Productivity Secrets of a Master DJ (Meditation, Morning Routines, and More) (#62)

The Tim Ferriss Show - Glitch Mob

(Photo: Ralph Arvesen)

Justin Boreta is a founding member of The Glitch Mob. Their music has been featured in movies like Sin City II, Edge of Tomorrow, Captain America, and Spiderman.

In this post, we discuss The Glitch Mob’s path from unknown band to playing sold-out 90,000-person (!) arenas.  We delve into war stories, and go deep into creative process, including never-before-heard “drafts” of blockbuster tracks!  Even if you have zero interest in music, Justin discusses habits and strategies that can be applied to nearly anything.  Meditation?  Morning routines?  We cover it all.

You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

Ep 62: The EDM Cinderella - How The Glitch Mob Exploded

The Glitch Mob’s last album, Love Death Immortality, debuted on the Billboard charts at #1 Electronic Album, #1 Indie Label, and #4 Overall Digital Album. This is particularly impressive because The Glitch Mob is an artist-owned group.  It’s a true self-made start-up.

This podcast is brought to you by Mizzen + Main. Mizzen + Main makes the only “dress” shirts I now travel with — fancy enough for important dinners but made from athletic, sweat-wicking material. No more ironing, no more steaming, no more hassle. Click here for the exact shirts I wear most often. Order one of their dress shirts this week and get a Henley shirt (around $60 retail) for free.  Just add the two you like here to the cart, then use code “TIM” at checkout.

This episode is also brought to you by 99Designs, the world’s largest marketplace of graphic designers. Did you know I used 99Designs to rapid prototype the cover for The 4-Hour Body? Here are some of the impressive results.

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What music do you listen to when you work? When you really need to get in the zone? Please share in the comments.

Do you enjoy this podcast? If so, could you please leave a short review here? I read them, and they keep me going.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

Selected Links from the Episode

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Learn More about The Glitch Mob




Commercial Work

Show Notes (Time Stamps Approximate)

  • World-class attributes of Justin Boreta
  • The Grant Korgan story
  • Unique attributes of The Glitch Mob and the feeling of being on stage in front of 90,000+ people
  • Defining “indie” and “artist owned”
  • The makeup and evolution of The Glitch Mob team
  • Tools and software of The Glitch Mob
  • What exactly is “mastering”?
  • Deconstructing audio engineering software and Ableton
  • How to have your music featured in massive motion pictures
  • The story of the Sin City II trailer
  • Justin plays Animus Vox [approx 36:30]
  • The fourth member, Kevin, and his role in the success of the business
  • Developing the creative process as success comes into play
  • Soliciting feedback, Justin Boreta-style
  • Describing a day in the studio for The Glitch Mob
  • Commonalities of the most successful songs
  • The importance of traditional instrument skills when performing/producing music
  • Justin plays the never before heard 6th version of Our Demons, followed by the finished product [57:30]
  • A rapid learning program for music production
  • The draft version of Fortune Days, followed by the finished product [1:03:15]
  • How many separate tracks are running in a Glitch Mob song?
  • What percentage of samples are custom vs. off-the-shelf?
  • Current revenue streams for The Glitch Mob
  • Favorite pastry, pre-show meditation, defining success, and advice for his 20-year old self
  • What EDM show should the uninitiated go to first, morning rituals, meditation and morning workouts
  • What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? [1:40:20]
  • Justin plays us out with Can’t Kill Us [1:48:45]

People Mentioned

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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236 Replies to “Productivity Secrets of a Master DJ (Meditation, Morning Routines, and More) (#62)”

  1. I listen to Mastodon’s Leviathan on repeat when I’m really trying to work. I’ve probably listened to it a thousand times and have all the lyrics memorized so I don’t have to pay close attention to what’s going on with the music. It’s also a fast paced narrative about whaling so there’s the motivational factor.

  2. When I really want to do creative work, mainly writing my Morning Pages from Julia Cameron, I have used focus@will, which, according to the site, “delivers various “Attention Amplifying” music channels scientifically designed to engage with your brain’s limbic system. This soothes the easily distracted fight or flight mechanism increasing attention span and general focus.” I don’t care how or why all I know is it works.

