Perhaps one of the most tender and soft-spoken souls in the underground music industry, YokoO consistently strives to create a vibe that encompasses the true essence of what it means to emanate “peace, love, unity and respect”. We caught up with him just before his performance at Electric Island this coming Canadian May long weekend, to chat about all things music.
EG: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us. I think it’s safe to say that everyone at some point realizes the energy and healing power of music. When would you say were some incisive moments that led you to pursue a career in music?
YokoO: Hey team, nice to be with you again! Making music became a desire of mine 13 years ago, when I was the age of 20, still living on the French/Swiss/German border. I was already playing about on a set of turntables and had fallen in love with the energy of the dance floor, going out clubbing on a regular basis. I attended many events but will never forget the night I saw Laurent Garnier navigate the decks like a true captain, mashing up musical genres in a flawless manner for 7 hours. Such an experience triggered an undeniable longing to develop my skills to a more professional level. It was a pivotal moment in my life. Despite studying business, I felt a strong calling to DJ. I moved to Australia and was offered money to play at my University, whilst completing my Business degree. That’s when I realized that there was potential to make a career doing what I loved the most. I finished my degree, and the rest was history.
EG: With great popularity, comes to an even greater responsibility to continuously create new. That being said, does this reality ever get overwhelming for you?
YokoO: I do feel challenged, as I always want to improve and get better at what I do. But I don’t like to put too much pressure on myself, nor force my output. I like to go with the flow of life and try to enjoy each and every part of the process, even when a block appears. Feeling fulfilled by what I write is what matters the most. Music from the heart will always have more of an organic & genuine reach than music that was written in forceful, rushed manner or simply with the wrong intention. Whilst I appreciate this perspective, I try not let any perceived success get to me, and strive to stay humble and simply focused on enjoying my passion.
EG: When there’s more music than one can possibly take in, it is becoming increasingly hard to know what constitutes an original and a remake anymore. What’s your opinion on the importance of roots, traditions, respecting originals and sources?
YokoO: In a business where sampling has become part of the norm, I do believe these concepts have to be taken into consideration. What may sound nice to one could be offensive to another. I remember for example at a party in Tunisia, authorities shut down a nightclub after a DJ played a track featuring the Islamic call to prayer. The DJ in question obviously had no intention to offend anyone, yet this one track made a statement on division, politics, religion and defiance. And the next second, an entire club was shut down. Music transcends so many barriers, and is powerful beyond measure. There is a gravity to what, where and how we play, that can have serious consequences if we are not respectful.
I also believe that original artists should be properly credited when used in an original composition. I have just experienced this case myself whilst working on my debut LP, where I sampled a moving piano melody. Contacting the musician who played it, to request their approval, supports the network of developing artists and also opened doors to new opportunities. Not only I was able to blend genres and horizons by a simple sonic union, but also paved the way for future collaborations. Such a wonderful way to support the wave and share in the love!
EG: I have been fortunate enough to see you perform at All Day I Dream Toronto and at WooMooN in Tulum a couple of years ago, which was absolutely mindblowing! How has becoming part of those events contributed to your evolution as an artist? What close connections have you made with other artists and fans in the music industry because of these gatherings?
YokoO: Both ADID and Woomoon have become leading events in our scene. I am proud to have been part of them from the early days and ever grateful for providing me with platforms to express some of my musical tastes. Both brands have helped my profile reach a much stronger international following as well as develop some solid friendships all across the globe.
ADID has been my home for a few years now. Matthew Dekay who initially brought me on board and Lee Burridge, have both been good friends since the beginning. Having such a busy schedule makes it nearly impossible to have any downtime. As a result, I barely ever get to hang out with DJs outside of events. All the ADID artists live in different cities, yet Powel, Oona, Gorje & Izhevski, Zone+, Viken Arman have become all dear mates.
