Steve Aoki is known for his high energy production, and his latest EP, ”It’s The End Of The World As We Know It”, released last week through his label Dim Mak, is no exception. In the midst of a world tour, the man known for crazy stage dives and showering his audience in champagne is remarkably relaxed, focused on living simply and great music. Fresh off a plane from South Africa, he took a moment to talk to us about his new EP, his crazy tour schedule, the future of EDM, and the one food he’d never try again.
BB: You’ve just released a new EP. What was the idea behind the release?
Steve Aoki: Yeah, it’s called “It’s the End of the World as We Know It." It’s poking fun at all the kind of the 2012 scenarios, that kind of thing. It’s three songs that I wrote throughout the year that I put all on this EP: “Singularity," “Omega,” and “Transcend." They’re all kind of either futuristic or final, like “Omega” is all about like the word ‘Omega’ means; it’s the last letter in the Greek alphabet so it fits with the end of the world. “Singularity” is all about living forever and future technologies and that kind of thing. “Transcend” is kinda like going past what you think you can get beyond so it’s all part of the EP idea.
You’ve collaborated with a ton of people spanning different genres and styles. Who have been some of your favorite people to collaborate with in the past and who are you looking to work with in the future?
I love working with Travis Barker, I love working with Will.I.Am... Redfoo from LMFAO, we really work really well together... Afrojack, we planned to be working on some new Afroki material... Angger Dimas, we did “Singularity” as well as a lot of other tracks like “Phat Brahms” and “Steve Jobs” and “Beat Down”. I love working with all kinds of people. I have a new collaboration with Knife Party coming out in three months or so, shooting a music video when I get back to LA.
You started out DJing indie music. What made you decide you wanted to be in EDM?
I evolved into dance music. I first started out playing and being a musician in live studio setting with like guitars and bass and live drums and stuff like that, vocals, and producing dance music now has changed where you don’t really need so many people in the room, you really just need yourself and a computer and if you’re working on vocals, a vocal engineer or something like that. I work in a really small studio and it’s just changed entirely from working democratically in a band to working on your own where you’re writing your own melodies, so it’s a completely different process.
EDM has really blown up in the last couple of years. Where do you see the future of EDM? Do you think it’s a passing phase or something that’ll stick around for a while?
This is just my opinion, but heart and soul of dance music is all about the instrumental music of the music, it isn’t about vocally driven records. Because of that it’s never going become over-saturated in radio, it’s not even saturated at all because radio is all about vocally driven music, so dance music at large is always going to be part of an underground. The thing is the underground’s changing where the underground is no longer this small niche subculture, it’s like the voice of the new generation, the generation of the youth today, their choice -- I think for a lot of different cities across the US -- is EDM.
So it’s just you can’t necessarily find this music on MTV... Actually that doesn’t really have music, but if you turn on the radio right now, you’re not going to hear even the most popular dance artists on the radio right now. You won’t hear even the biggest dance songs on popular radio. You won’t hear Swedish House Mafia and Avicii... You might hear David Guetta. You won’t hear any of these artists... Maybe Calvin Harris because of Rihanna. So you’re hearing about this music almost entirely on YouTube and through like blogs like BroBible and things like that, so it’s a different way of discovering music. It’s changed the way we find out about it and talk about it and discuss and socialize. Our underground is becoming so large that it’s becoming something else, but it’s not commercial. Do you follow me? So it’s not really going to die down or get burnt out or be a new trend, it’s just going to evolve. That’s what music does, it evolves, it changes, and there’s trends within dance music that will change, of course, but it’ll always be relevant and it’s always going be something that people can be excited about and have passion about.
It’s going to be around for quite some time.
You have a packed international tour schedule coming up. What’s it like being on the road so much?
It’s only exhausting when you don’t get enough sleep or you’ve beaten the jet lag. For me it’s beating the jet lag, because there's a jet lag threshold where it controls your sleep patterns and no matter what you do you can’t sleep more than three or four hours. Once you get past that and you get like a full like seven, eight hours sleep, you’re back on top of the world, you’re back in the game. Sometimes on like a two week tour there’s only room for like three or four hours of sleep. By the end of the tour, your mind and your body just gets drained, so it gets a little tough. If you can find that seven or eight hour sleep and find a decent amount of food, nourishment, and you treat your body right, you’ll be able to have the stamina to keep it going.
How many days in an average year are you home?
I’d have to check, but I think this year I’ll be close to cracking about 300 gigs, so I’m home about four to six days a month.
What’s your favorite country to play in?
I’d say America just because it’s so familiar to me and that’s been my biggest audience. But my audience is definitely growing this year. It’s been growing a lot in Europe and I have a really big audience in Canada, Central America, South America, and Asia. Thesame with Australia too. They’re all awesome audiences, I can’t say which is best, but America is definitely biggest. I’d definitely say this is my favorite because it’s my homeland. I’m Japanese, but I’m born in America, I’m American culturally.
I’ve heard a lot of fun things about your tour rider. What can we expect to see in your upcoming shows?
My rider is pretty much the same everywhere I go, but I have two parts: I have my rider for my show and my rider just me and my crew. The way I treat the rider is like these are all the things that I need: I try to be efficient with it so I’m not wasting anything. I have all the needs that like my crew want and I have all the things I’m looking for and I treat the promoter like kind of like a babysitter, like they’re like my mom. I go a into a city that day and since my life now is on the road, I have to think every day “this is what I would do if I was home." If I was home, what I do is I go to Whole Foods and I get a nice salad and I go to the best juice bar in town. I try to eat really healthy. So I have all those kinds of necessities like what I would do when I’m at home and I travel efficiently, so essentially I could travel two or three weeks with just carry on because I only bring exactly what I need and the promoters can stock me up -- stock all of us up -- with clean pairs of socks and underwear so we don’t actually have to bring any. Then there’s the party stuff for drinking and things like that. Then there’s my rider for my show, which is my way of interacting with my crowd, like the big boat and cakes and all that stuff.
Let's do a rabid-fire 12345 round: One food you would never try again?
Two artists you’d wanna see do a collaboration?
Mozart and Beethoven
Three weapons you’d need for the end of the world?
Three weapons... I dunno about weapons, but I’d say like, three things I’d need are lots of clean water, clean socks, and underwear.
Four things you couldn’t live without?
I travel with my Dim Mak bag, it’s like a scooter but it’s also a roller carry-on... I can’t travel without that bag. It’s actually coming out for sale in February. I guess like my phone, my toothbrush, I dunno.
Five things you’ve covered your audience in at a show?
Cranberry juice, cake, champagne, orange juice, and ice.