Submitted by Becca Antoon on Tue, 2020-10-20 10:19
Best known for:
Tune of the year:
“‘Dreams’ by Fleetwood Mac.”
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?