Described by industry press as “the Western Hemisphere’s greatest living pop star” and a “Generation YouTube renaissance man,” Akira the Don is a world-renowned musician/DJ. He’s most famous for his Meaningwave Universe, a musical oeuvre which integrates philosophically lyrical content. In producing these releases, he’s collaborated with Jordan Peterson, Naval Ravikant, and Joe Rogan. He joins our CEO, Jennifer Grossman, to discuss his career in music, along with his collaboration with The Atlas Society on our very first Ayn Rand-inspired Meangingwave experience. Watch the entire interview HERE or check out the transcript below.
JAG: Jennifer Grossman
AD: Akira the Don
JAG: Hello, everyone, and welcome to the 181st episode of The Atlas Society Asks. My name is Jennifer Anju Grossman. My friends call me JAG. I'm the CEO of The Atlas Society. We are probably most famous for engaging young people with the ideas of Ayn Rand in creative ways, such as our graphic novels, our animated videos, and, now, music. Today we are joined by a new friend and maybe a new creative partner, Akira the Don. A lot of you already know who he is, but before I even begin to give him a full introduction, I want to remind all of you who are joining us on Zoom, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube you can use the comment section. Go ahead, get started, type your questions into the queue and we will get to as many of them as we can. Akira, thanks for joining us.
AD: Buen Día, that was nice. What a lovely intro. Thank you very much. What a professional you are.
JAG: So, a bit of background for those watching us. I was put on the path of discovering Akira and his Meaningwave after a fitness class in Malibu. It was during the cooldown period. We're all in Shavasana and playing is this just hauntingly beautiful music with the words of Jordan Peterson telling me to clean up my room. And I was just blown away. My first thought was, this is incredible. My second thought was, can we do something with Ayn Rand? So I tracked Akira down in Mexico to propose a collaboration. I think we talked for nearly an hour and a half. I have so many questions, I barely know where to begin. But let's start at the beginning. Where did you grow up and what helped send you on the amazingly creative path and the artistic oeuvre of Meaningwave?
AD: That's a big question. Well, the first bit's small and then the second bit's big. I grew up in the UK. I was born in the middle of the UK, in the industrial wasteland of West Bromwich. And then when I was two or three, we moved to North Wales, which is the opposite of an industrial wasteland in many ways. If you think of Lord of the Rings, it looks like that. And, depending on what the weather's doing, it's either like the Hobbit Shire or it's Mordor, depending on what's going on weatherwise. So, I was in a valley with steep mountains everywhere and everyone spoke this weird language called Welsh, or they say, Cymraeg, which I did not speak.
And when I went to school, they were teaching me English in Welsh, which was kind of confusing. So I guess that was probably influential on how I turned out. So, I began in that part of the world and obviously now I live in Mexico, and had lived in the USA for eight or nine years, and I've been all over the place.
JAG: Were there musicians in your life? Were there any early kinds of music that influenced you? What did you grow up listening to? Was it rap?
AD: There weren't musicians, but my dad had an incredibly broad and knowledgeable love of and collection of music. So there was always loads of music around and I always loved it and was fascinated with it, apparently when I was in the process of not being born yet.
What's that part of your life called? Gestation.
AD: When I was gestating, they went to see Adam and the Ants and apparently I kicked along rhythmically.
JAG: That's a great story. And then, what about any influences that shaped your worldview? I mean, that put you on this path?
You will know this about music, particularly the philosophy or the politics or what have you, of music is predominantly very left wing. I remember it being very socialist.
AD: Well, it's funny, right, because a lot of the music, and you will know this about music, particularly the philosophy or the politics or what have you, of music is predominantly very left wing. I remember it being very socialist. I remember hearing lots of Billy Bragg, and stuff like that when I was little, talking about powers in a union and rich people being evil and all that sort of thing. And my parents were very much socialists.
Here's the thing, I've mentioned this recently in other things and I don't know why it is, but I don't remember anything before seven. And then when I'm seven, I remember being seven and I remember loving music and art and drawing and comic books and things like that. And, I got my first job when I was seven. I was digging gardens for people, and stuff of that nature, and I always had jobs after I was digging gardens for people, digging holes and doing shrubbery rearrangements and trimming, and stuff like that. I was doing paper rounds and then washing dishes and then working in pubs, and so on and so forth. I always worked a lot and very hard, and then simultaneously, I was always very aware of what I wanted to do, which was to create music and comics, and stuff of that nature.
So, I was always working on that and doing that in whatever manner that I could. I used to make little comics and first I would just make them and draw them and then I would sell them at school, like when I was seven. I remember doing this. And, I always used to make mixtapes for people. And, if I liked the people, I would give them the mixtapes, and if there were a girl that I was into or something like that, but I would sell mixtapes as well. And I used to do these experiments with copying loops of music from one cassette to another cassette, and dubbing things over the top of it and cutting the tape up and sticking it back together with cellotape and things of that nature, because I didn't have any instruments or anything, but I did have cassettes. So from as early as I can remember, I was doing these experiments with cassettes and I was making mixtapes and I was sampling bits of spoken word and stuff of that nature off of the TV they had in the science block in school. So, yes, I was doing it.
JAG: So, is it fair to say that the roots of Meaningwave go back to that time, or was there some other experience that gave you that idea, the same kind of epiphany that you had when it came to the Ayn Rand Meaningwave that you did?
