisys into fire but like jumping ship when Spling would not have been as big as Magnisys or fire could have been but it still could have still was okay and like I could have had a successful exit for people who were involved and just like not seeing that through it was just wrong. Rearcurring theme.
I mean I see that throughout your childhood and then that inter early sort of 20s. That I guess ambition and that sort of constant inspiration you have leads you to kind of abandon the last thing and an entrepreneur's currency is their time in attention. So as you cited that it's finite it means that the old thing gets a fraction of your time when really if it's going to succeed in that market it needs more than all of your time. This leads you on to Magnisys 2013. Yeah. You launched it in 2014 eventually. Magnisys was a tell me what it was and why you chose to switch your attention to this. Yeah so Magnisys was a network that was seeking to give young people living in major cities access to better benefits events and networking and they're like credit card to give them. So like literally this is 2012 I just I started doing the Magnisys card before it launched. I went and Alibaba was just like 10 years ago before Alibaba is Alibaba bought this like blank black sheet of metal and a credit card copier. And literally went and copied my like really crappy debit card with $20 onto it onto this like black metal card and just like once it repeats apart there across the street and the guide has made a total scene when I went to pay and went and showed the card off around we work. I started selling cards like interesting entrepreneurs at we work and I was like literally the genesis of Magnisys. And the core of the proposition was that it was kind of elite and exclusive. Yeah so it was definitely trying to cater towards this like upwardly mobile entrepreneur style crowd. That feels like a through line across many of your businesses that went on which was like appealing to people's desire for status and clout. Because when I was reading about Magnisys at the end of the day it felt like it was a black metal card which was again appealing to people's egos because everybody wants that American express black card. But they can't get it because you need to spend you need to like a quarter a million to get it. So it makes people feel amazing and then you're promising them the application process was only a few people could apply. It was all appealing to that people's desire to be. That's what I started out when I was like 19 or 20 whatever the time was and then it ended up growing and the real benefit was a network. And there were certain members or card holders who were meeting other members and kind of giving them value. And I think like the first concept of Magnisys was one I wanted the black card for sure. Now it's like the fun novelty like more of the marketing aspect of it. But two is I wanted like a vehicle to share and really invite my friends to all these like entertainment properties where I was starting to experience and explore because they didn't believe me. So it was almost like show them what I was telling them was actually happening and have an excuse to bring people along through this club or community built around Magnisys. You raised capital for Magnisys 1.5 million before you launched and then 3.0 something. Yeah, I think the total was in like the mid threes. Yeah, so nothing crazy. Okay, and JAR rule comes into the picture sometime around the Magnisys. Yeah, so it started basically like once again Magnisys is all about one fulfilling like my fantasies of places I wanted to go and can get to. And then once I was there having all of my friends come to and I just like loved hip-hop as a kid. So throughout Magnisys we booked probably close to a dozen and a half or even like 20 rappers to come perform these small concerts for Magnisys. And that's what started the whole ball rolling towards like the fire app and that concept. So when did you meet JAR rule? During one of these Magnisys member events and the thing that really struck me at the time was how hard it was to book him. And when he finally like received the offer, he said yes and like almost like instantly right. And the problem was this like web of quasi agents and middleman managers who all kind of claimed like represent or another talent. But in reality they knew someone who knew like a sister who knew a brother who knew a cousin. And it's like this terrible really like opaque nasty world. And coming from like a technology background it made no sense to me. I knew there were other like kids like me right who would you know pay something reasonable to get access to this kind of like music talent. So we started talking about building an app which ended up becoming the fire app to provide like a window into like entertainers pockets for anybody to give them offers directly. And because of that experience with JAR rule and just general artists booking that's what that was the genesis of this fire app. That was a complete genesis was like booking a lot of these rappers through Magnisys realizing that almost every single time we were going through middlemen who like weren't really like the manager of the agent. And then realizing okay now had this network of you know 20 artists and their real managers so I can give like access to other people through technology.
The start of Fyre (26:20)
And from what I was reading this is the one of the first big lies was told which was around the success of fire mobile app. I read this I think I can't remember where I saw it might have been the hulu documentary or something. It's that in a term sheet to investors it was claimed to be worth 90 million dollars but was actually doing 60 K in business. What is the truth around that where was the where was the light hold here. Yeah so the fire app and the fire festival really all come together at the same time. It's crazy to think back like how how quick I went down a bad path but how quick everything happened as well during that time period. This is all 2016 the fire app was launched some point mid 2016 and the fire festival was you know conceived in September October of 2016. So it was all kind of around the same time. Why why why festival how did that come to be that because the fire app came first fire app came first how did you get from there to fire festival. So we had a townhouse space basically this clubhouse if you will for Magnisys members and one of the people working at the front desk I lived a handful of blocks away calls me one night and says. There's this guy here who is building some crazy things like Google but he says he flies planes and wants to fly you. I think he's telling the truth you have to come and meet him. So I ran over the townhouse and met this guy and like absolute genius like one of the best like developers of AI have ever met in my life and you know he's going to go on to I think change your world in very many ways but he's like listen like I fly for fun. I have a bunch of friends do the same thing we should take a few planes into a trip to the outer islands the Bahamas for your Magnisys members. So we've been running these trips for years and I found these outer islands to essentially be it's like welcoming playground where there might be 10 people who live on the island who are just like so amazing and kind of hard and warm. Once you bring 18, 20, 24 people there from New York, everybody kind of drops like their pretense and if you connect them around these like almost like life defying experiences and adventures, they really, really come together. So it was running these trips for a number of years when I literally brought like one of these childhood friends that I mentioned and fire app had just launched. He said, hey man, he should totally do a music festival here for all Magnisys members. So that was a real person who came up with the idea and that sort of fire festival happened. And where was where was the first line told in the fundraising process? Was it on raising capital for the app? Was it capital for the Magnisys? Yeah, so the fire festival app didn't raise much money prior to like the festival announcement. We came up with a festival idea in September of 2016, shot and released that promotional video that I think a lot of people saw in December of 2016 and announced a April of 2017 like launch date. So the period was super, super short. So somewhere in like the weeks leading up to that December promotional video, I started a line and that was lying to fire apps investors lying to fire festivals investors lying about Magnisys' numbers. It all kind of hit when, oh shit, fire festival is real. We're announcing a festival. We have X number of months to build a city in the middle of nowhere. How the fuck are we gonna do this? That's just like sending off down that path. From what I recall, there was four months between announcing the festival and the festival happening. So you're going to the middle of nowhere. You've got to build sewage infrastructure, basically a city from scratch at 25 years old without the capital to do it and without the experience in doing it in four months in 120 days. So stupid. So bad. I think I got my 25th birthday. We launched the trailer for the fire festival. And I still don't think it was real at that time. Like, we had these great trips with a few dozen people and those we could totally handle. We launched a trailer and I remember waking up like, you know, quasi hung over five or six hours later and we'd sold like a half million dollars to tickets. If I said that to people now in my team, and you know, I'm 30 now, same age as you, you know, I've got huge amounts of resources in terms of like contacts and capital. Everyone in my team would turn around to me and give me that look and say, this is not possible, Stephen. Did people say that to you? Did no one say to you, this is fucking craziness. Absolutely. And I think that part of the curse and part of the gift at the time was a lot of their reasons that were being given to me why things weren't possible. We're all solved with the short term miracles. And of course, everybody said, Hey, the end goal is impossible. You're a moron. Like, you don't understand like what this takes. And then they would give three or four reasons about like smaller problems, right? And then I would go and like create magic and solve these three or four problems and be like, look, we've proved that. Like we can handle the bigger stuff too. And I think it just took so many random like rolls the dice to go our way to be able to create a failure so large, because if we found like a stumbling block or a roadblock earlier on, it would have stopped the whole thing. But it was like this weird combination of smart, crazy people all kind of coming together for this wild idea and solving things we should never been able to solve until we couldn't. Lying plays a big role in that, though. 100%. I think you have to add lying to the mix because I don't think you would have gotten those people to that island on that plane without a series of almost like nonstop lying. There's no way that you would have, well, in my view, if people need the reality of my view, if people need the reality of the numbers and the situation on the ground. And I remember watching the documentaries, which I know you haven't seen. Yeah, still. We're going to talk about that. But I remember seeing the there were moments where you were saying to team members, don't tell this investor the nature of the situation. And had you been honest, I think investors from my experience of building companies would not have backed this the reality of the situation. If they knew the truth, they wouldn't have backed that. Agree. I almost think that lying hurt things the most. The lying really pushed away the help that I needed. And I think that how we just announced the festival with our trailer video, we had already proven our ability to create hype, to bring a manageable number of people to these islands, to give them an amazing experience. If I just threw my hands up the next day and said, "Okay, I didn't expect to sell this many tickets, and I don't have the resources or wear with all to actually execute this now." I think the professionals would have flocked to me. He said, "Okay, we are experts in doing this. Let us take over, and you do what you're good at. But let us be the adults in the room and make this thing actually happen." Why didn't you put your hands up and say that? That's like a tie of loss over the past five years. But that's where like beyond lying, like breaking all the ethics in world, which like totally did, totally wrong, it pushed away the help.
