Phantom Planet guitarist Darren Robinson on Music, Crypto, and NFTs

Remember that show The OC… Fox’s answer to Dawson’s Creek? Yeah, me neither really… but I do remember that catchy as hell ‘California…. California…. Here we coooooooooome’ song that was attached to the teen drama.

That song has 20 Million views on YouTube, so many of you have definitely heard it.

The guys responsible for that hit were Phantom Planet.


The band shot out the gate with a debut record released on Geffen Records, which is no small accomplishment. Especially when you consider the album dropped in 1998, at the height of the internet boom… while off in the distance, the death bells of the MP3 were getting louder and harder to ignore.

Their second album, “The Guest” dropped in 2002 with ‘California’ offered as its opening track. And from there, the band enjoyed a fairly successful run. The list of bands they toured with and opened for is impressive by any measure: Guns N’ Roses, Sting (!), Elvis Costello, Incubus, Guided By Voices, Blink-182, The Zombies, The Hives, Sloan, American Hi-Fi, Maroon 5, Ludacris, Panic! at the Disco, and Paramore.

Phantom Planet seems very at home in the Hollywood industry… once ‘acting’ as a punk band called “The Bloodfarts” in the 2005 Bad News Bears movie. The band have also made appearances on numerous television shows and movies (Sabrina The Teenage Witch, American Dream). Even The Amazing Spiderman movie had one of their songs on its soundtrack.

phantom planetearly

And just to highlight that tinsel-town connection… Jason Schwartzman was their original drummer. You’d know him from all those Wes Anderson movies.

The guitarist for Phantom Planet was/is Darren Robinson. They’ve recently reunited and released a new album in 2020 called, “Devastator”. But he’s also been busy with some other interesting projects. Most recently being, the concept of crypto, NFTs and most specially… Audio NFTs.

So, you guys didn’t break your promise when you said you weren’t breaking up and were just going on hiatus back in 2008?
Darren Robinson: That’s an interesting story. We technically never broke up. Our bass player plays bass in Maroon 5, so he’s kind of busy with that. Our drummer had kids, our bass player, also had kids. Everybody’s just got a life kind of happening. So, finally, in the end of 2019, we started talking more about what we want to do, and decided to make a record, which was our fifth studio album called “Devastator”. I think that was aptly titled, because by the time it was announced that it was coming out, COVID Hit.

Great timing, huh?
It’s been a mess. The whole music industry is just… it’s been awful.

But Phantom Planet does have new music out…
“Devastator”… right. Yeah, a lot of people missed that. It was hard to get the word out. Just because COVID was happening. So we haven’t really been able to play those songs live except for… I think we’ve done two shows with them so far. That came out in 2020. Timelines for me right now… everything blends into everything else.


What caused the hiatus in the first place? Why did you guys feel that was the point things needed to be put on pause?
We’ve been a band since 1994, if you can believe that. I’m 43. People don’t often think I am. But I’ve been doing it a long time. And in 2008, I remember us doing a band rehearsal and going to a pizza place. And Sam sat us down, he’s like, “You know, I’m having kids now. I’ve got Maroon 5 that I’m also in… I just feel like I really need a break.” And you know, we were all pretty bummed about it. But at the same time, I think everybody kind of needed it. We all needed to like, reflect, and really figure out what we’re doing here. Just because we’d been going for so many years. So that was kind of the catalyst for it. I think we’ve all grown a lot. When we hang out with each other now, it no longer feels like kids. And you know, we were so used to being pretty immature with each other. We’re kind of like brothers from different mothers. It really, genuinely feels like that. Alex is one of my best friends.

Your first album came out on Geffen Records and that’s no easy feat. Is that a by-product of being part of the LA scene? With Jason (Schwartzman) in the band, were there lines to the industry?
A lot of people think that, I’m sure. His family definitely had connections to the industry. I mean, his family’s very… they’ve all done very well. Surprisingly enough, we didn’t really utilize any of those connections from Jason. It started with… this was before we were 18… we got a show at this place called the Dragonfly, which was on Santa Monica boulevard.  So he (Jason) got us a gig out there. And he was like “You know, if we play this, we have to go on stage, play the show, and then we have to get off, and we have to leave.” Because we weren’t allowed to be in there. But he knew this guy, Dan Field. And Dan Field was our very first manager. And he said, “You know, Dan is not saying, ‘Oh, he’ll manage us.’, but he wants to see us play. And if he likes us, he might take us on.” And so we played the show and left. And very shortly afterwards, we talked to him and he said, “Yeah, you guys need a lot of work… but I’m down to take you guys on.” So that’s kind of where we started.

