From: Newport Beach, California, USA
DJ style: “The Touch of Death.”
Best known for: “Bringing forth the Neon Future. The third chapter, to be exact.”
Fave tune of 2018: “BTS ‘Fake Love’.”
Breakthrough DJ/producer of 2018: “Riot Ten.”
Hectic is an inadequate description for Steve Aoki’s schedule in 2018 — a year that saw him play everywhere from Romania to Iceland, Japan to Dubai, and fit in lots of studio time along the way. The EDM boss started the year with a new EP, ‘5OKI’, featuring hook-ups with stadium dance names Hardwell, Quintino, LOOPERS, Vini Vici and Laidback Luke. He also continued his commitment to cross-pollinating trap with dance, collaborating with rapper Lil Yachty again on ‘Pretender’ (after their previous track together, ‘Night Call’). Back in August, Aoki announced that his forthcoming album, ‘Neon Future III’, will feature another popular MC, Nicki Minaj, as well as poppunks Blink-182.
In order to keep up with the many demands of his diary, Aoki has a set of philosophies that enable him to dodge industry pitfalls, and he has some words of advice for fellow DJs.
“In general, always work on bettering yourself,” he says. “Be kind to people as well. The more good vibes you put out, the more good vibes you receive.”
Words: BEN MURPHY
“It's like you're driving a Ferrari at full speed, and that's fun and I love that energy; that adrenaline,” Steve Aoki tells DJ Mag over the phone from his car, but not while driving (we hope). He's speaking about the difference between EDM/electro sets and playing deeper, mid-tempo stuff to people.
“With house, it's a different kind of energy,” he continues. “You're not going full force, you have a really great groove that you can stay in; that can keep you in the same place and it's continuous, it lasts longer and it's a different kind of flow. It's nice to change it up. You're not speeding down the freeway the whole time.”
The reason for this discussion is not because DJ Mag is contemplating buying a new sports car — or considering what to listen to while driving it. It's because the Dim Mak boss plans to release a series of four house tracks early next year; each inspired by another season on the White Isle.
“Being in Spain for four months, there's a lot of English people who go there — and from mainland Europe — you really get a sense of what people are accustomed to.”
Tracing his roots back to DFA and LCD Soundsystem, it was the dawn of Ed Banger that heralded Dim Mak's natural disposition towards distorted big-room sounds. However, it was a tipping point reached two years ago that prompted EDM DJs/producers to sprout out into different directions, he says.
“Sounds became about, 'How much bigger can you get?'. 'How much louder can you get without it becoming too distorted, too saturated or whatever?' And we got answers to those questions two years ago.”
Since that point, we've seen future house, trap, tropical and garage/bass seep into the mainstream world of EDM and it's all part of its evolution, Aoki points out. “Nobody wants to do the same thing over and over again,” he says. “It's very rare to find an artist that does that.”
As part of his evolution, Steve has on the one hand found himself reverting back to the underground. On the other, however, the second instalment of his sophomore artist album 'Neon Future' earlier this year saw him working with various vocalists — the likes of Snoop Lion, Linkin Park and Rivers Cuomo — to make a series of crossover party/pop tracks.
Followed by 'Neon Future Odyssey' — a deluxe version featuring five new collaborations with the likes of Headhunterz, Borgore and Marnik — last month, it might not be a pathway to more radio play across The Atlantic — something which has been an “uphill struggle” due to “stigmatisation,” he believes. It remains to be seen if his upcoming house stuff will be.
Shifting creative direction with Stephen Glenn at the helm, Pacha Ibiza celebrated a whopping 40 years on planet Earth last summer, and with it started a series of new chapters. Some of these will be re-opened this year, whereas others have been closed, plus there's one or two fresh ones entirely.