Are you a pathological liar? (33:34)
Are you a pathological liar? This is a claim that I've heard leveled at you by the judge in your case, by other people that were working on fire festival, people in the documentaries. I think my entire mantra and drive right now is to form super, super close relationships. I want those six or eight people to never question my integrity. I think getting on a microphone and telling the world, "Hey guys, I'm not a pathological liar. I shut the fuck up." But it's like, I want to feel pride where I can go home tonight, and I know these six to eight people that I can call or they can call me. We will have our backs. I really don't have the answer in terms of how I dress it to the world. But it's like the six to eight people and you guys know who you are. Let's blow that trust. Because that's one of the, even when I was thinking about doing this interview, obviously the foundation of the Diaries of the Sea of His Honesty. I'm thinking, after all this stuff I've seen in these documentaries, how do I know that he's not just going to come here and bullshit me? How do I know that I'm not going to be one of the investors or one of the other people that was lied to? How do I know he's going to give me the truth? How do you receive them? It's just so hard to hear. It's super hard to hear. And I think natural reaction is to always fight back and argue, "Oh, I'm not a liar." And then it just digs you down a further hole. So I think it's just finding pride in a different area. And it's like, I'm highly flawed and any claims made to the contrary are just wrong. And for whatever good ideas I've had, I've had 10 times as many bad ones. And clearly I lied to an extent that I would really hope that the vast majority of the population would never be comfortable doing. So, yeah, highly, highly flawed. And I think the next 30 years of my life will be defined by, "Can I focus on my skill set? Can I be honest with a small number of people around me? And can I get help in those areas where I clearly need it?" As you know, Intel are now sponsoring this podcast. And last week I introduced you to Intel EVO platform, the badge of approval for high spec laptops that pass Intel's own strip requirements and enable you to be more productive on the go. As someone who spends most of their life on the go, it's Intel EVO that really caught my eye when we were discussing this partnership. The idea that Intel gives your laptop the seal of approval for you on all things like all day battery life, fast charging and high performance makes my life easier when I'm buying a new laptop. Because I know that if it's got that Intel seal of approval, then it's going to be able to keep up with me. They've basically done all the hard work and research for you and confirmed it's going to be able to keep up with your busy life on the go. Head to intel.co.uk/evo to find out more about Intel EVO platform. Also, for a limited time, you can currently get 15% off all Intel EVO devices at johnlouis.com. The code is EVO CEO 15. That's EVO CEO 15 until December 11th. So head over to johnlouis.com to check out the Intel EVO designs and get your 15% off terms and conditions apply. See more details in the description box. For many years, people have been asking for a coffee flavored heel. And quite recently, he'll release the iced coffee caramel flavor of their ready to drink heels. And I've just become hooked on it over the last couple of weeks. I've been on a really interesting journey with heel, which I've described and talked about a little bit on this podcast. I started with the berry ready to drinks that I moved over to the protein salted caramel because it's 100 calories and it gives you all of your essential vitamins and minerals, but also gives you the 20 odd grams of protein you need. And now I'm balanced between them both. I drink mostly the banana flavor ready to drink. I've got really into the iced coffee caramel flavor of heels ready to drink. And now I'm drinking that as well as the protein. Make sure you try the new ready to drink flavors. The caramel flavor is amazing. The new banana flavor as well is amazing. And obviously, as I said, the iced coffee caramel flavor has been a real smash hit. So check it out. Let me know what you think on social media. I see all of your tags and Instagram posts and tweets about heel.
Not wanting watch the documentary (37:32)
You haven't watched the documentaries now. At the first prison, I was at, like when they, at the period when they came out, the guys got like a USB stick with both the documentaries and watched them. And I was like, I literally went outside. I think I was like one of two people who wasn't in the TV room watching the documentary, but couldn't do it. Why? I think at that time, I was still like, this is early 2019. So I was less than a year into my sentence. I think I was still like in the combative phase where I just hadn't like come to reality with everything that happened. And I was too scared to hear allegations or comments by the people and not be able to respond. And I realized like being locked up and then having someone say something where it's probably like 70% true and 30% false. I wouldn't have like focused on or internalized the part that was true, even though that was probably most of it. I just would have gotten enraged by the false part, but I wouldn't have been able to do anything about it. So I felt like I was not like stable enough or mature enough at that time to watch it. And I probably still am not. Really? Yeah. Because I was going to ask you the follow up was why you watched them now then if that was 2019. In 2022 now, so why haven't you watched them still? So I caught myself there today. Someone asked me the same question. And I said, and I think this shows like I'm not like mature enough to watch it yet. I said no one is probably slightly true but exaggerated. I said no one real interviewed for the documentary. Like why would any business person who has anything going on in their life, you know, attach themselves to the event? That's mostly true, obviously, but still some of the people who did interview, I'm sure were, you know, sharing real stories of real things that happened. So I'm not ready. I don't know why, but I'm not ready. Because of how it might make you, it might trigger you in some type of way or? I think so. And yeah, I just. I did ask myself. Would you, what if that happened to me when I watched the documentaries? And I'm going to be honest. I don't know. I don't know. But you must everywhere you go now have pieced together those documentaries because people like me ask me questions. For sure. Unfortunately, I think I've heard that. Unfortunately, I think I've heard more than I've wanted to, but I think I understand. How do you feel about the fact that like probably for at least some time now, the centre point of conversations you have and interviews you do is going to centre on that. That's going to like, that's going to be a real defining thing for many that meet you. I think it's super interesting like to think about personally. And it's almost like weird because a lot of the people who have watched the documentary, whether they're friends or family members, other people. Their advice is like you are incompetent. You can't do anything going forward. Like, you know, go work some entry level like desk job for 70 hours a week for the rest of your life and shut up. And I think it's kind of like ironic, right? Because then you're stuck living with the remorse, the guilt, the failure of what you did before. And I think the other option is, can I go about it, but go for it and go for it honestly. And if I fail, it's okay, but at least take the swing. And like, which path would make you prouder? And I've chosen the latter, which might be right, it might be wrong. But I just think it's really weird to me how a lot of like the close friends who have watched the documentary, almost all their advice has just been like, you can't do anything now. And maybe they're right. But it's like, that's been like, I think that's the hardest thing to internalize from the whole. Like after effect process where we currently stand. Well, you've clearly got an internal bias to just prove everybody wrong, which doesn't seem to have left you, right? So when you hear that, the billy that I mean, I've come to learn in the last, you know, couple of minutes of us beaking together with just 100% use that as fuel, right? I think like, I find pride differently now. And when you're locked away for four years and 10 months, like when you're alone or with a cellmate, but a consultant and family, you can't leave. You have to find pride and like the littlest and weirdest things. And, you know, once you leave 95% of it is just like irrelevant and gets out the window. But I think like finding pride is where it stands. And do I want to be the guy who's honest but quit or the guy who's honest but went for it and then whatever the outcome is, the outcome is. And like to me, I can find more pride in that path. If I first of all, you raise more than $20 million.
