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Steve Aoki

Poll 2021: Steve Aoki

10
Steve Aoki
Down
1
From: California, USA

Rising star DJ/producer of 2021: “Ninja Attack.”
 
 
Producer, DJ, published author, label boss, restaurateur, sheet cake-launching showman — with this ever growing list of titles, Steve Aoki proves himself to be a Renaissance man time after time. In April 2020 he dropped his sixth studio album ‘Neon Future IV’, a diverse collection of pop-centric singles with performances from the likes of the Backstreet Boys, Zooey Deschanel, will.i.am, ALOK and Sting, just to name a few. In January 2021, he followed that LP up with ‘60KI — Rave Royale’ EP, a handful of hardstyle bangers crafted in collaboration with names like Timmy Trumpet, k?d and Brennan Heart. This six-track collection kept fans sated until it was safe to catch him in the flesh again.
 
Though the baking industry likely took a hit when last year’s tour was postponed due to COVID-19, the ovens are heating up once again. Aoki brought frosting-flinging performances to clubs and festival stages across the globe this summer, making stops at Untold Festival in Romania, HQ2 in Atlantic City, and Beyond Wonderland at The Gorge, with a set at the first-ever Electric Zoo Adventures resort party in Cancun, Mexico still to come. These action-packed spectacles were a welcome shift following the forced hiatus brought on by the pandemic, during which the Dim Mak label founder claims he spent focusing on mindfulness, self-reflection and time with family. “We can all use that,” he adds. 
 
Speaking of which, meditation is especially important to the two-time Grammy nominee. Though his on-stage antics have earned him the reputation of fun-loving stuntman, his contributions to science are noteworthy, too. His charitable 501c3, The Aoki Foundation, “has a primary goal of supporting organisations in the brain science and research areas with a specific focus on regenerative medicine and brain preservation.” Part of the way this is achieved is through in-person and live-stream events, the most recent of which was a record breaking $1 million invite-only Pokemon Box Break Charity Event that took place in October. “Also, NFTs to the moon!” he adds. “Collectible culture has been a fun joyride for me so sports cards, Pokémon, and most importantly (especially if you are even remotely interested in this space) keep your eyes on MetaZoo!"
 
Steve explores his rich interests, among others, in his two biographical books. In 2019, he published his second, in which he lends a deeper look into the life of the rebellious herbivore turned EDM-blasting pioneer. Aoki revealed the story of his incredible come up in Blue: The Color Of Noise, an introspective and critically acclaimed memoir that details his relationship with his late father, Rocky Aoki, founder of the Benihana empire. Though they didn’t always see eye-to-eye, Steve has since gone on to open restaurants himself, the most recent venture being Kura Kura Pa, a Japanese Yakitori joint he and his older brother Kevin Aoki brought to Resorts World Casino on the Vegas strip this past August. 
 
Always one to surprise, Aoki unveiled his new tech-house alias Ninja Attack in October with his debut single, ‘Aurora’, which sees the producer meander into darker, minimal territory, a stark contrast to the colourful mainstage sounds many associate with the unmistakable artist. 
 
Aoki continues to say he's got a new album in the pipeline. “This is going to be much different than what most people will expect,” he says. However, if there’s one thing he's shown us repeatedly, it’s to expect the unexpected. Oh, and also to hang several meters behind the rail, unless of course you want to spend the rest of your festival evening in a sticky-sweet layer of sugary goo.
 
 
How was your first gig back after Lockdown?
 
“The crowd was twice as wild and twice as crazy. People were so excited to be at a live show again!”
 
 
How has the last 18 months changed how you view your work/life balance?
 
“I enjoyed the lockdown. The reset is what I may have needed because I'm always on the go. More mindfulness, more self-reflection, and more family time — we all can use that.”
 
 
What further steps should the industry take to combat climate change?
 
“More education creates more action. Education is the key.”
 
 
What’s the best bit of tech you’ve added to your studio or DJ set-up this year?
 
“I haven't changed much in the past few years. If it works, why fix it?”
 
 
What’s the best album you’ve heard this year?
 
