Much like Satoshi Nakamoto’s decentralized money system, the Bitcoin Takeover Podcast was launched in times of turmoil and uncertainty. But if the Bitcoin creator’s struggles were global and concerned a corrupt financial system, my ambitions were more personal and extended their scope along the way.
Back in January 2019, a whole decade after the Bitcoin network was first launched, I found myself in a very strange place — both personally and professionally. Just like Bitcoin provided the concept of hard money a chance to reboot towards fairness, I also needed a fresh start.
This article tells the story of how and why the BTCTKVR project was created and developed. To make it easier to read and comprehend, it’s divided in two parts: the first one explains why I’ve decided to launch the podcast and how I’ve approached the project in the beginning. Hopefully, some of my ideas and thoughts will inspire other content producers to chase their dreams and create the art that they envision.
The second part takes every Bitcoin Takeover Podcast episode released to date and filters it through the lens of two essential questions: “What makes this episode a must-listen?” and “What is the surprise element?”. Hopefully, by the time you will have finished reading, you will feel an urge to binge listen to the entire series. But I’ll also be happy if you pick one or two episodes that you find interesting (and if you do, please leave feedback and subscribe to the show).
Now let’s talk about the BTCTKVR’s early days – prior to switching to the convenient seven-letter abbreviation and before it was even called Bitcoin Takeover. Back in January 2019, many of the events surrounding me were making me feel lost and confused — but in spite of all the sorrow, I still found a beam of light which gave me hope. On one hand, my job as editor in chief at Crypto Insider was falling apart. After the market capitulation of December 2018 (when Bitcoin crashed to $3300), my boss lost a lot of money and nobody knew if we were gonna see another payday.
On the other hand, by grandmother was on her dying bed after suffering from two consecutive cerebral strokes. She has been like a mother to me and I’ve spent most of my childhood in her house… so the idea of losing her was really painful. I was 26 years old and, up until that point, hadn’t witnessed the death of anyone dear to me. I had no idea how to deal with the situation and it was frustrating to know that there was nothing I could do to change grandma Costea’s fate.
My mind was repeatedly playing the final scene from “Batman & Robin” (yes, the Joel Schumacher film from 1997), in which old Alfred gets cured by the antidote that Batman collected after defeating Mr. Freeze. Corny, I know. But it was the kind of hope that I had for the person who taught me my first words and in whose house I took my first steps as a baby. During my childhood, while my parents were struggling to balance family life with their individual career ambitions, grandma Costea was the only constant and the reliable person who was always there to help me. I’ll never forget her.
The only element that was giving me hope in those gloomy days was the discovery of new love. A month prior to receiving all the bad news, I found this sweet and beautiful lady whom I can best describe through the fifth verse from Bob Dylan’s “Shelter From The Storm”: She looked up to me so gracefully and took my crown of thorns. “Come in”, she said ‘I’ll give you shelter from the storm’.
Given my unfortunate situation (job falling apart, grandma dying), I didn’t want to look weak and incapable of solving my own problems. Not to this girl, no siree. I needed to be strong, resilient and resourceful. I needed a fresh start with something of my own.
In hindsight, it was the perfect storm to motivate me to start a podcast. I was sad, uncertain about the future, and yet hopeful that I can improve my life and prove my worthiness to a bunch of internet strangers. Knowing that I’d have to face a new world through a different medium in which I’d speak to an unknown audience was both terrifying and exciting. But grandma (who knew that I was working late hours in 2018) advised me to try working for myself and build something from the ground up. She wanted me to be independent and this wasn’t the moment to disappoint her.
So the podcast became a vehicle to both cope with the anguish of human existence and overcome my condition. The goal was to keep my mind busy with work that I do for myself and according to my own standards, while also developing something unique. True art is created for the sake of it and I’ve pursued this motto since day one: I’m not trying to appeal to a certain audience. Instead, I’m working on something that makes me proud. If it’s good enough to pass my filter of self-criticism, then people will start noticing it and appreciate it for what it is. But if I try too hard to be like someone else, I will end up wasting my time and resources on a futile endeavor.