Your skills sets that enabled all of this (41:53)
Now that alone is not an easy thing to do. You know, lying definitely aided that for 100%. But even if people were lying, even if someone was just purely lying, there's still an element of salesmanship that goes into accomplishing such a big investment raise for a first time music festival. When you're 25 years old, what are your skill sets that made that happen? Let's just lying it, we put that on the table, you lied. But what are the other skill sets that enabled that massive failure? So I think it's like taking a second to like dive into the lies and why it was so bad. I think there's like a misconception, at least from what I've heard, that I woke up one day, made a fake spreadsheet, which is totally true. And then with that spreadsheet, you know, went and raised a bunch of money. I think the reality is it's like, not that simple. You know, I can make a bad spreadsheet tomorrow without my background. You're just not going to go and raise $20 million. It's like, doesn't go like that. I think the hardest part is the trust. Is that the majority of the people who are backing me had either invested in me since I was 19 years old or had seen me work since I was 19, or were, you know, referred or trusted someone like who fell into one of those camps. So it was like six years of trust and failure and struggle that I had to go through to get to the position where I could even ask for that kind of money. So more than the lie, but the revenue at the time, which I almost think is not as bad as betraying the trust of the years that took to get to that point where I was even in the position to lie about the revenue. So there's that trust building, which again, the jury is probably out on whether that trust was built, honestly. Yeah. Because you talked about magnisis also being inflated in terms of the numbers. They're being lies there. But then your personal skill, like what is it in hindsight, you think, why did these people back me as an individual? What are your skill sets like charisma? Is it your ability to talk your communication skills? What was it? I almost think that you could find similarities in these early trips that led to the fire festival in some of the magnis's experiences, which is taking people who wouldn't usually meet, bringing them together, and then taking them to a place they've never been before. Whether that's a jet ski race at midnight around these uninhabited islands or spear fishing for your own lobster with someone you've always wanted to meet, is about connecting interesting people with a tinge of crazy around these adventures. And those adventures could be physical, it could be virtual, but that's always been, I think, what is intrigued backers. And one of that's a friend, a partner, a sponsor, an investor is to be part of that tornado of activity and connection and excitement. Interesting. So the people, so what I got from that is the people that invested in you wanted the same thing as the people that bought tickets to fire festival. They wanted to be part of something really, really cool themselves. They wanted to meet interesting people and do interesting crazy shit. Like that's the MO.
The ‘urgent payment sheet/‘ (45:10)
And you ended up selling some 8,000 tickets for two weekends at fire festival. I mean, everyone remembers the Orange Tile campaign and the use of influencers. I mean, Kendall Jana, Bella Hadid, Hailey Baldwin, Emily Ratatowski. And you shot this promo video in the Bahamas, which became pretty viral because no one had ever seen that group of influencers together before. At that point, you know, you know, two months, three months out from the festival, you sold these fucking tickets. This is when the lies get really out there. Like in one of the documentaries, it says that you put a villa up on the site for a quarter of a million to try and raise some money that you didn't have. And then I read further and further and I was trying to understand the world you were in that was causing you to continually lie and lie and lie. And I had about this urgent payment sheet. What was this urgent payment sheet and how was that driving you? We were at the point where the timeline that I had come up with was just so off and ridiculous. It just like made all of the payments and vendors just kind of go through the roof in terms of like the cost to make something happen so quickly. And like we just had no money, right? And we were just trying to get money from any source, whether it was investors, or sponsors, or customers, or ticket sales, consulting jobs. I was like, you know, wearing 10 hats to try and get the income we needed to fund the fire festival. And the money crunch was so bad. I literally wake up every day, you know, at 9 a.m. to a sheet where we had a list of every payment we had to make before the bank wire cut off at four o'clock that day. So I knew that by 2 p.m. I had to have that money come into our account. It's the team had enough time to wire it out for the four o'clock wire deadline. And so I'd wake up some days and it's like we need $4 million by 2 p.m. So I'd have five hours to go out, source the investors, come to terms with them and actually get the money in the account, or else we were dead in the water. That day, four million. Yeah, we managed to survive like this for almost 60 days. And some days it was 100 grand and some days it was $4 million. But like it was wild. On that day that it was $4 million, you got told 2 p.m. What'd you do? Start calling investors. Same one. I think like I was telling them we were fucked unless we had this money. And I think that like a lot of the investors almost adapted a similar mindset to me that we're in so far that hey we've already spent X, what's an extra couple million dollars at this point. Because if this thing works, we're all going to make money. And that was the mindset that I was trying to build and I truly believed obviously was so silly now to look back on. Because in one of the documentaries, they paint the opposite picture. They say that you were calling investors and not telling them the extent of how bad things were because there was one particular moment where you'd sent an email telling someone not to tell the investor the true nature of the situation with the accommodation because they wouldn't give more money. So the documentary tells a completely different story about being opaque, untransparent to investors in those crunch moments. I think like one of the bad thing is is I definitely sheltered information. Like not every investor would have the same information, not every team member of the same information. So I certainly kept a lot of the logistical problems in the dark. But if I knew like one investor could solve this problem, you know, I would tell them about the logistics problem. But then say don't tell anybody else but we need your help here. So I was picking and choosing people who I thought would be sympathetic or capable of handling certain situations. So I mean terrible approach, but it was like a mix of, hey, we're in this far, we need a little bit more. So give it to us and also mix up. Well, we can't tell everybody this because if people realize, you know, we need $4 million by 2 o'clock today, we sound crazy and we're dead. People hearing that situation where you have this urgent payment sheet and you're waking up in the morning and it says 100k on it, 250k, 4 million. One of the things in the documentary showed that you were popping up like fake villas and stuff like that to meet the debt owed on that payment sheet. So if you owed 50k that day, pop a villa online call at the dolphin villa, sell it for 50k and that would cover the solution. Is that true? I don't think it was as one to one is that. Right. We certainly were trying to sell as many expensive ticket packages as possible. That did exist. That whether it was like boats or yachts that like, you know, we would go in charter or whether it was like high-end villas that we were trying to rent. But you didn't have them at the time. So I think our numbers were not like one to one at the end of the day. However, we did rent a couple hundred villas. So, you know, I've heard so many conflicting like, extortionists, but you know, we did rent a couple hundred villas and I'm sure we were off by a number, but it wasn't like, hey, we had no villas on the island. There was a quarter million dollar package for like a villa or a yacht or something. Did that sell? I think we sold a couple of boats for like in that range. Quarter million dollars. And then we had there was a couple of houses in the island, which are like, is like 10 bedroom, you know, like private estate type things. We sold a number of them. I don't think it was like, it wasn't tons, but we sold a couple. Well, the boats did the boats exist. Yeah, we partnered with like basically like this like yacht brokerage company. So we would just like ride it through there. And as the, so going back to my point about that urgent payment sheet, you just said that you'd wake up, like, wake up on days.
The mental health implications of all of this (50:29)
Look at the urgent payment sheet. You've got it. It'd be like, oh, shit. Now, I've sat here with the CEO of one of the disruptive banks out in Europe called Tom Monzo and he talked about the like mental toolman. He had a red phone by his bed. He's running a bank here. Yeah. So he'd wake up every day and he'd have a moment of like dread waking up because the stress and the pressure of. You know, having to run a bank when you're waking up on those days. Terrible. What is the like the mental health implication? What did you feel? It was awful. And I think the one benefit and detriment that I had was an end date. Like this is all going to end on whether right or wrong, like on the festival date, right? Where they're going to succeed and like be champions or we're going to drastically fail. And either way, like let's go all in to try to make that happen. And what was the you say the word awful take me into the world's word awful. Give me a description of what that actually means in reality. What are the symptoms of that? I mean, I was fat as shit. Like my heart was at a rhythm. You know, you're with that was out of rhythm. Yeah, like I think like lost interest in sexual relationships, lost interest in like friendship relationships that weren't transactional. And it became like all work and nothing else mattered. I'm like, look terrible felt terrible. Like it just it sucks and I can't imagine like the red phone at the bank because like that's never ending, right? Like maybe you can say, Hey, you know, I'll sell or hire a new CEO in seven years, but I can't imagine like that kind of window. Yeah. Well, he ultimately quit after seven years building a business. I don't know. I think it was valid. Billions when he quit and when he did a piece in one of the newspapers, he cited his mental health. Yeah. Did you experience anxiety? For sure. I was afraid to show weakness, right? So it's like, I didn't acknowledge it to myself. I certainly didn't acknowledge it to anybody else, but like I knew something was wrong. I shouldn't be 24 or my heart skipping beats. Like, you know, that's not not normal. There's no reason why that should be happening. But yeah, it's refused to acknowledge it and like would tell myself, you're just soft. Like plenty of people have had to live with like much worse stress in this. Figured out, suck it up. Do you know that feeling of anxiety? The one I'm talking about where it's like constant state of life. For sure. And you were experiencing that and lead up to the festival. Absolutely. How badly? It was bad. And yeah, I mean, like looking back, it's crazy. Like, no one wants to live right with a dread to wake up every morning, not knowing what that Excel document's going to be and then who I have to beg or call or plead or sell to solve that problem, it's just shitty life. But you thought you were in too deep and you couldn't turn back. Yeah. I wrongly convinced myself that there was an angle and there was a solution. Like if the event worked and it went well, we'd have a great brand and everybody's happy, everybody makes money, everybody's going to want to come next year. And obviously it was so stupid and silly, but that was a pure, I had to finish line in sight. When did you realize it had all gone wrong? Yeah, the night before the festival will schedule to be Friday, Saturday and Sunday for two weekends. We had a charter to 737 planes and opened up like a temporary terminal in Miami to basically fly everybody to the island and given we only had two planes, we started to fly guests in early on a Thursday morning before the festival started on Friday. And late that Wednesday night, we were rushing to get everything ready in time. And it's like walked into the room around midnight and the entire team was like slumped over on their chairs, like asleep on the couch, like heads leaning on the kitchen table. And it seemed like all the energy at the same time, just like left the entire team. And like almost like as if on cue, as I've written by a movie, a storm rolls in, like late that Wednesday night and it's like, oh shit, like I've lost a team. You can't beat the weather or we're not in a good spot. Thinking back to the promo video that you made and comment you made on the full send podcast about how the guy that buys the yachts and gets all the girls to come and then pays for it and subsidizes it is never a happy man. Yeah.
