Five Questions: Dke and Jon (Latebloom Entertainment)
Dke Hadnot and Jon Lafferty own and operate Latebloom Entertainment, a full-service film and music production company. They’re both super creative, insightful, and hilarious. We had a lovely conversation about the frustration of creativity, visualizing legacy, and Buddhism. Meet Dke and Jon.
What is your greatest fear?
Jon: I always felt people’s two biggest fears came down to dying alone or not living up to your potential, living a life wasted. And I definitely fall in the latter. I make sure I have love in my life but maybe that’s because I’m scared of being alone. [Laughter] I spent a long time not working towards that potential because I was hoping I would get my shit together and it would just work out for me, but I needed a jumpstart and I found Nichiren Buddhism at Soka Gakai International. I was always seeking, wanting to be a part of a bigger thing. The hip-hop communities, I was a tutor for kids, I was in a union for bartending. A lot of them were good causes, some of them were taking advantage of me, and once I found this organization—I don’t know if I necessarily found my purpose in life, but it allowed me to have faith in myself and to work towards whatever I wanted. And that I could absolutely achieve it. So right now I’m finally doing that. I’m cutting out the delusion from the dream. That’s what I’m trying to do. It’s difficult! You want to land in that soft spot of reality. So my greatest fear is not being able to do what I want to do. This practice is first and foremost about being absolutely happy and absolute happiness is different from relative happiness. Relative happiness is, “Oh I got the job, great. I got the girl, great.” And all that stuff. Something in your environment will trigger something and then you’ll be on to the next thing that causes you suffering. But absolute happiness comes from within. I’m cultivating that life state on a daily basis so that no matter what obstacles I do face, I can do it joyfully. That being said, I want to suffer all the obstacles for the joy, but I want my obstacles, the things I want to do. Right now we’re really at a vital point. These next couple years really make or break the business, so it’s never been realer. It’s showing up in this relationship I’m starting with a girl. The organization, I’ve been given a lot of responsibility. The fear is to not be able to do all that.
Dke: My fear isn’t too far off from that. It is a modification of not living up to your potential. I’ve always had a feeling that I was motivated to do more or be some sort of messenger, not in a messianic sort of way, whether it’s through art of whatever. Deep down I’m an extreme sort of person. “If you believe in this, would you die for it, would you go for it?” If you wouldn’t, then you probably don’t totally believe in it. I’m a big fan of history and everyone in history who has made a change has died for it or they’re in jail for it. Leonard Peltier. He sacrificed his life for it. My fear is when and will I have to make that decision between being just a regular modified artist or messenger in this world or do I go and die for it. That’s my fear.
Jon: I would die for the movement I’m a part of. For sure. We’re Buddhists, but we’ll die for things.
Me: I really love that thought. And I agree with that thought. To a point. And the point that I come to is…I almost find it better to live for something than to die for something. But that doesn’t disagree with what you’re saying. You’re not going to die for these things, but you’re willing to.
Me: It’s a matter of investing your whole life into it. That’s how I feel about certain things when I’m trying to make decisions and it’s scary. I had one foot in the corporate world and the other in the creative world for 11.5 years and what was I doing? I did some really good stuff with my art and with the job, but doing what I love and I’m happy. Even when it sucks, I’m happy.
Jon: Yeah! That’s the absolute happiness!
Me: That’s why I completely get it.
How do you define being “in love”?
Dke: Love is hard.
Jon: Yeah, hard as fuck. [Laughter]
Dke: I’m a lover of history, a lover of philosophy. Interestingly enough, philosophy has love in it. Philosophy is the love of wisdom. I’m at a point where I don’t even know if love exists as just an emotion or if it’s just value proposition. And love is when that value is not there that the sustained feeling in between those moments when your partner or whomever you love is not really living up to what you need or want. Right now from what I’ve been seeing in the world, I think love is the feeling in between those hard places. It’s the thing that keeps you going on in whatever you love when it’s not giving you what you feel you need in order to sustain it.
Jon: Pass! [Laughter] Nah, this dude’ll tell you…I throw my life into romance. I’m not a hopeless romantic, I’m a relentless romantic. [Laughter]
Me: I’m stealing that!