At the time, I was still hanging onto my university degree and was feeling as if I’d be a failed professional if I didn’t put my political science studies to good use. So I came up with the name Bitcoin in Politics (BIP, a double entendre which obviously references Bitcoin Improvement Proposals).
From BIP to BTCTKVR, and Choosing to Self-Host the Episodes
I tweeted about the new name of my podcast on January 9th 2019, two days before grandma’s passing. But a bitcoiner who goes by the name of Bitcoinpasada suggested that The Bitcoin Takeover/Eclipse sounds better. I read “Bitcoin Takeover” out loud and I immediately loved that imposing ring that it has to it. Now my podcast would sound as powerful, meaningful and hopeful as I needed it to be. Poor Bitcoinpasada, he gave me the million bitcoin name and I wasn’t even following him!
I soon started planning. After a couple of weeks of grieving over losing grandma, I had to take action. So I began recording my first episodes. I also took cues from other contemporary podcasts and decided to be different. Instead of having a never-ending stream of unrelated episodes, I’d pursue the creation of topical seasons. The idea of launching 10-12 episodes at once seemed like an ambitious enough undertaking to keep my mind busy from all the anguish and mourning.
At the time I still had enough patience to watch Netflix series, so I though it was a good idea to allow listeners to binge on a conceptual work from start to finish. It didn’t turn out to be the best choice to launch a show, as most people would feel overwhelmed by the amount of content and selectively listen to whatever they would find interesting. So it was far from the “vinyl concept album” idea for which I was aiming, as people consumed it like a mixtape of hit songs from which they picked favorites.
Nonetheless, I’ve repeated the experiment with season 7 in December 2020 and I’m doing it once again with season 10 in December 2021 – the Bitcoin Takeover project encourages artistic expression and has always been a way for me to express myself. Which is why I never chased clicks and focused on production quality over trying to satisfy a statistical quota. My philosophy is simple: if I keep going and constantly improve, then people will take notice, remember what I’m doing and then come back for more.
On January 19th 2019, I’ve also registered the domain “bitcoin-takeover.com” (bitcointakeover without the hyphen and btctakeover were both taken, but maybe one day I’ll be able to buy them). Additionally, I’ve rented more storage space from my website host, knowing very well that I’d need a lot of it for uploading large audio files of uncompromising quality (if you look at episode sizes, you’re going to see that I’m not a big fan of compression).
I knew that I wanted to self-host my content. Because at the time, social media platforms were banning Bitcoin-related ads and were shutting down accounts without granting the right to appeal. A new Bitcoin podcast would most likely deal with the hostility of big tech and therefore should aim to reach a reasonable degree of censorship resistance.
So instead of using Anchor or some other kind of third party service for podcasts, I’ve rented a server from the same company which sold me the domain and installed a free open source application called “Podcast Generator”. To this day, I still use PG and you can verify my allegiance to open source at bitcoin-takeover.com/audio. I’ve also built the Bitcoin Takeover website using a self-hosted WordPress client, so I owe a lot to FOSS. Anyone telling you that starting a self-hosted podcast is costly most likely has an incentive to sell you some kind of service. With a little effort, you can do it yourself with minimal maintenance costs.
The 5 Rules of the Bitcoin Takeover Podcast
Something else that I’ve done around the time was to write an article called “The 5 Rules of The Bitcoin Takeover Podcast“. Not many people read it, but I mostly wrote it for myself as a North Star that guides me throughout my journey. First and foremost, I established that (unlike other podcasters) I wouldn’t care about social media followers, notoriety, fame or influence when choosing my guests. It’s the quality of the ideas that matters the most, not the person expressing them.
