Joshua Simon: Radio & Creator Journey, LGBTQ Representation & Staying True to Yourself - E126

· Singapore,Music,Purpose,Creators,Podcast Episodes English

I think it was that line between me and everyone that I adored on screen, and I thought that line was like a moat. I thought it was this huge gap, It was the raised platform of the stage and me being in the audience and I think that illusion is important ‘cause it’s the theater of the mind, that allure happens when you forget that you’re watching people and instead you see characters and then you get the story and everything. And I do see how that can be brilliant with creating art, but I think I’ve also started to pull away the curtain of Oz and be able to understand how things work behind the scenes as well - Joshua Simon

Joshua spearheaded The SG Boys podcast to create a platform for gay stories in Singapore.

Outside of co-hosting the podcast, he is a radio presenter in Singapore, known for his interviews with the world’s biggest stars, from Katy Perry to Hugh Jackman and Ryan Reynolds. Joshua’s interviews have crossed millions of views on YouTube. Joshua is also an independent singer-songwriter whose debut album, titled Filthy, was hailed ‘one of the best albums to come out of Singapore, by music publication Bandwagon Asia.

Jeremy Au: (00:30)
Hey, Joshua, good to see you on the show.

Joshua Simon: (00:32)
Hey, I’m so excited to have this chat with you. It’s so strange ‘cause you prep for an interview. You get excited, you put it down in your calendar and you tell yourself - I’m going to go shower. I’m going to go make a nice strong cup of coffee, and you set everything up, the equipment’s all already. Then the first words always, always, my first words is…I just end up messing up my sentences, my grammar is off and I’m just like ughhhhh and actually it just started storming outside, so I hope this sound quality is going to be OK.

Jeremy Au: (01:01)
Yeah, well this is always like that, especially for you, as an experienced radio presenter, podcast host, you think you get everything locked down and things always change last minute.

Joshua Simon: (01:12)
Hey, but I love that though. I tried to be a perfectionist with things and I’ve been practicing to just have that wiggle room where life just kinda either completely messes things up or surprises you. Either way, it’s always a surprise, right? Which part of Singapore are you at right now?

Jeremy Au: (01:29)
Central Singapore, so, wherever that thunder storm is, I’m probably going to be hearing it soon as well.

Joshua Simon: (01:35)
Yeah, well, I’m all the way out in the West, in the Wild West so I’ll send some dark clouds over to you by the end of this conversation.

Jeremy Au: (01:43)
Yeah, I’m sure I’ll catch them in a few minutes, I’m sure. So, Joshua, for you, I’m so excited because you know you’ve been a radio presenter, you’re a music artist, you’re a podcast host, you’re a musician, you do lots of interviews with celebrities all over Singapore, and you also represent multiple causes that you care about, and especially with the SG Boys with the representing the LGBTQ community as well. I’m excited to talk about not only your work, but also your journey personally as well as how technology has been an enabler for so much that you have been pioneering here in Singapore and in South East Asia. For those who don’t know you yet, how would you introduce yourself professionally?

Joshua Simon: (02:27)
See, when you run it down like that, it sounds like when you’re a kid and you hear like the bios of all your favorite superstars and everything - they’re like a philanthropist and you’re like what is a philanthropist and they’re entrepreneurs and they’ve got all these really cool titles and it sounded like that when you were reading me out like that, but the truth is, really, I still feel like a teenager who, every step of the way, I’m faced with opportunities and decisions to make. I just try to do what makes sense in the moment and I learn, I’m always learning constantly. I feel like even with all these titles, I’m still a student in all of those areas that I guess the ‘in a nutshell’ kind of namecard…Hi, I’m Joshua Simon. I just turned 31 a couple of days ago. I’m a radio presenter here in Singapore I host a podcast called The SG Boys, it’s an LGBTQ+ themed podcast in Singapore. I’m also known for interviews that I’ve done through the years as well with some really powerful people. I do YouTube. I studied film in film school. I do a little bit of everything. I think growing up as a kid, I wanted this. This was my dream. I wanted to be involved with whatever I was seeing on TV. I just wanted to go into that screen and, in some way, be involved.

Jeremy Au: (04:10)
Well, now I can hear the thunder on my side. Joshua, when it comes to all of this, how did your love for entertainment start? Did you start young or was it something you discovered along the way?

