[Interview] Ookay Talks Coachella, His Upcoming Music Label, and Mental Health

I first met Ookay at Tomorrowworld 2014. He had just wrapped up a set at the Run The Trap stage. His set was packed to the brim with festival trap and the hottest big room house heaters of the time. But something felt incomplete. I felt it, and he felt it.

Flash forward to 2019, and Ookay has brought his new live performance to stages all around the world, with a brand new sound after reinventing himself – and even after a short conversation you can tell he feels on top of the world. I’ve never had the chance to talk to someone that looked and felt so fulfilled. He is gleaming with confidence. The confidence needed to go as far as one could possibly want. I had the chance to talk to him after his set Weekend 2 of Coachella.

Let’s touch on your sets from the last two days – how was your weekend one set?

The most nerve-racking, nervous, anxiety-ridden thing in the world. You want to pull it off on the first try but you know, it never goes your way. I don’t think it went anyone’s way last week

But that’s life.

It’s just like real life. But it’s great – you are able to do two weekends in a row which is one a blessing, two: fun as hell and three: you get to make changes. I got to get in everything that I wanted to. Like to the tee. AND we started on time this week.

How did you feel about your set the second weekend?

It was perfect. We did all this work. You know, like, you know, the only thing was like a little bit of the wind which made us change our stage set up. But like who cares. It’s freaking wind, who cares!

Did your setlist change a lot from weekend one?

I played like maybe a good 15 minutes of new music that I didn’t play last week.

Did you know that you were gonna play new music week two?

No, I didn’t. And that’s the thing. So, I had to cut a little bit. And I made improvisations, like in my set.

No two sets are the same.

And it worked out because I didn’t like, get to pull out my whole bag of tricks the first weekend, you know what I mean? So, for me that was like, kind of a blessing in disguise. To be able to do it again with a new bag of tricks was unintentional and like, worked in our favor. Not to say that weekend one I didn’t do everything to make it perfect.

Like many of the fellow artists playing this weekend, Ookay is making his return to Coachella. He previously debuted at Coachella’s Heineken House in 2016.

How does it feel going from playing The Heineken House in 2016 – fast forward to 2019 and you’re playing at The Heineken House AND the Sahara Stage?

It’s great. I had, I had so much fun there in 2016 {Heineken House}. It was right when Thief dropped. At Heineken, you’re at a small stage and you can see everyone but Sahara is a whole freaking thing. You can build a whole world up there. But it was super cool to do Heineken again this year. It was really special for me. I got to feel the love of my fans again. It’s kind of a full circle thing. Plus I get to DJ and get all my jitters out before my Sahara set. Last time I played Heineken in 2016, I got to walk around and really see all the stages. I saw Sahara and I said “I got to do this. I got to get up there. I got to figure it out.”

It’s a good benchmark or goal for your career

And that’s when the live show idea happened. There had to be something else for me. I have to give my fans something different. So now that I’m back out here I’m like – well, shit, that worked! *Laughter*

I have this notion about doing a live set vs a DJ set. How do you feel about the statement that while doing a live set you are giving energy to the crowd, and during a DJ set you are feeding off of the crowd’s energy?

Oh, it’s a lot of that. You definitely have to know what the crowd is coming for. the thing is, I think I scratch enough of the itches of both sides here. Because I do play a lot of my club driven things in the live stuff. I do a blend of a little bit of my album and things that people know me for. And I think that like that kind of balance is like nice because you don’t loose Ookay with the live set, you still get a bit of that. And it’s nice. As a fan of myself, I think I’m my biggest fan, and I want to give my best show to myself. So, it’s like, how do I make this not just enjoyable for them but for myself? I want to hear some heavy stuff too. So how do I fit that in there? You know and that’s what I do.

What made you make the final jump to creating a brand new live show?

I belong on the live show. That’s what I was meant to do, I know that. I am thankful that like DJing has got me to this point. And like, I love it, and like getting to this point takes a lot of getting good at it. So that was like for me that was awesome. I got to get really good at DJing to the point where it’s like, I don’t know if I can learn anything more. I can just try to get into scratching. Which like, I cannot scratch. I’ve tried. I’m leaving that to A-Trak and Craze and all those boys.

You went as far as you could with just DJ-ing.

I didn’t feel like I was cheating my fans out of the experience, but I knew I had more to offer. I just felt if I didn’t give it to them I’d only be robbing them of something cooler. So that to me was the reason why I transitioned – but I don’t feel like I lost my identity.

Ookay’s drastic change in sound was a surprise to many – and sometimes a drastic shift in sound can be daunting – for both artists and fans.

So while we are on the subject of transitioning styles – I want to talk about Getter canceling his Visceral tour.

He’s one of the nicest people. I have a song with him. He’s also one of the most talented people. He was the first person to ever say, “Hey, sing on this” about a song I made. It sucks what happened to his tour.

What advice would you give to someone that is like, they have you know, a catalog of music already and they want to make something else?