Your insecurities (54:42)
Are you this was a question I was wondering as I was reading about your story is like, what are your insecurities? Because a lot of this seems to be driven by some kind of like deep insecurity to like prove the prove others right to be the man to be the guy to throw the best party in the validation on a psychological level that must be giving some kind of insecurity, some hole it must be filling. For sure. Yeah. What are your insecurities and what were they? Good question. Yeah. Thank you. This, I think the need it always kind of came back the need to prove this path right of like, I don't need school. I don't need the path that we were all taught as the right path. Like my path is better and it leads to more interesting and more exciting life. And like, I think I always knew that, but I was so insecure and I wanted to have everybody else believe it. And I would get frustrated when people didn't share those same beliefs as me. So I think it's in part of the learning process as well is to understand that everybody can't believe and like the same thing. And that's okay. And like not taking it personally when that happens. Have you got any insecurities around women? I don't know. Yeah. Yeah. It just seems to be centered on this desire to like prove everybody wrong in like, fuck the system. Yeah. I'm still not quite clear in my mind where that where that came from. I'm like, was he bullied in school? Was it was there a teacher that said some shit to him that he couldn't do it? Was his parents told him he couldn't do it? I think part of it is like the curse of things never being enough, right? And I guess I don't know what the derivation of that is, but you know, whether it's business success or friendship success where you live your home, your possessions, like you're the love that someone has for you, especially during that time of my life, I was almost like jaded into always thinking that it wasn't enough. Like if someone loved me, they didn't love me enough. Or if like I had a great like day at work, the day wasn't good enough. And I think it all kind of come back to like, maybe I'm thinking a lot here. Maybe it was like the early exposure at like 18 and 19 to like Titans of industry and then me comparing to them where it's like not feasible to get there without, you know, 20, 30, 40 years of work that they had put in. But it's like I wanted everything at that level and I wanted it now. So if you gave me this much, but it wasn't like where they were, I wasn't satisfied with it. So I think it was like the early exposure combined with like the impatience and need to have it. There's this really, well, public eye scene where you're stood on a crate on the day of the festival.
When you realised everything had gone wrong (57:12)
All of these party goers around you kind of screaming and asking questions and some of them a little bit drunk because they've been off. Yeah. Sent to a bar on the other side of the island when you were trying to sort of buy yourself time. What was going on when you were still in that crate and what were you thinking and feeling? Were you shitting yourself? I mean, right now I realize just like how bad my management skills were at the time. Like where the fuck is everybody? Like we had, they weren't all full time employees. A lot of them were like local contractors or whatever. We had almost 800 people, you know, the day of the festival like working there. And I just felt like I was surrounded by these people. I couldn't find any of my team members. And I had, I'm not going to name the publication, I had a publication on the phone with me saying, you know, we heard you ran off on your yacht with like cocaine and hookers. Like I don't have a yacht, never done cocaine. Like they were no hookers. And, but they're also live streaming on the cover of their webpage. So I'm like yelling at them. I'm going to yell that by like, you know, the 50 or 100 concert goers right there. I just couldn't find anybody, but this goes to show. I just like didn't have the systems in place to, or the knowledge to manage everything. That was my first reaction is like, where the hell is everybody? I heard you made the decision to cancel the festival when someone incorrectly told you that people had died. Yeah, I was told shortly after that moment, maybe an hour or two later that three people had died. And thankfully no one was physically hurt like at all to my knowledge, but I was told these elaborate stories. Who told you that? I'm not team members in place. And I think the reality was looking back now is that concert goers were like reading things on Twitter and then coming and running to employees and telling them this, but like verified Twitter accounts is back in what? Seventeen were like, nothing like gunshots fire. Like people hit like it was going all over Twitter and people were getting shot things like that. And like none of this was true. But by the time it got to me, the details were so vivid. I just didn't have like the ability to like step back, take a deep breath, recalibrate and try to like think through the information. I was like, Oh shit, people are dead. Okay, cancel this. Turn the plans around, get everybody home. How did that feel when you heard that? If someone in my team came to me and said that I was put on an event and three people were dead already, I mean, I just freaked out and said, get everybody out of here, get everybody back to Miami. And I was like, that was a response. But yeah, I was just. I just didn't have the ability to like, okay, like what's actually happening? How can we prevent this? Oh, he's more of his like a quick knee jerk. All right, send everybody home is over.
Consequences And Aftermath
Did you ask Andy king to such a penis? (59:47)
One of the, I think legendary moments from the documentary, which I know you've been asked about and heard about before, is when Andy King says that he, you called him and asked him to suck a dick, suck literally suck a penis to have the water imported because the border agents had held it up. What's the truth in that situation? Like, did you ask him to suck a penis? I've heard so many variations of this story. And no, he was never ordered to go suck a guy's dick. I literally put mouthwash in. He was going to suck, suck some dick. He was. Yeah. That's news to me. I mean, I've obviously heard the story many times, but I think the, the comment was in just like, go suck this guy's dick, get this water, like whatever it takes more of like, you know, go suck up to him and get the water released. Like do anything beyond paying this guy, right? Like you can't, you can't pay the customs people. So they go do whatever it takes and just convince him that our festival is going to fail if people can't drink water. He's obviously a gay man and the border agent was gay, right? I think so, yeah. So the assertion in the documentary was because he was gay, you'd asked him to suck a dick if he had to. And he, he took that literally. So he says he, he says he, he went and put mouthwash in and he headed down there, fully prepared to suck a dick. I think that makes for good TV, but yeah, he certainly don't recall that happening like a pet, unfortunately. Crazy. Do you still speak to him? I've heard from him recently. Yeah. So. Are you on good terms? I think it's a good guy. I think he tried his best to, to help. And unfortunately, he was brought on pretty late in like the process. So he wasn't there from the beginning, but I think obviously if he was wanting to do that, he went above and beyond to. Listen, if I try to make the festival happen, I'm sure I'm, yeah, wishing them all the best. If I had a friend that was willing to go to those links for me, and I have no friend that would do that for me, I certainly would stay in touch and keep them on side. In the wake of fire festival, what happens?
People losing their life savings (01:01:39)
You eventually fly back to New York. One of the scenes that really did get me in the documentary on an emotional level was watching that wonderful behemoth lady talk about how she lost her life savings. You know, I'm referring to, right? I do know, yeah. Yeah. How do you feel about that when you hear that, that low course you worked on that hadn't been paid? And they're, you know, they're not living privileged lives necessarily. Yeah. I mean, it's terrible. And the reality is there are people who are owed there, and they're owed for the last two weeks of work before the festival. I think everybody's a little bit different, but getting them paid back super important to me and trying to find ways to start that process now. I never met that lady before, but her story is obviously super sad and, you know, I have heard from her through friends recently and, you know, hope we can figure out, you know, what is owed to everybody and start making the steps there. But yeah, unfortunately, never matter, but hope to make Red Fire.
The FBI coming for you (01:02:39)
When you leave the Bahamas after that event, you come back to New York, you come back to a shitstorm. Yeah. I mean, the people that have given you what, $26, $27 million in cash must be pretty mad. For sure. I land back on like the Sunday night after the festival around midnight, and then that morning early, the FBI is at my door. I think like the initial investors who got really mad thought that the whole festival was a hoax and that I had stolen the money and had it hidden somewhere. And it was like lying about the entire thing. And so just like enter this whirlwind of hell. Your investors basically went to the FBI room. Yeah. Yeah. And then you said, "What makes you, what gives you the understanding?" Basically, I was called and told what was going to happen. It's like, you fucked up. It's too late. Like, here's what's going to happen now. And like, I was totally, totally guilty. And I would have gone to jail. Like, if no one made that phone call, it just made the process happen. Like, the process kicked off faster. But once it kicks off, you know, it's out of the, out of the hands of the investors and into the justice system. And I was black and white, guilty. There was no gray area there. And one of your investors called you and told you that if you didn't give them X dollar cash, they would do the exact lines where like, we need this amount of money or else you're going to be on hand, handcuffs on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. And I was like, didn't have the money, first of all. How much was it? I don't want to say, because people will know what the investor probably is, but. Seven figures? Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. More than a million dollars. More than one less than 10. So I didn't have it. And then I was also kind of like, certainly naive in my response. At the time, I just couldn't fathom like that I was lying to investors, right? Like, I knew I was trying my best to make the festival work. And the media is initially like a line of questioning and the guest line of questioning as it was all falling apart was like, this was a scam. You didn't try to do this. So my reaction was like, no, I tried. I'm trying my best, but I couldn't like really understand the magnitude and the gravity of the crimes I did commit. So I was still kind of fighting back. Like, I didn't do anything wrong. I tried my best. Of course, like I get back and realize, oh shit, I mean, it didn't happen overnight, but here's what actually happened. And yeah.