Phantom Planet is Missing – 1998 (Geffen)
The Guest – 2002 (Epic)
Self-Titled – 2004 (Epic)
Raise The Dead – 2008 (Fueled By Ramen)
Devastator – 2020 (Gong)



















So to catch up to where you are at nowadays, besides the new Phantom Planet, it seems you are focusing on Audio NFTs. NFTs in general are definitely all the hype, but could you break down what exactly is an audio NFT?
I think it’s a lot simpler of a concept than most people would realize. So initially, when I heard about it, I was like, “What is non fungible?” That word, I don’t like saying it. I don’t like hearing it. But non fungible just means that… it’s a one of a kind thing. The way that I really started thinking about this was… kind of like virtual trading cards. But instead of there being millions of these trading cards, well… it depends on how many are minted at the time. But let’s just say I came out with a trading card, and I put 5000 of them out. That means that there’s only 5000 of those that exist. And therefore, people attribute value to that. They might be willing to spend quite a bit of money to own one of the 5000. I’m sure you’ve heard about Bored Ape Yacht Club and all that kind of stuff. People always say, “Well, why can’t you just screenshot it? Put it on your phone and you own it?” Sure, you can do that. And you will have that image on your phone. I mean, it’s hard to compare it to this… but if you were to go to the Louvre (a fancy museum in France) and you saw the Mona Lisa, sure, you could snap photos of it all you want. You can put it on your phone. You can make it look nice. But you don’t own that. There’s no value in that whatsoever. However, if you made a Mona Lisa, of an NFT, let’s say there’s 100 of them in existence. That’s it. That’s on the blockchain that cannot be deleted. It cannot be destroyed. It is digital. It lives on the blockchain as a digital piece of art. So part of owning an NFT is having that certificate that says, “I own this piece of the blockchain.” And that’s where the value is coming from.

I see where it would be a claim to ownership. But would that not be that same as someone who owned the rights to a song, but yet it gets ripped to an MP3 by some kid and copied a million times? They (the original owner) still own that song, and they’d be the ones who could legally sell that song, but that didn’t stop, a million copies of it getting put out there. Does NFT audio and the blockchain address that?
That’s a great question. I think it still just has to do with the fact that it has its own certificate on the blockchain. So if you had an MP3, but it wasn’t an NFT… Yeah, sure. you ‘own’ the song. But you don’t. You’re not technically owning that part. You don’t have that certified thing saying that you are an owner of this piece of history. That sounds maybe a little too flashy, just to call it a piece of ‘history’, but…  You know, these are all still so new that it’s hard to say where everything is going. Yeah, the whole JPEG photo thing, or even music, like the stuff that I’m doing, that’s just the beginning. There’s going to be so much more that NFT’s do. It’s way more than just like, “Here’s an audio file that I made.” or “Here’s an art piece that I made.” It goes way beyond that. It’s still in its infancy. So it’s not fully realized yet. But I think within the next couple years, it’s going to be massively realized.

So how does this all tie in to what Darren Robinson, guitarist of Phantom Planet, is doing with audio NFTs?
For me, personally, it’s not a band related thing at all. I’ve been songwriting for a while, just myself. I’ve learned a lot from the band and from Alex, specifically, over the years. And when I heard about NFT’s, I thought, “Can you do music? Can you do audio?” And you can you do audio, video, images… there’s so much more to it than one would think. So I decided to just write a song, maybe a month and a half ago, do it from start to finish, master it… Do it all myself. And then I would take the next step to see if I could turn that into an NFT. And by going on Twitter and talking to a bunch of people in the community, they explained to me that it’s really not that hard. So essentially, what you do is write a song. I create some original artwork to go along with it. I’m not the best artist in the world visually, but I try. And then I put the image and the music into iMovie because I have an iMac. And basically just line everything up and convert it to an MP4 and then you can upload that as an NFT. That’s really all there is to it. It’s not that hard.