“'Go Global' by Global Dan.”

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2021-10-12 09:36

Style: 
EDM
Best known for: 
“‘Music Means Love Forever’.”
Tune of the year: 
“‘Pepas’."

Poll 2020: Steve Aoki

9
Steve Aoki
Up
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Steve Aoki is a man of many talents. His label Dim Mak has been championing a smear of genres, covering punk, indie, hardcore and EDM since its inception in 1996. Artists like Bloc Party, The Gossip, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Zedd and The Kills have all benefited from Aoki’s golden A&R ear, while his hyperactive entrepreneurial spirit turned the Dim Mak brand into a merch and live event powerhouse. As a DJ and performer, he’s become infamous for his cake-chucking antics, launching various baked treats into gleeful fans’ faces at gigs around the world. 
 
With the release of his ‘Neon Future IV’ album in April 2020, Aoki was primed to take off on an epic tour titled The Color Of Noise, alongside friends and collaborators Timmy Trumpet, Deorro, Riot Ten and more. Of the album, Aoki told us last year: “It’s similar to the previous ‘Neon Future’ albums, in that it’s heavily weighted on collabs across genres. I will have features with people that have inspired the way I think about the world and the future. There’s more songs on this one, and some unexpected features as well.” 
 
Those collaborators include The Backstreet Boys, will.i.am, Alan Walker, Ummet Ozcan, Bassjackers, Showtek, Sting and more, a list as varied as Aoki’s own business ventures. Back in 2018, he opened his own pizza restaurant in LA, following in the footsteps of his restauranteur father Hiroaki Aoki, founder of Japanese cuisine chain Benihana’s. 
 
He’s also deeply philanthropic, having worked with and donated to countless charities over the years, including starting his own Aoki Foundation, “supporting organisations in the brain science and research areas with a specific focus on regenerative medicine and brain preservation”. Their noble and ambitious aim is to “one day see a world where degenerative brain diseases do not exist”. His Mindfulness Marathon eight-day livestream event inspired millions around the world over this summer’s lockdown and beyond. Guests included meditation, sleep and memory experts, discussing ways in which we can tap into our minds and develop a cognitive relationship with ourselves that can help us later in life in order to, what Aoki calls, #SaveTheBrain. 
 
While the year might not have turned out as expected for DJs, or indeed any of us, calls for inclusivity within our industry have only grown over 2020. We asked Steve what steps need to be taken to address the racism in the dance music scene. “Dialogue and communication are the best first steps,” he said. “And at a deeper level, festival promoters taking a stance to make an effort to book a more diverse line-up to play their stages.”

As well as looking outwardly, Aoki is also taking positive steps within his own imprint: “With Dim Mak, we make an effort to hire more people of colour and women at our company. Collaborating with a diverse demographic of artists from all walks of life not only makes the music that we make more unique and interesting, but it opens the doors to new sounds and genres.”
 
 
What three things have most helped you through Coronavirus Lockdown?
 
“Ice baths, meditation and sleep.”
 
 
What lessons should the industry learn from this crisis?
 
“That climate change is not a hoax, and Covid-19 isn't created by 5G.”
 
 
What’s the greatest dance music track of all time?
 
“‘Sandstorm’.”
 

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2020-10-20 10:19

Style: 
“Multifaceted.”
Best known for: 
“EDM.”
Tune of the year: 
“‘Dreams’ by Fleetwood Mac.”

Poll 2019: Steve Aoki

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Steve Aoki
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Never one to stand still, Steve Aoki embarked on several new ventures in 2019. Alongside his DJ and production work, and his label Dim Mak — plus the endeavours of his Aoki Foundation, raising money for brain research — Aoki began to expand his chain of restaurants, Pizzaoki. Following in the footsteps of his late father Rocky Aoki, who founded the popular Japanese eatery Benihana, the DJ launched Pizzaoki outlets in San Diego and Oakland, with further restaurants opening in Las Vegas, Chicago and Long Beach too. 

Aoki also published a memoir this year. Blue: The Color Of Noise looks back at the early stages of his career, and writing it was, according to Aoki, “extremely cathartic”. 

