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Mint Season 2 episode 1 welcomes Don Diablo; an industry-defining NFT artist, Dutch DJ, record producer, musician, and songwriter of electronic dance music who is known for his electronic style of production and vocalizing in most of his songs. He led a multi-industry career ranking sixth in the 2020’s top 100 DJs by DJ Mag, as well as amassed millions of dollars in sales for his crypto-inspired fine art.
In this episode we talk about the origins of his early inspiration into music, how his dad plays a major influence throughout everything he does in life, his career as a top 10 global DJ, how he broke into the NFT space, getting featured at the iconic auction house Sothebys, his latest NFT drop, and so much more.
Thank you to Season 2’s NFT sponsors!
1. Coinvise – https://coinvise.co/
2. POAP – https://poap.xyz/
3. Socialstack – https://socialstack.co/
4. Celo – https://celo.org/
5. PrimeDAO – https://www.prime.xyz/
Interested in sponsoring future seasons? Get in touch here!
Adam Levy: Mr. Don Diablo. Welcome to the podcast. There you go. Hexagon. How are you doing, man? Welcome.
Don Diablo: Good. How are you doing?
Adam Levy: I’m feeling good, man, at ETH CC in Paris we’re finally in the same time zone. And yeah, I think every time we call, every time we chat, it’s either 5:00 AM your time. Cause you never sleep. And it’s like 3:00 PM somewhere for me. I don’t know. But anyways, dude I’m so excited to have you on. You’ve been so busy during COVID and this last year and I’m excited to kind of break down your vision for how you see NFTs, how you’ve been experimenting with NFTs. But before we get in there, for those who don’t know you, which I find is pretty hard, but for those that don’t know, you tell me about yourself. Who are you? And we’ll start there.
Don Diablo: Don, that’s actually my real name. My father named me after and before it was his real name was Don van fleet grew up in a family, two brothers, the youngest brother in the east of the Netherlands, very much near the German border. So I speak German as well. My dad sold peat moss yeah, he was the sweetest man alive. So he’s taught me a lot of things. Not only just how to be a human being or be a man, but also how to be creative. And so he’s been very supportive. So it has been a big force for me going through this creative journey especially in the last couple of years after losing him. And yeah, it just made me realize the concept of time. So from there on, you know, I started to value mostly the concept of time. I started building my own sort of future both musically aesthetically, visually, emotionally initially through music. Then I ended up adding all kinds of different layers, fashion comic book series visuals, video, and yeah, that’s just kind of grown into something bigger and to tech and eventually now into NFTs, which I love because it’s, you know, it’s bringing all of my sort of different backgrounds together, all of these different disciplines. And yeah, my nickname was the diablo growing up. So it became Don Diablo. That’s kind of a little, a little intro to yours truly.
Adam Levy: Amazing. You know, you’re very vocal about your father having a very big impact on your life. I’m curious, what were some of those, like early instances of creativity that he kind of introduced to you that sparked kind of where you are right now.
Don Diablo: You know, he really like he showed me it was okay to be different. Right. I guess I kinda grew up in almost like a big fish kind of way, cause I wasn’t really much around. So he, you know, he kind of just made us dream bigger and just had a lot of imaginary friends growing up because where I lived there wasn’t really, there was no one there. There was literally a monkey living next door to me, he’s older neighborhood. So they had a monkey as a pet and over like, no one from my sort of age bracket was there, didn’t really do much with my brothers. So it was very much a sort of a solo approach. And my father, he traveled a lot for his work, but he was a massive like talking fan. So in my second name is Pippin named after the character from Lord of the rings for like knights and king Arthur And yeah, that just kind of formed a big part of my childhood, I guess, just that imagination. And also musically, you know , he listened to captain Beefheart Frank Zappa Roxy music, Tom waits you know, he wasn’t listening to the stuff that was on the radio that he used to have songs that were like sometimes have like 28 different temporal changes, different key ranges, like literally, maybe songs that are 20 minutes long, but sometimes these guys would just go into the studio, not even have a song written that would just go in and just do it. Just kind of let their creativity speak. Later on, my name giver, captain beefhart, Jonathan Frakes he went from music into into painting. So, you know, that also showed me as an artist you can have like different disciplines, you know, that you concentrate on. You know, kind of grow into going from music into art was kind of a normal thing to do. Later on obviously when you kind of go out of that protective bubble, you’re like, oh shit, the world doesn’t really work like that. The will is actually horrible. You know, like people are horrible and you know, you have to kind of like just thrusted into the world and then it just reality starts dawning upon you. And my struggle has really been, I kinda just always wanted to keep that kid inside of me alive, making sure that, you know I would always have that spirit and sort of that you know, will to push things forward or to think differently.
Adam Levy: Yeah. You know, your early, I guess, inspiration with music, right. Coming from your dad and all these unique artists and albums that kind of influenced your, Genesis as a teen producing music. Are there any albums in particular that come to mind that stemmed your music journey that he, that he introduced.
Don Diablo: Oh, that’s actually a good question. One of the earliest albums, I remember my dad playing was Trout Mask Replica by captain beefhart. Obviously like pink Floyd played a role growing up. But then I remember one day , it was almost dinner time and my dad pulled up in front of the house and he just sat there. My mom was like, can you get your dad because we need to eat. Right. So I was like, okay, I’m going to get my dad. So as I approached the car, my dad was just sitting. There was kind of just holding the steering wheel, just like, forward facing. I was like, what’s happening here? And I heard from, I heard, I heard this sound coming from . I’m like, okay, let’s do this. So I opened the door, music comes out loudly and I see this tape like lying next to him with this smiley on it. Right. And this is like, It’s an asset. It’s like, okay, cool. What’s this? My dad didn’t say anything. It’s just like, come in and just sit down. So just kind of like we were listening through these bleeps and blobs and I was really into rock music back then. And yeah, I was like, well, what’s this music made with computers. Wow. Cause I always wanted to make music, but I didn’t, there was no one to be in a band with. So it was like, how do I do this? Right. I’m 13 years old. So nobody wants to play in your band. So you’re, like no music making that is, I guess. And then yeah, I was just fascinated. Just started wondering like, wait so you can, this music is made by one person on a computer and it sounds like it’s from the future and it’s looping, it’s evolving. It just kind of fascinated me. So I asked my dad, can I have the tape and later on he introduced me to the prodigy, got this album music for the geo to generation. He’s like, you should check this out. I was like, okay. And that’s kinda, just kinda, yeah, I guess took me over, still into rock music, but then the idea of being able to start your own band with a computer that’s that gave me the ultimate freedom, right. To learn to , I guess, just become a one man band and have all these voices in my head, talk with each other, become their own band. And that’s kind of just started off a whole new era in my childhood, I guess.
Adam Levy: Do you ever revisit those albums as you produce songs right now and kind of like look back and listen to their, their harmonies, their, grooves, and like compare it to what you’re doing right now. Do you ever do that?
Don Diablo: You know what? I never did that until the pandemic hits, to be honest, I never really listened back to my own music. I usually, I hate it to be very honest. I mostly just generally hate everything I do after I did it. I have like, ah, yes, I did it. And then I’m like, ah, that’s the worst thing ever . So it’s really, really hard to, it’s always been an internal struggle for me. That’s why I’m always, I, you know, I always have discussions with this about, you know, my friends or a family or girlfriends. So like it’s never going to be enough for you. It’s never going to be good enough. It’s never going to end. There’s always a next goal. And I think the same goes for the music. Right. It’s funny when the pandemic hit, I was like, okay, I gotta, I’m just sitting here. Like all my friends everyone’s locked in. I’m alone. Right? I’m a single guy. Like I’m just sitting here in this church that I was just built walking around these different floors creating music, but also like just having time to reflect. Right? So started opening these old boxes, found these CDs from when I, you know, started out making music when I was 13 or even 12. I’m not, I don’t remember. I think I put out my first record when I was 13 and all these little ideas and I was like, that’s cool stuff in it actually, if you think about it, because the thing is when you start, you have the innocence, right? That’s what all creativity, when you start, there’s no pressure. They’re just ideas, thoughts of just randomness of you trying to be not actually, they’re not, not trying to be anything, just a hundred percent being creative without thinking about what’s going to happen with that creativity afterwards. Right. So you’re just doing, and I think not overthinking and as you make music and you become, like, there is a point where you decide, okay, this is a hobby I’m just gonna, you know, get into real life, get a job. Life takes over you do your thing. Right? So in my case it, it went the other direction. I was like, I never wanted to be a full-time musician. I started out making film actually. And I guess it just kinda like yeah, it just happened. And I think I was already like maybe 10 years into the game making music professionally. And I think my mom said to me, like she said something to me that made me realize like, oh yeah, I’m a professional musician. You know, like, this is what I do. I make my income with this. And I live from this it’s actually, but up until that day, I was like, this is a hobby. Like I’m just having fun and just, oh, you know, never thought about making any money from it. So hence the fact that in the first, first 10 years of my career, I never got paid for anything. I was in a strangled contract. I was ghost producing for other artists for the first five or six years of my career. Just literally sitting in a basement somewhere, just grinding away, making music for other people, other projects. Now I’m looking back on those projects and they they’re actually, it’s cool because I don’t look back on that period with bitterness cause those different influences and styles have really kind of made me more diverse as a creative, I would say otherwise, I might’ve been stuck in just making one type of electronic music for instance. Becuase in the electronic music scene it is very judgmental. If you are chosen for this, then you have to do keep doing this. If you kind of vary from that, you know, you really kind of risk your fan base, like getting really angry. So I, for me, moving forward was always a goal to have a very open minded fan base. So I guess basically just become a fan. Of me, of what I’m doing rather than of a certain song. Right? I think if you want a real career, you have to think ahead. You have to like always surprise people will be a step ahead. Sometimes shock them a little bit. Sometimes disappoint them because that might not be what they want at that point in time, but it might be what they want maybe five years down the line, 10 years down the line for me, it’s always about, it’s been about not running a sprint, but running a marathon. Right? So, you know, during the pandemic went into these boxes found these CDs, that tape mini discs, actually, that also brought me back to a funny point, because I remember it’s, you can only work on one thing at a time, which is a crazy thought that, right.
