If You Can't Ditch Social Media Entirely, Try This Instead | Steve Aoki on Impact Theory | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "If You Can't Ditch Social Media Entirely, Try This Instead | Steve Aoki on Impact Theory".
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When I started DJing, I remember when five people would be like, "Yeah!" and there was like, "Everyone else just doesn't give a shit." I'm like, "Those are my five people." I focus on them. And after the show, I hung out with all of them. And one of the guys let us stay in their house, 'cause we were sleeping in our van the whole time. We're making $20, $40 a show.
Steve Aoki: Connectivity, Narratives, And Plans
Welcome Steve Aoki (00:19)
And it's like, you have to start in that mindset. That's the problem with social media right now, is that you're comparing yourself to people that have this large success. And you're like, "I wanna play there." But you first have to go with what you have in front of you and make that meaningful. And that's why I always say like, when I'm performing, I'm trying to be as present as I can. And I don't wanna think about anyone outside of these four walls. These people are here for me, and I'm here for them. And that's all that matters. - Hey everyone, welcome to Impact Theory. Today's guest is a Grammy-nominated producer and internationally famous performer who routinely tops the list of the world's highest-grossing DJs. He holds three Guinness World Records, including ones for the most traveled musician in a single year and the longest crowd cheer. He performs hundreds of shows annually and will often perform in multiple countries in a single day. He founded his own record label at just 19 years old and despite having a wealthy father, he had to do it all on his own. Couch surfing, throwing shows in a tiny ass apartment and promoting his artist by any means necessary. Proving to have legendary grit and tenacity, not only did he get his record label off the ground, he has since personally worked with some of the biggest names in the industry. From Will I Am, Afro Jack and Kid Cudi, to Lincoln Park, Louis Tomlinson of One Direction, and the global phenomenon that is BTS. He's produced hits with all of them and in the process, turned himself into a superstar in his own right. He has millions of social followers, has graced the cover of magazines, people get his name and his record label logo tattooed on them, and he's even had a Netflix documentary made about his life aptly titled, "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead." He's also a restaurateur, the co-creator of Impact Theory's first comic book, "Neon Future" and the founder of the Aoki Foundation, which is committed to funding advancements in brain science. So please, help me in welcoming the author of the new memoir, "Blue, the Color of Noise," the legendary musician and entrepreneurial force of nature, the one and I assure you only, Steve Aoki. - That was a crazy job. - I have my life. - It is always fun to write about you and the things you've done. And now having gotten to know you and been with you as you do some of your traveling, the pace at which you work and move is crazy. It's also super infectious. - I wanna use that intro. - I can't, that was crazy. - That was really cool. - Dude, that's it. Your life is literally like this whirlwind of activity from the different restaurants and things you've got going from the projects that you're working on to the music, the touring and all of that. And you've talked pretty powerfully about being 40 now and still having the same level of hunger that you've always had. What is it that keeps you going? What is it that drives you forward? - I mean, there's so many different ways to answer that question 'cause my life, when I really think about my main drive, it's always music based. And since I live 200 plus days on the road, 250 shows average, and it's been consistently like that for the past, you know, 12 years. I first go into that place and that question's answered very quickly 'cause when I play these shows, it's like what we talked about before in our first interview. It's that connection I have with the fans. So, you know, if I was to like play the opposite, if I was playing, if I was a DJ and I was in the back corner, you know, the room and not many people were like cared about what I was doing and they were just like cocktail bar and I'm just, you know, playing, I probably would quit and do something else, you know, there's no appreciation there. But at the end of the day, I make this music so I can connect with people and then share that feeling with them. And the deeper the feeling is, the deeper it gives me that value and it creates that passion drive. And at the end of the day, that connection and that ability to share and connect with people is really like why I even got involved in starting a label, being in a band, doing Neon Future with you and connecting with all these people in the comic book world.