AD: Well, yes, I mean, like I said, that stuff goes back as far as I remember. And the other thing was, I always loved books, so I was always reading and I was always very interested in ideas, and before I even knew what philosophy was, I was interested in it and always thought in that manner. And when I got to the point where I was making my own records, I was always incorporating pieces of other people's speech or bits of books or bits of speeches or movies or what have you into the music. I always loved that aspect of, say, for example, what was going on in the early nineties with hip hop, but also rock music. There were a lot of people doing skits, as they were known at that point, where they'd sample a bit of a TV show or somebody talking or something and use that to set up the song. I used to do that when I was doing my very early records. I'd have a couple of songs that were like song songs then, a song that was like that, but I thought, what if that was the whole song?
One example I did very early was Jack Kirby, who created the Marvel Universe, talking about how he did that and how he was a conduit for the Divine, and how these characters just appeared to him fully formed, and they just kind of came through him. But also, I loved that in that speech he was talking about his motivations, and that he loved the work and he loved the imagery and what have you, but he said, “I had to make sales. I had to provide for my family, and I had made great sales. And, that made me very happy. That made the people I was working for very happy. And, I made lots of sales.” So, it was this combination of creating wonderful stuff and simultaneously being able to provide for his family and be paid well for doing that.
JAG: Well, I think that people like to think of the starving artist. But being an entrepreneur is also kind of an artistic endeavor. I mean, both in art and being an entrepreneur, you have to be very creative. You have to be very resourceful. You're bringing something new into the world, whether it's a new composition or this by our Marvel Comics illustrator Dan Parson.
So, since my first Meaningwave experience was that Jordan Peterson song, tell me, how did that collaboration begin? Were you just reading Jordan Peterson and thought it was intriguing? Did he reach out to you? You reach out to him. How did it come about?
AD: Well, the Peterson thing was around 2017, I believe it was. I was living in Los Angeles and I was DJing on Hollywood Boulevard most of the time. And, I was playing in those sort of swanky, bottle service, Hollywood Boulevard sort of places.
Then, I would come back from DJing and I would need to decompress from all the lunacy that I had just been a part of, privy to, and contributor to. I used to have a projector, and I would put YouTube on and have people talking, just running while I sat there and decompressed. And Jordan Peterson came on, as he often used to. At that point, around 2016, Jordan Peterson was just appearing. And what was cool about when Jordan Peterson popped-up was that he became known via incidents of notoriety. Right? Notorious incidents. Well, a specific notorious incident in that case, which was the [Bill] C-16 protest. And the accompanying video. But then when you went and looked into Jordan Peterson, he had hundreds of hours of lectures on his YouTube channel, right? Hundreds and hundreds of hours of fascinating lectures breaking down mythopoetic, psychological, evolutionary, biological, et cetera, type stuff.
You could put those on for hours. They were cool. So, I used to put those on. And anyway, I'm sitting there and he says something about how you should be a plumber. He's like, you should be a plumber. Which is a cool thing to say and it's an unusual thing to say. He's like, be a plumber, man, but be a good one. And he's explaining why it's very important: all these positions in our society are all very important and useful, but you should do them properly and really, really well. Otherwise, you're mucking up the show. And I thought that was really cool and I should turn it into a song. So I did, and people really liked it.
And that week, I'd heard James Altucher on a podcast say something about how you should quadruple down on what works. And in that song I did. People really liked it. It was one of the most popular things I'd done at that point. That was, what was that, 2016? That was 16 years into my career at that point. So I'd been doing a lot of stuff for a long time. But anyway, I thought, all right, let me try more of this. So, I did a whole mixtape, and at the point that I did the mixtape, Peterson came across it and tweeted it and was very complimentary about it. Then I decided I wanted to make an album based around his Twelve Rules for Life. I thought, what if I could take this idea and really go deep into it and turn it into an album? Just a song or a mixtape where things kind of flow around or are loosely associated? What if I could make twelve specific individual songs that work as songs, as records, but also as delivery mechanisms for this message, which I find very useful and powerful. So, I hit him up and asked him if he'd be into that, and he was, and, low, we did it.
JAG: And the rest is history.
AD: I actually got him to record vocals specifically for one track, which was “42 Rules for Life,” because he'd never actually read that aloud anywhere. So I asked him if he could perform that for me so I could turn it into a record. And he sent over two takes, and they were really good.
JAG: Wow. Okay. So, that is a real working collaboration.
When I first tracked you down in Mexico, I had no idea whether you'd have any familiarity with the literature and ideas of Ayn Rand. And obviously, I was thrilled to learn just how knowledgeable and passionate you were on the subject. So, what is your Ayn Rand origin story? Did someone recommend her literature, or again, did you discover it by interviews or videos?
It's always this wonderful thing about how haters do the most promo for you. Jordan Peterson certainly found this. His detractors made him what he became, what he is today.
AD: I've been trying to remember that. She was always there. She's one of those people who's always there. It's like, when did you first hear Nietzsche or certain ideas and figures that have always been around? But I'd gone in and I'd investigated her a number of times as a result of being triggered by having seen something. And I remember one occasion early, I read somewhere—and it's always this wonderful thing about how haters do the most promo for you. Jordan Peterson certainly found this. His detractors made him what he became, what he is today. In the case of Ayn Rand, in this instance, I remember some people being very angry that Steve Ditko, who was the co-creator of Spider Man, was a big fan.