Adam Levy: Which, I find hard that you’re saying right now, because I feel like you have always something coming up and once that’s about to go live, you have like three other things that you’re building in the pipeline.
Don Diablo: Yeah, well back then, if you’re like you, I need, so let’s say you make music. There wasn’t any, there wasn’t total recall. Right? Right now, just you open your laptop, laptop, desktop, whatever MacBook you have, all these projects, you can work on them at the same time or different people all over the world. But back then, it was like you had a mixer. You had all these gear was incredibly complicated. To be honest, if you look back on it, you’re just literally reading manuals of samplers, drum, computers synthesizers of machines delays. All of these things are like, where do I start? It’s not like you could go on the internet, look it up because there was no internet. So it was really just like pioneering with no one around you. Like, how the hell am I going to do this? Just hooking up all this gear. If you look at all these picture for me and my old studio, I’m literally, I literally weighed 60 pounds more than I do now. Literally just sitting on a chair all day eating and just figuring stuff out, right? Yeah, just looking back on that I’m actually, that actually made me pretty proud like that the patience that I had, and it also gave me the discipline to understand if you really want to learn a craft, it’s not just about watching a YouTube video, downloading some loops and throwing some stuff around. I think a lot of creativity has become a lot easier, right? Like you want to be a photographer? Well, I have a filter on my iPhone, you know, it has like three lenses can even do a portrait mode. You know, or if you’re a musician, you know, there’s, you can just go on splice sticks with some loops and, you know, whatever. It’s like, I think arts become, you know, people have become more indifferent to it because it seems like it’s easier to achieve something that looks quite, you know, acceptable professional or impressive sometimes even. So I think that’s why a lot of creators are struggling mentally because how do you stand out from that? I got lucky in that sense that I grew up in that generation of you know, really having to figure out how the hell to do this. And there wasn’t really that much out there yet. So yeah, I went back found these CDs. There was a track on there that I sampled by a group called enigma. I really liked them because they were literally an enigma. Nobody knew who they were or was it one person, it was all this sort of church sounding, kind of music, choirs and very mysterious. Obviously I had no idea how the world works. So I was like, this is a sample. I can’t use this. How do I clear this? They’re never going to allow me, but I, I want to do something special for this album. And, really, you know, this, this is why the album it’s going to sound different. It’s going to be influenced by the pandemic. Not literally, but indirectly, I guess. Because a record like that wouldn’t have happened. What I did as I sampled my old record from when I was 13, then turn that into a completely new record. Like the way I would make it now in 2021. And yeah, I just sent it to, to to enigma. We found them it’s some mysterious story of a man living on an island. It took like a year, so actually to get a reaction it’s clear now. And it’s now coming out on my album, Don Diablo and enigma from the deep. And it’s, especially if you listen to those lyrics, you know, we came out from the deep to learn, to live, to learn how to love. No, it’s really simple, but it’s that those words still resonate me after all those years. And it also, to me, it shows like good ideas, good arts. They will stand the test of time. So yeah. Yeah. It’s been, yeah. It’s been definitely a journey.
Adam Levy: Yeah. And you brought up a few things that I want to dive into. So you brought obviously the pandemic and all the activity that you’ve seen in the music you’re producing, the art that you’re creating the idea of building a brand that exists beyond yourself. Right. And doing more things that, like you said, usually artists, they drop a single and then when they try to pivot and do and do something else, their audience kind of backlashes, but you’ve somehow managed to, to build not only your brand, as future and open-minded so that people that get attracted to it already expect that stuff. Right. And you, you talked about also the point of view of basically producing music that you love and that’s important to you, right. And, and how you did that and stayed independent, which is a very common theme in crypto when it comes to ownership, owning your stuff and centralizing that process. Versus being attached to devious labels and all of these contracts that take you as an artist. So we have a lot to break down here. Okay. I want to, I want to pivot really quick and talk about like your early days in crypto. I remember seeing articles about you in 2017 about you experimenting with, with cryptocurrencies, launching your own token, et cetera, et cetera. How did you get into crypto? What, what’s that story exactly? Was it through Bitcoin? Is it through Ethereum? Share with me a little bit about that.
Don Diablo: You can do this and you can, it can make you very rich, yada yada, but again, the idea of potentially jeopardizing other people’s lives or, you know, endangering people when it comes to finances just, it didn’t sit right with me at the time. I don’t want to become popular or wealthy over other people’s backs. So I, I, I felt like I couldn’t control the narrative enough with like doing 200 shows a year, still making music, doing a radio show, running a fashion line, running a record label. It felt like it was too financial for me then. Even though I already had invested a lot of time, energy resources into it, I decided to pull out and kind of had my eye on NFTs shortly after, because this is exactly. What I was missing. Right. It was, it’s the idea of, you know, combining everything I just mentioned. The blockchain for thinking is transparency and arts, you know, that’s, to me just was like, okay, this is the thing I should be diving into. And this is where I think I can Excel. So that’s short kind of lead in to how that’s kind of just the, how that developed for me is I really, do, take my time for a lot. I’m a very patient guy, like literally I can even this, like when I started this sort of this new music genre and people were like, Hey, I’m cool, but who’s going to play this. Like, there’s no, there’s no platform for it. So it’s just you. So my idea is cool, but I got like eight years. And in those eight years I’m going to build. You know, a platform I’m going to build other people that are going to make the same style of music that will be a community. Once those people pop up, I’m not going to resist other people trying to between brackets copy, or maybe even improve my sound. If you will, in a more positive perspective, I will embrace them and we will create something of a new, a new era, a new sort of you know, a new community, I would say where it goes beyond music, right? So it became hexagon, hexagon became a platform for a lot of young talents to discover who they were, because, you know, for me, it was like, okay, this is an opportunity to not just make it about me. I created a radio show so I can support other people’s music. I created a fashion line because I was, you know, I like to wear, you know, dope clothing, but it’s usually very expensive. So it was like, what if I can make exactly what I want to wear, but also make it affordable for people. So you don’t have to pay like $700 for a jacket, but still, you know, for a reasonable amount of money can buy something that has all the extras, all the ideas attached to it that you would normally pay for very expensive item. And you can really sort of the idea of just not just being a part of people’s lives through music, but also through fashion, something you, where you take the work just grew into this whole world. And then the comic book series game. And then it was like hexagon hexagonians . Those are the fans. And it became hexagonia as a planet we want to go to cause that’s kind of where everything is, you know, it’s in the spirit of everything we’ve created. So I think if you’re an outsider, you’re like, who the hell is this Don Diablo guy? And what the hell is he talking about? And why? You know, you want to go when you go to a concert, like people are dressed the same way. They’re like, there’s this logo. Well, this is the logo stamp. The logo is such, it’s like a, the logo I created because I didn’t want to have a don diablo logo. I wanted to have a logo where everybody could feel they’re a part of this too. You know, we’re a part of this together. It’s not just about me. Like I rarely use a Don Diablo logo. For me, it’s kind of all interconnected, you know, it, it all works together, whether it’s my arts it’s the music, fashion, comic books it all comes together and it stands for futuristic anarchy. Right. So it’s really kind of just this symbolize of the idea of like in the future, we can rewrite the rules. And even I guess my fans know if you look at pictures from me from back in the days to think actually I have one from my yearbook, if you look at like where I came from maybe…
Adam Levy: I’m so excited to see this.
Don Diablo: One second. If you’re listening on a radio, you’re you got to tune in on the video things. I don’t know if I can.
Adam Levy: Wow. Wow.