Connectivity Is What Drives Me (04:56)
It's like, it's all about creating something that has an impact, you know, and being able to, you know, obviously you want to inspire people but being able to like participate and see the inspiration happening and seeing how we are helping other people in some aspect or, you know, doing something that has meaning and purpose, it, you know, that's what it really boils down to. My, like I've said this many times but my natural way to express myself is through my music. So that's always been my first approach. But then as I've, you know, my platform's been higher, raised higher and higher, it's allowed me to go, well now I can get to meet some of these other people that are foreign to me, but I want to learn about these different worlds and learn about them essentially to share them, share the ideas with other people. 'Cause we learn to share, right? We don't, it's like when you pick up a book and you read a book, it's like, if you want to retain information to be able to share it with people, right? So once again, it goes back to the idea of sharing and that connectivity. And it doesn't matter if I'm 19 or if I'm 41 or if I'm 60. If I still have the ability to share things that I love that make me feel a certain way that give me an emotional high, that I want to be able to create more positivity with other people with, then I'm always gonna find that drive. - That's really an interesting answer to me that is super resonant in the book. And one thing that I found that I loved in Blue is the way one, you're really raw, you're super open, vulnerable in the book, which I loved. And I was going to ask you, like, why be so raw and open? You certainly, in any sort of creative endeavor, you're opening yourself up for criticism, you're opening yourself up, you're giving to people the exact way to hurt you by showing where you're insecure or what could strike a chord with you. But the notion of that being about connection that you get this emotional high out of that really makes the book make sense, like that brings it all into perspective as to why you would do it. There's a real lyrical quality to the book that I found super beautiful.
Desire to Connect Vs Need to Connect (07:24)
Walk me through the desire to connect versus the need to connect. Like when I see how hard you work, it's what I refer to in myself as the sickness, right? So I've been tremendously successful in my life. I certainly never need to work again, but I work harder now than I've ever worked in my life. And to me, there is an, and the notion of being a sickness comes from Batman. So like what drives this guy that has everything, you know, this need to solve these problems that he sees connected with the loss in his own family. So how much of this is a desire to connect and how much of this is a need to connect? - Well, so when you say like that, it's like, I'm definitely thinking, I'm talking to a therapist. I have to really think about this and go back into my past, like, is it my dad? You know, is it me not fitting in? 'Cause then you really, you know, when you boil it down, a lot of it comes to your upbringing or like how things change are affected you when you're really young. And I mean, there's no doubt, especially when I talk about this a lot in the book and also in the documentary, this like unconscious feeling that I need to prove to my dad that I'm gonna make it. 'Cause that's like what I grew up with. I grew up with this, like, I need to make it. 'Cause he kind of implanted those supplemental messages towards me, you know, like when I was a kid growing up throughout my life. So that's definitely one of them. Another thing is just growing up in Newport Beach, not being able to fit in in front of find a voice. So in that way, I can share something that's valuable to people. Because I couldn't share something that was valuable to people by doing traditional things. So like, I couldn't play sports 'cause I'm just like a little kid. So I just like sucked at sports. I was scoring on the wrong basketball hoop, I was kicking the soccer ball in the wrong, in my own home team, like soccer ball net. Like I was just the world. I mean, I love playing sports, trust me. But like growing up, I just couldn't contribute and have any value. So music was my way to be able to be like, I can contribute and people will actually listen even to five people. So maybe it's that, you know, that has a lot to do with it. And that's something that's unconscious that I don't think about now, you know. And that's spark to when you are trying to contribute and people aren't listening in a traditional way, but you try something else and they listen. That spark when it happens is such a powerful feeling. And coming from, you know, when I was a kid, I was very, very shy. I had like a lot of energy I wanted to share with world. I'm always combusting with energy, but I was very, very insecure, you know, I was lost and I didn't know how to be able to express myself. And I thought I was gonna be like that for the rest of my life. I thought I literally was just gonna be, you know, in the traditional sense of being Japanese, just stay in line and be quiet and like kind of move through life and not be counted, not stick your head up too high. Because if you do, if you live in a community of where it's 96% white and you do, you're gonna get smashed and then you won't have a community that can support you to make you feel like it's okay to stick your head up because culturally my mom is Japanese. So she's like, don't rock the boat. And whenever like, if I did, it's like smash, bring you down, you know, until I found this other route where music, the subculture community gave me that, the tools to be like, you could say something now and you can now talk about your frustrations, your, you know, anger, whatever it might be, resentment, whatever it is that you're living with because there's the whole subculture, that's what they were talking about. So I finally found that community.
The Desire to Connect: Positive, Negative or Neutral (11:33)
So digressing here left and right, but you know, when I really think about the desire, I like it's just, I think it's just now which is part of who I am because it's been integral and every single thing I've done, whether it's a company or, you know, whenever I think about a business, I don't think about it as like, how much money I'm gonna make. I think about it like, you know how we are with Neon Future, you know, I have the Neon Future tattoo, I believe in a Neon Future, there's no doubt about it. Like I've signed up to freeze the body as an insurance policy cryo, you know, like deep Kelvin degree temperatures so my body stops at generating for the insurance policy that we don't, you know, I die. Just in case, you know, people find a cure for the disease called aging. So. - Do you see it as a positive force in your life or a negative force, neutral force? Like how do you think of that, that sort of overwhelming compulsion to connect, to be great, to, you know, play at such a big level? - Yeah, that's another good question because I guess like when you're, when you're too into something, it's like you have to ask that question. Is it like unhealthy or toxic or those kinds of things as it drives you too much where it like stops some more important things in your life? And I feel like it's good. You know what I mean? I feel like, you know, you know, like, it's different 'cause you have to look at it like, if society says it's okay, then you're okay, but that's not necessarily true. Like I do have to answer these questions as I go at 150 miles an hour because it feels, it feels right 'cause I have a flow 'cause like nothing worse than being out of that flow. When you have things going and you have your passion there and you have your drive there 'cause when you get off that flow, it's really hard to get back on. You know, for any, you ask any creative person about writer's block, it doesn't matter if you're a writer, you're a painter, you're a musician, you're, you know, whatever you do. So for me, I care so deeply about what I do and the contribution of all the work I've been doing and all the, you know, the, you know, the drive, everything that I've been doing that if I get off that train to relax, it's like I could lose that moment and it's very possible as fast as we live in this day and age how people's attention spans are. Like I wanna push myself on every level, whether it's like having fun jumping off, flipping into the water or like, you know, you know, like doing this comic with you and like building this out into this incredible world where we can see it into TV and film. Those are like incredible goals that I wanna attain and they're like dreams, you know, but we're getting there. It was crazy that we're actually, the dreams I have as a kid, they're actually happening which is bizarre and wild. And I think with Blue, it, I really want to showcase to all the young people that, the shy kids, that the kids are like, yeah, I will not be successful like that, I will have to like, sit in a cubicle and do, you know, the boring stuff which is actually what my dad told me to do. It's like, that's real life. You have other ways to look at your scenario and you know, it's like, I'm trying to speak to that, to that demo, to those kids, to those people, to the young people out there like that. Even to the older people that are like, maybe I need to stop my job and like pursue something else or maybe I need to reevaluate what I want to do with my life. - It's interesting that you said, that's not where I thought you were going to go with that.
Creating your narrative (15:27)
So in the book, you talk a lot about the story that we tell ourselves. And I think that as people get older, they begin to tell themselves a narrative that quite frankly is handed to them A and B is usually self-defeating. It isn't one of reinvention. You talk about that in the book. You talk about people who are able to stay relevant by successfully reinventing themselves. You talk about Michael Jackson, you talk about Connie West, like having this ability to morph and change. I've certainly seen that in you, Jesus, when you look at your own career, starting as the straight edge religious, hardcore kid, goes into DIY, starts getting into promoting and managing and then like into being a DJ producer and then even just the way that you've morphed and changed that over the years is really pretty astonishing. But when I think about, all right, we have these narratives that we're going to tell ourselves. They're going to have a tremendous impact on the way that we live our lives. And then the question is going to arise, which is, is this insane drive that I have? Is this the right answer or the wrong answer? And to me, I don't think there is a real answer. There's no objective answer as to whether or not the way that you're doing it is the right way or the wrong way. It simply is the way that you're doing it. And now it becomes a question of what narrative are you telling yourself about what you're doing? In the book, I wrote the line down because I was so hit by it and experientially, it isn't what it's like to hang out with you. And you said, I have these stories. You were talking about the shooting in Vegas. And you said somebody woke you up and what they were saying cut through everything. It even cut through the story that you tell yourself to keep the world out. I thought that's interesting. The story you tell yourself to keep the world out. What is the narrative that you're telling yourself that allows you to find so much joy in this connection to serve the people that you serve around the globe to push you this hard and to put off a family? What is that narrative? Narrative of that you tell yourself about yourself about why you're doing what you're doing. Well, I'm gonna go back to what you're talking about first.