“It’s therapeutic for me to dive back into my past to discuss my present, and somewhat foretell a bit of my future,” he says. “The memorial really explores the beginnings of my life, how I moved from point A to B, and I think there are a lot of people that can get their takeaways from this book.” 

Naturally, music took up a significant part of his 2019, too. Amid an intense run of gigs in which he played everywhere from Chile to Romania, Ibiza, Australia and Indonesia, Aoki worked on the fourth volume of his ‘Neon Future’ series of albums, a record which will see the light of day early next year. 

“It’s similar to the previous ‘Neon Future’ albums, in that it’s heavily weighted on collabs across genres,” Aoki says, “and also outside of music, I will have features with people that have inspired the way I think about the world and the future. It is looking like the biggest ‘Neon Future’ album to date. There’s more songs on this one, and some unexpected features as well.” 

Considering that previous editions have featured such unlikely guests as film director JJ Abrams and One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson, expect the unexpected. 

Beyond the album, Aoki also cropped up on Ultra Records alongside hardstyle artist Showtek and MAKJ with the track ‘Rave’, and worked with Alan Walker, Alok, Timmy Trumpet and even the Backstreet Boys on collaborations. 

Aoki’s Dim Mak label, meanwhile, had a mindboggling run of releases this year — more than many labels put out in their entire histories — with singles by Will Sparks, Bear Grillz, Quix, Riot Ten and many more all bearing its stamp. 

Considering his reputation for philanthropy and various charitable projects, it was unsurprising that Aoki deeply engaged with DJ Mag’s question about how we can improve mental health in the dance music industry. 

“Dialogue and communication are the keys to opening up to people that might not know that there are others that feel the same way, and people that care about them,” he says. 

In 2020, as well as his new ‘Neon Future’ album, look out for more collaborations — and most likely more iterations of his Pizzaoki chain.

 

Do you submit your DJ setlists to the relevant royalties collecting society?

“Yes.” 

What more can we do to combat the mental health crisis in our scene?

“We need to have a more compassionate culture and community, letting everyone know that they are not alone. No more pretensions, no more posturing, no more trying to be cool. Let’s start by being kind to one another.” 

What changes have you made this year to be more environmentally friendly?

“First, being more mindful of the amount of plastic I use to consume food, drinks and clothes — trying to use less of it if possible. I’m talking about it with others and supporting companies that don’t use plastic straws, for example.” 

What was your favourite toy when you were a kid?

“He-Man toys. Micro Machines. And GI-Joes.” 

What’s your guilty pleasure?

“Cinnamon rolls.” 

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2019-10-16 11:20

Poll 2018: Steve Aoki

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Steve Aoki
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2

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

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2018-10-12 11:16

Poll 2015: Steve Aoki

10
Steve Aoki
Stay
0

“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. 

Questions Top100 DJs 2015 - Jon Dommett - 2015-11-11 16:18

Style: 
“Electronic music.”
Best known for: 
“'Neon Future II'.”
Tune of the year: 
“Eric Prydz 'Opus'.”
From: 
Newport Beach, US
Breakthrough DJ/producer of 2015: 
“KSHMR."
What’s the most important skill a DJ should have?: 
“Being connected.”
Is the future still bright for EDM?: 
“I see a Neon Future.”
Does the constant travelling and DJ lifestyle ever take its toll on you mentally?: 
“Yes, that's why it requires a balance. You can't just go hard every night... you can't just be the kid in the crowd who's there to have the time of their life and go all out. There's a lot of things you can do to maintain that balance... I don't even drink, period, or do drugs... so that's where I get my stamina.”
What cause is closest to your heart?: 
“Brain research and future brain science.”
Which club would you like to bring back from the dead?: 
“The Hacienda.”
Why aren’t there more women in the Top 100 DJs poll?: 
“That's a good question. That's a big problem, it's one of the biggest problems in our world. It's very male dominated and it's unfortunate. There's a lot of different reasons, I guess...”
What do you think of DJs who use ghost producers?: 
“I don't really have a problem with it so much...”

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