Woomoon has provided me with some unforgettable experiences also. The first year residency was a fantastic doorway into the Ibiza scene. The sunrises in Tulum over the last couple of years were legendary. I am truly looking forward to making more guest appearances with them in the future.
“Music transcends so many barriers, and is powerful beyond measure”
EG: Healing Sound frequencies of 432Hz and 528Hz are known to match the sounds found in nature, in knowing this, are there certain tools artists use to set their music at these frequencies or is this still a relatively new concept for most artists?
YokoO: This is still a new concept for many artists, and most probably unknown to the mainstream. If mastered and applied properly, I believe this merger of science and spirituality could be used to influence experiences on the dance floor (and beyond) in utterly positive and powerful ways.
EG: I read somewhere that you would like to work on being able to master teleportation and stop time, that being said, if you could travel back in time, what era would you like to visit and what artists would you want to collaborate with?
YokoO: I’d love to experience the 80’s fully, again, as an adult this time. Michael Jackson, Prince, Phil Colins, The Cure, Queen, Eurythmics, Cyndi Lauper, Depeche Mode, Tracy Chapman, etc… were on such a different level!
Seriously, listening to the music on the radio nowadays, I wonder what happened . . .
EG: The life of a DJ, can be very grueling and laced with so many temptations that can throw you off balance if you’re not careful. How do you offset the dark aspects of being an artist in the underground and life in general?
YokoO: I have been attending parties for long enough to know my balance. It’s easy to get caught up in the “fun party” vortex. The reality is that when you travel this much, your body can only take so much of it. Over time, you realize your body can’t really take it at all. It’s just not sustainable. Then you come to the understanding that not only it is not sustainable for your body, but neither is it for your mind. It has a negative impact on the energy that radiates out of you. You’re tired, you look terrible, and this, of course, reflects on what you give out. It’s important to pick your battles.
I enjoy being alone and try to spend as much time nurturing my energy levels by being healthy, eating well, practicing yoga as regularly as possible, consciously breathing, and simply being.
EG: Collaboration and cooperation go hand in hand, in knowing this, who would you say is/are the artist(s) who have really helped you evolve as DJ/Producer as a person?
YokoO: Matthew Dekay, he pushes me to walk that extra step, as well as challenges me on a conversational level. We always seem to have profound, inspiring and everlasting discussions about life and its abstract concepts.
My partner, she’s an artist of her own, my muse and my main source of inspiration in life. I look up to her ways of being.
“I enjoy being alone and try to spend as much time nurturing my energy levels by being healthy, eating well, practicing yoga as regularly as possible, consciously breathing, and simply being”
EG: Can you give us a little glimpse of what the rest of your year looks like for you?
YokoO: Looks like I am going to spend a large part of my time at airports and in airplanes. I am now in North America for a couple of weeks then I will be floating around my Berlin home until Burning Man. The summer over in Europe will be busy with shows already confirmed in Russia, Switzerland, Lebanon, Spain, Turkey, Iceland, Greece, Romania, Belgium and Germany. Straight after Burning Man in September, my schedule involves many All Day I Dream shows around North America and Europe. I will attempt to take it easy at home in October and spend some time working in the studio. Halloween will be in Dubai, and I’ll be heading to India for the first time early November for 3 cities in one weekend tour. It then will be South-East Asia followed by Australia, and the USA again in December. I can’t quite believe another year will have flown by. And so the wheel keeps on turning.
EG: Please finish these phrases for us.
YokoO: I feel most at home when.…her head is laying on my chest.
Something I am constantly working on is….being a better person.
I love it when….she giggles.
If I couldn’t produce music anymore I would… disappear for a while and figure what it is, besides music, that truly raises my vibration and helps me bring more light to this world.
My vice is….Nutella!
My favorite track of all time is…. something you shouldn’t have asked me.
I couldn’t live without… NUTELLA!
The best quality in a human is…. kindness.
The thing that irritates me the most is….when someone asks me to pick a favorite. :p
I am… happy.