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Steve Aoki: “I can’t do what other people think I should do”

In an in-depth interview with DJ Mag Insight, the Dim Mak founder and polarising DJ discussed charity, science, cake and criticism…

Steve Aoki used to play in hardcore punk bands, and now he’s one of the biggest names in international dance music. The EDM star gradually rose to prominence throughout the noughties, having started his now legendary record label and event series Dim Mak in 1996.

In a brand-new interview with DJ Mag Insight he discussed the origins of Dim Mak, and how the parties he threw triumphed in the early '00s as indie nights where he would play anything from Bloc Party to The Klaxons and other rock acts to hip-hop and alternative electronics like those of LCD Soundsystem

In telling the story of his and his label’s stratospheric rise to prominence in the dance music world, he discussed the introduction of “gimmicks” like his infamous cake throwing and rubber dingy diving. Despite its somewhat divisive reputation in today’s global scene, Aoki said that he wouldn't compromise over what critics say, emphasising that the people that come to his shows do so because they love the music he plays and the atmosphere that is created. Despite saying that he was disheartened by criticism and was considering stopping the whole cake pageantry in November last year, he seems more assured now. 

“People at my shows love it,” he said. “They don’t care! I definitely don’t care what a big DJ that doesn’t like it says. I’ve gone so long in my career to even care if people take me seriously or not. I’ve been so fortunate that I can build my career on the most important thing as a DJ, my music.

“If people didn’t like my music they wouldn’t come for the cake,” he added. “They’re not coming to get caked…. All the people that say ‘you’re a joke, you’re a clown, you’re a monkey or whatever’’s like, bring it on, it doesn’t affect my shows or my crowds. I’m a crowd pleaser. I’m not going to be Radiohead and not play ‘Creep’. I’m going to give them what they want.”

While the cakes etc. did stop for a short while in his career when he allowed those external influences and critics to get to him, he would later resolve to listen to his fans and do what he felt he wanted to do, saying “I can’t do what other people think I should do.”

Throughout the interview, hosted by DJ Mag’s global editor Carl Loben, Aoki also discussed his fascination with innovative science and medicine and how his charity foundation strives to fund such research.

Aoki released his new single, a collaboration with Daddy Yankee, Elvis Crespo and Play-N-Skillz at the start of February. You can listen to 'Azukita'  here. In January this year, Aoki, who studied sociology and feminist studies in university, said that male DJs need to “step aside to make room for women DJs and women producers on festivals.”

A one of a kind figure, Steve Aoki reveals a side of himself many viewers may be unfamiliar with in this brand-new interview. You can watch the entire thing below.

Check out DJ Mag Insight's recent interviews with Above & Beyond and Coldcut.