A real musical magpie, YokoO is a DJ/producer who’s heavily indebted to an array of influences. From finding his inner-balance to the importance of yoga, his influences aren’t necessarily typical within the electronic music realm – but we reckon he’s more than ok with that. Besides that, it’s a canny way of working that’s seen him at the forefront of a new range of producers for whom the concentration of the mind has played a fundamental role not just on their output, but also their approach to life. The French native is as in-demand as ever, and 2022 has already seen him touch down at various respected, far-flung events. For an insight into his world – and of course, to hear more about his new label, SATYA – we checked in with YokoO recently to learn more…
I saw SATYA described as a ‘multidisciplinary brand showcasing watercolours painting, cutting-edge electronic music and landscape photography with yogic teachings. Can you provide us with some deeper insight into how it all came to being? As well as your motivations for starting the label?
As one might see from my social media, I love sharing nature photography and spiritual concepts that inspire me. I have had a thoroughly regular yoga practice for over 10 years, whilst showing a growing interest in all things related to mind, body and soul. Spending this much time on the mat diving within has allowed me to develop a high level of sensitivity. My approach to life tends to be filled with light, and my calling is to spread love and truth ‘Satya’ as far and wide as possible.
For many years, I have been associated with record labels which do not truly represent my musical tastes fully. With SATYA, I am hoping to blur the lines and help people understand the broader spectrum of music and artistic disciplines that I am passionate about while also promoting up and coming artists who I align with. As I was searching for record sleeve art direction, I recalled Mum was into watercolour painting. I saw this as a beautiful opportunity to connect deeper with Mum and involve her in my life again after being away from her for almost twenty years.
The desire to push my own brand out there has been on my mind since 2014. Somehow, I felt that building a following as an artist was a necessity first. I sat still for a few months during the pandemic and felt the need to not wait any longer. The time is now and patience has paid off.
I also read that ‘SATYA embodies everything minimal, pure and only resonates with what is real’. So will the label adopt a minimal techno sound? And by only adopting what’s real, is that a critique on the rest of the scene?
“Less is more” is an expression that has stuck with me for many years, and in fact has influenced my approach to living holistically. I like to focus on what is essential.
‘Satya’ means commitment to the Truth within. Our label is about authenticity and purity. Vibrations beyond the musical realm that emanate from such a place have a far broader and impactful reach. From this core belief, we move through the world and penetrate a music scene that has more often than not lost its way. I am looking forward to promoting artists who I have developed unique bonds with and of course, providing the world with music which resonates with my heart…and ears! I will not be focusing on any specific genre but rather on a sound that was created from a place of love, with the purest of intentions. This is what SATYA is for me.
Aside from yourself, who’s involved with the label? Is it important you have assistance when running a label do you think?
Whilst the task itself is rather time consuming, it is not that complicated. As much as I’d love to run it all alone, I feel I have a little too much on my plate in order to build the brand the way I envision it, by myself. I am now working closely with a brand manager who curates social media content and writes copies for posts amongst other things, a graphic designer and social media helper, and a label manager too. The team will continue to organically grow over time.
What’s the aim for the label? Are there other labels who’s recent history you especially admire?
The record label is at the core of the concept, yet SATYA is not only represented by music makers but a growing community of like-minded beings. I aspire to make the platform a one of a kind space to promote music and arts in various forms, as well as a lifestyle and a philosophy of life.
Giegling immediately comes to mind as a source of inspiration. I’ve always loved their graphics and the mystery behind the brand. With patience, a roster of highly talented artists, and the release of timeless music, they have built a strong following over time whilst remaining somewhat underground, earning key industry players’ respect.
You’ve carved a reputation as something of a titan in the melodic and minimal techno scenes over the past few years. What do you attribute your recent success to?
I am flattered! I truly appreciate that I have reached a healthy position in this small part of the house music scene. My dedication to the craft, perseverance and ever-growing focus has played a major role in my professional success. Kindness, humility, and genuine care for others certainly should not be neglected either.
In terms of establishing yourself, what’s been the biggest challenge?
Maintaining faith in the hardest of times, remembering that when you do something from the heart, and stick to it, all eventually aligns in front of your eyes.
Is the social media side of things something you genuinely enjoy engaging in, or do you find it more of a chore? Do you understand DJs/producers who despair at the thought of sharing so much online?
