Steve Aoki is a 21st century renaissance man.
While playing shows from South Carolina to South Africa this year, he still managed to release a full-length album with an all-star lineup of features, dabble in multiple business ventures and fashion design, and promote his favorite worldly causes. All while keeping a coupla college degrees from UC Santa Barbara on hand.
There’s no slowing down for a guy who built one of electronic music’s most influential labels, Dim Mak, from his college dorm room in 1996 and plays hundreds of shows per year. But Aoki took a few minutes to sit down after his party at Ruby Skye last week and give us the scoop on what makes his wheels turn.Play On Soundcloud
The crowds. If I played in a cocktail bar I don’t think I could do my show. People holding up little martini glasses and not dancing. Meh. The energy is just incredible.
I definitely haven’t taken it over, but I would consider myself part of the group of DJs that is doing something significant. But it’s really all about the music. Without the music there would be no Steve Aoki in the electronic world.
I started as a songwriter playing guitar when I was a teenager. Luckily I learned how to play music and write music at an early age when I was developing everything about being a human being. So I just transferred that over to a keyboard and learned how to produce a song electronically.
I love it. I’ve always sought feedback since I was a kid from friends, now I’ve got a wider range of feedback. I read all my responses! Well, it’s really all about timing, like with a Twitter feed. I try, but I probably miss a bunch.
It’s like working in a band again. When you’re producing on your own you’ve got your own ideas and you don’t have to hear anyone say “No, that’s bad!” But when you’re in a band it’s democratic. You write a guitar riff and the singers not vibing on it you have to change it, and it’s the same thing. Just writing together, it’s a completely different inspiration to writing music.
It was the beginning of 2011, Dim Mak had released an Autoerotique single called “Turn Up The Volume” and in the video there were these exploding cakes all in slow motion against peoples faces. And I was playing the song out to promote it. Then I just woke up with the idea one day of, “Oh, I should be caking people.” And the video became iconic, it went viral. In a month’s time it had like 300,000 views. So I decided to start caking people during the song. I eventually retired the song, but kept the cake.
What ever the promoter provides. We don’t try to make it specific, but we just don’t want to hurt anyone. We do throw it at their faces.
The cities with the most active crowds. And there are a lot of them. My favorite to just go and hang out at is Tokyo, because I like buying clothes. I love the fashion designers from Tokyo.
The music! Some people won’t even know how to speak English, and they’ll still love the song.
I definitely don’t knock on people that don’t, but I choose to. I have a right, actually an obligation, a responsibility, to speak about things I care about. So even if I offend fans I’ve still got to speak my mind.
I’ve never thought about it like that, but that’s a good way to live.Play On Soundcloud
The DJZ/10 is a collection of ten DJs that we think you should know about now. Some of them are already familiar to you, others you may have never heard of. The list is not based on (1) a secret computer algorithm, (2) social media popularity, or (3) payola. Every month or so we get together to decide if somebody from the broader A…Z directory is about to break out and should be included in the DJZ/10, or if somebody already on the list, for that matter, is “phoning it in” and deserved to be replaced by another DJ who is more worthy.×