Thanks to this self-imposed policy, I was able to get many guests who have never been on a podcast before. Yet in spite of their lack of experience with speaking with an internet stranger, they all had interesting thoughts to share. Examples of first-time podcast guests include FartFace2000, American HODL, Buzz Lightyear, Matt B, Avi Rosten, Shaitan Ioton, Sasquatch Muscle, Rajarshi Maitra, Lazy Ninja, Konikko Trader, Bitcoin Coder Bob, Atlas from Colombia, Karo Zagorus, Stephen Chow, Kenichi Kurimoto and Hitomi Moriyama. I also like to think that this balanced approach has helped me get a podcast guest whom you won’t hear in any other long-form show: collaborative mining inventor and Trezor/Satoshi Labs co-founder Marek “Slush” Palatinus.
The second rule of the show is that topics should be as timeless and evergreen as possible. I was never really concerned with news and sought to present ideas that someone can discover a few years later without feeling that they’re listening to obsolete information. I was inspired by Bitcoin Uncensored co-hosts Chris and Joshua, who truly were ahead of their time. For the most part, I was able to stick with this principle – but when a guest wants to make an announcement, I don’t deny them this privilege.
The third rule, and the one which I ended up breaking, is called “time is Bitcoin”. According to its provisions, all episodes would have a donation address, so guests would get 50% of the BTC sent by the listeners. What I discovered along the way is that only a couple of my episodes received direct donations and the idea of theoretically giving money to my guests was either a bit phony to those who didn’t want to feel as if they were getting paid to join podcasts, or else felt disappointing to those who did expect something. Bitcoiners like to HODL and I didn’t want to taint my maximalist badge by accepting shitcoins only to receive more donations – even if I converted it to BTC. So starting with season 4, I’ve searched for sponsors. But in the few cases when I did receive donations, I’ve sent the amount to the guests who rightfully deserved them.
If it took me almost 3 years to break the 100 episodes mark (with an average of one episode every 10 days), then it’s pretty safe to say that I’ve respected rule number 4: quality always prevails over quantity. It’s not about recording many interviews and publishing a lot of audio content, it’s about treating every interview as a significant event, as well as making the most out of every conversation. There is no such thing as a boring bitcoiner, and my job is to find all the best and most interesting ideas that every individual has to share.
Last but not least, I established that the Bitcoin Takeover podcast should be both informative and artistic. I’ve managed to do this by recording my own theme song (everything but the drums is played by me), by producing musical jingles for my sponsors, and by using colorful and borderline whacky graphics for the title cards (though in later seasons, I’ve abandoned the DIY underground style for a more refined bastardization of Renaissance paintings).
If you’re curious to know what kind of gears I’ve used for the theme song, then here’s the secret recipe to my tone: Epiphone Dot cherry red guitar -> Big Muff Pi fuzz pedal -> EHX Pitchfork octaver pedal (only turned on for the bass parts) -> Yamaha THR 10C guitar amplifier with some phasing effect and hall reverb -> Logic Pro X. After recording, I’ve done some more equalizing and panning. Maybe one day I’ll also open source the music file so people can play around with the song and turn it into the Bitcoin podcast equivalent of the opening theme from The Simpsons.
Bitcoin Takeover Podcast Season 1 (January-February 2019, Episodes 1 to 11)
The first season of the Bitcoin Takeover Podcast marks my first serious exploration of audio interviewing and sound production. Like many rookies, I tend to ask lots of stupid questions and use too much reverb (some people asked me why there’s an echo in my room). However, I was fortunate enough to have interesting guests who created memorable moments.
On YouTube, I’ve used footage that I recorded with my Sony X1000 action camera (thus fulfilling the quota for artistic expression). And on every other platform, I’ve posted self-made graphics that looked just as raw and DIY as my sudden immersion into the world of voice broadcasting.
Recording gears used: Rode NT1 microphone into a Focusrite iTrack audio interface that I connected to my 2015 iMac.
Software used for recording and production: I’ve recorded all episodes via Zoom, which turned out to be a bad idea due to the high amount of audio compression that takes away some of the expressivity and crispness. For audio production, I’ve used Logic Pro X and I must confess that I turned the reverb knob a little too much. As for the video editing software, I went with the basic iMovie.
