Steve Aoki Discusses Touring, Throwing Cakes At Fans, Drug Use In EDM, Working With Linkin Park
Steve Aoki has been spinning records “for the kids” forever, before the whole EDM movement took off, and now he is one of the biggest DJs in the world. He’s tried to “Aokify” everything around him and is known for showcasing new music throughout his set, for his cake-throwing, and for his Aoki-style jumps throughout the world. Recently, Aoki got the opportunity to throw cake in Dr. Drew’s face because “once he said he was OK with it, it had to happen,” laughed Aoki.
Aoki’s hometown is Los Angeles and he hasn’t played Los Angeles in a year—which makes his announcement that he’s playing The Shrine on November 15th even more important. Tickets go on sale Friday at AokifyAmerica.com and the DJ says there will be tons of awesome special guests on hand.
I wanted to make sure that when we announced it that it would be a big announcement, especially on your show because this is Southern California listening right now on Kevin and Bean,” said Aoki. He’ll be touring with Borgore and Waka Flocka.
It’s easy to imagine who his superstar roster will be, but also hard because everyone in the EDM community is so chill with each other. Aoki said that there’s not a lot of competition and when someone puts out a good song, everyone wants to get their hands on it to play during their own DJ sets. It’s a really “harmonious” community.
“There are no weird beefs or cliques. And all the different genres of music…everyone respects each other,” claimed Aoki. “From Skrillex to Deadmau5 to Calvin Harris to Tiesto, I mean, like we’re all respectful and we all want to play each other’s music.”
It might be that all these DJs have shared a similar chaotic lifestyle. Aoki said that on some tours he only gets three hours of sleep a night and will catch little bits of sleep while he’s in a car. If it’s a bus tour, it’s better, because he can sleep while traveling and he also has his studio in the bus. Tomorrow night, Aoki will be in East Lansing, Michigan and then be on the road for ten nights in a row working. He says it’s easier for DJs versus bands because there’s a smaller crew involved, but that traveling is the “hardest part.”
“That will kill you, son,” remarks Bean about Aoki’s sleepless lifestyle, to which Aoki amicably replied,” “That’s how I’ve survived. I don’t know how, but it’s a kind of adaptive instinct that you have to learn to have this lifestyle. “
It helps that Aoki doesn’t drink or do drugs or any kind. At one point, he was drinking at every show and “doing these crazy run of shows,” but he finds that party lifestyle slowed down his flow. “It’s actually ridiculously hard to party hard and tour,” admitted Aoki. As for the proliferation of drugs in the EDM scene, Aoki was diplomatic, but still stressed the negative side effects that could occur.
“Of course, it’s tragic and it’s really sad when these things happen. I think at the end of the day, it’s just about education,” confessed Aoki. “The first thing I think about is how can we educate people to be safer and be more responsible. So, if they end up deciding to do something, they know there’s a possibility they might die. And, I think, that if more people knew that it would change the whole course of people taking substances and whatnot.”
“I think that’s the one thing we’re all trying to figure out,” alluding, perhaps, to the many other DJs who feel the same way. “Is how to say that in a way where people listen and people will learn. And it’s not like you’re force-feeding kids this information because no one wants to be told what to do either, you know. They’re going to do what their friends do and if their friends think it’s safe than they’re going to do it. So, as long as some kind of information is getting out there, it’s just gotta get out there. But people like to hide that information.”
Being sober is not what people imagine when they imagine the life of a musical star, but many musicians find their way to the path of sobriety. Aoki recently worked with Linkin Park, featuring the famously sober Chester Bennington, on a hit song called “A Light That Never Comes” that will be on Linkin Park’s upcoming new album, Recharged.
Aoki said that he met the band through the magic of Twitter. While he’s known Mike Shinoda for a long time, he was asked to do a remix for Linkin Park. His writing process is “piece meal” and some of it was written in a cabin in Mammoth and some while he was in his bus studio. While writing the song, Aoki didn’t focus on making a hit song for radio and was actually surprised that KROQ took to the alternative song structure of the song.
“It’s strange because when I’m in the studio and I’m writing a song, I don’t write it to fit the radio. ‘Cuz for me, I’m really writing it for the club, so on this one, it’s exciting to hear a song with a completely different structure than the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus,” said Aoki. “There’s like a drop with no vocals and that kind of thing is going. It’s exciting to listen to it on KROQ and be like ‘Oh, this is actually playing on the radio.’”
Aoki said that while he’s talked to people like Red Foo from LMFAO about writing songs that “crack the radio code,” he’s decided to just keep writing the way he writes.
Which is fine, because Aoki is a huge enough star on his own. He doesn’t need to change anything different, especially when he’s dope enough to jump out in the crowd with fans while supporting other musicians at festivals.
“I’ll jump in the crowd and just wing it,” said Aoki. “It’s kind of fun doing that kind of stuff.”
–Nadia Noir, KROQ