Joshua Simon: (04:23)
So, a fun little fact, as we’re having this chat, I actually have, playing through my headphones, some classical music, ‘cause that’s something that I always kind of do in the background; makes everything more cinematic when you’ve got like a score playing the background. My love for entertainment actually came from a huge lack of entertainment or exposure to pop culture. My dad is a pastor of a Bible Presbyterian Church and I was the pastor’s son and for a big chunk of my childhood, I only watch movies or listen to music from the church library. So when I was in primary school, kindergarten, when people were talking about like the Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys, Michael Jackson, Madonna, I did not know who any of these people were, but like a lot of these kind of stories, there is the cool uncle. I always never say his name and I really should start doing that. His name is Mano and uncle would bring me over to his place and he would whip out all these laser discs and vinyl of Whitney Houston…for some reason, Kenny G, a lot of Kenny G, Enya, AC/DC. It’s just a lot of really cool artists and he would introduce me to this whole other world that I did not grow up with. Then there was a period where my dad kind of gave up on me ‘cause I was just constantly rebelling and he kind of left me to live with my grandmother and she lives in Tanjong Pagar. So, also, it was a different cultural experience ‘cause up till that point it was a lot of Tamil movies as well and that like that was playing in the background and then I lived with my grandmother and she only watched Chinese opera in Teochew, but she had MTV in her cable channels. So, I then started just soaking in all that information of who is Cyndi Lauper, Sinead O’Connor, I started discovering Dolly Parton, and just across genres, Moby, just fell in love with music with music videos and I was also like a really fat kid. So whenever my parents would take us shopping, instead of clothes, I would go to the movie store and I would just memorize all the movie titles and memorize the actors in these movie titles and then the directors and then through the years I started just watching it just studying all these different films. Yeah, so everything is kind of gelled together as this whole world that I want to be a part of.

Jeremy Au: (07:01)
So, you started early from MTV and I, too, remember the joy of MTV and just watching all the music videos, and I think the best part about the internet was the ability to download more music videos to watch them again and again. Obviously, burning them to your own CD players.

Joshua Simon: (07:22)
I was that guy. I was that guy who would always walk around, and this was I think in, by then it would have been secondary school…so I was like 15, and I would have like a giant bag of CD’s and I probably still have it in like one of my…I have this one cupboard where I throw everything that meant something to me in the past so I just squeeze it in, shut the door, and never open that until like I’m like 60 or something then I open it, but I’m pretty sure I still have that large collection of CDs, a mixture of stuff that I bought but also stuff that I burned into CDs ‘cause I used to make mix tapes from my teacher like Teacher’s day, I’ll make you a mix tape and I would do that for my friends as well, and I’ll always be the DJ at like school events or I think there’s like this one day, I’m not sure it was Teacher’s day or Valentine’s Day or something like that where they got me to go down to the principal’s office, use the PA system, and I would just do song dedications and play songs for people and this is something I only recently remembered doing; maybe my love for radio kinda also stemmed from where there was a little bit of that hint in the past.

Jeremy Au: (08:35)
Wow, that’s amazing. It’s so funny because, obviously, I never got to the point where I was doing multiple mixtapes. I just made one for myself with my personal favourites, but I’m so curious about you and saying - ok, this is something I enjoy and I’m interested in too. Hey, I actually want to focus on it and try to see if I can make this more professional, right? So how was that transition for you?

Joshua Simon: (08:59)
So that was also accidental. Uhm, what happened was I developed a love for screen writing. I was downloading all these PDFs of film scripts like Pulp Fiction and memorizing them, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind. ‘cause part of me wanted to be an actor, but I also loved a good script. So, I wanted to go to film school, so I joined Ngee Ann Poly for the school of Film and Media studies, film, sound, and video course. Quite a mouthful, and I studied film. And I remember I had a friend Justin who was in mass comm. He was struggling with a radio assignment where he had to like write a script for when he turns on the mic and he’s like, hi, I’m Justin. That was Britney Spears, like do like a whole talk set and to me I thought that was like the easiest thing because I remember watching, I think at that point, was like, Beauty Shop or one of those barbershop movies, right? And there were scenes of a radio DJ like - “Hey, it’s Angie and waking up in the morning to Angie, that’s right, Imma play you some 2PAC”. So like I remember all these like lines and I started like writing it for him in that voice and I just helped him to do his radio assignments because, to me, it just felt like a movie scene and I was channelling a bit of Wendy Williams as well and he then invited me to just like hang out with him in the Radio Conti, the studio, after class and I was just, same thing, I was just pretending to be a radio presenter. The teacher was actually listening right next door ’cause he can just, with the push of a button, hear what’s going on in in the studio itself? And he approached me and he said, hey, you should consider joining the radio CCA and I thought it was exclusive to mass comm students. I was just going to do film and I said yes, the radio studio in the Ngee Ann Poly just became a second home for me where if I didn’t do good in class, I run to the studio and there would always be someone there, someone to just hang out with, drink bubble tea with and I know I’m giving you a whole grandfather story, so I’m going to try to wrap it up. What happened was after I graduated and after I served two years in the military, doing film, my teacher who had then left Ngee Ann, reached out to me saying, hey, you should actually consider doing radio full time ‘cause I saw something in you and Singapore Press Holdings is actually looking for a DJ. You should maybe send in a demo which I did. I recorded it, not this fancy a set up, I just recorded it straight into my Macbook with Garage Band and then they called me, and then they said - “Hey, you have a job and we also want you to do film stuff and we also want you to do social media stuff, we want you to do a little bit of everything”. So that was kind of how it started about 10 years ago. Now I’ve been doing radio for about 10 years now.