For 5 bucks you to can own a piece of Darren Robinson art… while supplies last!

How has the initial response been to your audio NFTs?
It’s been really good. I don’t have the biggest fan base in the world. People know me from Phantom Planet, but I’m not a very flashy guitar player. I’m not like Eddie Van Halen. But people like me in the community, at least from what I’ve seen. I’m sure there’s people that hate me too. And so I just promoted on there and I tell them, “You know, if you want to support me, go for it.” And it’s been pretty good. The first one I did, there were only 100 copies of it. So that one was $100 each, which is kind of expensive. And then I just released one where there’s 5000 copies of it, and they’re only $5.

And if I if I understand NFT’s, you as the original creator, will always retain a certain royalty percentage upon every sale, correct?
When you’re creating an entity, you as an artist, get to fill in what percentage royalty you want. Let’s say I had 10 copies of something, and five people bought them. And then they decided to sell them to someone else who wanted to own that NFT. If I attribute a 20% royalty, I would get 20% on whatever their sale was forever, on each consecutive sale. If people find them valuable over time, people can keep selling them over and over again and making more money. Potentially. They could also decrease in value. There’s no guarantee that they would ever go up.

It’s very “crypto”… as it should be, considering it runs on the on the same blockchain. So obviously, it does share a lot of the same aspects.
Exactly. It’s kind of like having your own token, right? But you just get to assign whatever use case you want to it. Or maybe there is no use case and it’s just the image or just the music file.

I would assume if you’re familiar with NFTs and how they work, you are also familiar with the crypto space as well. Did one lead to the other? Are you active in crypto? 
I’m very active in it. But that’s only as of April of last year. I had gotten into it in 2016, a little Bitcoin. Not much. Maybe a $100 worth. I never took it seriously. Actually, I lost my password. A few thousand… but I did that initially. But last year in April, our singer Alex wrote to me, and he’s like, “You know, if you want to get back into Bitcoin, it’s at an all time low.” I think it was at $47,000. So it was higher than it is right now… And he’s like, “You know, if I were you, I’m not giving you advice here… but I’m just telling you, if I were you, I think now is a good time.” So I thought, “All right, I’ll do it.” So I threw $500 into Bitcoin and just kind of left it that.

And so he told me that and I bought it. And then… you know, I’m on YouTube. And once I throw a little bit of money in there, I’m thinking, “Alright, what else is there? I should learn more about this and have a better understanding.” And sure enough, on YouTube, I kept seeing people post about SafeMoon. And let me point out by the way, I’m not paid by SafeMoon and I’m not like an official spokesperson for them by any means… I found them organically. Truthfully, I thought it was a meme coin at first. I think it actually started out as being that. But as time went on, you start to realize, “Wait, they’re doing this. They’re doing that. You realize that they’re actually a tech company who is really innovating. They really have some big plans. And they’ve been making good on their promises. Slowly, but surely, they’re making good on the promises. And one of the things which was just revealed, is called “Operation Pheonix”. And that that’s a weird way to say it. Basically, ‘phoenix’ but spelled with the the E before the O. So purposefully, spelled incorrectly. I’m not sure why. But the whole thing has to do with Africa, specifically the Gambia region and using wind turbines to generate electricity. Essentially banking the unbanked. And that’s one aspect of what SafeMoon is doing.

SafeMoon: a compassionate crypto?

Obviously none of this is financial advice… but I feel like Bitcoin is kind of like the gold of crypto, it’s not going anywhere. It’s going to go up and down, but over time, you’ll see it going up and down but at an upward slant. So I think that that’s a no brainer. SafeMoon is still new. It only came out last March (2021). So it’s very, very new. It’s still in its infancy. They’ve gone through a lot of drama, but where they are now is a very good spot. When I say that, I don’t mean that the price of the token is very high. It’s not. They’re not at their all time high. They’re definitely down from there. But if you have an understanding of what this team is doing and who the team is, and the people behind it, and how big the community is, and just everything that they’re doing… you kind of start to think, “Okay, so the price doesn’t really matter yet. It will at some point. But right now, with all that’s going on… there’s like a storm brewing. And ultimately, the other thing to know with SafeMoon is… it’s a deflationary token. So what that means is… like Fiat, or the US dollar… they could print as much money as they want. Which creates inflation, which basically devalues the dollar. But SafeMoon is deflationary. It’s the complete opposite of what gold is doing.

