We caught up with global EDM legend Steve Aoki ahead of Ultra Europe in Croatia to talk about new music, fashion, festivals and much more.
How did you first get into EDM music?
Before EDM I was actually more into bands. I had a label for 22 years called Dim Mak records. Before I was a DJ I was throwing parties around indie bands I would sign or friends along with all different artists coming through. I would open up the club and DJ. In 2004 & 2005 I eventually started producing and started remixing songs, then I started creating original music. Then I got better at it, I started playing festivals bigger clubs and just started to love it.
When was the pinnacle moment you knew you could make a career as a DJ?
When i made my first $100. I was getting paid around $50-$100 for a show, doing them 3 days a week. My rent was $1200 a month so I was making money, easily making rent and enjoying it.
Where and when was your first ever DJ set?
My first ever set was at a bar called 3 Of Clubs in Santa Monica, Hollywood. I did it for free.
Name the three main artists you have on your playlist at the moment?
Daddy Yankee, BTS & AJR.
Do you have any new music out at the moment you can tell us about?
I just dropped a single with AJR & Lil Yachty. With the single you really get to here all the of genres coming together on the song. You get to hear Lil Yachty’s style and flow, AJR’s melody and you have it all under the foundation of an electronic banger, a true festival banger! I’ve already tested it at festivals over the past few weeks, checking that i didn’t have to remix it but the original went off, the crowd was lighting up having the time of their lives. I’m really happy to cross these genres. Outside the musicality, the lyrical references are culturally important. We are all obsessed with social media and how we present ourselves, how we are perceived and how we pretend. You know, we all do it so its all relevant.
What has been your career highlight to date?
Talking to you my friend.
If you could collaborate with someone past or present, who would it be?
I would love to do a song with Elon Musk. I think that would be really interesting. In the past, Bruce Lee. or I’d create a godly song with Jesus Christ or Buddha. Or if they existed maybe something with the likes of Zeus or Medusa.
Who’s you favourite DJ to go B2B with?
My fave DJ to go B2B with would be Martin Garrix, he’s a lot of fun. We play a lot of club shows. Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike also.
Who’s your favourite DJ to watch live?
Daft Punk. Those guys are great.
You’re not all about the music. You also have the Steve Aoki foundation, can you tell our readers about the fund?
It’s all about the brain and funding to raise awareness on mystery of brain and getting props and getting money for research organisations that really uncover the mysteries and find cures that plague a lot of us. Also to unlock the idea of immortality if you can do that, it’s going to start with the human brain. This foundation has been going on for 5 years.
Favourite song out at the moment?
Nicky Jam & J. Balvin – X
What DJs should we have on our radar for this summer?
All the guys from Dim Mak records. Keys n Krates, I’ve been supporting those guys for years. They’re like an electronic trio.
Festival season is here, what’s your favourite thing about playing festivals?
I love playing in front of brand new audience and a lot of them. It’s the best feeling in the world.
Which has been your favourite festival moment?
Tomorrowland 2014 – I stood up on the platform that rose me like 30 feet in the air and I was surrounded by the main stage audience. Closing the entire festival, day 3, last set… That moment the last song.
What separates UK festivals to those around the world?
You guys are pretty wild. I did a tour around the UK and I didn’t know what to expect because my music isn’t on the radio much in UK, but when I found out it was sold out the entire date I was stoked. I will never forget that feeling. All of England Wales, Scotland sold out with cities like Manchester & London. All these cities have just the wildest fans. Glasgow singing were singing ” here we, here we, here we fucking go” repeatedly. My favourite venue is Brixton 02. It was my 4th time selling out. I have some seriously devoted fans in London. I love my fans all over UK.
How do you spend your down time away from music?
I’m currently writing a book that’s coming out at some point. I also spend a lot of time working on my Dim Mak collection. I’ve been building up what will now be my 7th collection it’s a new project. I’m working fashion and writing this book.
What would you be if you weren’t a Dj?
Describe your fashion/style?
My fashion is always changing and adapting, you get a sense of what I love to wear in my clothing line Dem Mak collection, we drop a whole new boards and visions into each collection. I put a lot of travel inspiration at the time into my collections, whether it’s materials or the graphics on them. I kind of use that as my creative outlet.
Finally, words of wisdom for those wanting to make it in music…
You have to be resilient try and push yourself. Practice makes perfect so spend a lot of time in the studio. It’s not about how cool you look but about time you put into the music. You have to be a craftsman.
Check out Steve’s new music video for Pretender below: