Spirituality and music are intrinsically linked, but few DJs on the planet forge that connection quite like YokoO. An endlessly eclectic individual, he’s lent his sound to a clutch of acclaimed labels, with Kindisch, Get Physical, Moodmusic and Plastic City among those who’ve fallen under his spell. Mentored by Matthew Dekay and now a regular at Lee Burridge’s All Day I Dream parties, he’s a man who has enjoyed a stellar rise in recent years. One gets the impression, however, that the best may be yet to come.
Ahead of a gig in Miami alongside Lee Burridge, Facundo Mohrr and Roy Rosenfeld, we decided to put some questions to the man himself…
Hi YokoO, let’s start by asking how your year has been. What have been the highlights?
Hello there! My year has been great, and busy as per usual. The highlight was definitely my Brazil tour in June. The crowds’ response to the music I played was indescribable and one I will never forget. It sure has become my favourite country to play.
When did you start to take electronic music seriously? And what was it that struck a real chord with you?
It was during my late teens, whilst living on the French/Swiss/German border, that I fell in love with the energy of the dance floor and began playing about on a set of turntables with friends. I 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 seven hours. It was such an inspiring experience and a pivotal moment in my life. The desire of producing music followed naturally. It became an obsession of mine 14 years ago now, just after relocating to Australia.
You’re renowned for being quite a spiritual person. How does your music affect your spirituality? And vice-versa?
I have my regular yoga and meditation practice, yet this doesn’t make me any more spiritual than anyone else. I believe we are all spiritual beings, some just more in tune than others.
It is hard to say how my music affects my spirituality, however, the way I lead my life has indubitably influenced the way I create. All seems to be connected somehow. Every [spiritual] experience I have has its ways of impacting my creative output. I express the way I feel through my music. Every experience turns into emotions, which eventually affects the way I put sounds together in the studio. Traveling helps diversify the type of experiences I have, which results in a constant flow of inspiration.
Do you find time to meditate and relax while on tour? How difficult is it to keep to a daily routine when you’re on the road?
I do indeed. I always prioritise quiet time alone over anything else outside of the shows. Keeping a daily routine has its challenges when catching airplanes and switching time zones is what one does for a living, yet I somehow seem to manage it pretty well.
As someone who essentially travels for a living, how conscious are you of your carbon footprint? Do you do anything to offset it?
I began touring intensively in 2015 and must admit I only started paying attention to this in 2017. Some friends have developed a business that helps artists and such neutralize their carbon footprint. They take care of it for me. Check it out here: http://go2-greenevents.com/
You grew up in France but moved to Australia for university, right? How did that happen? And what inspired the move?
Correct. I was quite lost in my late teens, uncertain of what path to follow, working a job I disliked after finishing a diploma in Business. It reflected on my behaviour which somewhat pushed me to step away from the comfort zone. I decided to go as far as possible and chose Australia. The smartest way to both obtain a visa and some kind of money backup was for me to restart my studies. So I did! It was one of the best decisions I have ever taken.
So how did you graduate to becoming a full-time DJ? Was there one moment where you realized it was something you had to go for?
I completed a Bachelor in International business whilst spinning records on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. From the moment I bought my set of turntables in the early 2000s, my passion for house music has not ceased to grow. By the time I had finished my business degree, I knew I would set up camp in Australia and make a career in music. Why would I ever bother going back to the corporate world when I could make a living doing something fun, something that fulfilled me to the utmost?! Excitement and passion are the compass needles that point you to your true magnetic North. Operating from a place of truth is key to a better internal energy flow, which in terms affects everything around you in a positive manner.
Is Australia a country that’s had a profound effect on your sound and outlook on life?
Obviously, just like any other country I could have lived in during such crucial years of my evolution as a human being.
We’re chatting to you today just ahead of your gig in Miami ahead of the All Day I Dream of Art Basel party. How did you first hook up with Lee Burridge & co? And what do you think he heard in your sound that made you an obvious choice to work with?
I met Lee through Matthew Dekay, who has become a close friend of mine. He heard and saw potential in me. He was my mentor in a way, some kind of a coach you could say. He was chewing Lee’s ears for a while, insisting on bringing me on board. It was not the obvious choice to Lee but thanks to Matthew, we eventually all got to meet together in Berlin. From then on, Lee and I kept in touch and started working together. The rest is now history.
What does All Day I Dream stand for in your eyes?
A musical cloud that is passing by.
What constitutes a perfect party in your eyes?
I love it when the crowd is open to going on any kind of musical journey. There are no expectations, only true appreciation.
What more can we look forward to from your end over the next while?
The next four months will be filled with shows back to back with Matthew Dekay in North America, as well as solo gigs in South & Central America and Australasia. I will be going back to my new home turf in Portugal around April 2020. I have just relocated to Lisbon and am hoping to get myself set up quick enough to work in the studio and continue developing my sound. The launch of my record label should follow provided all goes to plan. More info soon!
And finally, what are your hopes and dreams for 2020?
May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.