I’m sure some people don’t understand that some coins have a limited supply. Bitcoin only has the potential to ultimately produce 21 million coins and they’ve already mined almost 19 million of those.
That is very true of Bitcoin. There’s a lot less supply, though, which is why it can be $30,000 per coin or more… where Safemoon is like, fractions of a penny per coin. But with what they’re doing, over time, I have a feeling the scarcity is going to go up. And the use case is going to go up. And it’s going to do massive things for the price . But the other thing to consider with SafeMoon, the most important thing. is its daily volume. So if you are holding a lot of SafeMoon tokens right now, the amount of dividends that you’re getting is pretty low. You’re maybe making a couple cents every day as a result. But if the daily volume starts to go up massively, I’m talking like you get a billion dollars a day with volume… which is like Dogecoin, which I’m sure you’ve heard of. I’m not sure what their daily volume is now, but they were doing like 2 billion daily volume every single day, no problem. And there’s no hate on Dogecoin. I think it’s a great coin, but there isn’t really any use case behind it. It’s not deflationary either, so they can just keep creating as much as they want. So, maybe there’s some technicalities here that I’m missing, but there’s no reason that SafeMoon couldn’t potentially do a billion dollars in daily volume in the future as they start releasing products. And if that happens, the amount of money that you would make in dividends or reflections every single day is absolutely, mind-blowingly, astonishing.


And does that mechanic exist in other coins?
It exists in some other deflationary tokens. I think there’s a coin called FEG which stands for, Feed Every Gorilla. They’re another deflationary token, that really good people have good things to say about them. They’re deflationary. So, kind of the same thing as SafeMoon in that sense. There’s a lot of different tokens. There’s actually one called Baby Doge. They help animals so they actually have a use case. It’s not just you throwing your money at some ridiculous cartoon. They’re actually helping animals. And I don’t consider myself a SafeMoon ‘Maxi’ or a Bitcoin ‘Maxi’. I’m not ‘all or nothing’, necessarily. I think diversity is a really good thing.

I find it amusing that everybody who has an opinion on crypto and is willing to share it publicly, always puts that *asterisk next to their advice like, ‘This isn’t meant to be taken as financial advice….’, but then proceeds to say words that can’t be interpreted as anything but financial advice.
That’s very true. Like with SafeMoon, initially I put in a couple of hundred dollars. And I thought, “If I lose it, it’s not going to put me on the street. I don’t care. But if it does well, great.” As time went on, I started thinking about it, and realized I don’t know much about this SafeMoon. Maybe I should learn about this token. And as I started digging deeper, I realized this is not a meme coin. This is not a joke. This is a very serious team with very ambitious plans. So I decided to invest a little more money into it. I don’t know if people consider me an influencer or not, I personally hate that connotation, but… never listen to what somebody says and then just throw money at it… unless you can afford to lose it and don’t care. Take 10 or 15 minutes, read the white papers, see if they have a website, see what their market cap is… just try to learn some basics… of crypto in general. Then you’re a little informed at least and not just throwing money at it. Of course you can lose all your money. I could lose all my money in SafeMoon. I know that.

But that really could be said of ANY investment.

So let’s leave your Phantom Planet fans with something to look forward to in 2022…
This year, 2022, is the 20th anniversary of our record, “The Guest” and that was the record that had, “California”. We have some plans this year. I’m just hoping that they actually happen. I’m hoping they’re not all canceled. I’d say… Go check out our record, “Devastator” that was released in 2020. Even if you go listen to it for free and don’t buy it… I think it’s our best record. I genuinely do. A lot of time and energy and deep thought goes into these records. We’re not just your ordinary band that has four chords and doesn’t put a lot of thought into them. We are very meticulous with lyrics and what each part is doing on the guitar. We are a pretty thoughtful band. I’m not sure people would expect that.


Check out Phantom Planet at their official website:

Darren Robinson Audio NFTs:

Darren Robinson Twitter:  @darrenrobinson


And because you know you want to hear it…

And some more choice tracks off the newest Phantom Planet album, “Devastator”…