Entrepreneurs 5 year plan (17:32)
I think the narrative that this, my story, is all about is agility and being able to be flexible. And I mean, it's like the five year, 10 year plan that most CEOs ask, that's the question most people want to know about a CEO or someone who's successful or what is your five year 10 year plan. That's what you wanna ask a young startup, right? To invest into their company or something. My plan has always been kind of unhinged. It's just like I go where my passion leads me and I feel free to do that. And how did you create that space though? Because growing up in a Japanese culture that certainly isn't encouraged. And if your own dad who was a huge risk taker is telling you, no, no, no, get a real job, how did you break out of that mold? Yeah, that's a really crazy thing 'cause I looked at my dad as like this flamboyant, I mean, he was like, he, once he stepped foot in America and became an American, you know, he like almost pushed away his Japanese values and was like, I need to show what I can do. I wanna show everyone. He was a showman. But then when he was a father, he's like, don't be me, don't be a showman. Like you-- - Did he ever say why? - Because he wanted stability for his kids. He wanted to make sure that we weren't. 'Cause if you, to be the showman is such a small percentage of success. Everyone wants to be a showman. - Do they? - I mean, that's from my father's perspective because I had this, I mean, I'm my father's son. So I'm like, yeah, I'll be cool to drive real expensive cars and like do whatever, you know? That's what you see, right? And I'm living in a humble house with my mom, you know, that's not that, you know? So I'm like, it's aspirational. So I think for him, I think as a father, he's just like, don't be me. You need to figure out your life in the most reasonable, pragmatic way, which is what everyone has to do. You have to go through these steps. And it's boring, but you're just gonna do it. Like, that's why he didn't support me in like my endeavors in music. 'Cause he didn't see it as like a financial trajectory for him. I remember when I invested my first restaurant, when I finally made a little bit of money.
What advice would you give to your kids? (20:09)
He was like, why? You're gonna lose all your money. And I did on the first one, yeah, I did. I mean, it was only 30 grand. It was like my first investment. It's like Korean barbecue in LA. Great one, that was really good, but you know, he was correct. Have you ever put yourself into your dad's shoes and thought, what would I say? Like for instance, if you have a kid and they decide they wanna get into music, what would your advice be to them? - I think I wouldn't go as deep as my dad, but I really value his tough love. And I don't think it was disciplined for him to not give me like financial support. I usually didn't want to. It was a life span. Like, you know, like when you love someone, you wanna help them out. Like when you see them struggling, you're like, "Ah, I wanna take you up." Like, you know, but it's better off, you just let them figure out on your own. Even though they're crying on their way up. You know, that's one thing I learned from him is like, he wasn't around, right? So he didn't have to see me like struggling and trying to like get by. I'm not gonna, and I wasn't the kind of kid to like cry to my dad be like, I'm not fitting in. Like I can't make friends. Like I got made fun of for this or like just the daily toils of being a kid. And we didn't have that kind of relationship. So hitting it to see that, and I had to like talk to my mom about it. And she's just like, just don't make any trouble. And then, you know, I had to figure that out on my own.
In the book, one of the most interesting things that you talked about was family. And asking yourself aloud in the book, if, you know, am I making the right choice, pursuing the career, putting off my family? I thought I would have a family by now. My dad had six kids by the time he was my age. You know, and I always thought that I would have some, at least by now, and I haven't. And what do you think about that? Like where is, and this is a question that I have thought about just hundreds of hours, spent thinking about, you know, what's the right move for me? Will I regret it? Is it right now, but maybe wrong later? Is it wrong now and wrong later? Is it right forever? You know what I mean? Like really processing through that. How do you think about it now, if you were the startup, what's your five to 10 year family plan? There is no plan. There's no like, it must be like this. But yeah, I'm definitely gonna be, I don't wanna say definitely. I'm pretty sure it's gonna happen the next five years. Also like, I owe a lot to my mom too. My mom's like, every time she sees the baby, she's like, oh, hey. She's like, look at me. Like, I'm just gonna be careful of my wallet. I love my mom so much. It's like, I feel like, you know, and of course you can't have a kid for your friend. You have to like, you know, just like you said, you have to take care of the situation. You can't do it for other people or anything else, you know? No question. Yeah, it's a man, family, the way that people play that part of their life is really, really telling in terms of what their priorities are and what matters to them and what they get the biggest chemical rush out of and all that stuff. But I think the most interesting thing that you represent is you become so extraordinary because you had these balancing forces of a very nurturing mother and then the father who was a sort of rock star type aspirational figure to use your words but not necessarily a day to day dad.