Don Diablo: Okay. So people know my journey, right. I decided it was either go left or go, right. It was like either I’m going to just stay or in my room, never go out. Never make any friends. You know, just be the loner, just you know, spend my life just, you know, with the glass half empty then I just went through these phases and I think, you know, music gave me that freedom to be like, Hey, I, people are interested in me now. Right. They don’t hate me anymore. Cause I’m, I’m making dope beats. And it gave me a sense of belonging to somewhere. Right. And I think it wasn’t until I had this, this record that did really well in, in the UK. I never really was embraced by my own country. So I think as well, if you’re an artist, you kind of have to look beyond the border sometimes because sometimes you’re the right person born in the wrong you know, the wrong place sometimes in the wrong body. Like there’s so many different things that you know, that can make you feel a certain way, but then later on you realize, wait, it wasn’t me, right. I was born in the wrong place. So later on that switch, when the, when abroad started to embrace me, my home country started to embrace me. And now it’s, it’s, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s been good. But it’s definitely started outside of my country for me. And I had my first booking in the UK. I saw this picture because you have to imagine, I don’t really have, there’s a period of my life where I don’t have any picture. This is the only picture I have of that period almost. So there’s like a, maybe a seven or eight year gap. Where I was taking the pictures and I never wanted to be in those pictures. And then someone took a picture of me doing my first gig in the UK. I was like, holy shit, who is that guy? You know, like it just made me realize like, damn, I had a bad skin. I had a, and I didn’t go to the hairdresser for like nine or 10 years. So my hand was like right up to my bum pale as, I don’t know what, so I just started realizing I don’t have to do to be, you know, to be like this. So that’s kind of where I started switching my life up a little bit. And then as obviously you go through ups and downs, you let it go a little bit more. And then now during the pandemic, I was like, okay, there’s no excuse anymore. I need to catch up on a little bit of sleep. Cause I used to sleep two, three hours a night, max, you know, before the pandemic. So I’ve switched it up. Like now two to five hours I have a trainer comes by every day. Lost again about I’d say like 30 pounds and kind of just on the right track again. And now we realize, okay, well, if I feel healthier, I got more energy. If I got more energy, I can do more. But I, you know, usually I’m, too stubborn to realize that.
Adam Levy: Your brand of future anarchy. It’s such a, those two keywords future anarchies is something that really trickles down within the crypto and blockchain space. Right? And you’ve like, somehow you’ve already positioned yourself years ahead of your time with, with hexagon to already align with this niche that you really broke into, that you’ve already been like experimenting with, but had a lot of success over the last few months, starting March, 2021. And I want to, I want to talk more about these NFT drops because one, a lot of the trends that you’ve been seeing from these successful jobs have been strictly digital, right? Digital audio, digital video. You’ve taken it to another level. You’re combining the physical with the digital super on par with the whole future anarchy. Right? So everything that you do is calculated to the T. I want you to tell me a little bit about these drops and I’ll go ahead and read them really quick. So March, 2021, you had the Genesis NFT, April, 2021. You had destination hexagon and May, 2021. You were featured in the one and only Sotheby’s, which is wild, right? Which is crazy for infinite future collectively bringing in over $2.4 million in sales in three months, right? As a musician, now you’re transitioning into becoming a fine artist, right? And you talked about artists releasing singles, fans being attached to that core brand, but you’re pivoting, right. You’re growing with this future anarchy point of view that aligns in so many different niches. Talk to me about COVID talk to you about quarantine. What the hell happened these last few months? Like, dude, it’s, it’s crazy to see that those transitions, right. And how you’re really taking your level of creativity , your level of experimentation, how you’re thinking about that in a new fashion, using cryptography, using blockchain technology. Right. So talk to me about COVID and the creative process behind launching those three projects.
Don Diablo: Yeah, that’s a, it’s a deep, long question actually. First of all, I was like, this is the scariest thing I’ve done in a long time, literally. Right. It’s like coming up with my Genesis piece and dropping my first NFT was super scary. It was like back going back to school or releasing your first record. I literally waited around in clubhouse rooms for maybe six months, literally just listening in to people and just, you know, being a part quietly, being a part of the community until someone brought me a stage, it’s like, Hey, are you like the real Diablo? I was like, I guess I think there’s only one. And then we started talking like, Hey, what if you’ve been doing? And I started telling them about my work and then it just started rolling from there. I got embraced by the community. I felt really supported, which was great because I felt so lonely because of the pandemic. You know, I was missing my fans, missing my friends, missing my family. And for the first time I felt connected with these people. I didn’t know, right. Through an app on the phone. And they so graciously made me part of the community and all these people from different backgrounds kind of came together to right whether it was photography or digital arts or music or finance sometimes all of these people came together with a vision. This is, you know, this is a space where we’re going to be innovating and we’re going to be pushing things forward. So right at the beginning of the pandemic actually did this I MTV saw, they kind of follow me on on my socials. Like, Hey, we would like to shoot on a script special with you for our new season. Usually I would say no, because I’m very private about my private life, but here I was like, Hey, well this just how’s everything I build is such a part of me. And I’ve always been making art. Right. But what is art like the whole concept of what art is in general? Is arts a painting or sculpture? Or could it be music or could it be a combination of different things? It slowly started to shift. So. I wanted to create something that I want to make my own mark. Right. Because everybody at the time was just the role, like out there on the, all the platforms, whether it was super rare. Nifty gateway or foundation beautiful digital visuals loops infinite loops with music attitudes, beautiful arts, I was like, great I can do that because I have about 3000 different loops that I’ve created over the last 15 years that I’ve never shared with the world, because for me in general, making art and being creative, doesn’t always mean I have to share it with the rest of the world. I think that just kind of trickles back down to me being that little kid and just creating and sometimes just being very insecure about, Hey, does the world want this? I think they know me making music, so they’re not interested in my art. So in comes this whole new movement and the definition of art starts reshifting right. Somebody who is layering different textures of sound we’ve seen as a, as an artist versus, you know, a painter who’s layering, different layers of paint, right. Or a sculptor. I think when it’s 2021 and we’re in a different era. So all these things started to shift. Then I was like, Ooh, but everybody’s already doing that. So I need to add my own my own flavor, my own twist, something unique to it. So I’ve always been very physical you know, with, with, I mean, physical instance that I like collecting physical things, even as a kid, right. Collecting star wars toys. And for me it was like, Hey, I need to, I need to combine everything that I am about as a person into my Genesis B. So I created actually what I really wanted to create was something actually based on my love for star wars, a holographic piece that implement. A piece of music. The music piece actually was a piece that I started almost 19. Never finished it, or maybe I did finish it because when do you really finish anything? When you’re creating art, sometimes it can take you 20 years to create something. Sometimes it takes you a day. But I was like, Hey, I put, I put so many years of working through that song. I, really want to share that with one person and also you know, I want to make this sort of a combination of everything. So created this digital animation of my first keyboard that I bought as a kid that got me into music. Even before I started making music and then I added this cabinets with a cartridge. If you put the cartridge that actually holds the NFT into the cabinets, then boom, your artwork pops up. It actually isn’t part of the NFT. It Because, the NFT is the video and the music obviously, but made me sort of a different type of artist, I guess, within, within the scene. And yeah, I, after that, my mind just exploded because I, to be honest, I’ve been working on this for a couple of years. So I already had these pieces in my house. Even if you look back at the MTV cribs episode which was recorded I think, you know, almost a year before, so for me it felt so full circle because there was all that I, there were so many ideas, but the idea of creating something then you know, perfecting it, cause there were like many prototypes and then the Genesis drop game and it just scariest thing I’ve ever done, but it got bought by an amazing collector. I actually ended up flying to Dubai to meet him. We had these great conversations and it changed my whole state of mind because the thing is when you become an artist, you started really small and you’re looking for human connection. Right? You want one person. I remember growing up, I, the first thing I did, I made a mixtape with my music on it. And I went to the local record store and I said, I have five of these tapes. I want to sell them for five euros. Right. Do you think I can put them here in the wall? And they were like, so cute. This kid. Right? So every day I came by, never sold anything until like maybe a year later, someone was like the owner of the store was like, were like guess what? Somebody bought your tape. Right? The idea of one person listening or interacting with what I created just blew my mind. So then life takes over right?. You were like, if you have a few hundred followers, a few thousands for me, grew into a few million. Then the pressure comes and you’re like, you’re playing these massive shows. You’re playing in front of 60,000 people. Right. You’re just gazing into you trying to look at the faces, but it just sometimes becomes very blurry. So for me, I, at some point I just ended up and the last shows I ended up playing with this, these, these glasses that shine light into my eyes. So I could just kind of zone out a little bit and not focus on how many people were in front of me, just be in my own zone. And I think once I take those glasses off, I’m completely comfortable. And you know, then I have full vision. So for me, the, it just became so big. I never expected that. And now with this, you bring it back all the way to the origin, which is like, so it’s something, the one person I really love the idea of, of, of making one of one art actually born out of necessity because time I never really got accepted to platforms like nifty gateway. And I was received with open arms by the kind folks at a super rare, but they’re, they come from a fine art background. Right. So, but they immediately understood my vision, my idea, they followed my journey. So I felt like, Hey, I need to make them proud as well, trusting in me because they don’t really let any musicians on there. So I now need to make something that’s worthy of their fine art approach to NFTs. So all of these combinations, all of these things together made me push harder, create something you know, that I will be proud of. That will be unique. And hopefully we create a bond where the connect with a collector.
