It was truly an honor to be able to interview the #10 DJ in the World, Steve Aoki. He was in Dover, DE for Firefly Music Fest and I was fortunate enough to be able to sit down with him just a few hours before he was set to perform, which ultimately had to be rescheduled for the next day due to a tropical storm. I had the chance to fire away questions about anything and everything…from his latest album ‘Neon Future 2' to the charities he is involved with, it was an unreal experience which I will never forget.
(Photo Credit: Joe Papeo)
You had emergency surgery for your vocal cords a couple months ago so, first and foremost, how is your health? How are you feeling?
“I feel good. I can talk again. I'm regulating my voice more then I used to obviously, but I feel pretty strong.”
What can we expect from a Steve Aoki performance?
“”My sets this year are all about Neon Future, since I released both albums now, but it's still fun you know. I'm not playing like I did on the Neon Future Experience Tour. I played pretty most the albums, remixes and edits I made. I'm mixing it up a lot more, like I'll play different drops. I made edits as well but I'll play live mixes of new drops with new shit I get right away. So, I've been trying to play a lot of interesting sounds and it’s not entirely all EDM either. Depending on the sets, I can go anywhere in tempo changes. I like to mix it up a little bit more.
There are so many tracks that fans expect to hear at your shows, are there any you've had to cut from your sets based on time or trying to promote all of your new material?
“There are certain songs that are staples in a set that I HAVE to play like ‘No Beef' ‘Turbulence' ‘Boneless' ‘Pursuit of Happiness'. Those songs are kind of split up in my set and then of course I'm always promoting my new stuff like ‘I Love It When You Cry', ‘Lightning Strikes' and ‘Heaven on Earth'. Those are all big vocal songs so, I'm still introducing new songs that a lot of people don’t know about or the fans know about but I want to introduce everyone else too.”
I went to my first Steve Aoki show back in 2012 at the Fillmore in Detroit, which was a part of his Deadmeat Tour with Datsik. It's pretty cool to see how Steve Aoki has evolved and changed with the growth of EDM here in the U.S.. One thing that has not changed is the energy that he brings to every show. At that show in 2012, he sprayed the crowd with champagne, jumped into the crowd on a raft, and threw a cake. Regardless, Steve Aoki has remained true to himself with the same amount of energy, making his live shows truly a spectacle to behold.
(Photo Credit: Joe Papeo)
The first Steve Aoki song I listened to was ‘Warp 1.9’…
“That's one song I've actually retired in my set. There aren't that many people like you in the Pre-EDM era. That’s what I call it, that era was more like electro. The height of the electro stage really, but still like underground too.”
Do you feel any pressure to change your sound or style?
“I don't really feel the pressure but I do get inspired. So, the pressure actually comes in when a sound is so different that I can’t really put it on under Steve Aoki. So then I just have to create new monikers. I don't think I'll ever tell until like maybe 3 years down the line but I've already produced 5 different songs under a different name. Now, I feel like I might even incorporate some of those sounds in my next album because with an album you can actually freestyle more with music. I always treat albums as songs, like Turbulence is not on an album per say, it’s a fucking club banger. There are certain songs that are just club bangers and then there are album songs like ‘Home We'll Go' with Walk off the Earth. So, I think for the next album there are different sounds being explored…I even felt like I shed a lot of new skin with Neon Future 2, but as far as how the trends are changing so fast, it's not even that liberal. I thought it was pretty liberal. Neon Future 2 is so melodic, and I'm not necessarily known for melodic electronic music but I saved it for that. Neon Future 1 is more like hype and energy…club fun energy, while Neon future 2 is a bit more emotional.”
How did you get all of the collabs to come together on Neon Future 2?
“Well, my list was really, really big, and then it just all boiled down to the number of people on the album. But the number of people weren't like the master list. The master list was much bigger, I mean there are songs that I was doing with artists that we finished and they are never going to come out…It kind of sucks but it’s just how it goes, you know?. The more it happens, the less you are bummed. In the beginning I was just like ‘WHAT?' Sometimes I spend so much time in the studio on one song and I'm really proud of it and I can't do anything about it. I have a lot of songs like that, songs that are just sitting there. You can’t do anything. You got to be fair and you can't just bootleg it and put it out.”
Are you already working on your next album?
“The thing is…when I finished Neon Future 2, I just had a lot of ideas that actually didn't make the album, and there are a lot of great ideas, so I'm not going to trash them. I have a lot of different ideas and beats and then I go in the studio and I present the beats to different artists and rappers. Then their changeable, you know? Like Ok cool, you don't like this melody lead, pull that out, you like these pads? We’ll work off these pads and then we'll do something else. At least I have the ammunition to go in with for some of these artists I work with. If you want something done you have to do it fast and efficient.”
You have 3 Guinness world records, one of which was the most shows in a year…
“You know what? the truth about that is it's not even true because I did double the amount of shows. The only reason why is because that's all that they would allow because it was in a certain website. My manager was talking to them and said, “well actually he technically did literally double that”, and they're like if we allowed that number then they would have to throw out the whole thing. It's kind of weird, for example one of them is the most amount of glowsticks in the air. They have one person per 50 people and so of course there’s more than 900 glowsticks. I mean come on, you do a festival and there’s like 50,000 people. There’s going to be 10,000 glowsticks. That's why some of these things are so staged. It's not like truest to what is really out there. Like the longest crowd cheer…That was cool, me and Kid Cudi did that one together. We did it at my show at the Shrine and had a Guinness Book of World Records guy on stage, an adjudicator. Then he said, OK guys here are the rules…if you clap, if you whistle, if you make any other sound other than screaming or yelling, then it’s done. So you cannot clap, you cannot whistle. It’s so easy when you go two minutes in when someone just does a whistle or another sound…because you forget.”
So you're telling me no one clapped during that…
“No, the guy was looking around. I swear to God, because I said that too and I was like hey listen we're going to break the world record. The record was only one minute, and it was from 1980. The fact is in like 30 years no one beat it. No one even attempted it. You can attempt world records, you just have to look at them and you hire an adjudicator and then you do it. You can kind of Make Up your own. You just have to ask them and they have to approve it. Its like, how many times can you tap your feet (Steve starts tapping his feet rapidly on the ground). Then when people see it they're like oh I can beat that, and then it begins.”
Talk a little bit about your charities and how you got involved in them…
“With my charitable fund I can choose the direction and where the money is going to go towards, so that's why I created it. I kept changing every year where all the money goes. So this year we're raising money toward brain research. Everything has to do with the brain, so people with intellectual disabilities. They need help finding Jobs, so there's an organization called Best Buddies, which I'm actually an ambassador of. They help people with these disabilities get into the workforce and become part of the community again. On the other end of the spectrum, just research in general. I want to put more attention and awareness and educate people on future science.”