Jeremy Au: (11:51)
Crazy…wow! Ten years of radio experience. It’s interesting because here you have this long-standing interest in entertainment, music, and that’s how you fell into radio and so you must have had all these like concepts about what radio is like versus you actually joining the radio industry and seeing it from the inside, so I would just love to hear like what’s the difference between that outsider view versus the insider reality of being in the radio industry?

Joshua Simon: (12:22)
Yeah, I think that also applies to not just with how I was with the mic on, but who I was, also, when the mic was off where, for a large chunk of my life, I thought everything that I was learning from MTV that Sex in the City, showing me New York, is how New York is in real life where everything that I knew about the world, the TV was that window to it, including how I ought to sound, how I ought to behave, how I ought to respond to whatever life throws at me. It’s always through sort of the cinematic lens of ‘make it entertaining’. So I was that at the start, where just like the radio assignment that was helping Justin with, I was pretending to be all these different characters and I had all these characters and since it made people laugh, I took it as – ok, I’m doing something right and I listened to what everyone told me is the way to do radio, and it took many years for me to unlearn a lot of these things and like I would do something and not be proud of it and analyze too much and just, you know, I’m just going to turn on the mic and I’m just gonna speak and I’m just going to speak from my heart and if I don’t really know something, I’m going to admit that I don’t know something because it was everything that was not taught to me. Before, it was, you have to know exactly what you want to say and make sure it’s perfect, but it just didn’t make sense to me that I was delivering that to people who were also people who didn’t listen with perfect ears or anything like that. I’m going to try to enjoy the whole process and I’m just going to just speak. I’m not going to be radio DJ above listener or kind of just going to be existing on the same plane and we’re just going to chat so that we can all chat more and encourage each other to converse a little bit more, I think.

Jeremy Au: (14:12)
You’re projecting this reality of humour, wits, suaveness all these things versus like being more like on the level, right? What was the gap, why do you think you are working so hard to project that? Looking back, was there any particular reasons?

Joshua Simon: (14:30)
I think it was that line between me and everyone that I adored on screen, and I thought that line was like a moat. I thought it was this huge gap, It was the raised platform of the stage and me being in the audience and I think that illusion is important ‘cause it’s the theater of the mind, that allure happens when you forget that you’re watching people and instead you see characters and then you get the story and everything. And I do see how that can be brilliant with creating art, but I think I’ve also started to pull away the curtain of Oz and be able to understand how things work behind the scenes as well, and I think that’s something that I’m very proud of where a lot of what I’m proud of with my work in radio or film or music has been the stuff behind the microphone like with working the panels with audio production with understanding the MIC setup, my love for editing so I love editing videos and it was one of the biggest strengths in film school as well, and I think the craft behind all that fascinates me a lot once I think I started embracing the more behind the scenes stuff instead of getting swept away with being on camera or existing only when the mic turned on, I just became a more grounded person and then that carried over to how I delivered whatever I was talking about…or I would be talking about.

Jeremy Au: (16:06)
I’m curious, do you feel like you ‘lost’ listeners, air quotes, or slash and what kind of new listeners did you gain from that transition from these characters and larger than life stuff to a more authentic self? ‘cause there are gains, right, and also losses? I’m just curious if you could share what you saw from the audience.

Joshua Simon: (16:27)
Well, I don’t really have like actual statistics of that. I’m pretty sure I lost a lot of people along the way when I stopped doing a bunch of characters that I would have as recurring segments on the show, and they were fun, made people laugh, but it’s also a realization that as much as I adore these characters that I created, and it’s a different kind of skill set, I found myself leaning towards these characters like a float in the water where when I get a chance to interview someone, I’m too afraid to think of insightful questions. I’m too afraid to be Josh because Josh is always having a panic attack and always has social anxiety. I would lean on all these characters, including a drag version of myself where it’s this hyper confident, larger than life, flamboyant charismatic person when really, I actually feel like I’m, most of the time, a very, very small person. So, I would lean on to all these characters and I found myself actually doing that with each opportunity that I’m given like can I do this character here and then I’ll do this character here for that bit and I was so afraid to just be myself and ask myself how would I do this show if it was just Josh? I started gaining different kinds of followers as well where it wasn’t just – “That made me laugh. Oh my gosh that was brilliant. Can you bring that character back? I listened and I laughed with my whole family”.
All that is really sweet and I’m grateful for that, but I also got a lot of, after that, actual questions about life and people sharing with me what they’re going through and the topics that I discussed in the show started to change as well. Those are now the feedback tidbits and anecdotes that I feel the most proud of because now it’s like what I’m talking about like human to human we’re actually like conversing and I feel like I’m actually adding to someone’s life, rather than just giving them a reaction to just to laugh, which is also great. It’s just that I’ve started to discover other aspects of it.

