Interview: Steve Aoki

The dance music star talks collaborations and science with
 Chanelle Tourish
Steve Aoki

What was the inspiration behind your two-part album Neon Future?
I’m a futurist at heart. I’m really excited about what’s to come and the reception to technology and development, science and artificial intelligence. All these exciting things that can make science fiction into science using the laws of physics and things you never thought could happen are emerging. That’s why it’s called Neon Future, it’s my outlook into the future and embracing that.”

Would you ever consider going to space?
“Of course I’d love to go but I’m sure it’s quite lonely up there. I’d be longing to get down to planet Earth but I love going above and beyond and trying all kinds of adventures, so that would be one of them for sure.”

Your project Neon Future Sessions saw you interview many of today’s influential thinkers.
“Yeah, it was a bit selfish because all these people that I met up with, I was already fans of, so I went there with excitement and for the most part I already knew what they were saying because I read their books. I interviewed biologist Richard Dawkins, who wrote The Selfish Gene. To me, he’s like the Charles Darwin of our time. At the same time, I’d love to go talk to someone like Deepak Chopra, or someone in spirituality, to soak up every category of my life. I’ve learned so many unexplored ideas.”

If you weren’t in the music industry, would you have gone down the academic route?
“If I had stayed in academia, I would have stayed more in the human rights category. That’s where my head was at and my actions and work was placed at the time in school. Music has opened me up into a lot of different worlds and my trajectory now is, I’m always going to follow my heart and my passions. And my passion is leading me deeper into the music world, I’m wearing a lot of different hats. If this wasn’t meant to be my route then I would absolutely be diving into the world of science.”

Why did you choose to study Feminist Studies in college?
“I was finding myself and I was just trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life. The most important thing I found and still live by is that I realize it’s not necessarily a financial goal I’m looking for, it’s more what drives me, what makes me happy, what fuels my energy. When I was in school, it was understanding struggle and figuring out how to activate people and to help build empowerment in communities that needed it, especially in communities that I resemble – so Asian-American communities. The women’s studies courses were taught by the most radical professors in the school and I gained the most passion and interest there. So I’ve continued down that path.”

Is that something you still get involved in?
“l do have a charity that incorporates my fans, so I donate a dollar for every ticket sold at organized tours. I crowd-source where the money will go and I change topics every year. Lately I have been really focused on brain research and science, because I feel like that’s a huge mystery sitting on top of our heads. If we are able to unlock and understand these mysteries, we can expand our creativity and opportunities in life.”

You are known for throwing cakes at your fans during your shows. How did that start?
“The cake throwing is essentially a by-product of my stage show. In 2009 I played Coachella and it was the first time I decided to throw a show were I wasn’t just DJing, I was interacting with the crowd. So over the years, I’m always trying to think of ways to engage with the audience and that was introduced into my set in 2011.”

Tracks like “Boneless” and “Turbulence” were massive hits. Can you predict how big your songs will be before they are released?
“No clue. I mean, I’ve produced a lot of music and I love all of those. Even the songs I love the most might get their little feedback or reaction, you just never really know. Because you think all of it is good, at least I do. If I’m going to say something is 100 percent done, then I love the song. It’s like if you pull 200 fish out of the water, one of them might be a big one.”


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