Adam Levy: So, one of the things. People know music for when they produce music, it’s meant to be enjoyed by the masses. Right. You’re like, re-engineering that from, from that drop, which I found super interesting when you’re working on a film for over a year. Right. And you’re producing and, and this is for the second piece. Right. And because the, the, the first of the Genesis piece was a really beautiful holographic keyboard, organ kind of thing, right that you were building and iterating and tinkering with, as a kid that you then brought back.
Don Diablo: Now I have museums just calling me up and they want that piece in the magazine, in their collection. So it just switched quickly. But there, I was like, Hey, what am I going to do? Am I going to do the same thing again? But you’re right. Again, I was like the art, isn’t just the piece itself, right? The art is also delivery the whole story around it. So that, that, that’s, that’s what I love about NFTs. Right. It’s it’s not just. Okay, well, here you go. There it is. It’s a loop for me. There’s so much you can do with, you know, creativity beyond traditional art or with a smart contract. Here was like, okay, I want to make this film. And I want to work on it for a year, make it the dopest thing I’ve ever done. And then maybe just have one person see it because you know what, like the thing is, people will consume so quickly, you work on something and you work with it on it with your whole heart and you have your fans or sometimes haters or whatever people from outside, they look at it, they scroll through it, they consume it and the next day they’ve forgotten about it, right? Because there’s so much out there. So to me, this is like, Hey, also bringing back to realization. I was like, Hey, this is a lot of work that went into this. And it’s just gotta be one person that’s gonna see it. And, you know, That also is part of the art. It’s the realization for the rest of the world that you have to take in account that these things take a lot of time, a lot of effort, especially now. But everything with music and film and everything is streaming, right? Everything is digested. That’s also where my first Genesis piece idea came from because I wanted to stream art. That’s why I started creating these cabinets. And that’s how I started controlling people’s wifi. That’s how my third piece came about, which we’ll talk about in a second. But the second phase really was about disrupting right, doing something that was bigger than ever, also because people were doing a loop here, a loop there, which is amazing as beautiful, but I was like, Hey, I’m Don Diablo. I need to go over and above. Like, what if instead of a 20 second loop , I can create a film, right? Like a film that trickles people’s imagination. I’ll create a trailer. And then the one hour film stays inside this box, inside the box. Now, there’s a flash drive. That’s password protected. And then yeah, that film is there maybe 10 years from now. Some people will see it, maybe not, but it will always , keep its value. And the thing is, once you share something with the world, or once you it’s almost like being a relationship, right. Once you, you give yourself completely, sometimes people take that for granted, right. Because they already have it. It’s like being in a marriage, you have to work really hard to keep appreciating each other. Right. So that’s kind of where, so I think it’s good to be able to talk to you about it now, because sometimes you’d be like, there were like, some people were angry, like, what is this elite approach to things like, don’t worry. Like I’ve got stuff. I’ve been giving you guys music for free the year, you know, you don’t, you’re streaming it to take it. You know, you can have a subscription, but at the end of the day, you get it for free. You got music videos for free, you get everything for free and I’m dropping a record a month. So I’m literally overloading you with contents because I love you guys, but I also need to do something for myself and I need to make a point. So did, this was the hardest thing is like, how do you merge that new world with that world you used to live in? And people that don’t understand it. So some fans became angry or like, oh, this is horrible. You’re just, you’re making millions now. And just, you know, these people were like don’t respect or understand what you do, but it’s, I can assure it’s actually the complete opposite. It’s this, this is, these are, these are people coming from a very interesting backgrounds or very interesting visions you know, are very woke if I, if I say so. I appreciate fine art. Like, you know, I I’ve sold some pieces, not off the market as well to people who would own Renoir. So Monet’s, you know, and they’re, they’re now see, Hey, this is a different generation. I would like to own a Diablo, but Don is very picky. Like I really kind of sometimes source. I want to know who’s going to buy my piece almost right. Because I want to know it’s going to end up in the right place. They’re like children, you need to make sure. So for me, it’s never really been about making money because I took big risks like this. I already invested a lot of money upfront into something. I never knew if it was going to actually give me anything. And to be honest, I’ve done that my whole life. I had less literally I’ve I have in my garage, 10 projects that didn’t work. That costs me everything. I just earned on the, all the projects you just mentioned. So I think that’s what people don’t see. It’s all the effort, all the craft, everything you put in. Before you come with that, that they actually eventually will learn to know. I would get to know. And I think it’s hard because you can’t communicate in that way with people on social media. You can’t tell them the full story. You just have to give them the snippet because the span is, you know, it’s minimal.
Adam Levy: And one thing I love about those, those two drops is, again, it ties back to the whole concept of future anarchy right. And experimenting with what’s possible from a NFT point of view, because the main narratives around NFTs is that all digital files will be pegged to these ERC 721s , these NFT tokens. And there’s going to be a level of ownership on the internet versus copying. Right. And you took it upon yourself to merge the two. And I think part of being in hexagon, being a hexagon, and from what I’ve seen behind your cult-like community, Like we talked about at the beginning, there’s this level of open-mindedness there’s this level of futurism. And with that comes your ability of tinkering and messing around and trying sorts of things to keep hexagon alive, keep it fresh. And I think that also ties to your third piece now with Sotheby’s right. What’s that story like? Did they hit you up? Did you hit them up? Because what is it? It’s like one of the oldest auction houses and only the best of the best.
Don Diablo: Yeah. I, I need to get one thing off my chest. So because of what I said previously. I’m very grateful in this sense cause I have very open-minded fans. And I think if you know my story now a little bit it’s then you understand how this came about. Because the story is, is, is long and it has a long, a lot of winding roads. And I think a lot of people, when I, when I do a show, for instance, it gets kind of emotional because. A lot of this music, especially when you make electronic music, people see it as throw away culture. But a lot of these records, you know, these are really records about my life. And that’s why I’m also creating a futuristic theater play at the moment which will be premiering end of the year. Because they kind of, if you connect all of them together, sometimes you have to take a helicopter view and just kind of see and put everything together. Because nowadays it’s very hard to have a career as an artist because, you know, we need to be on Tik TOK or whatever. That’s the only way to have a hit. So people just having the patience to really understand, look into your story and then use that as a mirror to look at themselves because at the end of the day, that’s, to me, that’s what art should be, right? It’s whether it’s music or photography or painting or sculpture. To me, it’s all art, you know, or, or it’s not art at all, whatever. It doesn’t matter. It’s creativity. I would never say that I’m creating art. Like that’s, you know, again, I think it’s kind of all up to the people and for me yeah, you have to. I’m very grateful because I have people who’ve been on this journey with me for a couple of years. And if they get into the boat, now they can, it’s very hard an outsider to understand the scope or , you know, the whole sort of helicopter view. And that’s why I’m grateful, you know, for the fans that I have, because they have been very supportive even of me 99% of my fans for you know , this NFT journey, because they understand that this is something that’s going to be part of the future. And they know that I am all about the future. And the same thing goes now, I’m doing this huge project with the United nations, with the idea of what can you do with music, right? So. Came up with the concept stream to be green . So every time you listen to certain songs we will be re greening planet earth or Africa in this case specifically. And that, again for me, is something to think about moving forwards, changing the way we consume and also changing the connection between between people. I think sometimes it’s better to have you know thousands really connected fans versus a couple of million people following you as an influencer. I think it’s really about human connection. So that brings me to my third piece for Sotheby’s, which was like pretty insane. You know, when I got invited to, to be a part of this, and to be honest, that’s just the start, what I’m doing. Cause there’s, there’s, there’s going to be more together with Sotheby’s. No, just, they have a very forward-thinking vision and I love you know, they’re very traditional, but at the same time, you know, they, they, they accepted me with open arms. They understood my story. They gave me you know, an opportunity that now has changed my whole life to be very honest because that opened so many doors to so many new endeavors beyond NFT. You know, for me, NFT it’s it’s it’s a lot of people don’t see it as, as real art. But my concept is my idea that I have is to bring that into the museums, right? And to, to keep pushing forward on, on combining traditional collectors of maybe, you know, more traditional arts versus people who are, forward-thinking bringing those into the scene, versus maybe even people will never collect the art at all. Young people getting them interested into art and collectibles have always been a big thing obviously, but everything is so tied together. I think we’re in a, such a paradigm shift where everything all thought processes are changing and everybody’s kind of just opening their brain. I think also, obviously because of the pandemic, because we have to think differently because the world has changed, it is changing. And I think, again, my whole idea when this pandemic started the first day, I said to my mom never let a good crisis go to waste. You know, I have to, you know, this is the time I have to kind of put all the pieces of the puzzle , my whole life, everything I’ve done from making videos and film to making music, to making fashion, to making collectibles already for myself or for my friends making furniture, making arts doing all these things, combining them into one piece. That has been my, my journey in NFT. And now, you know, it feels so special that everything that’s coming up is merging all of these things that I’ve learned in my life. And the third piece at Sotheby’s really was the main feature of that was the idea of like, you have a cabinet in your house, which brings me back through streaming art into your house. Right. You buy this piece and from there on, we will be connected for life, right? So this means I don’t even know what’s going to happen. And I think if you’re listening to everything and what the hell is he talking about? So the idea is, is a cabinet comes with a cartridge. The art piece is on the cartridge. It’s a beautiful see-through cabinet , which is an art piece in itself. If I may say so, and the then after that you take it home and then I log into your wifi. And from there on I, it gets, it gets interesting. I can literally just go and share messages when you aren’t in there maybe 10 years from now. Maybe there’s nothing for a year. Maybe there’s something every, every week. Maybe I put a piece in there that as a new piece that, that never got released or so it just, again , there’s a connection. That’s very personal. And I think, again, that brings me back to that being part of the art it’s literally cause everyone’s like, well, it’s just for one person. The whole point is it’s not because it’s meant to, it’s the message. That is also a very big part of the art, the message that other people get from it. So that means we appreciate into human connection. You know, it’s the whole story around it is part of the, piece, if that makes sense. So it’s not just about what that one person does with it. It’s how does that make you feel? How does it make you feel when you hear about this? What can you do with that? How does it inspire you? How do you value my music, my arts, whatever. Now, after hearing this. And I think, you know, we have to slowly start bringing back the idea of what’s great. If people are creating has value. I think also this is why someone like Beeple now, I’ve known Mike for a long time. I’m actually in the 5,000 days piece if zoom in, there’s a picture of me in there of something we worked on a couple of years ago. And I’ve always seen him as an incredible artist, but the thing is when people see it on Instagram, for free it’s, it’s nice, but they never considered that to be art because art has to be in a museum or it has to be you know, sort of valued or seen in a certain way that, you know, people wouldn’t see musicians or digital creators as real artists. And I think it’s 2021 , right. We have to shift, obviously, as all of this is moving along, a lot of people came in you know, when there’s opportunity to opportunism. So I think it immediately instantly became a lot harder obviously then the crash came . So then everyone’s like, what am I doing now? But I think this was really about pioneering. Right? Right now I’m working on a piece with Trevor Jones and a lot of money. I mean, they were there from the beginning.