And then so you had to figure things out on your own which I find really, really interesting. Talking about figuring things out and reinventing yourself, how do you approach that musically? I've watched you go from genre to genre to genre, always just far enough ahead to really fucking nail things. What is your process for keeping your ear to the ground? Like, how do you do that? How do you stay fresh all the time? Well, that's day to day. You know, like, that's ultimately the same, going back to the past, that's the same drive that I've had like since I was starting the label, so I was being in a band. I mean, it's digging for record as a DJ, digging for records for the new, you know, back in the day when you actually would buy physical vinyl and stuff like that. Give me the actual process.
The Process (24:36)
Are you sitting down in your studio at home and you go on Spotify and you start listening to fucking everything? Are you going to clubs? Are you asking around? Like, how do you... It's a bit of everything. Spotify, it's like watching the stock market. When you think it's go up, you're already, so like, you know, hitting up an artist is already blown up, is already blown up. But because I have a platform, I can talk to a bigger artist. I like to go as early as I possibly can, if possible, just like with any business. You want to, you know, like work with the people that are the innovators that are like pushing. Do people just send you a shit ton of music now? Is that how you find it? No, it's a lot of it's like friends networks of like, I trust friends and advice from friends. That's probably been my go-to for signing the right artist on Denmark to like working and collabing with different artists. And plus I get to travel the world, that helps me a lot. And I'm also putting myself out there. So when I go to a country, you know, I'm like putting out the feelers, like, can you tell like the artists in this country, I'm in Brazil, whatever I am, I want to hear like who's shaking up the noise. And the thing is, is that sometimes the biggest artists in that country is like unknown in my country. Which happens a lot, 'cause they're singing entirely in Portuguese or Italian or whatnot. And that's what I did actually just recently. I was in, I was in Italy and my day to day, Dougie, who's in this room right now. - Dougie. - He's like, he's also one of the guys that's like, yo, you should check this out. You should check this out. So Dougie's like, yo, you know, it's a bit of a bastard, he's a Italian artist. You should check him out. So I checked him out and I was like, oh, this is Dougie singing entirely and rapping entirely in Italian. And I went to his Instagram, my way to communicate with artists, Instagram and Twitter.
When AFROJACK and I first met (26:29)
And I was gonna DM him, he already DM me. So I was like, oh, this is match bait in heaven. So like I like accepted because, you know, it's in the direct friend request, whatever. And I'm like, yo, I'm gonna be in a terrain in like tomorrow. He's like, I'll meet you. Boom, we were there, we hit it off. And we made a song. And then I was like, we have a smash global record with Spanish, Italian and English. This is gonna be like one of those Azukita moments that's all I'm gonna do with Yankee. You know, like I love making global music that fits, you know, 'cause essentially for me, I spend 60% of my time outside the country as well. So I really think about the entire world as my playground. And that's what I've been doing, you know, working with BTS, working with Daddy Yankee, working with, you know, like homegrown American acts to, you know, I really wanna sample and like work with artists from every single part of the world. You know, if like I was going through my set, when I was like playing my music.
A DJ in space Isn't that Steve's Destiny? (27:35)
And I started off with, you know, an EDM record. And I go into record with my mom speaking in Japanese. And I go into an Italian ballad from, you know, 50 years ago. Then I go into a Brazilian sample. And I go into, you know, BTS and Monsta X from Korea. Then I go into Latin, 'cause I have, you know, songs with Nicky Jam and I just made a new one with Maluma. And, you know, and I like, I realized how global my set is. And it makes me really proud. Because that is me going around the world, being able to connect and wanna work with everyone. Like I'm just, it's actually limitless. That's what's so exciting, it's limitless. To the point where I'm like, what other things can I jump into? And that's why like Neon Future was a great, on the musical side, not less on the comic book side, but first of all, on the musical side, it made me think I can now work with scientists on songs. Was Ray Kurzwell with JJ Abrams with Aubrey de Grey, with, you know, Bill Nye. Like anyone can be on a song. You and I could do a song. It doesn't matter if you have any musical experience because I just need you in the room and you just be you. And then I'll record Tom Billieu, you know, like we could make something together. So, you know, it's just like, and now I'm like pushing and pushing out to the internet and the universe that I wanna work with Elon Musk, which, you know, I think he's already flat out said no, but sometimes, you know, sometimes you just can't give up. So, I'm gonna keep asking until he's like, finally it's like, all right, fine, I'll do it with this guy. But anything can happen now. I really believe like there's things that were complete dream scenarios, like DJ in space. I really think that can possibly happen. Like there's situations like that that you think would never happen and they possibly can happen, you know? So I don't think you should limit yourself in the end, you know, like it's not gonna happen right away. It might not happen, but, you know, don't get up there. - It certainly won't happen if you don't go for it.