Without further ado, here’s a brief breakdown of each season 1 episode.
S1 E1: Donald McIntyre on Bitcoin, the teachings of Tim May and Nick Szabo, and the history of money
Donald McIntyre is a collaborator of Nick Szabo’s, and a man who left behind the world of mainstream finance (he previously worked at UBS Securities and Morgan Stanley) to embrace the cypherpunk ethos. He’s passionate about history of money, cypherpunk culture, natural sciences, and anthropology.
What makes this episode a must-listen: The crash course in cypherpunk history and the fact that Donald McIntyre knows Nick Szabo’s work so well that this interview is the single closest experience to having the Bit gold inventor himself on the show.
The element of surprise: The tribute to Tim May (the cypherpunk legend who passed one month before we recorded this interview) and the criticism of David Chaum’s Elixxir project. The interview definitely is very cypherpunk-oriented. Also, Mr. McIntyre mentions “Truth Coin” (Paul Sztorc) as a must-have guest — thus establishing a goal that would take me eight seasons to accomplish.
S1 E2: John Carvalho on being a long-time bitcoiner and getting engaged in Bitcoin politics
Before he became an executive at Bitrefill and moving on to build the ambitious Synonym company, John Carvalho was best known as the CEO of Xotika (the first camgirl website which enabled BTC tips) and the Bitcoin hero who made Roger Ver rage quit at the end of a heated debate.
In this interview, we talk about some of his most memorable moments and the ways in which he got involved in Bitcoin politics.
What makes this episode a must-listen: John opens up about his involvement with the Bitcoin Foundation and speaks about the time he mined BTC in his garage. He also provides some useful perspectives about his personal philosophy on Bitcoin.
The element of surprise: John describes his debating technique in various contexts. He explains how he prepared for his confrontation with Roger Ver and also highlights the “zooming out” approach which becomes necessary when dealing with a sophisticated debater like Chris DeRose (whom I’d have on the show a couple of months later).
S1 E3: Zack Voell on Bitcoin as a political instrument, the opt-in economy, and dating as a bitcoiner
This interview marked the first crossover between shows, as at the time Zack was doing the Coin Pod. The plan was to feature the episode on both shows, but he never published this interview on his. Also, this is Zack Voell before he joined Blockstream and Compass Mining: just a university graduate whose fascination for Austrian economics has led him down the Bitcoin rabbit hole.
What makes this episode a must-listen: As fresh university graduates, Zack and I talk about Bitcoin in relation to international relations and global politics. It’s exactly the kind of conversation that I would have had on every episode had I stuck with the “Bitcoin in Politics” name.
The element of surprise: Dating as an outspoken bitcoiner just a month after the capitulation phase of the bear market was a rough experience. And at the time, Zack was describing part of it in his tweets. In this episode, you get to hear some spicy details about having a personal life when you’re basically married to Bitcoin.
S1 E4: Omar Faridi on Bitcoin in Pakistan and rebalancing the world economy
While recording this first season of the BTCTKVR podcast, I was still the editor in chief of Crypto Insider. Omar was one of my colleagues, and I’ve always appreciated his ability to produce a lot of content: at his peak, he would write 3-4 articles a day for a handful of different publications.
What makes this episode a must-listen: At this point, it became evident that guests from this season would talk about bitcoin adoption in their country. So hearing some insights about bitcoin in Pakistan was both refreshing and interesting — expecially in a podcast space which tends to focus a little too heavily on the North American experiences and events.
The element of surprise: Omar and I end up talking about geopolitics and how bitcoin adoption by small and historically-oppressed nation states would create opportunities to shift the existing power structure. If wealth migrates towards a country in a permissionless and peer to peer fashion, then economic growth follows. If only our politicians and central bankers listened to the talk.