Jeremy Au: (18:32)
Yeah, wow, that’s really powerful. I mean, really, I think the whole point around the characters really, obviously, being your superpowers and getting you to a certain space and level, but also them becoming floats over time and I think it’s not just you who’s obviously doing them as part of these bits and sketches, but also is something that’s very real for so many people, ‘cause I think a lot of people have this outer shell of who they are. The character that they’re doing is confident business professional who knows what’s going on versus you know who they actually are. It’s really about that mask and the true self. As you started reconciling, at least, on the professional front and being more of your authentic self, did you feel healthier or better? Because that’s what you’re kind of implying a little bit right? You started growing into it, but I’m just kind of curious like did you…as you did more of it intentionally…did it snowball and like affect how you approach your professional life and everything else?

Joshua Simon: (19:32)
It wasn’t something that like I put my foot down one day and decided this is how I’m gonna start doing work and this is how I’m going to do the show. I think it was a gradual thing for me where I was living my life and I was dating people and I was experiencing all these different things and also consuming a lot of things. I was also regurgitating a lot of things that I learned from the past. that just didn’t work, so I was living my life and going through all that and I was starting to shift as a person. Then it also affected the show and what I would then feel from a good show. What I would consider a good show, I would then take into my life where this is how I’m gonna be more “That worked, I’m going to do that more.” So, it’s been a nice little squash match between me and the wall, I think.
Jeremy Au: (20:25)
And in this squash match over time, what’s been interesting is that you’ve also not only been a DJ on radio, you also start doing more music of your own as an independent artist, and you also eventually do a podcast, right? It’s interesting because you are a voice on a platform, a great voice on a great platform, and then now you’re kind of moving to become a great voice on your own and then eventually kind of like a voice that kind of like sticks out within Southeast Asia as well. So, I’m just kind of curious, how did your creative career kind of like arc with that decision to become more authentic to your true self?

Joshua Simon: (21:02)
Well, with the podcast, with the SG Boys Podcast, that was an interesting one because it also, once again, stemmed from not having something. The rules in mainstream media here in Singapore is that with free to air programming, there cannot be any positive portrayals of LGBTQ+ people, so this is years and years of censoring myself and being okay with that, because this is a job, this is the platform, this is what it takes then, okay, I won’t use the pronouns of who that is accurate for. Say, I went on a date last night. I have to keep saying I went on a date and then my date did this and then I responded by this. I cannot use he/him, right, for this person, I can’t give that away unfortunately. And I was okay with doing that dance for a while or just completely avoiding anything to do about relationships or talk about marriage or the future. I just would not try to engage in these kinds of conversations on radio because he would go down that route and I would just focus on entertainment news and stuff. And then in 2019…in 2019, I had an opportunity to do a Ted talk. This was something that meant the world to me because Ted talks, at that point, had been very beneficial for my growth. I was healing from a breakup that absolutely destroyed me. It also was going to be about my coming out experience; I have a very, very unique coming out story and the night before the TED-X was supposed to happen, they called me and they wanted me to remove my coming out story and they wanted me to change the pronouns to girlfriend instead of boyfriend which was just like another like, once more, I’m doing this, right? And I think that for me was the last straw because I felt like with the rules of radio and TV and newspapers, I’ve learnt to just accept it as this is what the regulations are and maybe my role is for something else on these platforms and that’s okay? I didn’t view Ted talks like that and, obviously, Ted talks are not like that, but because it's a TED-X, it's organized by students, in this case, I didn't see it coming and I thought, okay, I can be completely myself, completely vulnerable, completely honest, and share a part of myself that I haven't been able to share elsewhere. So, because of that, I decided to pull out from the TED-X ‘cause I didn’t also want that to be my first Ted Talk memory, I just couldn’t do that to myself or to my story, so I decided to pull out. That became a big national thing where now my sexuality is being discussed openly by complete strangers and it was very overwhelming on one part, it was, I’m grateful that that conversation on censorship was continuing not just in Singapore, but in Malaysia as well, where another student was pulled from a Ted talk as well, but on a personal level it was very overwhelming because it was very close to when I had just come out to my family and now my family had to sort of deal with the repercussions of that and how it affects their careers, and I pulled away from any kind of discussion on that matter for a while until 2020. A year later, last year, when we were in our mini lockdown in Singapore, I felt quite purposeless at home. I thought to myself like what’s next, right? I had just watched Queer Eye at that point and I was I want to be on queer eye. But Netflix is not going to green light that, not right now, I think. And I can’t really do it on my own ‘cause it’s going to cost a lot to renovate someone’s home on my own. So, I thought, why don’t I try to do an audio version of Queer Eye where it’s a bunch of gay men with a microphone, talking about life, what it was like going to the army, talk about loneliness, talk about dating; we never have to hide the pronouns thing anymore, we can explore all these different nuances with our lives, and share stories as well, at our own time. I was like, okay, this is the thing I’m going to do. So, that was how this whole podcast thing started. It came from years and years of not speaking out or not…I guess…being okay with not speaking out and being conditioned to treat my story as something of shame and the story that you only tell to a couple of people after you’ve hung out with them enough to trust them, and being okay to just turn on the mic and this is my story, I own it and I want to hear yours and I celebrate mine and I want to celebrate yours and we tell it together; gradual, everything is very gradual. Everything is connected for me in my life.