Who cares? You know, I made a bunch of trap bangers and then I go and make Thief or like I go and make like pretty music. Like, so what dude? That’s music that hasn’t existed yet. Who’s going to do it if I’m not? You know what I mean?

Do you think hearing constant criticism is draining?

Exhausting. I mean the internet’s exhausting. Luckily, I have the right amount of confidence in myself to ignore it and to brush it off. But like, I know what I can do, it’s just hard as fuck. *Laughter* It’s hard as shit. I would not work this hard if I were doing less. If I were doing less, I probably wouldn’t look so tired. So, like, it’s one of those things, it’s like I know what I’m doing up there and I know what I have to offer. So, it makes it easier with dealing with that kind of stuff. But like, when it first started off and people were very like curious about what it was going to become. No one had heard the album yet or the set of the live show. Like it was a whole new thing altogether. So, you know seeing Getter coming from like dubstep driven like fan based to what is now a little more experimental, an electronic album is draining. I know dubstep fans, it’s a lot dude. A lot of opinions straight in your face all the time.

It can be a really good thing, or it can be a really damaging thing, right?

Yeah, there’s both sides of the spectrum, yin, and yang, it happens. People are very driven – and genres are special to people. I get it.

The highlight of our chat was when we talked about the future of Ookay – and his music label coming in 2019. What I saw was a man impassioned, a man with goals, a man that truly believes in everything he said he was going to do.

So you tweeted that you are finally ready to start your music label – how long has that kind of been in your head and how long have you been playing around with it?

I wanted to wait for the moment after I got my live show up and running and it to be a little of a machine. I think I needed to put all my effort into that first. I wanted to wait until after Coachella, which is funny that this is what we’re talking about right now.

It’s a good capstone. Your personal bookend, it’s like your next chapter.

Now I really am focused not just on the label, but to make it more a lifestyle brand. Drive my art not just toward music but also start focusing more on the graphic design stuff that I went to school for, before I was an artist. So, you know, doing that I’m like all right, cool like I know I can make all that merge and I can like make a lifestyle brand out of just the label. You know, I’ve been like listening to like almost 1200 emails a day. I go through a lot of shit. So, you know, I’m like working with artists and getting people collectively into a place. And I want this to be like, you know a lifestyle thing, I want this to be not just a label. I want it to be more of a collective.

So, do you think that’s more of your focus for the rest of 2019?

Yeah, I think right now it’s like, it’s great to get people’s names on Spotify, people who don’t know about it like put their music out there. And like work with artists and building you know, their music and building their fan base, I want to help people get to that point. And the ways that I was given that opportunity in the beginning by Borgore and so many other people with Dim Mak and Steve Aoki. So, that’s why I want to give back to artists now. I think now is the time where I’m open enough, I’m seeing and hearing how people are saying things like, “Yo, you’re inspiring the music I’m making right now.” So, I feel like I’m starting to curate this kind of sound that can be, you know set off a whole new chain of artists that people don’t know yet. So that’s kind of why I want to give back to the community you know and like give people good music, give people good ideas and work with these artists and like build you know so much around that with the people that I work with. And get people excited about good music. Because the most important part is just good music.

It’s coming very soon and I’m very excited because now it’s the one thing I’m able to focus on. This is my next chapter. It’s becoming not just an artist but more of a leader than I thought I could ever be.

A Curator?

Exactly, curator. And like bring a whole new culture to this music.

Ookay has been extremely vocal about the importance of mental health on social media – and on the year anniversary of Avicii’s death we had the chance to discuss mental health.

In the last two or three years, we’ve been starting to see a lot more artists like, either pump the brakes on a tour, or say like look, I can’t finish this second leg. How important do you think it is for artists to realize it’s ok to pump the brakes?

Yeah, I took two months off man, I’m like the happiest I’ve ever been. And it’s like, if you don’t take time for yourself then, no one’s ever gonna have time to see you ever again cause you’re gone.

So you slow down to speed up kind of thing?

Exactly. Step back and look at what you’ve done already. There’s no way you are going out hard pushing yourself to like almost death. And you’re not doing something special. Take it back and appreciate it. Take a second and be like all right, let me reap the benefits of everything I worked towards.

Yeah. You set these goals and benchmarks, but if you’re just going, going, going, you don’t get to like, you don’t get to fucking accept the happiness…

Blessing and a curse. You know and it’s like, balance. Life balance. And I learned that. I didn’t have that before. I loved working though, I loved DJing but I was way in over my head. One of the songs on my album literally wrote it about that. Way in over my head man. The live show, balancing that, DJing, and traveling the world with that, and getting home and trying to write another album. Like, what the fuck’s going on? Everything. Take a step back, chill. That means you gotta cancel the show, shit. For me, it’s like I don’t like to cancel the show’s I’ve already announced. But be like yo, slow down you know.

Ookay is taking all your promos for his upcoming music label. Want a chance? Send it in.

[Interview] Ookay Talks Coachella, His Upcoming Music Label, and Mental Health

Source: Runthetrap

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