Adam Levy: Is this some alpha leak right now? Is this an alpha leak?
Don Diablo: It is an alpha leak. It’s fine. It’s all good. Okay. You know we’ve been working on this piece together where we have these, one lives in the UK the other one is in France, there’s myself and in the Netherlands for different generations, different backgrounds. One is a digital creator. One is a painter one, you know, has been making music. So. Bringing these worlds together, these different generations, it’s never happened. We’re living in a time where people get to work together from such different backgrounds and disciplines creating such new forms of art. It’s exciting. And I think, you know, if you can get your hands on one of those pieces, it’s going to have emotional value is going to have historical value. And also at some point, maybe even financial value beyond what you’re probably grasping now, because this is the start of a revolution. Right? So I think whenever we look back on it, years from now, this will be something that has changed a lot of things beyond NFT it’s been a way of thinking much like, you know, the whole web and crypto community in itself. It’s growing. Obviously it scares a lot of people. It scared me in the beginning as well. But what you don’t know scares you obviously. And, you know, especially now with all of the governments, kind of just the NFTs really put the spotlight on it because people started mentioning numbers and it was like, oh, damn, like, where does all this, where does all this lead to, where is this going to and how can we control it? Right. So I think it’s going to be a very interesting couple of years moving forward.
Adam Levy: Let’s talk about that for a minute. Right? You’ve seen the NFT space. You’ve seen the crypto space grow over the last few years. Right now, NFTs are having their moment of fame. There was a little bit of a dull moment, but now we’re seeing that snowball effect kind of kick in again, with all these avatars from the board apes to the cool cats, et cetera, et cetera. So, NFTs are having their moment of fame again, but what would you say if any, are the challenges right now for getting new users and new creators kind of on boarded into the NFT space? What have you seen kind of stifled that process?
Don Diablo: To be honest for me. I never look at… everything you’re mentioning is based on finances. Right? So it’s like people would see something maybe being less successful because of finance. It doesn’t bring in as much money. But I think again, when there’s a beginning, there’s, there’s these, these pioneer pieces, right? These, OG pieces, you know, if you go and grip the r.io, you will see, I think I have two pieces in the top 20. Right. But I think that’s like an extreme, it’s like it put a lot of pressure on myself and a lot of people like, you know, I talk about it with Trevor on a lot of, and some of the artists I’m working with, like when you get like all of this pressure on your shoulders, like it can also change the whole concept of, you know, freedom and creativity, which we refuse to do. And I think we have to let go of that a little bit. It’s not really about, you know, It can grow. It was here and then these people came in and that people wanted those pieces because you were getting pieces from pioneers. Right. And when you have, whenever you get something like that, that’s going to be valuable 10 years down the line. If you’re patient, if you’re a HODLer. Right. So for me, but it’s, not a hot potato game. Right. So I think it’s really now, if you want to come into the game and your creator just do it. If somebody, at the end of the day, if you were creating a, somebody who wants to point, they 0.1 ETH for something you’ve created, it’s a great start, right? Grow, to 2.1 ETH and grow from there and, and grow. It’s like every normal way of approaching success, you have to begin, especially even, it might even be harder for people who are already successful because they have the concept of why can’t, you know, if I go below a certain threshold, I’m taking a step backwards. So that’s even more scary. I think when you’re starting out, it’s exciting because it means it’s a way for you to communicate with the world, to reach them and, you know, to build something new that wasn’t there before. And I think, again, there’s no, a lot of people came to me starting artists, but also like mega stars and music, art fashion. They wanted to collaborate with me. And it’s like the big question, like, what’s the hack? Is there a life hack? I’m like, there is no hack . I’ve been working on these pieces for, you know the three pieces we mentioned specifically for over like almost two years. Right? So it’s not like, Ooh, NFT is hot now. I’m just gonna go, what can I sell on the blockchain? It’s not, that’s not the way it works. You have to come with something that has real value, like a company, right? The same with when you launch. If you want to launch a new currency or coin, right. There’s the white paper has to have a story. You can’t just expect people to just buy it. And just so I think it’s the same for art. People are not just buying the art. People want to buy something from an artist, right. So they have to understand the story behind you, and then they will value and understand the art. So I think that’s the way you have to approach it. You really have to bring across the story and why the speech is valuable because it literally could be three lines. You know, that’s what we know from minimalistic art from back in the days. Right. So it’s really how you perceive it within your mind versus how you value the person that created it. Then add to the actual piece. If it gives you some type of emotional feeling, then it’s worth something for you. And that’s always been the foundation of art, right. It’s always really about what does it do for you? For me when I buy art, I buy something that makes me feel something not because I think it will be worth something or will be worth more somewhere down the line. And I think that’s why a lot of big creators got anxiety. Cause they felt pressure. I talk with a lot of creators you know, regularly and they’re like, I’m like, why haven’t you put out anything anymore on the platforms? They’re like the pressure. When I had the last drop wasn’t as hyped. I did just drop a nifty and it wasn’t as hyped as the one that the guy before me did. And I felt like really pressured. So I think what we have to realize is that that initial boom is stabilizing now. And now it’s really about valuing real arts and real efforts. And I think the same goes for, you know, anything moving forward. It’s, we’re still learning. We’re still growing. And I think. It’s exciting because for me personally, I get to work with all these different people. If I, can mention all the stuff I’ve been working on now it’s insane. Right? So one of my things that I, one of my dreams I wanted to do, actually this isn’t an NFT, but it’s still, it’s a collectible. I will be launching soon together with Star wars and Lucasfilm and Disney them trusting me. I’m actually-
Adam Levy: Is that another alpha leak?
Don Diablo: Alpha leaks all over the place. It’s going to be super dope. And I, I was like a little bit, like I got a little bit like impatient, cause I was like, Hey, why is this taking so long? And they were like, well, you’re like literally the only person, the artists like artists that they work with, you know, the whole franchise of star wars. They work with brands and companies, but they don’t really work with a person. So it actually, sometimes I have to take a step back and realize, Hey, what is happening now is insane. Right? All these things. It’s like, it’s a movie. It’s yeah, it’s one of those things you’ll tell later for your kids and be like, yeah. Or even do it through your grandkids. You’re like, sure. Grandpa sounds good. We’re part of the future map.
Don Diablo: “Alrighty. It’s all good”. It’s not to, I think the one thing I have to realize, I sometimes I just have to stand still appreciate it, enjoy it, but I’m just excited to really keep blowing things up, you know, to keep disrupting. I feel like that’s my position that I have here, it’s really taking the medium and then not just being lazy with it, but just cause to be honest, I could have made a lot more money cause I could have done collections, collectibles, you know, but for me that was-
Adam Levy: You could’ve done the open editions. You could have done those big hype drops, but you, thought about it differently.
