Was it hard growing up japanese in a predominately white city?
SA: I wouldn't say "hard" -- that’s not the right word. It was more like I was a kid walking into a brick wall of ignorance and not understanding how to deal with ignorance. Without having some sort of awareness or some kind of warning signals, like, "Hey, you won't see this wall coming, but it's going to hit you right in the face and it's going to hurt."
When you're a child, it's a lot of learning and learning curves, right? You have to figure out how to fit in, how to make friends, all these things, and when you live in a culture that's all the same, it doesn't matter. If it's all white, if it's all purple, if it's all whatever. There's less reason for education, diversity and awareness and to accept other things that aren't white or, in this case, I was saying, like purple. The point where the people who don't feel like they fit in, they also believed that they're inferior, you know? It's like okay, I am not good enough and that’s okay. I will accept that because the whole culture accepts that.
But, I still had a hard time like trying to figure things out and eventually the one thing that brought me some sense of community or identity and validation is music. So I'm not saying I wouldn't have found music if I didn't live in a racially-ignorant community, but in this case, I did. I'm very grateful for that. I was able to really, you know, just search who I am and what I could do in this world. It's such a more beautiful world when you learn other cultures and you embrace other cultures and you bridge these gaps. Diversity is the answer. Diversity is the key to squashing ignorance.
What are the main driving forces behind your work ethic and your creative endeavors?
SA: Well, I think the main source of of all this is the passion and the craftsmanship of that passion. It's one thing to be passionate about something. It's another thing to really take that passion and build on it. It's like working out...When you workout and you start seeing real change in your body from all the hard work you're doing, you workout even more. If you don't see that change, it's hard to keep pushing. But, when you see those real gains -- and, in this case, the gains are not physical they’re psychological there's so much meaning.
I just love playing shows. I love entertaining the audience. I love translating my music to the crowd through my concerts and my shows. In many ways as I get older, I learn that the creative endeavor isn't just a singular thing. I know my most natural way to be creative is music. It has always been that way so I lean on that the most. There's so many different ways to express yourself and it comes in different shapes and forms.
What has been the most fulfilling aspect about your craft?
SA: The feedback and seeing people's faces light up -- I'm lucky. I’ve said this analogy before: I'm the cook in the kitchen that's making the food. I'm also the same cook that's going out and looking at everyone eating my food. I’m really pleased that people come eat my food. I want to see their faces when they dive into the dish that I made, you know? I want to see them smile and connect. The music is just a tool to express how you feel about something and put it into a creation and then share that creation. Hopefully, the person on the other end feels something. It doesn't have to be the same feeling you had, it's a feeling that they have for their own life experiences. You want them to have a feeling that's strong and powerful, and that connection is like absolutely everything.
How do you manage your health with such an insane work schedule?
SA: You have to treat your body like an athlete. I'm running a marathon in my own way. There are certain things I have to stop doing, like, I don't drink. I'll have champagne here and there but the main thing is that you have to treat your mind and body like an athlete. It's fun to do it though and it's not like a chore. It shouldn't be like a chore because it'll work out to eat healthy. It's actually quite a fun human experiment -- try things that work, try things that don't. I want to live long enough so when we reach that precipice where this idea that the technology can extend our lives endlessly is possible.
I mean, it's all kind of based around the same thing, Neon Future. Understanding the human brain and in order to do so, you have to be healthy. You have to be fit. You have to exercise. You have to eat the right foods. You got to take care of what's inside of you which is much more important than the outside of you.
So, in November you dropped a third chapter of your album, Neon Future. How did you come up with the name originally? What does the album name mean to you?
SA: Neon Future is my fascination with the future -- plain and simple. I'm a tech or what you call a techno-future optimist. I look at the future in a utopian sense. I look to the future that embraces
technology and allows us to have limitless possibilities to extend our imagination and our creativity. I don't look at the future through technology as a dystopian world, like the terminator-esque, the sci-fi films that end in destruction.
We are the leaders right now, you know, we're carving a future that's going to lead us to a place where the diseases that have plagued us and killed millions upon millions will be gone. The idea of death is going to become a disease that we cured. It's not just something that's inevitable, but something that we can look back and be like, "Oh, people used to die back in the day."
This is what my whole foundation is about. I have a a charitable foundation, called the Aoki Foundation, where we donate majority of our money to brain research organizations and longevity. Our mission is to find ways to cure these diseases and find ways to understand these.
To understand the complexity of the human brain, to be able to utilize it better and more efficiently -- in ways that we had hoped for in the past.
So the main idea is this idea of science fiction becoming science fact. Which is the motto of the
foundation, and it's very real. Neon Future is a very real concept to me. I have always been
fascinated about science tech in the future.
January is a time of reflection and reinvention. What type of values and lessons did you learn from 2018 that you want to carry with you into 2019?
SA: Well, I still have to figure that out. I mean, there's a lot of different things. One thing I learned I think on the investing side I've been getting involved in investing in different companies, start-ups, all kinds of stuff like that. I’ve learned the “for sure” shots aren’t always a “for sure” shot and honestly there's no “for sure” shots. You have to be okay if you lose. No matter what, believe in the people and the purpose rather than the brand itself. It's just like in raising money for a fund or for research; you might not get the results right away, but you're in it for the long fight. So be cautious in the investing world.