There is no denying in saying that social media is a considerable distraction from the present moment. And yes, I guess it would be a chore if it was forced. I originally started using Instagram as a public journal. I enjoy writing captions to some of the photographs I capture. I do it for myself mostly, and never post anything just for the sake of doing so. It all comes down to posting with pleasure but not under pressure.
Tell us a bit about your history with electronic music. Who inspired you way back when? What was it about what they were doing that really inspired you to start yourself?
I will never forget the night (in 2001) I saw Laurent Garnier navigate the decks like a true captain, mashing up musical genres in a flawless manner for seven hours. I had never imagined a DJ could take the crowd on such a journey. It was a deeply moving experience and a pivotal moment in my life.
My main influences lie in the early 2000’s when Techno and Hard Techno were in my heart at their peak. Drum n Bass, Electro Techno/Tech House/House were also very prominent in my world back then. As a result, my record collection is full of music from the likes of Laurent Garnier, Jeff Mills, Miss Kittin, The Hacker, Thomas Schumacher, Monika Kruse, Ellen Allien, Carl Cox, Marco Bailey, Christian Varela, DJ Rush, Chris Liebing, Adam Beyer, John Dahlback, Oliver Huntemann, Dj Hell, Modeselektor, Aril Brikha, DJ Marky, to name but a few.
DJs and producers aside, what parties influenced you? And what do you think was so special about them?
Street Parade in Zürich, Timewarp in Mannheim, Universal Dog in Lahr, as well as Parkhaus in Kenzingen, and a few years of going out clubbing at La Laiterie in Strasbourg back in the very early 2000’s. I was fairly young and new to the nightlife and felt like people were overly friendly. It was all about sourcing music, pulling some moves, sweating it out on the dancefloor and connecting with other ravers. I could go out on my own and come home having made a few new friends every time. There were no VIP areas, bottles or tables, nor people showing off their wealth or status. In my memory, everything was super raw and real and made me fall in love with the scene.
How do you relax outside of music? Do you have any tips for ensuring balance in your life?
My spiritual practice is everything to me. I try to hit the mat every day. I enjoy being alone and holding space for myself. I spend much time nurturing my energy levels by being healthy, eating well, exercising & practising yoga, conscious breathwork and meditation.
As someone who’s constantly on the road, how have you found that adjustment? Do you think it takes its toll on creativity?
In between all the travelling and managing my own career, I find it difficult to make time to stop, compose and reflect. My creativity is not lacking but producing and getting into the flow requires valuable time. I cannot just go home for a few days, snap my fingers, and make a track. It really does not work like that for me. I understand I should block periods of time to just be home and create. After years of doing versus being, I am still trying to tune out the external, critical voices that are not mine, so I can gain a better sense of clarity.
As someone who’s French born but Australian at heart and now living in Lisbon, how have these different places dictated your sound? And have they all affected how you view life overall?
It is hard to exactly tell how moving across countries has affected the way I relate to music. Every human experience I have had has helped shape the person I have become and indirectly has had an impact on decisions I have taken throughout my journey. There is so much ground to cover that I honestly would not know where to begin. By stepping away from my comfort zone, I was able to recognize the catalyst that gave me the drive to excel in whatever endeavours I was going to take. I took a leap of faith and made a statement of independence.
As a spiritual person, how do you view the relationship between spirituality and electronic music? Or is there one do you think?
I believe a spiritual relationship with yourself and music can be fostered depending on perspective. My creative output has been moulded by the energy I have channelled. It is unquestionable that my ability to tune into a flow state and create is the natural result of it all. Yoga has shown that a path to infinite awareness really does exist. It has taught me to see without eyes. It is attuning me to feel into a much broader frequency spectrum and connect to an energetical world that appears to exist beyond the space / time modalities. My awareness of the endless multi-layered universes is slowly expanding to a level of integration. The constant desire to rise and the work that lays beneath it all has a profound impact on every thought I have, every action I take and every electronic sound I make. Everything is connected.
Finally, what’s next for you that you’re really excited about? What’s your plan for the summer?
I am currently typing this from an isolated place away from the noise in Ibiza and am excited about taking a personal breather. Now it’s time to regroup and positively prepare for SATYA’s upcoming releases as well as my tour dates for the rest of 2022. Stay tuned!