Remaining Authentic In The Music Industry
We didn't do this for the buck; people will smell it! (29:43)
- Yeah, exactly. - I was talking to Matt, your manager, about what makes you great. And he told me a story and I thought, God, that's so true. And he said that when you did this song with BTS, people were going crazy reaching out to him and saying, hey, can you hook us up? And he was like, I don't think you guys understand. Like I didn't make that happen for Steve. Steve spent years building bridges with those guys, immersing himself in the culture and the music. And so he actually knew what was hot and where they were going. And before they popped off, he had been there sort of, you know, really building a relationship with them, not just trying to make a quick buck, but, you know, establishing that and he said, he did the same thing in the Latin market and that's how that all panned out. And he was like, his ability to put his ear to the ground, to listen and build relationships are how he's able to do what he's able to do. And I find that so interesting. And to me, it goes back and tell me if I'm wrong. It goes back to that same thing that made you pop in the beginning, which was just having a love for it, pursuing the love. You talk really eloquently in the book about, if you're going for the buck, people will smell it. But if you chase your authenticity, you've got a shot. That's something really beautiful could pop out of that. How does that notion play itself out in your life? - Yeah, I mean, I think that's like with anything we do, you know? I mean, it's clear with Neon Future or Comic. If we didn't dive in head first, loving our comic, loving the comic world and being part of that, you know, anime, our history with anime and our love for the whole culture, we wouldn't have succeeded. You know, we're not doing it for the buck. You know, we're doing it to like share this vision, this story, work with people that really get us and so that we can lay it out for the world and build a story that's really exciting. So I think it's like, it goes with everything, you know? I mean, it's like, you have to really tell that story and live that story. And if it doesn't make money, it doesn't make money. Like, you have to accept that, you know? Luckily, when you have things that are successful for me now, I'm in a position where I can take those risks 'cause I want to. And my business managers are like, you're like, your vision's lopsided as far as your safety on your pyramid of how you should invest. Because I'm investing things I love that don't necessarily make money. You know? - Let me ask you. - That's why I'm not, like sometimes I'm not the right businessman, sometimes I am, I don't know. - I was gonna say, financially doing phenomenally well. And even sitting here in this conversation, and at this point, we spend a lot of time together, but I will say one thing that strikes me often and is really hitting me now, I said in the first interview, you're very excitable, which I find super contagious. But maybe more importantly, you're not cynical, which how the fuck are you not cynical?
How Not to Be Cynical in the Music Industry (32:35)
Like the number of years that you've put in in this industry, in the music industry, I'm sure the number of times that, you know, bullshit has happened, backstabbing, whatever. Do you consciously cultivate the sort of boyish enthusiasm? Is it just come naturally? - Okay, I think one of the most important things talking about that that I've learned in this whole game is managing my expectations, because I go into it thinking, well, I go into it knowing that 70% of the things I wanna do aren't gonna happen, even at my level, and it's gonna continue to be like that. But I'm gonna always aim high, and I'm gonna know that like, well, if it doesn't happen, I can keep going. So I have to go into it that approach. I think that's one of the major lessons I've learned in all of this is to manage my, you know, aim high, but manage my expectations of success. People see the 30%, they don't see the 70% of not making it or not getting what you want. - Do you think that 70% is part of what keeps you humble? - Yeah, I think it's definitely grounding. It's definitely keeps my feet on the ground, and it makes me first of all, grateful of the 30%, because that's life. I think life for most people is like 5%. Like you get higher, I think your percentage goes higher as you build your track record of respect and respect in your community, then people will work with you more. At the end of the day, since I was a kid, the respect in your community is more valuable than how much money you make or like, you know, what, how flashy you are, you know, 'cause that's why people would want to work with you is 'cause you're trustworthy or respectful to work with that, can build with. You say what you're gonna do, do what you're gonna say. - So what advice do you give people who are, they're about to embark on their career, they're gonna get kicked in the face a thousand times, or maybe even worse, they're already starting to get jaded because they're at the 5%, they're not making things happen the way they want to happen.