JAG: A longtime donor to The Atlas Society.
AD: Oh, there you go. Well, rest in peace. Epic human.
Yes. And, considered himself an objectivist and, obviously, he's a genius. And I was interested in, well, what is this awful thing that he's supposedly done that makes him a bad person?
It's that stuff which I'd looked into and I was already aware of it from somewhere before. I thought, oh, it's that. But I was so confused for a long time as to why people objected to that so much and why they considered it to be so awful.
It took me a while to realize the terrifying truth of that. But, then the terrifying truth of that is in all her work, anyway, she's quite explicit about it. Another time, I remember a ninja from Die Antwoord when Die Antwoord first popped up, like 15 years ago or something. Are you aware of them?
They're a South African rave rap crew who blew up in a sort of memetic fashion and have been very big since. Very creative, very interesting. I remember in a very early interview with the lead creative force and producer, rapper guy in that crew, Die Antwoord, he's a guy who called himself Ninja. I remember him talking about how The Fountainhead was a foundational work that gave him permission to do and be what he wished to in a way that he'd formerly felt guilty about. So that was a kind of turning point for him and made him able because he'd been in a bunch of other bands previously, all of which had stalled in some shape or form. And he felt that the reason they'd stalled and the reason that this one did so well was that he was able to let go of a bunch of self-imposed limitations as a result of reading Rand’s work. And I was, oh, so I need to look into this more, as well.
JAG: Yes. All right. We're definitely going to have to track down that interview because that is totally news to me.
So now we're going to try to play, as I was mentioning before, the Ayn Rand Meaningwave, which is in three parts. In total, it’s about 14 minutes long. We're going to try to sample a minute of that. We'll have to see if YouTube gets angry with us because it's copyrighted.
AD: I let myself be used.
AD: I'm a hippie in that regard. I try not to get in the way of people distributing, sharing, and introducing people to my work. That seems silly to me.
JAG: I like your way of thinking. Let's see if we can give this a try. This is going to be from My Treasures. So it's the middle part, which I thought was particularly evocative. It is from chapter eleven of Anthem, and you'll see it's illustrated here, so let's give it a whirl. 1 minute.
“Happiness is possible to me on earth, and my happiness needs no higher aim to vindicate it, to vindicate it.
“My happiness is not the means to any end. It is the end. It is its own goal, its own purpose.
“Neither am I the means to any end others may wish to accomplish.
“I am not a tool for their use. I am not a servant of their needs. I am not a bandage for their wounds.”
JAG: Amazing. I have listened to it probably 100 times and I can't listen to it without getting goosebumps. I'm sure we've already put the link in all of the chats, but it is to me like mainlining Objectivism. I mean, it's right there.
It is the ethics, it is the metaphysics, it is the epistemology all rolled into one. And I highly recommend, guys, if you haven't already listened to it, listen to it, and then also go out and get yourself a copy of another artistic adaptation.
Let's talk a little bit about the creative process because I know we were going back and forth, and then one day you called me, you were so excited, you had been on the beat, and you're like, I've got it, I've got it. I can't talk now because I'd have to go and lay it down. So, talk a bit about it.
AD: It's funny, right? Because you guys hit me up and something happened with the communication wherein I can't remember what happened, but I didn't see it till a year later or something of that nature. So, I didn't get back after you'd first reached out, I didn't get back to you for like a year, which sounds like typical loser artist behavior. And, I'm very on top of things, I'm very professional and on time, so I don't know how that possibly could have happened.
JAG: But either way, fortunately, I'm extremely persistent.
AD: Yes, you are. Yes. I was very impressed with your tenacity, and I had Ayn Rand on my, hate to call it, a to-do list. I have a very powerful and epic spreadsheet which has my plans in it in shape or form, and I'm working towards all sorts of ideas and voices. And, the way I work with everything is that I will be working on essentially an idea that I have a number of different viewpoints on from different thinkers, speakers, et cetera, and then I will build upon that with the next idea. And it's always moving towards other things. Rand's been in there for a while, and then you hit me up and you were the one who suggested that I read Anthem, which I'd not read. It was on my list of things to read, and I was aware that there was a section in it that was a definitive encapsulation of her ideas. I remember someone had said, really? You don't even need to read the whole thing. You could read just the end bit, which I disagree with. I feel that the setup is really useful.
As I got to the beach, I'm walking along the beach and Chapter Eleven of Anthem comes on, and then as I'm listening to the words, the whole thing, I thought, oh, shit, this is the bit, isn't it?
But anyway, I was reading that and I was maneuvering between a Project Gutenberg version of it and an audiobook version of it over a period of a week, where I was flying around the place. I think I was in the USA. Anyway, yes, that was it. I read half of it in the USA. Then, I got back to Mexico and I went for a walk to the beach and I was listening to the end of it, basically. And as I got to the beach, I'm walking along the beach and Chapter Eleven of Anthem comes on, and then as I'm listening to the words, the whole thing, I thought, oh, shit, this is the bit, isn't it?
Hair-stand-up things! Because I could hear all the music and I thought, oh, that's the chorus. The very first lines are obviously a chorus. And I thought it's another song as it moves to the middle. This is completely different, this is a different song. This is where it takes this dark turn. And I thought, oh, imagine if it becomes triumphant and glorious at the end. Oh, my God, it does get triumphant and glorifous and transcendent at the end. I know exactly what this sounds like and what it is. I had it in my head and I had to leg it back, get to the studio and get it out before it sort of faded away, as these things can do if you do not nail them down in time.