Carrying on with the scams (01:04:55)
When you get back, the criminality doesn't stop though, does it? No. This is the bit, honestly, that really got me in the document because I was like, oh, man, you know, some could say young kid, negligent, inexperienced. His ambition was greater than his execution, told loads of lies. At that point, he learns his lesson, but then for the criminality and lying to continue beyond that point with this NYC VIP access where you start selling fake tickets, give me the context. Why did that happen? Yeah, I have many smart people. This has said the same thing as you. And I was just caught in this process where, okay, this investor, he didn't threaten me, but the investor kind of gave me an ultimatum. I blew him off and he was right. He got me arrested. I'm going to solve up the money. I have to pay everybody back now. All right. I'm going to get him his money and I wasn't like communicating with him at this point, but I'm going to get him his money. I'm going to pay everybody else back and then this is all going to go away and I can solve this. And I thought that the proper response to a criminal process was to solve the problem. When the proper response to criminal processes to sit down, shut the fuck up and like accept your punishment and just take it. Any other response, just like the wrong way to do it. So you were on bail. I was on bail. And like it was all about this desire like, okay, now it's about the money. Let me pay people back. And back in the many since days, like in nearly fire days, brands would essentially pay us to like host these events for members or to invite members to random things. And I would always get invited to these like charity events and the charity gallows and concerts and you know, award shows and whatever it may be. I can get plus one or plus two depending on it. And I thought like, oh, this is a great way to make money. I can just like, you know, call these brands back and ask for a favor and get a few spots to sell these tickets. I just like was so stupid and still wrong and obviously couldn't fulfill what I was selling. I'm like, fucked up and it's kept me awake at night just as much if not more than the festival. So we're on the same page there. So you would Hamilton, the Super Bowl, you would email people, co-cooled and tell them you had tickets, take the money. And then when the event happened, I would scramble and try to get it. And sometimes I could, but many times I couldn't. And you would keep that, keep that money. I would have funded if the event didn't happen, but the problem was I was just so sold out for events in the future that I had no chance of actually fulfilling that, you know, when my bell got revoked and I got arrested, it was just like, they lost their money. When you were doing, when you were doing this in the Magnesis days, I heard a story about Hamilton. You said you had 200 tickets to Hamilton. And then when the event came near, you just like randomly scrambled on like ticket hub or stub hub, whatever it is and bought the tickets last minute and we'd go and hand them out. And in the lying period leading up to the festival, I was trying to get money from everywhere and definitely was trying to get more money from Magnesis to help pay the bills as well. I was so stupid, like we're certainly overselling access to Magnesis events, but we ended up either buying the tickets like at an inflated rate or funding everybody. So I lost money every single time. You know, it was crazy, like just so stupid.
Your relationship with lying now (01:08:01)
Your ability to be so comfortable with lying at that point in your life is terrifying. Yeah. It's one could almost say it's like, it's kind of, it's kind of, I don't know if you should say this, but kind of lucky that like it wasn't on an even bigger scale and it wasn't like life or death stuff that you were doing in terms of, you know what I mean? Because if you're that comfortable lying to people, that could have been, I mean, like and you have the sales ability clearly, that could have been a lot. Like how is your relationship with lying evolved in the last couple of years since you've been in jail and you've come out like, honestly, how has it changed? Yeah. The lies at the time, I think just the craziest part was how stupid it was from every level. Like, you know, you work hard to build relationships with friends with loved ones, with supporters. And obviously, as soon as you allotted them, it's going to get found out whether it's the next day or in a year or five years, they're going to believe that. But you didn't seem to have a belief that you found out. I always knew in the back of my mind, they're going to find out, but I convinced myself that if I had made them, if I gave them what they want, which I thought was happiness and success, it one that mattered. Like, that's where I went wrong. And it's like, okay, they're going to know that our revenue wasn't this, but I'm going to make the money and they're going to have fun. So they're going to love me still. I'm like, it's so crazy to think about now, but that was the thought process. And that's like, even for the Magnesius tickets, if we oversold a ticket for an event, I was literally running around when I came back to New York for a weekend, I'd go outside Madison Square Garden and pay like four times a price and make sure that person was happy in the moment. Not realizing I just lost a ton of money in the deal and actually hurt everybody else because we're losing money on it. So I was like, so focused and there's like long-term goal or short-term goal of happiness and success for everybody around me. And that's obviously German due to insecurity and whatever these desires are. But yeah, that was like my personal justification and crazy, but that's what it was.
What was it like when the FBI came knocking? (01:10:09)
That day when the FBI come knocking, you know, this before you put on bail, what is it like tell me because I'm fucking terrified of the FBI. I never met him. I'm so scared of him just from movies. So tell me what that's like. Scary as hell. And I think like I wasn't defiant. I was more like, I tried my best. That was my own like internal like mentality. Everybody at that time was accusing me and the festival of all being fake. And like while obviously made a million management decisions, the crime was like in lying to investors, right? But I just didn't comprehend yet like what I'd really done. And I didn't realize that I was doing all these crimes for this end goal of making people successful and even if it worked, I still would have gone to jail. But it didn't work. And I was fucked. And it's like, couldn't understand at that point what was happening. When did remorse show up and that realization of like guilt and what you'd done? When did that show up? It's hard to figure that out in your story. Yeah, I think like the first day where it's like something is really wrong was at the sentencing when the judge said six years and I kind of like looked back at the faces of the friends and family that were there. That was hard. And it's like I legitimately just hurt what it was 30 people in a way that's going to affect them not just for four or five, six years, but for 20 years, 30 years and it's never going to go away. And I don't like that wasn't all the lessons I learned in one day. But that I think was the start of what would take another 18 months of being in jail to really reflect on of like, wow, like this is fucking bad. John rule was your co-founder.
Transition And Rehabilitation
Ja rule (01:11:57)
Did he throw you under the bus? I think he did what most people would have done in that situation. So which was well. Yeah, I think he certainly, I mean, he's got a lot of talents, right? But I don't think going back to jail was on his agenda. And I was the guilty one. He should not. If all if all things shook out fairly at the end, I don't think he should have gone to jail. I don't think he committed any crimes. But like, I think like most people, they quickly made it known like what I did wrong and how I did it. But yeah, I mean, I feel bad for everybody else who is who is trying their best or they're trying hard to make things happen. Do you still speak to him? Do you have a relationship? No. Have you spoke to him since you've been to general or Jane general? Shortly after, shortly after getting arrested, I spoke with him like one time. So this is right when bail started and then didn't speak with him again. And so your your bail was revoked because while you're on bail, you started this NYC VIP access. And that violated your bail conditions. Correct. Yes. You weren't allowed to start a company or you weren't allowed to. Well, because I wasn't allowed to keep lying. Right. So can they find out you were lying there as well? Yeah. That was it. Yeah.