    For mundane, energy-sucking tasks, I go to the podcasts of either Avicii or Tiesto. The uptempo EDM music keeps my energy levels up. Plus the lack of lyrics enables me to have the background noise I desire without slowing me down.

    Lastly, for chores I go to good ol’ Pandora, usually something country like Florida Georgia Line or Zac Brown Band.

    1. I used to use Focus@will too but then tried out after seeing them on appsumo, and made the switch. I seem to get way better results especially for working and reading.

  3. My go to album to GSD, get shit done, is Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross • The Social Network Soundtrack. This all instrumental, thumping electronic album get me in the zone for hours on repeat

    1. Have you tried Ludovico Einaudi’s Islands album? A bit more mainstream, but great for focus 🙂

  4. I have recently tried the 1-song-on-repeat technique and it works quite well with mellow songs I know very well that don’t have too many sections/variation. So far I’ve used “Codex” by Radiohead and “John Wayne Gacy Jr.” by Sufjan Stevens to great effect.

  5. Trance is great for working and studying. Few, if any, lyrics and driving beats that help you zone into your work. Andrew Rayel and Above and Beyond are my personal favorites currently. Or check out MrSuicideSheep on YouTube, great variety of electronic tunes of all different genres and he has great mixes.

  6. usually heavy, instrumental rock/metal. Red Sparowes – “the fear is excruciating, but therein lies the answer” has gotten me through many writing/studying sessions.

  7. I once wrote an entire 3.5 hour engineering physics final exam listening to Queen/ David Bowie “Under Pressure” live. … Nailed it

  8. Definitely and without question….techno. Uptempo = tiesto, downtempo = schiller. For me, nothing better for productivity.

  9. I actually listen to Glitch Mob quite a bit during long design marathons, but also the following:

    Bon Iver

    Jason Reeves

    Olafur Arnalds (Living Room Songs is fantastic, particularly Track 2. I could have Track 2 on repeat all day and be perfectly content)

    OneRepublic (Native album)

    Pretty much any military or general boss movie soundtrack (Black Hawk Down, Bourne, Bond, Expendables etc. Particularly useful when you want to feel perpetually in beast mode and are beating deadlines)

    1. I listened to Olafur Arnalds “and they have escaped the weigh of darkness” while reading ‘Limitless’. Pretty fucking cool.

  10. Ludovico Einaudi

    Elijah Bossenbroek



    All allow my brain to get in the zone, especially when it comes to creative projects

  11. Smashing Pumpkins is one of my favorites, but I don’t like to worry about adding or changing music, so I sometimes put The Fray Station at Pandora alternating with Kings of Leon, The XX etc. Sorry I’m not much of a help….very eclectic.

  12. ‘The National’ has always helped me stay in the zone, specifically their album ‘Boxer.’ Instrumentals from ‘Explosions in the Sky’ are great too.

  13. It has to be classical music or at least instrumental only. I can’t spit out my own words/thoughts when listening to someone else’s!

  14. Ornette Coleman: Free Jazz

    A Tribe Called Quest: Midnight Marauders

    Radiohead: Kid A or The Bends

    Anything by Sparklehorse

    (Listening choice depends on the type of project)

  15. Assemblage23, Glitch Mob, Negative Format, Parallels Project, Pulse Legion and VNV Nation are some favorites for coding sessions.

  16. Deadmau5, pendulum, Sp33fy M@n, phoenix, passion pit or soundtrack music (John Williams, Klaus Badelt) for coding.

    All that plus hip hop and diplo for more simple financial analysis work, or negotiation brainstorming.

  17. My current focus song is by this guy called Rameses B.

    The song is called “The Meaning of Life,” its a really relaxed song, I just put it on repeat when I need to work, Really good song, I enjoy it a lot.

  18. I love the guest choice! For deadlines I loop the drink-the-sea-part-ii mix from the Glitch Mob (on soundcloud)

    For general creativity I pick something from the LateNightTales series, especially the Bonobo collection.