Advice for People Who Are Jaded (34:40)
They're not even dreaming big anymore. Like what do you say to people like that to break them out of their rut because they really could do something but they're getting in their own way? - I think you just have to toughen up, plain and simple, I think that's like, you know, like you have to, you have to just, like first of all, you have to tell yourself it's like, it's harder than beginning and you have to just fight through it because that's what else are you gonna do? Like if you keep crying or not, I don't wanna say, that sounds like mean, but if you keep complaining about things not happening to you, then you're not using that time to actually make the small things happen because everything starts off small, there's no like A to C, you have to go to B first, everything starts small. I mean, that's what I talk about in the book is that my first shows, I was playing from five people, like a quarter of the people in the room, some of them then you wanna be there, honestly. But I was pretending like it was like, like a big deal, you know, I didn't really pretend I was like, this is a big deal, you know? So it's like, you have to think about like that. When I started DJing, I was playing, I remember when like five people would be like, yeah, and then it was like, everyone else just doesn't give a shit. I'm like, those are my five people. I focus on them and after I talked to them, hang out with them, I used to do that at every show when I was in a band. We would tour across the United States and we would drive like 10 hours and we would show up, I remember in like Albuquerque or something and there was 12 people that showed up. And after the show, I like hung out with all of them and one of the guys let us stay in their house 'cause we were sleeping in our van the whole time. You know, there's no way we're staying in a hotel. We're making $20 to $40 a show. We had to put in the gas and share on whatever we could for food, but man, I was excited after the whole tour. I was like, when are we gonna go back again? And it's like, you know, you have to start in that mindset. It's like, you can't, that's the problem with social media right now is that you're comparing yourself to people that have like this large success and you're like, I wanna play there. But you first have to go with what you have in front of you and make that meaningful. And that's why I always say like, when I'm performing, I'm trying to be as present as I can and I don't wanna think about anyone outside of these four walls. I really wanna think about everyone here and whether it's like a smaller show, a bigger show, like these people are here for me and I'm here for them. And that's all that matters. And you do that enough times, it's like in the end, you, it will grow without you even realizing it. And if it doesn't, if you're just happy with those people, then it's okay. You know, like that's all, that's like the purpose. Like at the end of the day, you know, it's like, it's meaningful to you. It doesn't matter how many more people there are.
Coming to Terms with Failure (37:39)
- Yeah. Now I get that for sure. As somebody who self claims to fail, you know, roughly 70% of the time, how is it that you think about failure and what, when you say everything's gonna be okay, what do you mean? - You, I mean, okay, so it's like, you have to be grateful for what you can get. Plain and simple. Like be grateful for what you have because that's like, we're lucky to even be here. I think it's that feeling to be just lucky to be on the stage playing in front of people. Lucky to be sitting with you and talking about this by my book. I have a book house, crazy. Like still, it's crazy. You know, like I've had official book out with a great publisher that, you know, it's going out there. I've, you know, all these things, it's like being grateful and being present, right? So that's another great book, The Power of Now that I turn into a song is like the power of being present. You know, and that helps you with this idea of this notion of, you know, the 1%, let alone the 30%, the 1% that you can get is, is the feeling that that's the most important feeling. 'Cause you're gonna get 1%, but you have to attempt to get that 1%. You have to go for it, you know, I mean, hopefully you get more than that. But I think if you keep trying, you're gonna get something and you wanna keep growing that. So I think that's like, it's the power of being present and like really, really being beholden to the gratitude of what you have. - I love that.