JAG: Guys, again, thanks everybody for patience. I am going to get to your questions. As you can see, I'm very passionate, some might say a little obsessed about Akira's music. About that spreadsheet because I remember when we first talked and I had said, well, look, we have a gala. It's coming up in four or five months, and I would like to premiere this at the gala. And you said, well, I planned my projects out years in advance, and I might be able to get to this in a couple of years. I said, no, we have to do this now.
Why did we make the cut and get you to take a pause on your schedule?
AD: Well, it wasn't deliberate. It was that you suggested, oh, we could do a live show or something. I thought, well, that'd be cool. It'd be nice to go back to the USA after I got so unceremoniously locked out of there a couple of years ago for the hideous crime of being unvaccinated, and you know they just lifted that, and I thought, well, that'd be a nice reason to pop back to do a show. I could put together something, and it wouldn't take too long, and it could be cool. And I have all these things already that, like I'd said, bits of Rand stuff that I wanted to use. But, then when I read and experienced that part of Anthem, well, it's not a little thing. Now, this is actually sort of a three-track EP, and I need to get a string section involved, and this, that, and the other needs to occur. But it was one of those times when you think, but, sometimes you have to make room for inspiration.
AD: And I always have that kind of insight. I've got the next year planned out, and I've got some wiggle room in there for inspiration. Something might suddenly occur that's very, very powerful, and it's very necessary that you do that there and then. That was one of my favorite little lines from one of the Naval records I did where he says, inspiration is perishable. When you have your inspiration, do it right then and there. And I found that really to be true. If you don't take advantage of that flash of glory when it appears to you, you may not be able to recreate it or even remember it.
AD: Also, the fact that you are very professional and you guys are a very professional operation, and you pay correctly, and that's very important, you know what I mean?
JAG: Exactly. We have extremely high respect for artists.
Those who contribute the least expect the most. And those who contribute the most are the ones who respect what you do the most, and they will allow you to do what you do and be grateful to you for it.
AD: I was trying to explain this to my son. He was saying a friend of his, one of his best friends, was angry at the developer of a game they like to play together. Now, it's because the developer had put a Tweet out saying the people who play for free are the most entitled. And his friend was angry at the creator for saying that. But I said, no, this is very true, son of mine. You will really find this. Those who contribute the least expect the most.
And those who contribute the most are the ones who respect what you do the most, and they will allow you to do what you do and be grateful to you for it. You know what I mean? And I've really found that to be the case. My whole life, if I had advice for anyone, it would be, put your price up. Whatever you're doing. If you're good, if you believe in what you're doing, you believe in your worth, then put your price up. Because keeping it down or putting it down to try and get business or whatever it is will get you the wrong kind of business. They'll get you the wrong kind of people. And you'll be working with people who do not respect you or your time.
JAG: I feel a Fountainhead Meaningwave coming on about artistic integrity and not compromising your creative ideals.
AD: Well, it's not about who's going to let me, is it? Who's going to stop me? And that was also from The Fountainhead, and I always believe that.
JAG: And, what you say about inspiration, I think is doubly resonant. When it comes to Anthem, many people don't know that Ayn Rand wrote her dystopian novella about a dozen years before George Orwell published 1984. And I think what makes this so special, one of the things is that she incorporates how people change language in order to control thought, right? So, you'll see that the word “I” has been banished and that this leads to all kinds of corruption. But, the way that it reads is there's a reason why she titled it Anthem. It really does come across as just something that sprang directly from her soul and from her head. And it's just so powerful.
AD: It's fully formed as a piece of music, particularly. I mean, the whole thing works, but then you get to chapter eleven it is written in song, it is written in verse. It departs from her usual style of writing and becomes that which it is titled. I didn't change a single word.
I didn't have to change a single word. I didn't have to move anything around or break anything up. It is as it is, and it is fully formed music. It is a fully formed three-part anthem as written. It was pretty amazing to discover.
JAG: What's the response b een? Because she is controversial.
AD: Yes. I don't do much in the way of expecting. I've had experiences before where I've done things and people have been upset with me and wished death upon my family and threatened me and all sorts of things. Some people were really upset when I did stuff with Peterson, and some people were very upset when I did a record with Scott Adams, of all people.
What I've mostly had, aside from people saying, “this is beautiful, I love this, da da da,” is people saying, “I thought I didn't like this person, but I really like these songs,” and “oh, you've gone and made me like this person now.”
Anyway, I don't want to talk about the individuals; weird people pop up. Anyway, on this one, what I've mostly had, aside from people saying, “this is beautiful, I love this, da da da,” is people saying, “I thought I didn't like this person, but I really like these songs,” and “oh, you've gone and made me like this person now.” Or “oh, I'd never thought of it that way,” and so on and so forth. So there's a lot of that sort of thing. I'd said this to you before: I notice intersections with thinkers when I'm making these records, and I discovered there's an intersection between Alan Watts and Ayn Rand, which most people would never think to be the case. They found one with Marcus Aurelius that seems a bit more obvious.
Thus, I noticed that. Then after having put it out into the world, I've been getting letters from people who are like, I really love your Alan Watts stuff, and I really love this Anthem thing, and I really didn't think I would, and I do.