Jeremy Au: (26:04)
OK, so what’s interesting is that you’re going through this process and you talk about how you had just recently come out to your family and I think earlier on, you mentioned that your dad was a pastor, so that was one heck of a conversation it must’ve been.

Joshua Simon: (26:19)
Yeah, you want me to give you the rundown of what happened?

Jeremy Au: (26:22)
Yeah, whatever you are comfortable with.

Joshua Simon: (26:25)
Yeah, I actually talked about it on the SG Boys Podcast season 2 episode one the coming out story and it’s not just my story you hear my co-hosts as well, Kennedy and Sam Joe, come out on the podcast and share their coming out story of what happened when they came out to their friends and family members as well as themselves.
My story was the day that I had that big breakup which completely shattered me was the same day my dad told me that someone in church was blackmailing him and telling all the different colleagues in his work that I’m gay through a letter, an anonymous letter. So that was how my dad found out I’m gay and that’s how the entire church found out I’m gay and it was sort of a reason for him to leave the church and not be in the running to be the head pastor of the church. Same day my breakup happened, my dad tells me let’s go for brunch, we need to talk. That also is the same day. I guess I had to deal with that with my mom and my sisters. It wasn’t fun…it wasn’t terrible, thank God and I’m very grateful for that ‘cause it was, by the hours, it started being beautiful and I never connected to my mom and dad like that before. It was a lot of crying in public ‘cause we were in a Chinese restaurant at Ion, top floor. It was beautiful ‘cause that was also probably the most vulnerable I had ever been with my family, but it also was not the end of that story and we talk about this on this podcast as well, where, in a strange way, coming out isn’t sort of a one-time thing, or at least by my experience and a few other people that I’ve spoken to, coming out has been also a gradual thing where you come out one time and then you have to come out by educating them with what you’re coming out as because, very often, people have a very warped, often artificial, or sometimes negative perception of what you’re coming out as and then you also have to remind them that you’re still out and that this is a real thing, and it isn’t just like, hey, I have a flu and it’s gonna go away once I just take a bunch of meds, I’m fine for the rest of my life. It’s like a constant like this is actually real, this is my boyfriend, and I’m still in that place with my mom and dad.

Jeremy Au: (28:53)
Wow. That’s deep and that’s raw. That must’ve been one hell of a meal for you and also everybody else in that restaurant, I guess.

Joshua Simon: (29:03)
It was very overpriced. We barely ate. Very, very overpriced.

Jeremy Au: (29:08)
It sounds like there was a huge element of grief, actually, that you had during this process.

Joshua Simon: (29:13)
For sure. Yeah, yeah. The past couple of years have been really, really intense. I haven’t really allowed myself a moment to really experience every fiber of those emotions. I think the break up and the family situation, the coming out story, the Ted talk thing, everything kind of happened really fast and I was in therapy and I was doing everything I can to get better and I am 100% happier than I’ve ever been. I feel, I feel like I’ve been very, very happy. I feel good, I wake up each morning now with my affirmations, but not like before where I would wake up thinking that whatever I was dreaming happened the night before, ‘cause I was struggling with PTSD. So, every morning was really tough. I always have to have an audio book playing so that I would wake up to the sound of Oprah Winfrey or Eckhart Tolle or Brené Brown to just calm me down and say everything is okay. So that was tough for a period time was like it was really intense and then now I’m able to go for walks. I’m able to eat right. I’m able to exercise. I’m able to have conversations and stand up straight and I’m in a relationship right now and I’m very, very happy and I don’t ever want to take it for granted.

Jeremy Au: (30:28)
There’s no point, right? Because we’re just reflecting about the grief process, which is less of a takeaway or moral of the story and more of the experience and journey.

