He’s among the most popular EDM DJs in the world. Still, Steve Aoki’s not just sitting back and surveying his empire. He’s got where he is through application and above all, enjoyment of his work. In 2016, the Japanese-American DJ, producer and label boss is celebrating 20 years of his Dim Mak imprint, which has released everything from disco-punk to dubstep. He’s also been putting in plenty of studio time.
Collaboration has been the name of the game, with 4OKI the banner under which he’s worked with artists including Autoerotique, Shaun Frank and Reid Stefan. In addition, Aoki’s found time to produce beats for other artists, with a notable emphasis on hook-ups with the current rap cognoscenti.
“The new collaborations I’ve been working on are coming out soon, with Lil Uzi Vert, Migos, Lil Yachty, Wale, 2 Chainz, DVBBS, Yellow Claw and more,” he shares.
Naturally, he’s been doing what he’s most famous for too, touring, playing festivals all over and caking crowds left, right and centre. Earlier this year in a DJ Mag cover feature, Aoki admitted he was over the whole confectionery trajectory lark, but also knows that it’s an expectation. “I did a couple of shows where I didn’t throw any cakes and it was awesome!” he said. “But I’m necessitating a demand. You want it, I’ll give it to you.”
Aoki’s sometimes-controversial live persona was the subject of a Netflix original documentary in 2016. The well-received I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead chronicled the on the road shenanigans of Steve, and explored how his late father, restaurateur Rocky Aoki of Benihana fame, pushed him to succeed.
When not locked in the studio or entertaining crowds with high-octane beats, Aoki raises and contributes money to his Steve Aoki Charitable Fund. Set up to help combat degenerative brain disease, fuelling research into new medicine, it’s also pumped cash into causes such as disaster relief and developmental disability.
“As an artist, I have a voice and a platform,” says Aoki. “I can do a lot more than just pound out beats for the masses. There are a lot of different issues that move me or inspire me to raise awareness and money towards helping different charitable causes reach their goals and essentially save the world.” BEN MURPHY
What have been the new frontiers for you this year?
“Producing music for other artists, not necessarily for my own releases but for their projects.”
Is electronic music taken seriously enough as an art-form?
“Whether it is or isn’t doesn’t really matter to me, because it doesn’t stop me from pushing my own boundaries and trying my best to evolve the culture.”
What’s the best new bit of DJ/production technology?
“Serum. In just a short time it went from being Steve Duda’s experiment to the most widely-used sound design tool in EDM.”
If you had to switch your style to another genre, what would it be?
“Jeet kune do. A style that takes on any form that suits your needs.”
As a fan, what is the top price you would pay to see yourself DJ?
“I would do it for a trip to go swim next to a whale shark, like in those epic photos you see from Nat Geo [National Geographic].”
What can be done to prevent drug-related deaths at dance music events?
“I’m no expert, but I would say more education on the repercussions of drug usage as well as more regulations of narcotics. More safety and security efforts need to be implemented to stop the drugs from entering festivals.”
How can we increase diversity in dance music?
“The more dance music embraces other genres of music, the more people from different cultures and walks of life will be enriched by it."