Jon: Please do! Relentless. I just have a way of going all in. With a lot of things, but with girls. I would be all-in in these relationships and I would stay in them because I didn’t realize they were co-dependent things. I was like, “I need the comfort of having a partner so when I’m not doing my thing here, I can escape to that.” So I finally got out of a really toxic relationship and I made the determination to take some time. I took two years. I really dove into my practice, really got more involved with Late Bloom, and learned how to sustain myself and nourish myself. That being said, I love the chase. I love the chase. I love thinking that they are so much more than they are. I become obsessed. I had this girl that became my best friend and I started thinking, “She’s my soulmate.”—I don’t believe in a soulmate especially now with my practice, we’re all karmically tied, we come into each other’s lives for reasons and you can have someone who was your mother three centuries ago, who’s now your lover. These kinds of things I believe in, but one person forever? So I was obsessed with her and putting a lot of my prayers into her. “She needs to be mine. I want to be hers. This is what my destiny is!” So I asked her out and she said no. [Laughter] And she said, “I felt this coming though, and this is not that.” And I saw it. I was deluded the whole time. But I thought I was ready, I was carving out all this stuff in my life, and then a week after that, I met the girl that I’m with now. To bring it all back, I’ve said so much, I never thought I’d be in love. I just thought it was enough to just commit because I’m down with compromise and committing. I’m into the functionality of it. I can do that. But I didn't think I’d ever feel that way about someone and she’s the first person I’ve felt that way about. So it’s that thing where it’s like, “Oh my god, finally.” But it’s also, “Oh my god, it’s so difficult.” [Laughter]
Dke: Through my differing girlfriends, one thing I’ve maintained is doing art and being creative. Either making music, drawing, or doing film. Those three things. Through the most tumultuous and craziest relationships, I would maintain that dutifully. I’d be up from 1-4am and not spending time with girlfriends, but at least that showed me that I love that shit. I love it.
Jon: So you’re in love with your work, but not your girl?
Dke: I don’t even want to call it “work,” but somehow it is like my first girl.
Me: I’m not judging, but those are good answers. [Laughter]
How do you get in your own way?
Jon: My turn? Fuck. [Laughter] I have a way of being overly optimistic, so I won’t—it always comes back to being in the delusion—I think I can do everything. I like to say yes a lot, but the follow through and the discipline it takes…I won’t do everything necessary for each one of those. If you’re not doing that for one thing, then you’re not going to be doing it for everything else. “Honmak kukyo to” is consistency from beginning to end. That was never a part of my thing. I would fly around like, “I’m so into this! I’m so into this! I’m so into this!” I think it’s really my karma. All those causes I’ve tried to create, it’s now hard to break through. Karma is essentially the habits you make, the decisions you make in your life. They compound and then they start to form your life. Right now, with this business and with the relationship and with the practice, this is about breaking those old habits, and making a determination when I see myself falling back into them, that I can be aware of that and then act on it.
Learning to say no. That’s a really hard one. And being held accountable more. Which is why I’m really fortunate to have Dke, and her, and the organization too. I have a lot of young guys that I have to help raise. And they help raise me in the same sense.
Dke: The main way I’ve gotten in my own way—and I still do it to this day—is taking a lot of time to justify why I shouldn’t be taking a lead or doing something exactly how I see it. I’m a very opinionated guy, but a lot of times, I’ve just sat back. Or stopped myself. “It’s going to be too much. This person’s going to be offended. You can’t do this.” Or whatever. And now that I’m taking the lead right when I think of it, I’ve seen my life drastically change. It’s kind of sad because I’ve spent so much of my twenties and my teenage years just like, “Nah, man, that’s not right.” It’s like damn, I wish I would’ve written that script the first time. Just do it!
Jon: That’s where it can be good to say yes and think later. But it’s so true… Believing that someone’s going to come along and fill in the gap and not taking the lead… I have a brother who’s older than me and he was always the alpha lead, so I just kind of like, “OK, it’s all taken care of.” But this organization has really empowered me to be a leader. Whenever you’re fucking up they give you more leadership. It’s the fucking dopest thing! But you see how capable you actually are. There aren’t a lot of parts of [American] culture that provide the opportunity to foster that in individuals. It’s like, “Who’s the hypomanic, alpha mother fucker, follow his ass.” Everyone has leadership qualities, we just don’t cultivate them. And Soka Gakai finds those qualities in every single person and uses those unique talents. Finally empowering myself in business made the most sense. I was always jumping onto projects because I didn’t start it myself. I had to collaborate because I didn’t have a good enough vision, I didn’t have the proper technique. And now, I’m like, “I could’ve just written that.”
Jon: “I could’ve just done it.” It’s just such a mind fuck! I went to the bottom jobs, always.
Dke: A lot of times you don’t have the requisite talents to do something, but you’ll find out—especially when you’re doing art shit and when you’re starting—you have to be the impetus, you’ve got to do something. If we never did Maya Angeles, then you never would’ve seen us perform, and we’d never be here today. I feel like everyone’s creative. Not everyone’s an artist, that’s a little bit different, but everyone has a creative aspect to their soul, spirit, or personality.
Jon: I’d say that with leadership, too.
Dke: And leadership as well. But we don’t foster these things in society. Parents will say, “Don’t buck the system. This is the job. This is the school. You must do this.” It dampers that creative spirit. Even for creative people. We may have skirted some of those things, but we still have that programming and it fucks with us. So I’m trying to destroy that.
At this point, I checked to make sure we were still recording. We were, thankfully. But the following exchange took place which was too solid not to include. Needless to say we were all cracking up throughout.
Jon: One time, I interviewed the police commissioner about marijuana laws. And I was high as fuck. It was a high school project. I showed up late because I went the wrong way—it was on Ocean Blvd and I went away from the ocean—I went to his office, did the interview, but the tape had run out like two minutes in. Then he let me come over to his house and do it again and during that, I was high again, and the tape ran out on that one, but I didn’t say anything, but I didn’t tell him because I was like, “I can’t.” It was great. That was the kind of person I was…and am.
Dke: That’s how we met. Jon was that and worse.
How do you define failure?
Jon: Failure is the spirit of giving up. You can lose tons of battles, but if your spirit remains undefeated, then you have not lost. It’s hard though. I so want this business to by my life and my career, but I’m going to remain undefeated throughout the whole thing so that if it doesn’t work… But I really don’t want—that’s a loss. [Laughter] So it’s not just rolling with the punches, but getting hit and being like, “Yup, that’s part of the process. Let me build those callouses.” So when the big stuff comes, I can win that. It’s about remaining undefeated. Life is win or death at any moment. It’s hard to think about it like that, but it is.
Dke: To me failure is when you lose that love to persevere when that thing is not giving you what you thought you wanted, or the first goal you had in your mind. If you feel that intense attraction to go through with it and you lose it, it’s likely you failed it or it failed you in some way. It’s rolling with the punches, but being able to see a macro picture. Because everything you do if you love it and stick with it and you try to persevere, as long as it’s not harmful to your life, you will learn stuff that you will be able to put towards something new. Always, always. It takes years to see that, but once you have that, then you do move, you’ve learned. It’s also like not working hard enough. Like the delusion of work…
Jon: Yeah, you can remain undefeated but once again, it can be deluded. It’s like, “It didn’t work.” But no, “You didn’t work hard enough for it to happen.” That’s a tendency that I need to fight, too. I need to have the will to make my successes happen.
Dke: It’s not overworking either. There’s us doing stuff as hobbies, but say you want to be in an industry. That’s a business. Commerce is a part of that. It’s not just me jumping up and painting something and I feel good. It’s like, “Now that you want to be in this industry because of all the benefits you get from it, you have to approach it as that.” A lot of times I feel like we delude ourselves like, “I’m a creative, I’m an artist, so I don’t have to do that business stuff.” You don’t, but you’re not working towards working in the industry. Because that’s a system of things. So that can be a form of failure.
Jon: Ultimately, you get to determine what your own success is.
Dke: Yeah, and success and failure are determined by not having as many delusions as people tend to put in their lives to make them feel comfortable. So you need to do the business plan if you want to start a business, you need to do that sort of thing so that if it doesn’t work out, you know you did everything you could to get there.
I just talked about a lot of different shit. [Laughter] But I guess to sum it up, maintaining a sensible idea of what you’re trying to do and trying to preserve as much as you can so you can transmit whatever you’ve done into the next thing that you will do. I could say I want to direct and I may not be able to direct a huge film—because China’s dictating everything that American audiences want to see—but I may end up shooting an indie film or webisodes. So I did direct, it’s just not exactly how you thought you were going to.
Jon: That’s big. I was like, “I’m going to be a rapper, an actor, a comedic rapper, a producer. But producer I know the least amount, so I’m gonna be in front of it. I like to do the thing in front of the people.” But slowly, each one of those has failed or I’ve failed, and now I’m in a position, which was the last one I wanted to choose, but through the success of this, I will be enabled to do all of those things.
Dke: All of it. Absolutely.
Jon: Nam myoho renge kyo.
Dke: So the dad in the Brady Bunch came from a Shakespeare theater, a very serious acting background and his big break was the Brady Bunch. He was like, “What the fuck.” But that was his big break and we know him and he was a famous dude. So there was a guy talking about that and sometimes it doesn’t go exactly the way you want, “I didn’t get my Oscar.” And most people don’t get to do the Brady Bunch version of what they want to do. So you’re pretty lucky. You’re doing it. It’s just not exactly how you envisioned it.
Jon: That goes back to relative and absolute happiness. If you’re always searching for the next thing, then you’ll never be able to appreciate what you’ve got. And if you’re coming from a place where your happiness is dependent on that stimulus, then you’re always going to be seeking and never content. So when you’re going for it and doing it, your life’s going to move in the right direction.
Me: Right. It’s a matter of being present for the process versus being attached to the result.
Jon: Boom, dude! [Laughter]
Dke: Being in the creative flow…that’s the best part. I told Jon one time when we were creating, “You fucking enjoy this because if we sell this and it blows up, that’s it.” The industry and business part will always be there, but right now we can be creative. It’s free. The ether is flowing through and we’re having a great time.