S1 E5: Matt B on Bitcoin in Ireland and New Zealand, Satoshi Nakamoto conspiracies & more
In terms of writing, Matt B was about one year ahead of me: in 2018, he was writing for Bitcoin Magazine and I ripped off one of his articles (basically reworded his piece to convey the same meaning) when I was still a rookie writer at Crypto Globe. However, I paid my due by inviting Matt to get on his first podcast interview ever. Sometimes this freshness becomes evident — Matt was shy and soft spoken, but still managed to say interesting stuff.
What makes this episode a must-listen: As an Irishman living in New Zealand, Matt B has a broader view on bitcoin adoption. He speaks about both countries from a comparative perspective, which is always useful when trying to understand how different territories approach financial innovation.
The element of surprise: Matt and I end up talking about Satoshi Nakamoto conspiracies – a very hot topic in 2019, when lots of claims from different people were emerging. If anything, our discussion was an attempt to rationalize a contest of claiming merits without any kind of proof.
S1 E6: Buzz Lightyear on protecting Bitcoin
Long before interviewing the so-called “plebs” was cool, I’ve decided to allow the owner of an anonymous Twitter account to get on the Bitcoin Takeover podcast and talk about his understanding of BTC.
Buzz Lightyear was one of the earliest supporters of my idea to start a podcast, he’s followed my project since day one and was eager to join the first season as a guest. I, on the other hand, have decided that I wouldn’t care too much about reputation, followers, or any metrics that other podcasters use to vet their invitees. Which is why we ended up having such a great conversation.
What makes this episode a must-listen: Buzz Lightyear is a Portuguese bitcoiner who very much enjoys defending the network from people who claim that Bitcoin is a Ponzi (in early 2019, this was still the case in many places). To add up to Mr. Lightyear’s genuine nature, he even bought himself a new microphone just to have decent audio during this interview. He’s this committed to the mission.
The element of surprise: All throughout the interview, Buzz Lightyear stays in character and tries to talk just like an orange-pilled version of the Toy Story astronaut. He goes to infinity and beyond when it comes to opsec and the protection of his identity — but also manages to keep a sense of humor.
S1 E7: Avi Rosten on John Stuart Mill, getting into Bitcoin, and meeting David Chaum
During my short stint as a writer for Crypto Globe, I’ve become good friends with fellow reporter Avi Rosten. He also studied political philosophy in university, he’s a big fan of John Stuart Mill’s seminal work “On Liberty”, and prior to Bitcoin Takeover he had never joined a podcast on the topic of financial revolution.
Also, his line of work has helped him meet interesting people like cypherpunk grandfather David Chaum. So he definitely has lots of interesting stories to tell and I’m happy I was able to record a few of them.
What makes this episode a must-listen: Avi is well-versed in classical liberalism and the political philosophy which surrounds it. Also, most Bitcoin podcasters talk about the Austrian school of economics but neglect the freedom-centric writings of the classics. Avi talks about the work of John Stuart Mill, a man who influenced everyone from Mises to Hayek and Rothbard.
The element of surprise: Avi recalls the casual setting in which he interviewed David Chaum in London. He suggests that we must be very early if the grandfather of cypherpunks is so unknown to the general public and can become available for interviews so easily. I reply that working in Bitcoin in 2019 is pretty much like getting a job at BBC in the early 1960s: you inevitably meet John Lennon, Mick Jagger, and all the other rock n roll heavyweights years before they become world famous.
S1 E8: Anthony Lusardi on Bitcoin in New York, scalability, and altcoins
In a world of HODLers, Anthony Lusardi would often tweet about buying goods and services with his bitcoins. So I thought it would be interesting to interview him about what it’s like to use BTC in New York.
At the time, he was the director of ETCDev (yes, a development company which worked on the original eThErIuM chain): so you can call him a shitcoiner of sorts, but he has always been an outspoken bitcoiner (like most ETC advocates). Even after he left ETCDev, he would talk about making Lightning network purchases.