Joshua Simon: (30:38)
So even though I have been consistently happy, which is a great achievement for me, who is also a Gemini. I lost my boss recently who is the man who gave me my job who consistently would check in on my radio show and be really hard on me and at the same time my biggest cheerleader with my job, ‘cause he’s the only person who really understands because he started off as a radio DJ in Australia as well at around my age, loves music, huge nerd, and then became our program director. Gave me my job. He was the one that said, we’re going to take a chance on that kid because I was the youngest at that point in the station and everyone were like big names and he was like let’s get that kid to interview Katy Perry and he did a great job and we’re going to keep sending him all around the world to all these places that I thought I would never get to go to in my lifetime. And I lost him and I also lost my aunt who was the first person in my family that I actually came out to at my own timing before the whole Ted talk thing and she passed away really recently. So, I feel for the past year and a half I’ve been consistently happy. I’ve been consistently good. I’ve been healing, but I’ve also been experiencing all these other things and I have just been sort of conditioning myself to just be happy a little bit longer because I was so unhappy for so much of my life before that. So, it’s like I don’t know. Maybe at some point, I just need a good cry, but uhm, yeah, that was my point…I think.

Jeremy Au: (32:15)
Yeah, good cry, always recommend it. Five out of five stars. Don’t want to go into it, but you know when you need it it’s a good one.

Joshua Simon: (32:22)
So that means I actively seek out movies to make me cry…

Jeremy Au: (32:28)
I’m not there yet, I’m not there yet, but I do tear up sometimes at the cinemas. I think maybe it’s catharsis from the emotion from some movies.

Joshua Simon: (32:36)
Yeah it, it, it actually takes a…it takes a lot to make me cry. I get to that point where I will choke up till like my throat gets really tight and I can’t really breathe very well. It reaches that point but when it actually goes and I start crying, that’s a bit harder, but only a few movies have and experiences in my life has, has taken me to that spot, I think.

Jeremy Au: (33:04)
Well, it’s interesting because you really transformed that grief into a lot of energy as a founder of a podcast, as someone in pouring into your creative energies as well, and I think one thing I really appreciated was that you’ve always been someone who has been really at the intersection of not just your personal story and not just obviously a professional career as a DJ, but also very much in new media. So, in this case podcasting, pop culture, you know, YouTube and even I guess the online debate about the TEDx talk and the dynamics around it. So, I’m just kind of curious, how do you feel technology has opened up the space for different conversations that could be had in past.

Joshua Simon: (33:50)
Great question. There was a big period of time where I was afraid of social media and technology, and I resisted it and I was leaving Instagram all the time and taking social media breaks all the time, which can be very healthy. I’ve done it and they have been very beneficial for when I was in that place, but I’ve also learned little tips where instead of fighting with technology and social media and stuff, I’ve started to embrace it and find that space where you do fit in because I use Instagram, for example, where we follow a mixture of celebrities, your friends, people, you’ve hung out with and you followed just ‘cause it was a polite thing to do. People you look up to. Maybe, for me, I also follow a bunch of like really nerdy stuff like DC Comics and like video game companies and stuff. So, I get like a mixture of all these different things and I'm like as I'm scrolling through my feed, my head is just taking in everything off and also at my expense for Oh my gosh I'm so poor, I can't afford that house or I wish I was slimmer or well, they're doing all these really cool things and going to all these really cool places and I wish I could go and there. All these things at my expense; there was a period where social media was really tough and then I thought I had to constantly share everything about my life. Just ‘cause one person says, well, that meant something to me, that meant I need to continue sharing everything, but I would, at the end of it, feel really naked and had to remind myself that maybe sometimes it’s good to save as draft and I started journaling more and keeping the journal entries to myself and I also started to reconfigure my social media as well, where I would unfollow people that, no offence, nothing personal. I just unfollowed a bunch of accounts that made me feel a particular way and it’s not about them, it’s just how I perceive things and I just learned to just understand and accept that, okay, right now I’m perceiving this as this and I just need to back away for a bit…or I need to mute this account for a while and I start following a whole bunch of other accounts and start following like tattoo artists. I start following photographers who photograph these wonderful places around the world or they photographed Tokyo in a whole different world and now my feed becomes completely different. And when I go on Instagram, it’s very, very healthy and I also follow a lot of activists as well. A lot of really nice motivational accounts and it was very, very different content from what I had just a couple of years prior. So, social media has changed for me, the experience on social media. I just joined a gaymer’s Facebook group of gay nerds, just geeking out about like Mortal Kombat and FF and it’s just like it’s such a wonderful community on Facebook. I’m part of an out in SG. Facebook Group shout out to Tim Burch, who runs that Facebook group in Singapore. There’s also out in HK. In Hongkong, different little out in groups around Asia and they organize cooking classes, going cycling together really healthy social activity in the LGBTQ+ community which also, for a very long period of time, it wasn’t that case where the only time I’d sort of meet someone who is like me is at a gay bar, at a gay club, or if I’m hooking up with them or on a date with them. It’s never been just like oh, we’re just gonna go for a pottery class together. So, social media has just been really, really interesting and how drastically your experience on social media can change just by clicking a bunch of things and clicking a bunch of other things and reconfiguring what your feed looks like. And I think finally, with podcasts for many years in the 80’s and 90’s, especially and growing up in the 90s, auditioning for stuff. It was a lot of you have to fight for that microphone to be in front of you. You have to give people like a big reason and you have to get through second, third audition just to get the job to have a microphone in front of you. My boyfriend got me this mic. It’s I think it’s the best mic that I’ve ever used and it’s beautiful and it’s got like this old school 50s look to it and we do our own podcast and I learned how to figure out how to upload a podcast onto Spotify and Apple Podcasts and everything I’ve learned how to measure my metrics and figure out my own rates. I learned to produce the show, and I’ve taken a lot of the skill sets that I’ve learnt from film school to editing the podcast, and I’m still learning how to use a compressor, graphic equalizer and all these different things; normalize the audio. It’s been really hands on and I’ve also I think ultimately with the power of doing things at your own pace, time and platform, building your own platform. I’ve also sort of been learning the responsibility of what that is, and we have these conversations with the SG Boys Podcast, especially where. We ask ourselves is it time to do this story? Do we have the right people, the right resources for this story to come out in this format? Let’s think about our audience, what can we give them today? What do they need? We become the bosses of that in a very non like authority kind of way where it’s just more of it’s our responsibility to give them something really good ‘cause they’re gonna listen to this on the train tomorrow or at the gym. Let’s entertain them. But it’s also, let’s have them thinking a little bit.