Jon: It’s free, great. Now where’s the money? [Laughter]
Dke: Oh, and that approximation of that Brady Bunch story is from Bojack Horseman. [Laughter]
Jon (into the mic): Y’all out there, go watch Bojack! [Laughter]
What will you miss the most when you’re gone?
Jon: I’m good. Eternal life, man. And when I leave this, my karma continues and I’ll find new life and I’ll find new existences and my journey continues. The only thing I’d be upset about is if I don’t find the Gohonzon again. The Gohonzon is the scroll that we chant to. It embodies the law of the universe and your highest potential. And I want to get connected back to that whatever form it’s in. That’s what I’m going to miss. I’m sure there are other things, but I’m not going to think about that!
Dke: I’m not too much of a religious dude, but I’ve studied a lot. There’s a lot of art I would miss. If the Christian heaven is real, there’s supposed to be singing and stuff, heavenly singing! So I probably won’t miss that. [Laughter] Think about how psychedelic that would be. Angels singing and shit. That’d be fucking awesome. What I would miss is total enlightenment for humanity. Who knows, it’ll probably never happen, but I’m hoping, I have faith, that there will be a time in humanity’s history that we’ll get it. Without machines, no fucking singularity/Matrix shit.
Jon: Well, the machines can’t occupy all ten worlds that we live in. And one of them is Buddha-hood. So…yeah, well anyway… [Laughter]
Dke: But I would hope that we reach that point. And that would be dope to be there to experience when humanity in some singularity of spirit, of purpose, of mind, we’ll be like, “Enough of the bullshit we’ve unleashed on the world and on ourselves for thousands of years.”
Jon: Are you setting me up right now for this? [Laughter]
Dke: No, no! I really think about this…
Jon: Because I can come in…
Dke: You will, you will! [Laughter]
Jon: Because I’ve got this organization… [Laughter]
Dke: But I really do think about that. I remember being in college and I was talking to these other students and they’re like, “Man, it makes no sense! Why do we do these non-profits? Why do we try to talk to people? Why do we try to make change? Bad stuff always happens!” But to me it was revolutionary fervor. And I think Junot Diaz, this Dominican author, he calls it radical hope, and he was talking about living in this Trump era, like, “What do you have now?” When everything seems like absolute shit, you have to have radical hope or revolutionary fervor. Because you’re not the end-all, be-all. There’s going to be your children and other people coming and they’ll need it because there always has to be a good side to fight the fucking bad side.
Jon: I feel like this is exactly… Soka Gakai is this. Our whole mission is kosen-rufu. Which is world peace through enabling individuals to wake up to the inherent dignity of their own life. There’s been all kinds of revolutions, all kinds of economic systems in play, all kinds of charitable…but if you don’t fundamentally change the philosophy of life, then all these things are just cyclical. Our organization is one-on-one dialogue. We go person to person—there’s no mass propagation effort—and we go, “Here’s the philosophy of life and we all possess the same Buddha nature.” Which is that micro of the universe. We’re all interconnected. In practical terms, this is a revolution. But we call it a human revolution because it has to start with the inner transformation of each life. It started in 1930 in Japan and in 1975 it went worldwide. So it went from 750,000 members to now, it’s in 192 countries and territories with 15 million members. Because A) It fucking works. And B) There are the warriors for peace out there. And people sense that the environment is getting sicker and sicker. Which we call the latter-day of the law, which is chaos pretending to be something it’s not. So this organization is fighting every day. I chant in the morning, in the evening, and I do activities all the time. I’m introducing the practice because I believe that it is the thing that will unite the entire world regardless of any belief system you’re raised in or any language you speak. We all speak the language of the Buddha when we chant nam myoho renge kyo. And yeah, so that’s what he’s [Daisaku Ikeda, Founding Member of Soka Gakai] talking about, that faith and hope for the world, that’s what our organization is doing. But it’s going to take a long fucking time. We take up .03% of America right now. I was talking to a leader and he was like, “Look, by the time I die, I hope we get 1%. Three million people. That’s what we’re fighting for, guys.” That’s going to be a long time, but it’s worthwhile. And I love it.
Dke: I would say whether you are self-proclaimed or whether you’re recognized by other people as an artist, get creative and think about how you’re going to work towards bettering people and humanity. What kind of legacy you want to leave. That’s what I want to do: “I did something through how I know how to fucking do it.” It was for the betterment of people. So the only thing that I will miss…is that I wasn’t there to see everything come together, but I know it’s going to come together.
Jon: That’s beautiful.
Dke: So I’m just going to try to live my life, try to be good to other people. I falter and everyone has their B.S., but I’m going to try.
Jon: And I’ll miss hip-hop!