Don Diablo: Because yeah, I saw people like people like do it, please. Come on. I had all these platforms approach me. Let’s do an open edition. Let’s, you know, make a couple of million. I was like, it’s the thing is now you see it, right. The secondary markets have crash for a lot of artists and they’re like, you know, you know, I don’t, again, I don’t want to do that to whoever, you know, is collecting my work. I want it to stay valuable to them emotionally, not financially forget about money, you know, too, this has never had to be about money, but sometimes it has to be to make an impact to show people that, Hey, this piece, boom, this is what it’s worth. Right. Because when I first, when I did shows, there were always promoters, like, Hey, we also want to do the live stream for free and just added on top of that. I’m like, yeah, just kind of sold my last last year for 1.2 million. So kind of shows that you shouldn’t always be taking things for free. Because you’re, you know, you’re already, for me, this is about the people that are in front of me. I don’t want the pressure of the rest of the world watching me and this being on the internet for the rest of my life. This represents a certain value, but also it represents a certain pressure. And when I do something like this, I want to spend a year on that because I put this on the internet . So it needs to be pretty good, amazing because you know, that’s what people deserve. And I think because there’s already so much out there, you owe it to yourself or to your fans, your, to your new fans and I think that really was what that was about for me. And, and yeah, I can understand that it gets misinterpreted, but again, the whole thing in itself as a whole is a part of the art. It’s the message that is the art.
Adam Levy: Yeah, and this very much ties into the next point. I want to talk to you about, of how NFTs are kind of going to change the music industry as a whole. Right. And right now people see NFTs as art, maybe even a little bit of a music, but they got their moment of fame through art. But I think what people aren’t really noticing that these collectibles they’re they’re proof of ownership, they verify status. They verify symbol. For example, when artists are growing and they’re producing music and they’re starting off on sound cloud, they have their core listeners of let’s say a thousand listeners per month, 10,000 that are like starting to pick up on their work. There’s no real way to validate, improve that you are a juice world fan before juice world became juice world. Or that you were a Don Diablo fan, right. And NFTs allow the fans to be a part of a journey. Right. So imagine you could issue an NFT. Two juice worlds, a thousand listeners, and be like, congratulations, you’re within my first a thousand listeners. I want to show some appreciation and you can prove people now by the NFT that you are.
Don Diablo: That’s the next step for me is really yeah, it’s, it’s always been about the fans. Like everything I do is for the fans, right. I, wouldn’t be alive to be honest, if it wasn’t for the fans or people who appreciate what I do, because on this vast planetit’s filled with emptiness and shallowness, like what’s really why am I here? Right. So it’s really hard to find any purpose. So doing this together with people who are in the same state of mind and understand that is really what it’s about. So obviously this being my new sort of being the big thing in my life right now the ultimate goal will always be, how can I make this you know, so that it’s, it’s a valuable for my fans . So, you know, it’s the same with an album, people getting impatient, right? They’re like, why is that? Why are you not like, why no album, why this or that? Well, it’s already there. If you look closely, it’s being formed, right. Nowadays everything is formed publicly. It’s it’s being formed in front of your eyes. It just, then at the end of the phase, it will just kind of just some box we’ll move around. And you’re like, oh, here it is. Oh, Dan, was it? It was there all along. Right. I think here it’s the same case. I’m creating, I’m doing this so that at the end, obviously we can, oh, it will bring us all together. It’s not to alienate anyone. It’s always bringing people together. So, but in order to do that, you sometimes need to disrupt. You need to try things you need to experiment, need to learn. You need to also make sure you have the finances to do these things, right? So there’s a lot of factors that come into play, but most of all, you need is great value. That’s always been my thing. Like I don’t value myself as a human being. I’ve struggled with that my whole life. I don’t value myself as an artist. I’ve struggled with that for my whole life. But sometimes there was this, there’s this momentum that you create and there’s an undeniable value it’s cemented in this case, on the blockchain. Right. So that’s what really gave me goosebumps. It was, you know, in these club houses kind of just, everything went full circle and it felt like, you know, this is something that will be there, the rest of your life, because the internet is a fleeting thing right in. And especially when you’re an artist, people will forget about you. You will be forgotten the one day you’ll be in the grounds. Nobody will remember you, but that’s what I love about what we’re doing here. This is what this will always be there forever. Right. So we’re trying to be that pile of money. Well, so it’s really about yeah, I guess what we should learn from this as well as artists starting in this, this can create a value that you will, you can kind of hang on to the rest of your life because it’s always going to be there because nowadays you create something it goes on the internet, then, you know, the next day there’s a bunch of articles that topic you know, or you make or you make something. And the next thing doesn’t do as well, people will always go on about that. The last thing you created, then that’s all of a sudden who you are. So I think here, it’s like really creating these moments that are everlasting, that are there for forever, for everyone to see. And hopefully that can add to your value, the way you value yourself as a, as an artist and as a human being. Yeah, and I think the same goes for crypto in general, right? People are , if you were woken up, have you changed your life. You know? And, people say that these are life hacks, shortcuts, whatever. But at the end of the day , They’re not because that’s just the type of person that you are. You know, you, you actually do deserve this because hopefully what you’re doing you’re putting that, whatever you earned into creating , something bigger, that’s going to help more people or help people around you. Or you can just have one person in your family or maybe, you know, a friend. And I think that in itself has created so many positive news that people are just forgetting about it because they’re all just like, oh, we’re trying to go around the system. You know, breaking rules, anarchy, chaos. It’s not really what it’s about. It’s really what you do with what you’ve earned and making sure that you’ve earned it because I’m not religious, but I do believe there’s something up there that’s watching me. And I feel like, you know, this is a reason why as a kid, I never, I never drank alcohol. I never did drugs. I I’ve never done it until this day. I don’t know what alcohol tastes like. Right. I’ve never smoked cigarettes because that was the only thing at that time when I was 12, but I had to offer as far as like, Hey, to show whoever’s up there. I really want this. I’m really serious about this. I’m going to work 19 hours a day, seven days a week for 20 hours straight to have a shred of success. Right. And then people come to me, they’re like, Hey, yes, I’ve been making, I’ve been taking pictures. I’ve been creating digital arts. I’ve been making music for the last two years, but it’s just not working. I’m getting depressed. I’m stressed. My family won’t support me anymore. I’m like, I’ve been in a situation literally where I was like doing this for so many years that people just like, what’s this laughable. They were like, Don, let it go, man. Let it go. You’re doing this for 15 years. You had your best time. You know, you have a decent brain go and do something, you know, grown up. But I think.
Adam Levy: Go get work in banking Don, go, go, go, go.
Don Diablo: No, I was good at school. So they were like, Hey, well you could be a brain surgeon. Like, you know, you could save people’s lives. I’m like, that’s not what I want to do. I want to save you know, people’s lives in a different way. Right? I want to start with my own. I want to find a value and a place on this planet. And from there on, hopefully give other people hope , and maybe inspiration, but the whole concept of being successful, like, because you see this so easily on social media nowadays, you’re like, Ooh, I just need to put some, you know, to be an influencer or whatever, or like, have some certain aesthetic. And from there on like, I will be successful. Even for me, my first, the beginning of my career, I remember I’m on Facebook. I only put pictures of the back, cause I didn’t want people to see my front . And I think like , after four or five years, I’ve put a frontal picture. I’d be like, oh shit, there’s a, that’s the face of the music. But I never wanted people to have a face to anything because it’s like, I want, I want the concept, the music, the arts for it to speak to them, to, you know, do them for themselves. Right. But I think what we’ve forgotten again, I guess the point of this story is that it takes a lot of hard work. Right? All the stuff we see on socials, they’re like the exceptions to the rule. Like, oh, this guy became successful. It happens in my scene a lot as well. Right? It’s like someone comes in scores an accidental hit, career blows up, but that’s what you see on TV. When you hear on the radio, what you see on social media, honestly, shit is hardcore. You really have to, I always ask you know, someone was starting out. So how do you go about it? So you really want to be successful, right? It’s not working for you. Do you have a girlfriend or. Yes. Okay. How much time do you spend with that person? Yes. Okay. So do you eat three times a day? How many times are you going to sort of the toilets? How many, you know, how many hours are you asleep? That’s all too much time that’s spent on not being successful. Literally you have to grind, grind, grind, grind, grind, bleed bleed bleed, take all of these, you know, deceptions take all of these failures, take all of these people that really are just going to screw the screw you over. Cause that’s the foundation of my career. Literally people taking advantage of you, but then slowly because they take advantage of you. They give you a little platform. You just take that. You’re like, okay, cool. I’ll take the beating. I never got paid for it, but Hey, I’m going to move on because at least two or three people saw what I did. And then you just keep building, building, building it’s really about just constantly letting go of all the frustration, anger, and fear and disappointment, and just still being able to be positive and be creative. Because at the end of the day, with all of this pressure , you still need to be that kid creating without any influences from the outside, add up all of this together, you might have a chance of a very good career.