Going to jail (01:13:17)
So you go to jail. Yeah. There's this lawsuit where you were sued for a hundred million dollars, but you go to jail, you get six years in jail. Yes. And you're a few things in your sort of your sentencing. You're not allowed to start another company again. What's the actual terminology though? So I have an SEC rule, the Securities Commission of the US, where I can't be an officer or director of a public company for life. Public company. Yeah, public company. But you can for private. For private. Yeah. Okay. But for life, which is, you know, obviously thumb that position. That's a good problem to have. Yeah. People are probably paid back at that point, but yeah. You get found guilty of two counts of wife abroad, but then you also get charged again for selling fake tickets to events like the Met Gala, Burning Man and Coachella on top of that, which makes the sentence even worse. For sure. So stupid. Crazy. It's almost like. Ridiculous. Just didn't know how to, didn't know how to say that I was wrong and accept, like accept that admission. You also got, you have to pay restitution. Yeah. That's a good institution for anybody that doesn't know. So it's basically wage garnishment forever until I die or until the people who are defrauded are paid back. You have to. So on all the money you make for the rest of your life, you have to pay the investors you lied to and you raised 26 million from back a percentage of the money. Exactly. Yes. Do you know what that percentage is? Yeah. I think it changes based on your income level. And so it's been like three months for me so far. So I'm just like not making a ton of money right now. I've made literally made like eight restitution payments so far in the first three and a half months, but I think the percentages kind of goes up and down based on what you're earning. So it's something I guess I'll continue to learn about or hopefully I'll learn about more as I'm able to earn more. Jayo. Yeah. I said to you before we started recording that one of my recurring nightmares is going to. Yeah. I like to be able to voice it though because I had the same one, but I could never have told anybody about that 10 years ago. Of course. Yeah. Tell me about Jayo. I hope I never find out. Yeah. I mean, so much of me just wants like put it in the past and never think about it again, but it'll always be there. And the hardest part is the distance. It's like you're in timeout and you can't like get consoled or can't like love anybody. Can't talk to your family and friends and any partners, whatever else it may be. It's the forced distance that is the hardest part. What does that do to you? I think like when you're rendered useless and powerless for an extended period of time, it really messes with your psyche. And I feel it every day now, but I can only imagine for the people who are there for 20 or 30 years, significant periods of time longer than me. Like what it does, I think the system is designed to break down ambition and creativity and to like institutionalize you as the word that is commonly used. And I think like that just kind of kills your humanity and it kills your psyche and it just makes you feel worthless. How has it changed you? I think we'll go to the positive stuff, but in a negative way, can you see symptoms of how it's had an adverse impact on you? Yeah, I think like, and I don't know disrespect to people who have been through like way, way worse and there's many of them out there. But I think from solitary confinement, having this weird like almost like a PTSD paranoia where I now know that there's someone out there who can snap their fingers and like shut my lights out. And there's someone who can like wake up and say, we want him in a concrete box for four years, 10 years and they can do it and I can't stop it. That's fucking scary. I'm like, that keeps me up at night. That's because you're on probation. Probation? Yeah, exactly. Yeah. So it's like, you know, you Jay walk and that's enough where they send you back to jail and then I'll get to jail. We're going to put you in solitary confinement now. I'm like, someone can snap their fingers and do it. And like, that's. That mess with you messes with your head. I think I'm just like, I'm before I was very quick to pull the trigger but in both good and bad ways. And now I think I'm a little trigger shy and a lot of aspects of life. And I worry that I won't get that like, I won't get that back in the good ways because like every time I think like, am I going to make a decision where someone's going to construe this as me like breaking a rule, whether my tensions are or aren't. And it's just scary. And like, just knowing that I was so guilty in the first place in deserve, like everything that happened. But then also knowing that it doesn't have to be that way. And there are people who, you know, weren't as guilty as me who suffered as bad or worse than me. I think that fear has always been there. Like when I was told my release date from jail, the two months I had to wait after receiving the date or the hardest time in jail. Like every morning, I'd like be shaking in bed, like waiting from the call my name on the last speaker to tell me it was a joke and like, I'm not going home. And like, I didn't believe I was going to go home. So for those 60 days, I was like, I'm unbearable. And then like when the day comes, I'm waiting in like the cage, like you're already locked in a cage for them to process you out. I'm like, okay, the FBI is going to show up and tell me it's all a joke. Like I'm not getting out of here. And like, it's just like the constant like disbelief that anything ever is going to happen again was the hardest part. And how long is your probation? How long have you got to live with that fear of that? Any decision you make? Three years. Three years. Yeah. It's pretty long. Mm. Four years is a long time in jail. Yeah. You know, it's a relatively small number. But if I think about what's happened, if I just go back four years in my own life to when I was 25, 26, literally, I mean, I was a different person. Yeah, crazy. Crazy. And those are key years. You went to jail at 25 years old, right? Yeah. Six years old. Yeah. And I'm 30. So it's like, yeah, missing the latter half of your 20s is definitely, I mean, deservedly obviously, but definitely development years, right? I'm sure for most people.
The worst thing the happened in jail (01:19:45)
In terms of lasting memories that jail had on you and lasting impact, take me to what is the worst thing that happened in jail that will stay with you for life, the worst thing you observed or so? I did two stints in solitary. First one was three months, second one was seven months. Why? The seven months stint was because I tried to do a podcast over the pay phone, which is a terrible idea to anybody listening. But I didn't want the competition. So I'm not going to shut that down. Yeah. Wait till Stephen invites you on. But they tried to send me to a terrorist jail and basically in retaliation for that podcast. And they put me in officially put the paperwork into send me to like a terrorist facility. And I've since gotten out and like looked at facility up and there's like a list of the inmates on like Wikipedia who were in that jail. And you know, I'd be one of like three non terrorists there. I'm like, it's fucking scary. It's like, I wanted a podcast. I was super boring a vanilla. So stupid to do it should not have done it. You can't do a podcast from jail. It doesn't make any sense. But like it all kind of feeds this concept where there's like, and I'm not a conspiracy theorist believe right off, but there's someone who can snap their fingers and your life is done. And thankfully like somewhere in the higher up chain outside of the facility, I was in like rejected that and just sent me somewhere else. But that was a very real possibility. How were you trying to record a podcast in jail? They have pay phones that you're able to make. I think like 20, 15 minute calls every month. But you can do them all in like one day. So we have to wait 30 minutes for you to call. So I like a podcast company set a podcast up where over the course of two days I'll call on every half hour for a few hours a day and record the podcast. And they found out when the episode was published, the trailer came out in like an hour or two later, they came and grabbed me and yeah, so that's it. Solitary confinement. Yeah. Ten months in total in solitary confinement. The worst part is not knowing when it's going to end and they were like fucking with me. Like, Hey, here's we're going to send you. And they would like send me a program statement. It's called the CM, the communication management unit, like Marion, Illinois. Like, here's we're going to send you. And I thought they were bluffing. But then they like two weeks later, oh, McFarland, they actually put your paperwork in for their like you're fucked. Like, and it's like the whole time and no one's going to tell me how long it was going to be or when it was going to end. And that was the hardest part. Like a never ending saga. They were taking enjoyment out of fucking with you. Oh, of course. Yeah. I mean, deservedly so. I get if your job is to, you know, work inside a concrete bunker and like this asshole kid comes in, I'm sure, you know, I don't blame them for their actions. I heard you tell a story on the full sign podcast about a young guy arriving in jail and you overhearing his rape. Yeah, Brooklyn. Yep. Tell me about that. That was really, really early on in my jail stint when I had my bell revoked. I went to the Brooklyn Detention Center here, which ended up being there for seven months. That place is certainly like violent. They have all kinds of crimes and levels of security people there. It's like all kind of mixed into one big, like fish, tanky, you know, cell block. At that point, I think it was like so wide eyed as to what was happening. I just couldn't really process everybody's pain at that point because I was trying to like understand my own pain. But yeah, you see in here things that you don't think are real, right? And just like didn't have the exposure to those to that, thankfully, in my life before that point. What did you see in here in that instance? Desperate people with nothing to lose who are looking for attention or looking for an outlet, taking advantage of others and it's rough. It's just, it's bad. Do you feel uncomfortable talking about that? A little bit. Why? I think like there are obviously some great people in prison who I met, but there's just as many bad people. And it's like bad people surrounded by other bad people just kind of creates. It doesn't create anything good. A story that I'm referring to is how you talk about quite recently was that a young man had come to the jail and you'd heard him at night being raped by another more dominant inmate and you had to sit in your cell and overhear that room and you saw him the next day. He's gone because he didn't want to get hurt. So we're so weird about that situation. He was scared to tell the police guards like what happened, but he had to move cells because like he couldn't deal with it again. So he found a reason to move to a different cell like in the same building that we were all in, but the word got around between the other inmates what happened. So the other inmates pressured the guy who raped him to do something about it basically and he went and took a razor blade and slashed the guy the next day. So it's like you're damned if you do, damned if you don't and how does that kid handle that situation. If you tell one the guy and your entire prison experience is going to be terrible. If you don't tell him you're going to get raped, if you quasi-tell him, they'll get moved and then stabbed. So it's like what do you do? And it's just like a wild terrible situation. How old was that young guy? I think he was like a year or two younger than me. So this is my first seven months. So I was 25 or 26 so early in the mid 20s. Do those things, do you have any reoccurring nightmares about that time? Is there almost a Peter jail PTSD? I think from solitary, I was kind of sheltered at that point because it was so early. I was the first and only time I saw someone get raped. I've actually had heard stories later on, but never actually, I didn't see it, but like heard what was happening there and heard his blood help me scream the next morning when he was getting slashed. So that was wild. But I think it was so much happening at that time. I didn't fully take stock into what had happened. So that happened a year or two later. I think it would have been more difficult to comprehend. But the fact that someone was going on at that point is an overwhelming emotion. If you have a thousand loud sounds blasting in your face and one more like corn plays in the corner, you're not going to really register the horn as much as if it was the only sound hitting you at that time. And you had therapy, Joe? Yeah, they had like jail therapists. Did that help you at all in any way? I think so. And I think it's all like, it's a journey, right? And you need to be the one who kind of drives that car yourself. But I think like, you know, experienced people can push you to start thinking about the right things. Really one you've been inside of the last five years, the topic around mental health is has really emerged in culture.