Where to Find the Book and Stevie Online (39:19)
- So where can people get the book? - I have no idea. I think I'm gonna say. - You probably wanna. - I'm gonna guess Amazon and we're all, any good books are sold. - Exactly, yeah. It's such a great publisher. It's like, you know, it's like having a great label. It's like, that's their job. You get the book out there. So. - Well, came together really well, man. It is a really great read that takes, it fills in the emotional gaps from the documentary, which was already exceptional. Like I said, the book has a beautiful lyrical quality that draws you into your world and why you create and the sort of raw questions that you ask yourself. It's really a cool exclamation point to the journey of a man whose desire is to connect. And I think that people will really see that from start to finish. - Tell these guys where they can find you. - You can find me, well, it's very difficult to find me in person, 'cause I move very quickly. But actually I post everything online. So, but by the time I post, you go, I'm gone. So, but you could find me in the inner world, internet on Stevie Okey, at Stevie Okey, I pretty much everything. All the different things out there. - All right, man. What is the impact that you wanna have on the world? - Oh, yeah, what is impact theory? So, I guess we have a closer that one. That's why, sorry, I can't just like go in there. What is the impact? What's your impact? - For me, it is very simple. I want to see how many people I can pull out of the matrix by giving them an empowering mindset. I think our mindset, and I'll use your language, the stories that we tell ourselves about ourselves is fucking everything. And one of the cool things in blue is you talk about the different stories that you've told yourself at different times, and it was so interesting, man. That sense of like the curtain being lifted, and what makes you so interesting to me, and the reason I like hanging out with you, and the reason that I love having you on the show is things weren't handed to you. You had every opportunity to whine, to complain, to take a lesser way out, to accept that the world didn't want you to be you, that they wanted you to conform, and that you didn't fit in, but you didn't do that. You could have just said, "Well, I'm shy, "and that's my nature, and that would have been that." You could have said, "My label's gonna be small forever, "and that would have been that." You could have been the guy that fell so in love with playing to five people, that he never played to 500,000, or however big, fucking Tomorrowland crowd is just gigantic. So, but you didn't do any of that, but yet you loved it, and you gave it meaning, and I loved it when you said that earlier, like you have to be grateful for it, you have to assign gratitude to that thing, it's not like nature just hands it to you. And so when I get around people like you, and I see like, "Oh, there were a thousand exit ramps "that would have been easier, "that would have taken you to the path more traveled," but there was one sort of terrifyingly weird, windy road that had all kinds of failures, and pain points and all that, and you just kept going, partly because you have a narrative about yourself that tells you you're resilient, that you can do it, that like skateboarding, you can get better, like the DIY scene, it's about contribution, like you learned in the pickle patch that you could connect, and that connecting is ultimately what matters, but you're actually telling yourself this stuff. And that's why the acid trip that you go into in the book and everything, it's hearing you assign meaning to things, that to me is the juice.
The Impact I Want to Have on the World (42:55)
So I've just become obsessed with this, can I help people assign more useful meaning to their life? Because if I can help them assign new meaning that will take them on a new path, that will lead them to actually do different things. And that's really my obsession, is the doing. But you don't get to the doing until you tell yourself a story about what skill sets mean, until you tell yourself a story about how you're willing to get that skill set, and it goes back and back and back until you get to the framework of their mindset. And so that's the impact I wanna have. That's beautiful by the way. - Thank you, man. - Very, very beautiful. Can I just say that I wanna do something to you? - You can. - Yeah, I mean, it's clear that we have so many synergies, which is why we got together to do Neon Future Together, is why we always find our way back together. It's always great to talk to you. And when you say that, I'm just like, that's me, because essentially, we put stuff out there to whatever it might be, to have a profound impact on people, where you're giving yourself to someone where they can take that and feel good about what they're doing, or find a different way to, just like you said, find that path to their own greatness, to make them feel something. At the end of the day, it's like, I guess for me, it is to make them feel something that's extraordinary that I'm able to offer, if they choose to at my show, or my experience, or do something that I've put out there. So, and that's why I just don't stop what I'm doing, because I'm obsessed with that, and I'm always thinking about new ways to do more of that. So, yeah, that's pretty, I mean, you said it better than me. - That's pretty good, that's pretty good. All right, guys, this is, this man is what happens when you take somebody that has obsession, a ridiculous drive, and all of it around connection and creating something beautiful in the world. I know you guys all know his music, but do yourself a favor, read the book to memoir, "Blue, the Color of Noise", is revelatory in watching somebody go from a almost paralytically shy kid who has to struggle with being different and not fitting in, becoming one of the biggest musical sensations on the planet. It is a fucking extraordinary journey of deadly simple steps, and when you see that it's about the passion, the connection, the love, the joy, wanting to create something, wanting to be good, and being willing to face that you suck, and the number of times that he says that in the book was fucking awesome, like, oh, I sucked at this point, oh, it's probably because I was bad, and oh, they pointed out that I wasn't good at this, but that he finds his niche, and then really improves upon it, and then obviously his career speaks for itself, read the book if you have any desire to achieve the extraordinary in your life, you can consider it an instruction manual.
Closing Remarks (45:32)
All right, guys, if you haven't already, be sure to subscribe, and until next time, my friends, be legendary, take care. Steve, my man, thanks for having me. That was amazing. Whoever is the most popping wins, whoever has the most likes on Instagram wins, and I think we have to change our definition of success. For me, success is doing what you love for a living. It doesn't mean you're rich, it doesn't mean you're famous, it doesn't mean you'll never struggle again, It just means doing what you love for a living.