Adam Levy: Yeah. I think those are really wise words for someone starting out. And I think from your point of view being as successful as you’ve become in the music space, and you’re starting to see like the experimentation between audio NFTs, video NFTs, what do you kind of seeing the music space looking like five, 10 years from now with the intersection of NFTs? How do you, imagine, like, do you imagine publishers having the same business model as they have today with them being very capital intensive, being like VC’s essentially giving artists an early paycheck taking all of their, or a lot of their, you know, their ownership or do you imagine creators kind of reversing that model and publishers just riding along for the appreciation by NFTs buying social tokens, rather than actually owning? Like how do you imagine this space kind of looking like in a few years?
Don Diablo: Well, you hit the nail on the head, right? So I think, again, it’s not just, even if you’re not into NFTs, it’s much bigger than that. Right? It’s the same with crypto currency is even if you don’t have crypto, it’s really about, can it change the way you think about banking, about systems, about regulations, about the world around you. Right. If it does then, you know, that’s already a very positive effect. I think here it’s the same thing. If you’re not even into NFTs, maybe you can embrace the idea that artists haven’t been given, what they are but they’ve been deserving off. Right? So for instance, take, let’s take my label. I have a record label hexagon. One thing I changed immediately was usually you get like 15 to 20%, right. At a record label at 80% goes to the record that I really started to go like, Hey, okay, cool. We have costs. But if we kind of break it all down, if you want to go break even maybe have a slight profit. If we give, if we have the artists maintain 50% of their rights, it would be a partnership, which seems a lot more fair. Funny thing is that a lot of artists don’t even care about it that much. You’re like they just signed the contract, like cool. They never really think about that because they’re used to just getting abused. Right. Which kind of annoys me because I want them to value what we’re giving them. But unfortunately it’s really just about hype and moving along and just doing as much as you can, from a label perspective, there isn’t really much loyalty, I would say then which sometimes hurts from that side. But I think you really have to start realizing as an artist and people from the industry as well, that we haven’t been getting what we deserve. And I think the reason why I was able to move so quickly in the space, in the NFT space, because I didn’t have a publisher, I didn’t have a record label cause I’ve always been independent. I’ve always done this alone. It’s just been me. People always ask me, who’s the team behind you. It was doing this and doing, do that. It just all comes from me. Right. So obviously I have great people that work for me with me but all of the creativeness, all of the ideas, all of, all of that plus all of the ownership lies with me. I think that’s very important because somewhere along the line, as artists, all of these different you know, things come into play that that are not important for the actual art. And I think now. What I want to see this to come out. What I want to come out of this is the idea and the concept of that, what we are creating is has value and that there are too many people around it, right? That there’s so many people that have to make money from other people’s creativity and to take advantage of them that has to change. So especially obviously the first one, I mean, one of the, the basic foundations of NFTs is that once somebody resells your piece, you’re still able to get you know, you can, you got a percentage of the resell, the secondary sale. And I think that, you know, that’s something that’s not just amazing for NFTs . It’s something that has to happen on art. It’s sometimes happens on art still, but generally, you know, speaking to a lot of my friends who are from the traditional fine art industry, it never really hardly really happens.So they’re now considering moving their physical pieces. To you know, to sell them through the blockchain. So I think , it’s just the beginning. I think everybody wants to crush this whole thing. Everybody wants to go and now look at like, Hey crypto. Yes, we, you know, it all went down, you know, we’re in a, in a pickle, but obviously we’re HODLers as well. It’s all going to go off again. The same goes for NFT. It’s not really just about what you see and what you’ve seen. And you know, it’s really about what is to come and what we can do with smart contracts and how we can change the world in general, how it can connect people, how it can cut out the middle land, which is a shame sometimes because I know middleman has to make money too. And I feel for the middleman, but at the same time, just does allow people in this case, artists who probably wouldn’t would have never been able to sustain themselves, suddenly become a full-time artist and they are able to sustain themselves without actually other people from the traditional industry, believing in them, they can start believing in themselves again in themselves. And I think that’s the beauty of this, right? It’s those are the stories that are untold. And I’m telling you a story that’s that maybe is an exception. But there, the beauty of this is, all these artists I talked to and I buy smaller pieces. You know, I buy a lot of smaller pieces because if, you know, two, $300 can change a person’s life. If you get that , if you sell 5, 6, 7, or eight pieces, it’s sustainable, you have a, a way of living from your art, which was never possible before all this was happening. So I think to me, that is the real revolution. It’s, the underlying foundation of everything that we’re not seeing everything. It’s hard to explain that to people. It’s hard to show this to people, but at the end of the day, it’s always going to be about , you know, the, the, the bigger picture it’s always going to be about the, what do you know, what does you know, the sort of the bigger number of people have to benefit from this? And obviously there’s the exceptions and anomalies. They’re exotic . They’re interesting to talk about, you know, but to me, that’s, hopefully just something we’re talking about now, and hopefully down the line, this will be a change of mind, a change of vision, an opportunity for people to hopefully realize their potential as artists.
Adam Levy: Yeah. I want to ask you about your community Hexagonia , the hexagons, right? You have Hexagonia, you have this virtual kind of like brand that you’ve built and many people when they’re building brands and they’re building communities, they have a hard time getting the cult-like like element. Like if you do some in-depth research on Don Diablo and hexagon, you’ll see the tattoos that people have imprinted on their bodies permanently. That’s crazy. There’s a level of alignment. That’s unique to your brand and the people within. If you had three tips right now for future creators, whether they be in crypto, in the music space, wherever they may be creators in general, what would be those three tips you’d give to someone that say, this is what I suggest when it comes to building this community in the sprint. How do you do that?
Don Diablo: Tough question to be very honest, the honest answer is honestly honesty. It is really just about when you think something is too scary. It’s too different that’s when you know you are on the right path. I always kind of look at it. Let’s say it’s always something that I miss. Right. So when I started creating the the music that I’m creating at the moment, which has a very futuristic element, it wasn’t there at the time you have music that was being played at these big raves and you have music that was being played in underground clubs. I was like, I want to make something out, you know, that has the energy it can, so it can be played on the big stages, but at the same time, it has a sort of a, you know, it’s a little bit more subtle, so to speak. And at the same time I created the signature. So it doesn’t matter if I hop into a different genre. Now there’s a signature sound, a small signature that now people will know like, Hey, this futuristic. I could produce something for another artist. This is a Don Diablo sound, right? I think that is important when you, when he wants to build a community or when you want to build something that goes beyond one art piece, you have to create something that is a recognizable signature. And this takes time. You’re, you’re always going to go like, Hey, it’s not that unique, is it? But it really, sometimes you have to grow into it as well. And sometimes it takes years. So there’s that. And also, I think, you know, other than that, you have to do things from your guts , right? Personal ly you have to also gamble really big, to be honest, I’ve always literally invested everything I have into my career. I never really, up until two, three years ago, I lived in the same house since I was 19. My accountant was like, Don, you’ve done pretty well. You know, you still live in this apartment that you’ve been living in your whole life. You don’t really have a car. I always wear the same shoes. It’s like live a little, but again, for me, I’ve always reinvested everything I had into my career because that’s the biggest, best investment you can do. It’s not really about you know, just all these other things, going out to expensive dinners or showing other people that you have money is the most useless thing you can do. It’s really, really cool to me to invest. I used them, you know, even when I was 19, I did my first music video. I, the record label wasn’t at the time, it wasn’t going to support me. So I worked three jobs, saved all this money and I put my own money into the music video that then the copyright was owned by the record label. But again, you have to let go of that idea of. Things are not being fair because this is the biggest tip I can give you. Life isn’t fair. It’s never going to be fair. Things are never going to change. You just have to plow through it, find a way somewhere and there at the end of the road, that will be something that hopefully will give you a shred of happiness. And again , nobody can be happy, right? But there are moments of happiness that we can experience. And that is all that I’m trying to do here. And I think a big part of that is letting go of all the things that happened to you because otherwise as an artist it’s going to kill you. So I think it’s really, those are the pillars of how I got, where I got to and sacrifice. You have to be willing to just go hardcore, man, just go hardcore. This has to be your life. Yeah.
Adam Levy: I think those are wise words. All right. I want to finish off with three last quick round questions. Okay. Let’s do it right. Most memorable concert you’ve ever played. What was it?
Don Diablo: Wow. Good one too. If I may, one was I was shooting a documentary for MTV 15 years ago. I’d like to stay in South Africa and I went to all these aids orphanages and it was intense. I remember interviewing this lady holding her hand and we looked into each other’s eyes and there was such an intense connection. I never met her, but there was a human connection. Right. And then after I wrapped the item and we were standing outside, I was just kind of like, just kind of literally just kind of getting my breath. Right. And then she, she literally was rolled out of the hospital. She had passed away while I was standing outside . So I was the last person she talked to. Right after that I was brought to a school for aids orphans. Right? So it’s there. I was like the, there was the gear that they gave me. It was literally one CD player and a mic. I was like, you understand? I have to mix, I have to have two players because I have to mix from on to the other. I was like, okay, what am I doing here? So I just, what I did, I just put in a CD press play. I was literally on a table. All these kids were around me. And to be honest, it was the worst show I’ve ever done, but it was also the best show because these kids, they went in, they loved everything I did. At some point I found a CD on the floor, blew the dust off of the CD and they had this quite old music, this traditional local music on it. And they went, exploded. best show ever I did. Another one I did was the Chinese wall. Honestly.