Your mental health journey now (01:26:07)
What has your journey been like with your own mental health? Have you experienced, we talked about anxiety earlier, at any point did you experience what people call depression and the symptoms of depression? I don't know. I think like my, the mental health journey started more out of angst. I was in solitary for, it was my first stint there and it had a wall sheet journal newspaper come in and it was around the holiday time. So like getting ready to do Christmas like alone in the cell, like, you know, obviously super stressful. And there was like a whole back page spread in the wall sheet journal about dealing with your anxiety in the wine store because there were so many options. And I'm like, these motherfuckers, like, do you know what I would give to like be able to go to a wine store like right now? And like, how is this real? So I think like my initial like intro to like the in vogue mental health was like a bit of like, this is bullshit. And then I think it took a period of a couple years to start like opening up to the topic and the concept. Have you opened up to the topic? Not fully. Like, I guess like for better or worse, you know, I'm of the belief that I committed the crime and like, I could have and should have stopped myself and getting mental health, like, wouldn't have stopped me from committing the crime. And I also believe that like, I'm like, present to the point that I certainly believe I know right from wrong, moving forward. And if I commit a crime in the future, it's not going to be because of like a mental health issue. It's because like, I'm taking a shortcut and, you know, copping out. You lawyers tried to get you off the 20 year prison sentence by saying that you suffered from untreated bipolar disorder. The success reinforced his grandiose and distorted sense that there were no boundaries. Bipolar disorder. That's the defense that your lawyers gave. Is that true? I think like I am extremely flawed in a lot of ways and I'm embarrassed about a lot of things, but I'm very embarrassed about using like mental health as part of my defense. And I just don't believe that that's an excuse for what I did. So I think that was, that was a wrong approach that I took there and like, but is it true? Do you have bipolar disorder? I don't think I'm bipolar. I'm sure I have mental health, like concerns as many people do, but yeah, I don't think I'm bipolar. But you think that was your defense and you using that as a way to try and lower the sentence? Yeah, I think that was stupid. It was wrong. There's a quote from the prosecutor as well, West that they said that the defendant is a serial fraudster and to date his fraud like a circle has no end. Mr. McFarland has been dishonest most of the time. Do you agree with that statement from the judge? I think the magnitude of the lies that led to that point were just so large and so bad that it erased any good. And so I think that was accurate at the time. That time inside, you know you're getting out.
What was your plan when you got out? (01:29:11)
What's the plan? You start writing books in jail. I have all of these things. What's the plan when you're looking forward at your life with your ambition? What are you thinking? I'm going to get out and I'm going to do what? The craziest thing is that I never thought I would get out and I'd spend the time like planning things and thinking about what I wanted to do more is like a mental escape but I was just so convinced that it was never going to end and obviously it sounded silly. That's really been like the this like aha moment like I am out of prison right now and I just like truly didn't think I would be here. Crazy I know but it was like the paranoia of the situation really really like convinced me that this was not going to be over. You've started a new company. Yeah. So I am out so I guess I have to do something now. Yeah. You could have done a lot of things. Yeah. You could have gone in as you said people told you to go get a job. You could have played it safe. You start a company called Pirate. Yeah. Interesting name. There's a little bit of humor in there. Yeah. A little bit of a pun. Hopefully people understand the self-deprecating nature. Yeah. And even the way that you're marketing pirate will talk about what it is etc. And even the make you're very much embracing what's happened. And you're I remember seeing a video of the marketing collateral and you say it the start of it. Listen I've got a lot of people to pay back here. You're embracing what's happened. Was that a strategy? Yeah. I think like beating around the bush and hiding from the truth just makes no sense. Right. And like people are owed their own money their own trust their own apology and not doing it and avoiding it. I think is worse than saying it is what it is. And here's my step to make it right. I'm like I can't promise that pirate is going to be worth anything one day. I can't promise it'll work or not work but I can promise I'm going to try. Are you really sorry? I'm super sorry. Who are you sorry to? Family friends first. Supporters second. And then goes down the list from there. What's the plan with pirate? Yeah. Is it a festival? Not yet. For all of like the really bad stuff I think the one crazy positive takeaway of solitary was that it gave me time to think past tomorrow. And if you kind of go back to like those fire days with the urgent payment sheet I couldn't afford to think past two o'clock you know let alone like three years from now. So the benefit of solitary was like read a lot of books and really just like thought about technology in a way that I didn't have the luxury of doing my own mistakes of doing before. Plus like the reflection about like what I suck at and what I'm good at. So pirates like the combination of the time to think seven years ahead and the time to reflect on the areas that I need help and the areas that I think I can succeed at. Would you suck out? I went way too fast. I turned down experts in certain areas like thinking I knew more than them. I'm terrible managing finances. I'm terrible with logistics but I'm good at building products quickly and I'm good at marketing. I think most of all I'm good at taking people and allowing them to find value in others that they might have not found without me and then inviting them and convincing them to go try some experience they would never have done without me and finding like joy and success and ideas from those experiences and connections. And that's what pirates really trying to do right? That's a pirate about. Tell me about pirate. If I've never heard of it before and I'm a potential customer what's the sales pitch? So working to partner with a really small like boutique hotel in an adventurous island somewhere where we can host the content creator from London like the entrepreneur from New York the music artist from LA on a permanent basis connect them around all these adventures to go night diving to go spearfish for their own lobsters to make music you know by the bonfire at night. As many weekends out of the years we can but this time instead of trying to bring like thousands of people there we're rigging the area with these 360 cameras we're going to be live streaming it to the rest of the world. So all of their fans no matter where they are can watch what's actually happening and then take advantage of these emerging technologies to own and even affect the experience. So for example people online and get chipping a dollar and build a beach side bar and sell drinks their favorite artists or like once I'm allowed to travel I can be swimming at the reef and they can decide to chum the water and like the local captain who's like an amazing character like dump bait in the water and I think given all the crazy sharks in the area people would love to see the results live of that but it's all about taking people on a manageable scale physically to different places and then virtually allowing them to connect with people they never thought were possible and partaking these experiences. So for me I would go out to some island somewhere and then I'd be on the island chilling and then my audience watching can fuck with me. Exactly. Or like impact your creative experience even as well too. So you could be like hosting a bonfire chat or you can do a podcast from a different island location and they can say hey we want you to do the podcast from this island today with this guest and ask these questions and they can kind of get involved and help own that experience. How are you going to fund this? Yeah so like right now I was doing everything and anything like have a TV deal. I've been signing baseball cards, I'm on camp here like literally like doing marketing for other small startups and I think like things have to grow and it's super super early on but just trying to find any way to you know get their revenue to do all this. You're going to raise investment again? I don't know. Not tomorrow not this week but you know in six, twelve, eighteen months like I have to kind of see what I'm allowed to do and what I'm allowed to do so taking a step by step. Do you have this kind of like because it's been such a public failure and it's tarnished by this like this subject of lies, liar. Every interaction you must have now, is there a part of you that knows that they don't trust you? I think what's really like interesting especially from the team standpoint is I'm having an easier time finding like team members and partners and like employees whatever it is now and like with having no money and having the tarnished than I did before. I think for like the 90 out of 100 people who just like want to hate and like distance themselves, they're almost inspires like the 10% of the people to really want to fight for it and make something happen. So I almost have like deeper I think more trusting relationships with my small circle than I did before but obviously I'm going to encounter you know millions of people who are just going to like say no at first pass. So when I heard you talk about pirate recently a couple of weeks ago you referenced the Bahamas. Now when you just told me about pirate then you said some island. Yeah I saw you on full sense say you wanted to go back to the Bahamas. Yeah I'd love to go to the Bahamas. We'd been working with a small local development on an island called Black Point and we had a super connected, tight like local team that I had known there for years and I call my dear friends. A few weeks ago the Bahamas basically announced that I wasn't allowed back which was super hard for me to hear. I think the reality of the situation is that there are people in the Bahamas who are still owed for their work and they need to be paid back. So before like any talks of returning there happen like they need to be paid back and I'd love to readdress your relationship once that happens but in the meantime pirate is the technology we built. It is his experiences so just like it's early and I don't know if the answer is yet but looking for other locations to start testing what we've been building. Who said in the Bahamas you weren't allowed back? The government made a statement saying that I'm not allowed back. I think like some media announced that I was doing a festival there again which was not the situation and I don't think I ever announced that and I hope I didn't but I think that narrative was taken with and run with to like this overall ban which came at a left field for me. What did the statements say? That I'm a fugitive of the Bahamas. So if you go to the Bahamas they would arrest you. It sounds like it. I'm not aware of any charges that I've any time over the past five years but once again I think the reality is people who worked hard for the fire festival there, vendors, contractors, whatever it may be are still owed and if I can pay start paying $100 a week whatever the number is like let's figure that out and get that done. How are you doing?