JAG: “I didn't think I would like this person.” All right.
The person thinks, yes, I'm a good person. I wouldn't entertain bad ideas. So, this person goes in the naughty pile, and then they rarely even actually look into the ideas. They just assume they're bad.
AD: Maybe, “I didn’t think I was supposed to,” is the thing. Because people get told, you don't like this person. This is a bad person. They have bad ideas. You're a good person, so you would never even entertain them because you're a good person. The person thinks, yes, I'm a good person. I wouldn't entertain bad ideas. So, this person goes in the naughty pile, and then they rarely even actually look into the ideas. They just assume they're bad. I get letters from people all the time expressing variations on this theme from multiple sides. People who discover, say, the opposite, who get into some of his ideas, having thought of themselves as very staunch conservative types.
JAG: And, so, it's interesting. I think, also, even the average layperson who's never read any Ayn Rand or maybe who have bought into, again, just one of these lies that gets repeated that she's a horrible writer, but you can't listen to your music and deny the beauty of those words. Okay, our most patient audience, we're going to get to some questions now, though I still have quite a few of my own. Our friend, MyModernGalt on Instagram asks, “writers sometimes get writer's block; is there an equivalent for you with music, and what do you do to get past it??
AD: Yes, I haven't had anything like that since 2017 or something. And there's a reason for that, which is I work out well, and everybody knows this. I didn't work this out, but I had observed that there is such a thing as The Zone, which is a place. Essentially, you could think of it as a place. And it's a place in which you're maximally creative and everything flows and you can do no wrong and it's wonderful. And sometimes people find themselves in this place and it's fantastic, and then they leave the place, and then they try and get back there and they have trouble, and they have these blocks of which you speak. And, I thought to myself, well, what if I've been in The Zone? It's great in there. I'm good at it. What if I just got in that place and refused to leave and just stayed there? Then I would never have to worry about a writer's block or anything like that, right? So I did this. I engineered this very specifically and deliberately in February of 2018, and have been there ever since, and have not had any kind of writer's block or any of that sort of thing since. I've made over 100 albums going on 600 songs, all of them excellent, some of them transcendently brilliant.
None of them that I regret. It used to be the case that I would look back on my work and think, “oh, I don't like that.” I changed that.
Doesn't matter if you're tired or sick or confused or grumpy or whatever is going on, you need to show up. You don't sit around waiting for the muses. You go to where they live.
Everything I've made since this period, I look back upon happily and fondly. I would certainly do it differently today, because today I am different. But I do not look back at it with that kind of cringing embarrassment as one does with one's old diaries or something of that nature. So, yeah, that's the thing, right? It's basically what you need to do is get in The Zone and refuse to leave. And what will mess with you is friction and overthinking. So there's lots of things. I should do a course on this, but certainly you need to remove friction wherever it is. Anything that will get in the way or distract you or pull you out of that place. You need to be showing up every day. You need to be doing something related to your endeavor on a daily basis, so you're always in that place. Doesn't matter if you're tired or sick or confused or grumpy or whatever is going on, you need to show up. You don't sit around waiting for the muses. You go to where they live. You knock down the door and you go in there and you take what you want and they will observe you and they'll think, this person is serious. And after a while they'll think, okay, I like this person. And they will crack out the good shit, and they will give you access to the greatness. So, you want to be doing that.
JAG: And, you want to be listening to Meaningwave. I think definitely lessons are in it, but there's just also something about the experience of absorbing it that makes you more open to creative possibilities. All right.
AD: Yes. But just to finish that, sorry, creative possibilities is a good point. And here's the thing, sometimes people get writer's block because they're just trying to do the same thing in the same way. There's lots of ways of doing things and many different approaches, and trying doing things in slightly different ways is very important. One aspect of being in The Zone, and one thing that will get you out of The Zone is becoming too comfortable and doing the same thing too much. You have to have an aspect of chaos and uncertainty in there to remain in that Zone-proximal-glowing-glittering place. There has to be the capacity for complete failure. So, people who get too competent fall out and lose their capacity for greatness. Just in the same way that people have zero competence, sometimes, zero-competence people can accidentally do something wonderful, too. Competent people find it more difficult. So you always want to be introducing new ways of doing things, new tools, new techniques, whatever it is, to keep you in a place of potential catastrophe.
JAG: Which means taking risks and being comfortable.
AD: Exactly that.
JAG: And being not so deathly afraid of failure that you don't take risks. Having enough self-esteem to know if you fail, you will learn. You'll get up, and you'll go on. I think if I had one thing to credit the phenomenal growth of The Atlas Society in the past several years, it's been a willingness to take risks, a tolerance and even embrace of mistakes, because that has helped us to innovate, and not so other groups that just are doing the same thing over and over again.
I think when you feel like you've got what you have and it's working, at The Atlas Society, we're always in startup mode, so we're always open to doing things differently again. Another question: Jessica Sheffield, who you remember dancing in the front row at the gala, asks: “Whether, Akira, you have any plans for additional concert shows in the United States, and how can we find out about that?”
AD: Yes, next time JAG wants me to do something, I'll do it. And you can look forward to that. Nothing specific yet. I'm sure it will be that you're allowed to visit the USA now without being injected, so I can do that if I so wish.