Jeremy Au: (39:18)
Wow. That’s a lot. Because obviously we’re talking about from an individual to a community to a pouring out dynamic which is talking about how to be digitally healthy, on your own terms and, secondly, is the discovery and community that you’re getting. And the third is the responsibility to your listeners and the people who choose to listen.
When you think about that responsibility, it’s interesting because you explored this new medium called the podcast medium that lets you have your own voice and build in a different format. What has, over the past year, been some myths or misconceptions about podcasting SG Boys?

Joshua Simon: (40:02)
Myths. Oh, I haven’t really. I don’t know if I’ve actually thought about myths or misconceptions about podcasts, because podcasts for me have been just really interesting because I think for me with radio and with how radio works. Or the format of it in Asia, at least, is in-out fast. You come in, out of the song, that was Britney Spears with Toxic, offer in the zone record. It’s Joshua Simon on radio station coming up, we have a-z and real quick, I wanna give a big shout out to this company; bump, bump, bump, in and out fast, right? Then I started listening to radio stations in New York and I started listening to podcasts like The Oprah Super Soul Sunday conversations and stuff, and those were really, really helpful to me. And then, Oh my goodness, all my favorite celebrities have podcast now, so I’m listening on Anna Ferris podcast, RuPaul’s Drag Race, all these different podcasters as well. I listen to like Sadhguru. I listen to a little bit of everything and this is like The Hollywood Reporter and they do a lot of interview, podcasts and stuff. So, my answer to that is everything has just been. Whoa, I didn’t know you could do that in a podcast. I didn’t know you could do like a commercial midway through and coming up, we’re going to talk about this, but first Square Space. We all need a good website, a website completely changes everything for you, like well, I didn’t know you could do that. Or you can do like horror stories on a podcast. And actually today Fey Hollow comes out. This is a podcast series that I’m doing voice acting on. It’s from AXN, it’s AXN’s first crime thriller podcast and this is like a full soundscape audio experience. It’s like you’re listening to an audiobook with sound effects and music in the background and Lim Kay Tong is in it and it’s got an international cast and I play a villain in this one as well. So, already, I’m discovering all these really different ways of how a podcast episode can be. I have friends who do podcasts as well and they’re very raw. They don’t edit anything. They talk about whatever they want and then there are some that’s really curated and really intense, like the Aware Saga podcast. Well, that was that was quite a trip, so I don’t know if there are any myths. I would say that I can point out because I’m still kind of discovering things as it’s going on. I think the only myth for our podcast is that it’s record and upload. We actually go through a lot of meetings for every single episode we send it to everyone in the team, The SG boys, to listen. Rachel, you know Rachel, she set this up so she joined the SG Boys as an ally, she said. I’m a friend of yours, but I’m also an ally and I want to do something, so let me do comms for you for free. I will organize the interviews for you. I will handle the press stuff for you. I’ll go through the descriptions for every single episode I do that episode artwork as well. So, all these are the aspects of just what happens, all the gears that needs to move for an episode to come out for our show, there’s a lot that goes into it and we run through, we fact check a lot of things that are said in the podcast as well and we think, OK, let’s not put this in there ‘cause we can’t actually back this up. So, we’re going to take this out, so there’s a lot of work for that part, ‘cause all people think it’s just like click, click, and then like upload. For our show, it’s not like that.

