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Interview with Alex O’Neill (Ayokay) About Electric Forest

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by Cassidy Chambers

Alex O’Neill is an up-and-coming Indie Electronic DJ and producer who goes by the stage name Ayokay. O’Neill is currently based out of the Los Angeles area, but was raised as a Michigan native from Grosse Pointe. He is associated with the artist collective Mutual Friends which, in addition to himself, is comprised of musicians Chelsea Cutler, Jeremy Zucker, and Quinn XCII. This group shares a core fan group that often overlaps and is usually comprised of young college listeners. In 2016, they produced “Kings of Summer,” which became #1 on the Spotify Global Viral Charts for three consecutive weeks and currently has over 56 million streams on Spotify.

How Was It Detroit got a chance to chat with Ayokay about his Electric Forest experience.  

HWID: How was your first Electric Forest experience?

AO: It was incredible, it was my dream to play that festival. It was the first festival I ever went to in college, I think sophomore or junior year when I was at the University of Michigan. I went with my college roommates, my one best friend in particular who I still live with now. He was the one who kind of got me into electronic music, he showed me Kygo, Odesza, all of those people who were first coming out 5 or 6 years ago. It was during that new wave of electronic music and it’s what kind of got me hooked on it all. In part, that festival is what made me pursue music. It was at the perfect time, all when I was falling in love with electronic music. So, it was a really full circle thing. In terms of performance, a lot of things went wrong technically and visually, which sucks, but nobody in the audience ever realizes that. For me, as the artist, it’s my job to put on the best show that I can and it was a bummer that a lot went wrong, but nobody in the audience probably had any fucking idea so it was still really great.

HWID: This was close to home and your sister was there to support you, did your whole family come?

AO: They all wanted to come, originally my parents wanted to come but they are 65 years old and I was like, listen mom and dad I love you, you guys are great, but this is not the scene for you. They didn’t come, but My older brother and sister who live in Michigan came.

HWID: Has your family always been super supportive?

AO: Yeah, they have, my sister in particular – she loves the shit out of the scene. She’s definitely my number one fan. My other brother who came also loves it, he’s not super into music, but he loves being around the whole thing. There’s a certain glitz and glam around the industry I’m in, which at the end of the day is like any other industry. But there’s a certain cool factor around the music industry, so I think everybody that gets to be in my sphere and gets to take part in it really enjoys it.

HWID: What are your plans for after Electric Forest?

AO: Right now, I’m trying to finish up my second album. I just released the first single, I played it at Forest, and then I have another single coming in three weeks. It’s a consistent roll out and hopefully the album comes out end of August. Then I’m touring in September and October. I’ve been working my ass off for the last 6-8 months with the new music, and now all of the roll out is coming. It’s very exciting.

HWID: How are you feeling about the album?

AO: It takes a lot more risk than my last one. I’m singing everything and with that you feel a lot more vulnerable. With this album, it’s the happiest and satisfied I’ve ever felt making music since I was first starting out. With writing and producing everything, I feel like I have control over it instead of waiting on other people to influence it. It feels 100% authentically me. So, I’m excited, but with releasing it I feel like my soul is out there for judgement. I worked really hard on the visual component too, it’s almost as much visual as it is musical. I feel like it’s a slow, mysterious release of everything, but once the whole visual aspect is out, I hope people really get into it and grab it.

HWID: Where are you most excited to stop at on your tour in the fall?

AO: I’m playing the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor which will be amazing. I’ve seen so many people there, it’s where I went to college. I’m playing Roxy in Los Angeles. So, a couple iconic venues that I’ve seen so many shows at. Also, for my last tour, In The Shape Of A Dream, it was across the West and East Coast in the major cities and this one is across the entire country.

HWID: You’re playing the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor, have you ever thought about doing a show at your alma mater, the University of Michigan?

AO: Yeah, any tie I can have with the University of Michigan is important to me. I was in the school of music there, and I remember when I was there, they had guest speakers come and speak to the sound engineering program. I’ve always thought coming back to speak would be the coolest thing. Anything through the University of Michigan I would be all for. All of my family, all five of the kids in my family and both parents went there, so I really have an attachment to the school. It would all be really full circle.

HWID: Last question, which way do you tilt your head when eating a taco?

AO: I tilt my head to the left every time, undoubtedly. I know this because I eat a shit ton of Taco Bell so whenever I’m eating my Cheesy Gordita Crunch my head goes left every single time. I love that.

Check out Ayokay at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor this fall! Also, be on the lookout for his new album dropping at the end of summer.

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