There were initially plans that got disrupted by all that stuff, but we had planned to do a tour, and I still look forward to doing that. But, I've just literally finished building this studio here. So, now we're going into full-blown mode in this new studio, and we're going to be doing a lot of live broadcasts from here, and then we're going to work on creating some opportunities to step into your lives, into your real-world lives.
JAG: Yes, I need one of those.
AD: I was going to say everyone should have one of these. You should be able to just press a button and create useful noises. A conclusion of your point. It's a great way of just moving from subject to subject.
JAG: All right, let's see. On Facebook, Candice Morena is asking, “Where do you think art comes from? Is it taught or does it come from within?”
AD: You know, Rand probably wouldn't have liked my answer on this, which is a bit woo, but, maybe she would because she does say it. I mean, it's basically all within, but within contains everything that is without. The world is a mirror. And, I think Joseph Campbell said this: art holds a mirror up to nature, and art holds a mirror up to your self.
And, it's a way by which you can navigate the world, see where you are in the context of the whole of society. It's how you download the knowledge of the society. That's what myth is. So, it's kind of both.
Disney has spent so much effort propagandizing recently, and it's been such an utter failure as well because it's only true art that works and lasts and communicates, and propaganda does not.
We are taught our position within society by the art that we consume, which is why they spend so much effort. Disney has spent so much effort propagandizing recently, and it's been such an utter failure as well because it's only true art that works and lasts and communicates, and propaganda does not. And, this is the problem they're having. So, I suppose it's both.
It is within and everything you require is within you already. And as for that thing of which I speak, that place where one gets those ideas, the fifth dimension, it is considered by some, ideas, space by others.
The realm of the muses, whatever it is, you could think of it as something without that. You can go into it. You could think of it as something that is within you that you have to remember or have to navigate towards. It doesn't really matter. All these things are operating systems, whichever way you can best utilize them to have the optimal experience in this realm of tears, then the better.
JAG: Or this benevolent universe Ayn Rand called art, a recreation of reality.
AD: It's God. That's what it is. That's what God is, you see?
JAG: Yes, well, but as you had in your trilogy in chapter eleven, that recognizing that the divine was not some kind of mystical character in the sky, but it was your practical thing.
AD: And that's in the Christian faith, that's the point of Jesus. Everything is possible through my son who is within you, you are here, and all that sort of thing. It's basically saying the same thing. Some people get stuck on the semantics.
JAG: Or maybe the complete opposite thing. Anyway, let's go on to another question because we have quite a few coming up. All right, Kindred Lyrics on X wants to know what's next for Meaningwave.
AD: Next for Meaningwave’s immediate future: We've got a big four-hour Lofi Christmas record tomorrow, and then we've got Meditations Two. That's the big next. So, that would be the second volume of incredible records with lyrics adapted from the writings of Marcus Aurelius. And, this is an insanely great record. I'm very flabbergasted by it. I was straight into that. I think I was working on the writing of it. Then, I did Anthem. Then, Anthem infused me with an extra level of superpowers, which I then put into the finishing of Meditations. And Meditations Two, came out by far the most nuclear-level glory I've ever had anything to do with.
People will like that. Then, there's lots of other wonderful things. We have a very stacked next year and a year after, and so on and so forth. Ad infinitum, and forever and ever. Amen.
JAG: Amazing. So Georgie Alexopoulos picked up on something that you mentioned earlier, he's on Facebook and he said, when is the Akira the Don masterclass? When will that be? Well, Georgie, we might be able to make that happen. Make sure that you're following The Atlas Society. We have a few conferences coming up, so we'll have to discuss this.
You know, I also am curious about life in Mexico. It sounds like you got kicked out of the United States. How did you choose Mexico? What are the opportunities or challenges of living there as both a creative artist and as a family?
AD: Well, let me see. Let me unpack that. Someone said, we didn't get kicked out. Well, we just didn't get let back in. I was given a new visa. Here's your new visa. Akira the Don, the alien of extraordinary ability. A visa. The one that says you have to be in the country because no one else in the country can do what you do to get the visa. You have to go out, go to an embassy, get it stamped, then you come back in. So we did that, but then we couldn't get back in because the Biden administration decided that it was unsafe for scum like me to come into the country.
Anyway, we went to Mexico because I'd always wanted to go to Mexico for multiple reasons. One was that I always really liked that movie True Romance, and at the end, they go to Cancun. Two was that I really liked being in Mexico when I was playing Red Dead Redemption, a video game that was very beautiful and a lovely experience and lots of other things cultural, musical, so on and so forth. So, we thought, we'll go to Cancun to go to the embassy there. And then, of course, we were unable to go back into the USA. Then, we thought, well, we quite like it here. Here we'd found ourselves in Playa del Carmen, and very quickly made friends, and found cool people. I'd started going to a CrossFit class and getting into the best shape I'd ever been anywhere near. Then we thought, well, of all the places to be while all this is going on, this is rather wonderful, this paradise where we are specifically, and life is as kind as you let it be.
So we thought, well, we'll go with this, and we'll make of this the best situation that we can. And it's turned out great.
It's difficult being in a place where you don't speak the language. I've been working on learning it, but it's very difficult to not be able to fully express oneself and crack jokes in elevators and things of that nature. I remember when I got my first joke off, I was so very happy.
JAG: It is definitely challenging: the Spanish and Latin American sense of humor, and the American, to say nothing of the British sense of humor—they're not always on the same level. I do speak fairly passable Spanish, but I've had quite a few fails when it comes to trying to crack jokes. All right, do we take a few more questions from the audience?
AD: I was used to it. Like I said earlier, I've kind of always been in a foreign place as long as I can remember, so I'm used to it. I don't have any problems with it. I kind of thrive in it and enjoy it. And I very much enjoy discovering other cultures. It was cool being in Mexico, because you hear all this stuff about Mexico and the way that it is presented, and that really isn't the reality of it. Well, certainly not what I have experienced. The only difficulty is it takes longer for stuff. But, here's one thing, because as far as it being a third-world country, in a lot of ways, it's run a lot better than bits of the United States that I was living in. Then, in other ways, not so much. The postal service is fucked-up. You cannot send a letter and expect it to get anywhere. I've been in the Post Office, and I’ve looked at the way it's just piles of stuff, and they'll say, oh, you could go have a look in that pile if you want. The Post Office is a wonderful example of allowing the government to run things and why that's just never a good idea. Just like in the USA, the DMV is the perfect example of why you should not let the government run things.
JAG: All right. On Facebook, Zach Carter asks: “What is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to musicians creating music?” So, your gripes about the music industry, or is it political correctness, or people competing against each other? Of course, Ayn Rand said, the creative man is not motivated by a desire to beat others, but by the desire to achieve.
AD: Yes, here's the thing. I really don't care. I have no interest in what they're doing. I don't even consider myself to be part of the music industry.
I sort of opted out of all that and created my own, a long time ago. And that's all I've ever been doing. I'm only interested if what I'm doing today is better than what I was doing yesterday. And that's all I'm interested in. However other people want to conduct themselves and run their businesses, that's fine. I like it when I'm inspired by people. I like it when I encounter greatness in others, and that inspires greatness in me. When you see greatness in others, what's cool about that? It's like that art-mirror thing I was talking about. Because when you see greatness in someone else, it's within you—that's you recognizing something that's already in you. And maybe you haven't worked out how to manifest it yet, or maybe you haven't even noticed it in yourself yet. But that's what that is. And that's a cool thing. So I like it when I see musicians doing cool stuff, and otherwise, I really don't care.
JAG: All right, this is an interesting question from LinkedIn, Timothy Rockford asking, “How do you maintain positivity in a world that feels like it wants to push us down at times?”
AD: Yes, well, you just have to put things in context. I think about my grandmother a lot and everything that happened in her lifetime. She was the eldest of 13. Her father worked in a coal mine. She raised her sisters. Essentially. They lived in the Midlands in a Dickensian sort of situation.
She saw the radio invented, and saw the TV invented, and she was in World War II. And, she had a wonderful time. She really enjoyed it. Everything that she saw in her life and throughout her life—the world was about to end. And, throughout her life, evil people were conspiring against every other person. Throughout her life, we were supposed to get wiped out a million times, even in my own life. I remember when I was a little kid, it was all AIDS and greenhouse things, and blah, blah, blah.
How could one not be grateful and full of joy to have working lights and communication systems that allow us to experience and communicate with each other and share ideas across this world that's supposed to be a prison. Here we are.
Yet, here we are, after hundreds and thousands and millions of years during which we all should have been blown up or wiped out or killed or something, supposedly millions of times, here we are. The very fact of our existence—how could one not be optimistic? How could one not be grateful and full of joy to have working lights and communication systems that allow us to experience and communicate with each other and share ideas across this world that's supposed to be a prison. Here we are.
It's a miracle. If that's what you look for, then that's what you'll get. And, we humans are stupid like that.
We very quickly acclimatize to a new situation and start taking things for granted. And, we all have to remind ourselves of these things all the time. And, that's a big part of what I do with my music, that's it's just context. Just the fact that you're not scrambling around in the dirt, the fact that you can step outside and someone's not throwing a brick at your face, the fact that there's running water and there's electricity, that's a miracle. Your ancestors didn't have that stuff.
We look back, we think, oh, it was so much better in the traditional days of whatever, when you died in childbirth and, you know, rich people had wooden teeth.
JAG: Right, yes, it's true. I think Peter Diamandis says, whatever you focus on, you move toward. And so I like to say that to be objective, you have to have perspective. And given that we have, as human beings, this kind of biological, evolutionary tendency to focus on threats and negativity, that's not necessarily giving you an objective perspective on what's happening in the world. So, you have to make a conscious effort to override that by recognizing what's going right in your life, even if you're going through a really hard time, because that will give you a sense of what your strengths are so that you can gather your strength and find a way to move on. So gratitude is very important, and I think it's an objectivist, self-interested value. All right, I'll take one more here. Well, okay, two last questions because they're so good.
Alan 67 on X asks, “What do you think someone needs to get started with making music today?” Asking of the man who started with Scotch tape and cassettes.
AD: Yes, exactly. Whatever you have around you, maybe there is a table and you could bang it rhythmically. You might have a computer. Lots of people do, I've heard. And in a contemporary computer is more than was in the most sophisticated recording studio a decade or so ago. So you have everything. You have too much. I think that's what freaks people out. They have too much. It's like looking at Netflix. There is too much choice. What do I do? Where I just worked, personally, I didn't have that issue. I just worked things out for myself, and, therefore, I made lots of mistakes and spent a lot of time unnecessarily doing things wrong. But it did allow me to create a style of my own that I otherwise could not have. These days you can go on YouTube and you can watch people making music, and they'll be using digital audio workstations or they'll be using hardware, watch a bunch of people making stuff, see what looks intuitive to you, pick one of these things and just go all in on it. There's every resource for you to learn how to do these things. You can become very proficient very quickly.