Adam Levy: The great wall of China, really?
Don Diablo: The Great Wall of China. It wasn’t allowed to do anything there, there was a lot of politics, a lot of things and they were like, are we opening it two, three days before we got canceled. And then miraculously, they said, okay, we’re opening it. I did my show that the energy was insane. Then it started pouring rain and everything stopped. So I was literally the only person that played on the great wall that day. And , I will never forget how bizarre that was, you know, doing that. So there, yeah, those are two of my sort of weird, not very obvious, but yeah. Well, remember,
Adam Levy: I wonder when they were building the great wall of China, there would be like, all right, we’re going to have Don Diablo.
Don Diablo: Yeah. If you think about it, there are so many great stories that are untold, but yeah, that’s definitely one of them. It’s a longer story. That’s actually what’s cool is because the funny thing about that was actually had a better slot later on in the evening, but I got, I got screwed literally by an agent and they pushed me down on the lineup, which is the story of my life. Right. So I was like, okay, I’ll just do it. You know, that’s just how it happened, like how it goes. And at the end, that ended up to be the one slot that actually you know, ended up playing. So I think again, sometimes you just have to take the beating, probably this all happens for a reason. Yeah.
Adam Levy: All right. Second question. Favorite song you’ve produced. Which one is it?
Don Diablo: Oh, wow.
Adam Levy: I know, I know you said , you don’t like listening to your music. But, there has to be a song that you’d like you felt the most connected to, to an extent whether you’ve remixed, whether you created yourself. Which one is it?
Don Diablo: It’s probably going to be a song. I wrote for my dad when he was sick in the hospital, he had cancer. I, there was this xylophone in the hallway that is for kids to play around with. And I was just like playing a little melody . And I just turned that into the foundation for a song later on that I wrote as a letter to my father that I never got to reach to him. So I turned that into a song. And so hopefully, you know, maybe he’s up there and he could still hear it. And that ended up becoming the main theme song for standing up against cancer. This is a huge television fundraiser, and that really opened up such a new dimension to me, people suddenly felt like Don Diablo isn’t a robot. He’s a human being. It opened up the doorway to my country. They embraced me as a human cause I always tried to do everything so well. And I really, I was there on TV. I broke, I had to speak about my father who had just passed away a few weeks before. I heard the song in the background, the melody that I’d written in the hospital hallway. And it just kind of just became, you know actually ended up in the top 10 funeral records in my country which is weird, but very honorable, I think like it’s nice to be in a, in a chart, but this was a very special chart. And I got these letters from hundreds and hundreds of people who understood the letter. They were like, Hey, I don’t, I didn’t really communicate with my father either. And I played him the song right before he passed away. And if we held each other’s hands and it was exactly what I needed. I got postcards from people like one, I remember one postcard from a father and a daughter, and they were somewhere standing in front of a mountain. They were like, we want to thank you. We haven’t had contact with each other for many years. We heard your song. I sent it to my father. He cried, we didn’t have to say anything else. We met up here, we’re together again. And it’s all because of that one song. So we want to thank you. So I have these letters and, and sometimes, you know, it makes you realize the impact of the arts of music. And so that record will always be special to me. It’s maybe not my best production one or the sickest dopest beat or whatever, but it’s, or really came from the heart and the beautifully sung and, and co-written with JB Cooper who then became a mega star. After that, I actually discovered him in a bar while I was living in the UK. It was still just literally playing bars. Then after that he had a, I don’t know, his record or had a billion streams, whatever I did. So it all just kind of went full circle there. So that record will always be special to me.
Adam Levy: Nice. Okay. Last question beyond your parents who has been the number one influence beyond family who has been like that, number one influence on your life?
Don Diablo: Ooh. Very good question. Okay. It’s funny, like, I wouldn’t say there is a number one influence, but I think you look like if I look from a music perspective, I grew up with music from, you know first of all, like rock music rage against the machine and Nirvana , then I went into electronic music, was basement Jaxx chemical brothers, Fatboy, slim, daft punk, later on, I got to meet all those people. I got to tour with them and you know, that was amazing. There’s always been one artist also in music that kept changing and evolving constantly mobi, you know, he started out like really aggressive hardcore music. Right. And then he really went into like making elevator music and he did all these things were very left, very right and always had these amazing visualizations with it. There was always a story behind it. You know, I love the idea that you can be that all that, that person in all these different things wrapped into one person. So that also made me, cause when I started out as Don Diablo, I started assimilating to mobi into hardcore music, which was like literally just raves and hauls of people just going absolutely berserk. And that showed me like, Hey, you can go from there. Your music being used for all of these massive movies and, you know, making this music that’s being played on elevators. Literally you go and go from super left. Super. Right. Right. So that, that is always been something I kept in mind like, Hey, cause I, there was a point where people like, you should not change your name because you have this history and this history is, you know, it can maybe change the way people perceive you for what you’re doing right now. Because you know, some art people see a history that’s not in line with what they expect as a dirty thing, or as a bad thing or something that could be, you know negative the same goes for this. Right. And like, nowadays I’m talking to museums like very traditional museums, right? Like should now be erasing what I’ve done before, because like I’m talking, you know, I sometimes feel, I feel like I’m not worthy. Right. Or I’m like, Hey, they’re just, I’m literally like talking about. Being a part of these, these legacies of these museums that have all of these, artists there, that I’m, I feel tiny. But then I think back about that concept, like, Hey, no, it’s not, there’s no reason because this is a part of your journey, a part of your story, because you have to have to have gone through all of this. And that is what makes you an artist and him going from left to completely, right. And I’m back to the middle and then reinventing himself over and over. Funnily enough really really changed my perspective and to finish that off and to make it full circle, there was one other person. His name is Tom Goldenberg , he’s a Dutch guy and is one of the few people I really looked up to musically in my country. His artist name is junkie XL. I had a poster of him in my bedroom. You know, I love what he did. I love he went from rock and he went into making electronic music and he did it so well. So sophisticated pushed the envelope. Then when he had this huge hit with, with Elvis, right. A little more, little less conversation became number one all over the countries. That’s cool. I’ve done that I’ve got to move into. Hollywood became the right-hand of Hans Zimmer. You know, did all these huge scores from Batman to God knows what , then he’s just like, okay, I’m ready to venture out. Became one of the five biggest composers in Hollywood, himself doing anything from Madmax to justice league to the dark night. And then boom in came, this thing got contacted by his team . Like, Hey, we’re doing an NFT drop. You know, we know you’re killing it in the game. Can we have some advice? I said, what are you offering? It’s the score of your life? It’s like, it’s the sidetrack of okay. Like, okay. What does it mean? Well, he’s going to create 20 minutes of music based on your life as a soundtrack . I’m like, so you can buy this in an NFT, right? Like 20 minutes of music from one of the top five Hollywood composers in the world. Right. I got to be honest, I want to buy this, you know, like, I don’t know how to help with this. So long story short, I ended up winning the auction and now I’m talking to Tom, constantly friends, and it just blows my mind. Everything is now going full circle, right? This, this person who you grew up with now, you’re talking to, and he’s, he’s going to create music for you based on your life. And I am a musician. So what is life? This is so meta, right? Like it’s crazy. So I asked him, can I use this for my documentary that I’m making you know, and they’re like, yeah, of course. So full circle exploded there. And I know the thing is, you know what I know, like, I know he’s a better musician than I am. Right. So I think this is not a thing that I it’s the same with games, like, right. I can take my loss. I guess that’s what it is. I think, as an artist, it’s very important to realize there are going to be people that are better than you. You’re never going to be the best, right. You might be the best for a second, but then the next second, you won’t be the best. And I think yeah, me knowing that he, this is just inspires me so much and I’m still learning. And this is another thing as well, think to round it up is if you want to grow, if you want to learn, if you want to be successful, you got to still get out there and still learn. That’s it. Right. You still, I’m still educating myself every day. I’m still not in the state of mind that I’m successful or I’m there, or I’m still at the bottom of the mountain. I reached the mountain. I will acknowledge that I reached the mountain I’m climbing, but I have a huge bag of rocks on my back because all of the luggage that I’ve had, all the disappointment, all the anger and all the fear. And sometimes I throw a stone out because I know that’s not right, but I’m still struggling to get out. It’s things like that. Yes. And I’m like, wow, this is so mad at us. So cool. And this is all because of, you know, because of what’s happening now because the, the, the whole crypto community NFTs the way digital art, the way art is being revolutionized right now. And man, what a time to be alive, dude.
Adam Levy: I think that’s a beautiful place to end off, done. You’re a pool of knowledge. Thank you so much for coming on. And best of luck with all these new drops with star wars and everything else that you have coming up. Thank you for being on.
Don Diablo: Thank you for being an enlightened man.