How are you doing? (01:37:38)
This dress is there and it's literally been three and a half months right and it's like how do I deal with this? I think one of the toughest things for me when I first got out of jail was in like a halfway house program for a number of months and the first people that kind of came to me were people who I had met in prison and they were trying to essentially like partner with me and getting close and as I like learn more about those people over time it's been more of like separating myself with from them and is like building and rebuilding with old friends and new friends as well. So the human aspect took me some time and I think I kind of like viewed the end of my sentence as like a fresh start. It's like August 30th came. I kind of like had a separate from the people I'd been around for just over four years at that point and start reconnecting with old friends and new people and that's been a challenge. I think I've got a really great small group right now but it's a struggle to survive. Like I have no money, you know, I'm trying to earn whoever I can and just like get consulting, marketing, you know media jobs and just doing my best but it's not going to happen in six months or nine months. It's going to take time. Are you happy? I think I'm excited but also super paranoid and nervous. So it's a mix and I feel like I have like a good four to five years to rebuild the foundation before life is like copacetic again. And obviously coming in, coming in doing podcasts like this, it can't be easy to do this every fucking day. No. You know what I mean? People like me calling you a pathological liar and just reading off all this stuff that you've done in the past. To be fair, you've been harder than every other one I've done. So really good for you though. No, no. Well, you know what it is. It's not just that I feel like I have a responsibility to it. It's like on this process you're on now, there's questions people want to ask and until those questions are answered, like they're going to remain. And in fact, for me, I think liberation for you is like facing those tough questions and answering them because eventually like the truth is people are going to stop asking them. Like if they have those answers. So, and you know what I think it's worth me saying as well, I believe you should have a chance. I'm very much of the opinion that like people like you that have done wrong and that fucked up and that held their hands up and said I fucked up, I'm wrong. Whether you're telling the truth or not, I don't know. You know, I take you on your word, but I believe that if we have a society where people don't get a second chance, that is a worse society. I spent a couple of two weeks ago, I went to a prison and spent pretty much all day there meeting inmates and speaking to them and the potential I saw, you know what I mean? It really did open my eyes because as you've described, I saw such unbelievable potential. I saw mistakes that people had made in their lives and then I saw a desperation to fix them and to get back out and be productive. So I think a society that has open arms to ex offenders who have committed certain lower level crimes, I think is a good society. I'm not saying it was a lower level crime, I'm not passing it in your case. I think that's a better society to live in or else it's a waste of talent and, you know, so that's my stance on it. Now, do I do I believe everything you've said in terms of like you'll never do it again? I don't know. The scary part was you made a massive mistake and then made another one, you know, five festivals, a fucking very public shit show and then to then scam people with the tickets, I'm like, damn. I hope everything you've told me, told me is the truth. What message would you want to send to the world? Like all the people listening to this around the world, what message do you want to send to them? I think the beauty that we all have in some capacity is time, right? And it's the patience too. Like, I don't need anything from anybody listening to this. I just hope that in 20 or 30 years, we can look back upon this conversation or snippet to this conversation and said, oh yeah, like this came true. Oh, there's where you messed up or there's where you did a good job. I think it's just like documenting the journey and allowing time to run its course and time reveals all, right? Pirate, where can we find pirate? If we want to go check it out, we will be part of it. Where do we go to check it out? Pirate.com, P-Y-R-T or... P-Y-R-T dot com. Yeah, at Pirate Billy on social. Great domain name. Yeah. Thank you. Cool domain name. Yeah. He paid for that. Oh my God. Thanks to TV contract. TV contract. What's that? He's doing a small follow on docuseries about the attempt to build pirate. Nice. Yeah. I can tell you're excited. Yeah. Were you nervous coming here today? Not really. I didn't know how in depth we were going to go. I'm glad I didn't really know because if I knew the structure and the questions, I don't think go to slept last night. So I'm glad I came in a little blind. I've done three podcasts so far. The first one maybe two weeks ago and then I filmed the second one this morning. Which is fun. And then I guess I kind of came in thinking this would be more jovial. So I'm really, really glad I didn't know the depth of this because I would have been super nervous and definitely not have slept yesterday. Of all the things I've asked you, what was the most uncomfortable thing? The thing where you go, "Ah!" Insecurities, drive, like the why. I think it's the most uncomfortable because I don't have the answer. So... You're good. Because you don't have the answer, it still might be running the show in the back room a little bit, right? Sure, of course. I'm speaking from my experience. I talk a lot about this podcast, whether I'm driven or whether I'm being dragged by something. And I've only in the last couple of years started to realize that I was being dragged by my insecurities a lot of the time. My goals reflected that on Lamborghini Ranger of a six-pack.
The last guest question (01:43:17)
We have a closing tradition on this podcast, everywhere. The last guest asks a question for the next guest without knowing who they're leaving it for. So they didn't realize that they were leaving it for you. Interesting question. And I feel like I might know the answer based on what we've discussed. Okay, I'm going to make a rule. You can't repeat something you've already said here, okay? You make it a little more difficult. The question left for you, not knowing it's for you, is what scares you the most today? Can't talk about probation. Taking a shortcut. I think I have a propensity to go fast. And it's good in like tech ways, but it's bad in life ways. And there will be opportunities that come from the media, from podcasts, from being out of jail. And it's not taking a shortcut. And it's like, don't get distracted by the glittery lights in some opportunity that ultimately represents a shortcut. Thank you, Billy. Thank you for being here. Thank you for taking the questions and thank you for being so open. It's just tough, but I'm super glad I did this. And the line of your questioning is amazing. So respect where it comes from. And yeah, you're a master at this. So thank you. Thank you, Billy. I hope you pay all the restitution back. I hope you hope pirate becomes a huge success. All the lessons that you've learned over the last 10 years, got you've learned lessons. I learned and they're applied. And I hope we can sit here someday five years from now, 10 years from now and talk about the opposite, the success, which is usually the conversation I have with CEOs here. OK, the success, what you've built, how you've done it. And share one of those insights and lessons. Quick word from one of our sponsors. I've got a tip for all of you that will make your virtual meeting experiences, I think, 10 times better. As some of you may know, by now, BlueJeans by Verizon offers seamless, high quality video conferencing. But the reason why I use BlueJeans versus other video conferencing tools is because of immersion. Their tools make you feel more connected to the employees or customers you're trying to engage with. And now they're launching one of their biggest feature enhancements to impact virtual events so far called BlueJeans Studio. I actually used it the other day. I did an virtual event using the studio, which I think about 700 of you came to. TV level production quality, all done by one person with very little technical experience on a laptop. So if you've got an event coming up and you're thinking about doing it virtually, check out BlueJeans Studio now. Let me know what you think because I genuinely believe, I know this is an advert and I'm supposed to say this, but I genuinely believe it's the best tool I've seen for doing really immersive, simple but high quality production virtual events. Quick one. As you might know, Crafted are one of the sponsors of this podcast and they make really meaningful pieces of jewelry. This lion piece they've made, I wear all the time, along with the little time piece, the sand timer that I wear often. And the lion piece, you might have seen Conor McGregor has a similar piece, which was custom made for him. For me, it represents courage. And if you walk through my house, the house that I'm in right now, if you walk six feet in that direction, you'll see a huge lion portrait. If you go upstairs, you'll see a lion portrait. If you look behind me on the shelf near the top there, you'll see a lion as well. The reason my house and my life is surrounded by lions is because they represent courage, calmness and that tenacity that I've applied to my business success, to my professional life, and to everything in between. For me, the lion has always been an animal that can be almost a bit of a contradiction. They are so loving and so caring of their own and can be powerful and courageous when necessary in order to achieve what they want to achieve. So if you like me are a big fan of courage, bravery, ambition while also being calm and composed, check out this lion piece and let me know if you get it.