  19. 70s lite rock, yacht rock, AM Gold: Bread, America, Christopher cross, Steven bishop, air supply, Gino Vanelli, England Dan and john ford coley, CSN, cheesier the better

  20. Check out the “Heady Beats” playlist on spotify. Really good stuff, minimal lyrics, cool future synth type of stuff that really dials you in for focus and motivates for creativity.

  21. I’ve gone almost completely to Kendrick Lamar’s “Good Kid Maad City” on repeat…. Never felt more productive. It tripped me out hearing Matt from WordPress mention albums on repeat, cause it def has worked for me. Song 1 comes on and my brain is like “it’s crush time.”

  22. Mostly classical for reading/writing/drawing; alternative/rock/electronic for working out; any/l and all instrumental for scheming.

  23. I have always loved listening to electronic music while working. My newest discovery is NIMITAE ( I think Matt Mullenweg talked about this a little, but I can’t get distracted by the music (lyrics and stuff). Electronic music let’s me just get lost in a trance and focus on work.

  24. I have a playlist that immediately puts me “IN THE ZONE” period. I love to write inspirational pieces, so to put me in that place I put in play the playlist I have on my home page of my website. [Moderator: link removed]. The mind is a tool, able to turned on and activated at any point in time. I have journey to the gym music as well as gym playlists. It is imperative for me to use these tools to get the best out of my production time. Every song on my creation playlist is word free for the most part.

  25. To avoid distractions I’ll put a song with no lyrics on repeat…. The song of choice I’ve been listening to lately has been from the Inception movie: Hans Zimmer – Time

  26. I typically fire up Bach on Spotify. I can’t work with any lyrics in the music. I’ve tried other composers but Bach seems to have just the right tempo and consistency of volume.

  27. I change it up….I often like listening to film scores. Right now going through a Pennywise, NOFX, nineties punk phase. Also enjoy classical…usually stuff containing a lot of cello.

  28. EDM: Genevieve, Felix Cartel, Panama, Santigold, Banks, Mr FijiWIji, Flight Facilities, Seven Lions, Phaeleh, Gemini, Emancipator, Banks….

  29. I listen to Childish Gambino’s “Because the Internet” or “Kauai” when I need to get in the zone for either writing blog posts or editing photos. Both collections are very atmospheric and thematically introspective. “Kauai” is especially consistent and keeps me “in the zone.”

  30. The music (or music genre) I listen to when I have to be in the zone for work is–unquestionably–Classical music. I especially prefer something elegant and flowing, such as Chopin or Liszt.

  31. I usually listen to movie or game soundtracks. They’re mostly instrumental and I find that helps me get in the zone. The Social Network soundtrack is a current favourite.

  32. The GoPro Hero 2 trailer is what introduced me to The Glitch Mob. Such a great video and song.

    Favorite writing songs:

    Angels and Airwaves – Diary

    Woodkid – Run Boy Run (instrumental)

    Ludovico Einaudi – Experience

    Goldmund – Threnody

  33. Lately it’s been the “Code Your Face-off” playlist on Songza. Or Vivaldi. I go through phases. When I’m in the kitchen, my work (well, play really…) is cooking, and there is nothing better than a little country (Caitlin Rose) – with a glass of wine of course!

  34. My favorites are Fripp and Eno No Pussyfooting and Terry Riley Rainbow in Curved Air. Just put them on repeat and work away. Brian Eno Discrete Music is good too.

  35. I listen to the Skyrim soundtrack on repeat during work, but if I need a higher level of motivation that morning, I switch to a playlist of soundtracks including Iron Man, Bourne Identity and Inception.

    I can’t work with anything that has lyrics.

  36. Very much like Matt Mullenweg I typically listen to the same track on repeat. 🙂 Tonight it’s: Dimmu Borgir – Dimmu Borgir [ Orchestral ]

  37. I listen to a Phish show or one song from a show in particular that really sticks out to me on repeat. It really helps when I get to that point of an infinite loop. Once in awhile my ears will perk up and notice a Trey Anastasio peak.