What makes this episode a must-listen: Though it’s short and a bit on the awkward side, this episode presents the scale of the New York Bitcoin scene. Yes, the city and state of New York has left its fingerprint on Bitcoin culture: from BitInstant (Charlie Shrem’s not-defunct exchange) to BitLicense (a regulatory framework which influenced much of the legislation around Bitcoin) and the infamous New York Agreement (the SegWit2X deal), there’s definitely a lot that happened in the area.
On the other hand, as of 2019, Bitcoin was still a minor phenomenon on the local scene. Understanding this only helps us realize how early we are.
The element of surprise: There was no “talk in the streets” about the New York Agreement in 2017 and Bitcoin is still an insignificant phenomenon in the city. This only means that our civil wars have had a minimalistic impact on the public perception of Bitcoin and we are still in the early days. This may also mean that the true battles are yet to come.
S1 E9: Crypto Brekkie on loving Bitcoin, international relations, and what BTC can do for arts and entertainment
Before he was Brekkie von Bitcoin (@BVBTC on Twitter), the “Blockchain and Morty” creator used to call himself Crypto Brekkie and post bullish tweets about EOS. Don’t get me wrong: he has always been a bitcoiner. But it took him a couple of years to really find his place in the space.
I’ve been a fan of Brekkie’s art since he first started posting is on Twitter in early 2018. My article about “Blockchain and Morty” was also the first time he’d get covered in a media outlet. So I’ve also wanted to get him on the podcast and have a conversation about Bitcoin. Little did I know that he’d soon become super popular and successful with his DIY projects.
What makes this episode a must-listen: If you’re a fan of Brekkie’s work, then this is basically him before he became a famous Bitcoin-only advocate. We don’t talk much about international relations, but we definitely express views about the future of art before either of us became aware of Bitcoin NFTs.
The element of surprise: Brekkie is not German, but at the time enjoyed using a slightly exaggerated Deutsch accent. It’s hilarious and maybe that it should make a comeback sometime.
S1 E10: Alena Vranova on Bitcoin as a mean for fairer politics
Now this is the episode which gets serious about global politics and international affairs. While she could have spent her time talking about the work she’s done at Satoshi Labs or Casa, Alena Vranova chose to present her worldview as a PhD dropout who’s fascinated with international trade relations. In her discourse, she also made use of her experiences with communism and free market capitalism. The result is certainly remarkable.
What makes this episode a must-listen: Alena and I talk about developing nations which enable or accelerate Bitcoin adoption for the sake of gaining a competitive advantage in this new financial revolution. So you should expect lots of examples from both the Czech Republic and Romania, as well as dated yet still relevant Cold War dichotomies (USA vs Russia in an arms race for the adoption of sound money).
The element of surprise: Alena recalls moments from her childhood when she had to learn songs and hymns about the mightiness of Lenin (she was born in Czechoslovakia and caught the final years of communism). This is presented in antithesis with her later ambitions and aspirations, which leave behind collectivist thinking and focus on overcoming individual challenges.
S1 Bonus: Car Gonzalez, in the first crossover with Thriller Crypto Afterdark
In January 2019, I wrote an article titled “Why Richard Heart’s Bitcoin Hex Is a Scam”. It described every facet of what would later become “Hex”, revealing everything shady about the team and the smart contracts that were designed to enrich the founders. Car Gonzalez got interested in my work and wanted to have me on this podcast — but since I was also working on mine, we decided to do a double crossover. All of my favorite 1990s albums have secret tracks, so I’ve decided to also include a bonus to the first season of the Bitcoin Takeover podcast.
What makes this episode a must-listen: Car is a smooth talker and a great listener. So when we talk about Bitcoin maximalism shortly after Giacomo Zucco’s famous Baltic Honeybadger 2018 presentation, it feels novel and exciting.
The element of surprise: Car opens up about his past interviews, in which he would give attention to every shitcoiner who sent an e-mail request. He tries to rationalize the experiences by expressing part of his disillusionment with the entire “crypto” space. It would take him another year to launch Thriller Bitcoin and Thriller Lightning, just like it would take me a couple more months to figure out a direction for my podcast.