Jeremy Au: (43:32)
Wow, that’s amazing. I definitely agree there’s a lot more that goes to the podcast, including this one than just recording and upload. I also do actually appreciate the fact that, the benefit or not having any cohosts on my side is, I have no meetings. Also, I think you have a different take, right, you’re putting yourself to a higher bar, actually holding yourself to a higher standard than I am as well, so I think it’s really interesting to actually hear that process on the back end. So, you know, wrapping up here, you’ve obviously shared quite a few moments where you’ve been brave. I’m just wondering in all those moments, would you consider those moments to have been the moments where you chose to be brave and, if so, what part of bravery did it illuminate for you?

Joshua Simon: (44:13)
Many of us think bravery is not feeling anything and having whatever life throws at you just go over your head. The bravest moments of my life were when I was the most broken, the absolutely most broken periods and also the incredible thing is, each time I was on the ground, I was never dead. I was never…I don’t know if dead is the word…something would kick in, in me, each time. Every time I was at that point where I was broken, there would still be something in me that would say go do that. Now, go put that song on, go into that bathtub and just stay there for a while. There were still those moments. I started really loving podcasts when I was really broken because I was feeling all these things and all I did was go to Google and type what I was feeling and a YouTube video would come up which is usually a Ted talk about someone giving a talk about what this is. Like so like the grieving process, for example, right? So, I would type how I’m feeling and then you would see a Ted talk come up and then I would click that and then I’ll be like okay, I’m going to follow this person’s podcast, who gave that talk and then I started listening to them. The most broken periods of my life or when I was the most brave, when I was the most vulnerable, when I had grown a lot from, as well. Yeah, brave for me has never been “I don’t feel anything”.
Brave for me has never been “I’m going to break your heart” and be like “oh, okay, go ahead”. Oh, that was a wonderful interview and that was it. It was, this might go in a completely different direction. Yeah, there’s one big interview that I did with Hugh Jackman. That now has like a million views, but it’s a funny story ‘cause I almost missed that flight. I actually missed my flight to that interview to Sydney ‘cause I got the date wrong. It was like Friday 2:00 AM so in my mind on Friday I have to go to the airport at night to make it for the 2:00 AM flight. I know it’s so stupid so essentially, I showed up at work on Friday when my flight was on Thursday. Night Friday morning, so I missed that flight, but my interview was on Saturday so I managed to get another flight, fly straight into Sydney with zero hours of sleep and did everything I could to just stay together or not give up. That became my most popular interview of everything that I’ve done and you may not be able to tell, but I was completely sleep deprived and just riddled with anxiety. I’m very proud of that day when I was able to just say I’m going to do it. I’m just going to show up and I’m going to do great and I’m not going to waste these people’s time. I’m not going to waste the person who’s watching this YouTube video, their time. I’m going to do a good interview for them and then I’ll take care of myself later. I’ll go and sleep later. Yeah, sorry to go off on like this super long. I feel like I’m gonna be one of those I don’t know if I ever have kids, but I might be one of those like old grandfathers with a rocking chair, I just “oh, it reminds me of this story, back in my day…”.

Jeremy Au: (47:33)
Well the truth is all the grandkids love those stories and they always hang out all the time. So, I think the stories would be well received. Well, thank you so much Joshua. I love to wrap up with, you know, paraphrasing to three big themes that came out for me.
I think the first of course, was you know your personal journey and your love for entertainment and I love to hear different parts of it along the way from you as a kid looking at MTV at your grandparents place all the way to burning your own CD’s all the way down to your first big break with your mentor, to the in and out nature of the industry. And it’s so interesting to see that personal journey because it’s not just a professional journey but also growth journey in both skills and expertise, and it’s nice for us to, for a moment, have a small window into what are your professional routines on a day-to-day basis, which is so enjoyable. Obviously the second part is huge as well. Obviously, thank you so much for sharing about your personal story as well in terms of your growth journey from coming out to being who you are to staying true to your story in spite of X, but also accommodating Y, and I think that’s amazing that you’ve done that, and I think, lastly, of course, is thank you so much for sharing about the dynamic around bravery and still feeling it all. That’s a tough one. Thank you so much for being vulnerable, not just in the past, and overcoming that with your bravery. But also, being vulnerable and sharing that with everybody today, so that hopefully provides like you said, not you being a grandfather but a beloved grandfather to all of us, listening to your grandfather stories now.

Joshua Simon: (49:14)
Thank you, yeah, thank you for having me. Absolutely. I hope I have earned the pleasure of your time.

Jeremy Au: (49:21)
Yes, you have, and I hope I have earned the pleasure of your time as well.