  38. Any Krautrock (Neu, Can, etc)

    Any Jamaican dub music (King Tubby, Lee Perry, etc)

    The Orb – The Orb’s Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld

    KLF – The Chill Out

    Augustus Pablo – East of the River Nile

    Jackie Mittoo

    Massive Attack

    Death in Vegas

    Suicide – Suicide

    Arthur Russell – First Thought Bad Thought

    Spiritualized – Pure Phase

    Back to Mine series

    Late Night Tales series

    24 hours of Star Trek Ambient engine noise idleing

  39. My go to music for long periods of concentration on a work project, or for prepping for killer presentations, is The Aristocrats, Joe Satriani, Plini, Nili Brosh, Nick Johnston, Bryan Beller and Guthrie Govan. If I need vocals, Davy Knowles and Queens Of The Stone Age are the first two I go for. Joe Bonamassa and Mike Keneally fall into either group.

  40. Please get Ray Kurzweil onto your podcast. We want you to pick his brain for updates on his predictions and thoughts on the upcoming biotech revolution.

  41. Some of my favorite stations on Pandora include:



    Crave You (Adventure Club Dubstep Remix)

    Shrunken Heads

    Junior’s Throwin Craze (Woolfy Mix)


  42. I always need some mix: jazz + hip-hop, jazz + classical, classical + hip-hop, pop+ classical, rock + classical…etc. it does something interesting to the brain, boosts creativity, it becomes easier to find creative solutions that are in the intersection too and it does put you in the zone

  43. I may be a bit strange, but I listen to a lot of dubstep, heavy bass music and funk edm when I’m trying to work. My favorites:

    – bassnectar

    – griz

    – gramatik

    – flux pavilion

    – 20syl

    – zeds dead

  44. Zone out time gets a bunch of cage the elephant, black keys, Leon Russell, and psychobilly a la reverend Horton heat. More chill zoning gets Consider the Source, Leon Russell, and the Mumford breed coming out right now.

  45. Deafheaven’s “Tunnel of Trees”.

    Both their albums are really amazing. I was never really into this genre of music due to the vocals but the vocals for Deafheaven almost act as another instrument that tie the whole sing together. It gets you pumped and focused real quick.

  46. NeedToBreathe.

    IMHO, the most underrated rock band of our time.

    I encourage you to give them a listen – I put their most recent 3 albums (The Outsiders, The Reckoning, Rivers in The Wasteland) on repeat and go.

    Their first album had some great songs. but was far less consistent. Full disclosure – their roots are in Christian Rock, but they’ve done a lot of crossover work and very little of what they sing is IN YOUR FACE.

    It’s tough to choose just a few songs that are representative, but since this is about flow, below are a few of their upbeat, driving songs. It’s not AC/DC driving, but these are all great, energizing songs. They are equally good with slow, contemplative songs, but that’s for a different day.

    1. The Reckoning:

    – They had a great documentary about the making of this album on Netflix until recently.

    2. Devil’s Been Talkin’:

    3. Girl Named Tennessee:

    4. The Heart (silly accolade, but it was just used in the video for Macho Man’s induction into the WWE Hall of Fame):


    5. Multiplied (nominated for a GRAMMY!):

    6. Brother (completely unplugged, no mic):

    7. Brother (Original, for comparison):

    Need more? Happy to send a complete list if you like them!

  47. When my work involves deep thinking, I like to have something pretty ambient, like post-rock or new classical. Spotify has a great playlist called Deep Focus that I use often. If I’m looking for something on my own it would be along the lines of Sigur Ros or Explosions in the Sky.

    Another good Spotify playlist for focus is Indie Classical.

    And when I’m writing, especially if it’s about materially I know well, I like hip-hop. It helps me stay in the flow. I think it helps that I don’t really pay attention to lyrics as it could be difficult to write if you’re trying to keep up they’re saying.

  48. My biased opinion on the best music to get into a flow state: Explosions in the Sky, This Will Destroy You, Tycho, Andrew Bird – Echolocations, Chopin – Nocturnes, and the classical essentials.

    High energy flow music (workout): Animals as Leaders, Scale the Summit, Russian Circles.

    All instrumental and all amazing!