There's twelve-year-olds in India who will teach you everything for free. And there's twelve-year-olds in the USA, as well. There's twelve-year-olds all over the place. They've got internet connections and they really like showing people how to do stuff. And here's the other thing. It's not just twelve-year-olds. There's like 68-year-old professional geniuses and they just have YouTube channels now, and they'll show you how to do everything. It's crazy.
When you start, don't stop. Just make something every day and just keep going, because you will learn a lesson from each thing. And so, if you do a thing every day, you'll learn a new lesson and you'll very quickly get a lot more proficient.
But, here's one thing. When you start, don't stop. Just make something every day and just keep going, because you will learn a lesson from each thing. And so, if you do a thing every day, you'll learn a new lesson and you'll very quickly get a lot more proficient.
There she is.
JAG: Sorry, I'm back. All right. I thought this is actually a really great example of me thinking, “Oh, he's in Mexico. Oh, his Internet must be crap.” No, I'm here in Malibu, California. And it's me.
AD: I've actually got better internet here than I've had anywhere in my life. You understand? I’ve got 300-upload. I got a 300-mega-upload; they don't have stuff like this in Tokyo.
JAG: Well, I think that, in a way, was sort of the theme of our gala. We imported the entire complement of speakers almost from Mexico because we had Ricardo Salinas, all of the amazing innovations that he's bringing that are providing opportunity and modernizing life in Mexico.
All right, my last question. Well, it's actually a last question from our audience. You were talking about twelve-year-olds when I decided, or I didn't decide, my computer decided that I was going to bug out. And somebody asked about whether having children has affected you? Let's see, Alex Morena asking, “did starting a family change anything in your life when it comes to your music?”
AD: Yeah, it did, because starting a family and having a son, it caused me very quickly to get my shit together. Previously, I was kind of being a faffy around the artist, sort of following my whims in this direction and that direction. And having a family and taking on that responsibility made me realize that I really needed to get my shit together in all manner of areas, albeit financial and organizational and healthwise and physicality. You have to become serious because they don't pay attention to what you say, they pay attention to what you do. Aside from the fact that you need to provide and all that sort of thing, they will model everything upon you. So, if you don't want some loser child, then you're going to have to not be a loser yourself.
Anyway, direct result of this was me sorting myself out in all manner of areas, which led to better, more and better, more competent, more technically good, more just better in every level. My sorting myself out meant my music improved.
Just ridiculously, unimaginably on every level. And this continues to be the case as I continue to improve and sort things out because there is a great deal that still needs work, still to do. And there will be; and then I'll die and that will be great.
JAG: Well, it'll be that, that's true. Although you'll be inspiring people, I'm sure, just as so many of the collaborations and Ayn Rand have inspired you, so your art will live on. This is true.
AD: What we do echoes on, right? If we choose to do something useful, it will echo on, I think about Marcus Aurelius, nearly 2000 years ago, writing in his little diary and how to this day, still, that very specifically he's talking in it about how no one will remember anyone in the future, in two generations you'll be completely forgotten. Might be the case for a lot of people. But you, Mr. Aurelius. We remember you. God bless.
JAG: And, as he said, to remember death, and so to remember, know our time is limited and we need to use it productively, and with that limited time, well.
AD: He actually said—one thing he said was—if you do not use it to free yourself, it will be gone and will never return.
Things about productiveness, but specifically that if you do not take this opportunity to free yourself, it will be gone and never return.
JAG: I love it. All right. So, folks, go to Akira's website, sign up for his newsletter, buy his music, and buy his amazing merch. Any other place that people should keep track of you, Akira?
AD: I do my best to be wherever people are. There's no point having a lemonade stand and sticking at the top of Everest and expecting everybody to come to the top of Everest and get your lemonade. You know what I mean? So, I do my best to be where people are. If you hang out on YouTube, we're there. If you hang out on Spotify, we're there. If you're one of these people who refuses to do anything but scroll on an Instagram story feed, you will find us there. We do our best to be where you might be. And if you are somewhere and we are not there, please do let me know, and we'll see what we can do.
JAG: Terrific. All right, well, thank you, my dear. Say hello to Charlotte for me. This was so much fun. Thank you for your phenomenal gift of your art and how you've enriched so many people's lives. And excited for your next creative chapter. We will be staying tuned, so thank you. Namaste.
AD: Thanks, Jagny.
JAG: I know I love that I go by JAG, but I think I'm going to need to trade that in for Jagny.
AD: That's definitely you're always superior to me.
JAG: I like it. All right. Well, and I also want to thank all of you who joined us. Thanks again for the little bit of technological disruptions, and thanks for your patience. If you enjoyed this video or any of the content that we put out at The Atlas Society, remember, we are a nonprofit, and all of your donations are tax deductible. If you've never given to The Atlas Society, even a $10 or $20 donation will be doubled by our board of trustees. So thanks for your consideration, and I hope that you will join us next week when the president of the University of Austin, Pano Canelos, is going to join us on The Atlas Society Asks. Thanks.