  49. Movie scores get me in the working ‘zone’. “The Social Network” is particularly motivating when working at a computer! For more orchestral, adventurous scores, I like “The Hunger Games” and “Kingdom of Heaven”. I also like chilled-out electronic or acoustic music (without vocals). Imogen Heap’s instrumental version of her album “Ellipse” is good (which came with the hard copy album). For unobtrusive music with vocals, I like the last couple of albums by Scandinavian songstresses Emiliana Torrini and Agnes Obel. The music of Scottish folk singer Julie Fowlis is also great because she sings in Gaelic so I can’t get distracted by the lyrics, because I have no idea what she’s singing! Sometimes instead of music I’ll just listen to – I’m a musician so it can be very hard for me to concentrate while listening to music (especially vocal music) because I’ll start to analyse it.

  50. I like Iron Maiden – Brave New World

    i found out that i only need music to enter the zone but not to stay, once im in the zone i have to turn it off

  51. Whenever I’m trying to get into the zone for any of my web dev related work, or if I just want to chill and listen to something awesome, I check out the mix on 8tracks called “I’ve been drinking” which is an edm mix that’s over 5 hours long and has some very awesome tracks in there. You can find it here:

    It’s awesome! Check it out!


  52. Weird karmic fate perhaps, but lately I’ve had The Glitch Mob “Fortune Days” on loop for coding sessions lately.

  53. i listen to “the social network” soundtrack by trent doesn’t have any lyrics to distract you and gets you in the zone.check it out.

  54. EDM: Genevieve, Felix Cartel, Panama, Santigold, Banks, Mr FijiWIji, Flight Facilities, Seven Lions, Phaeleh, Gemini, Emancipator, Banks….

    (Oops – should have read the comment rules 🙂 )

  55. To white out distraction and put my brain into a focused alert state, I follow advise of the great Bulgarian father of “superlearning” Georgi Lozanov and listen only to non-lyrical baroque music – Vivaldi, Bach, Handel, et al. iTunes Radio has a few baroque classical stations that I’ll just loop.

  56. When I really need to drown out background distractions (I have 3 kids) I use the Coffitivity app. Music is limited to instrumental / ambient stuff: Music for Airports by Brian Eno is a standard choice, also things like the Piano Guys, instrumental covers work well. No deep lyrics please: I’m workin’ here!

  57. I have a study Playlist that always gets me ready to work. The first track is the Jurassic Park Theme and the rest are from various movie soundtracks: Gladiator, 300, Inception, The Road, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, 28 Days Later, etc. I also have some Pentaphobe, Beats Antique, and Amon Tobin mixed in there.

  58. How can I not say my own music here?? Shameless self-promotion commencing now! I’ve got my debut album coming out this weekend, so have a listen to a track here:

    Otherwise, I like to listen to a broad range of stuff when I’m getting things done. I guess it depends on what I’m doing and how much attention I need to give it. If not much attention, something really engaging or that I can really get into musically… If a lot of attention, then just something nice or that I’ve heard a million times. Recently I’ve listened to a lot of Bjork, Sufjan Stevens, Puscifer and Goldfrapp.

  59. Currently listening to:

    M83; Midnight City

    Made in Hights; Murakami

    Indiana; Shadow Flash

    alt-J; Nara

    Vaults; Lifespan

    Gems; Medusa

    Marian Hill; Lips

    Nina Simone; Feeling Good

    Broken Bells; The Ghost Inside

    Leonard Cohen; I’m Your Man

  60. I usually have music without lyrics so my mind doesnt try to focus on the lyrics and sing along instead of having the attention on work. I also like to have House music as it’s a bit up tempo and makes me more energized than relaxed which keeps me from getting tired easily with the computer (which is my primary work tool).

  61. I use dubstep for my brain the same way they used “sky flowers” in LAND OF THE DEAD to distract the zombies. I need a soundtrack otherwise my brain just attacks me. Assuming that I need to move or write quickly, I often use the following:

    Knife Party – “Clever Title Like Deadmau5 Would Use”

    Death From Above 1979, esp. The Physical World

    Tinie Tempah – “Five Minutes”

    Sleigh Bells, esp. Treats

    Diablo Swing Orchestra

    Broken Social Scene – “Meet Me in the Basement”

    2 Skinnee Js esp. Sing, Earthboy, Sing!

    Dead Combo – “Electric Cadente (versao orquestra)”

    Big Gigantic

    Boom Boom Satellites