Trendsetter. Label Boss. Producer. These are the things that come to mind when thinking about DJ Steve Aoki. A producer that can never be criticized for a lack of a DJ performance, he is all about one thing. Energy. As an electro house musician, record producer and the founder of Dim Mak Records, and throw in a clothing line to boot, there are no signs of him slowing down. We had a chance to talk about his next album, his on-going tour, anime, and everything in between. Read below for the full interview…
Wonderland is really your first full ‘proper’ album release – can you talk a bit about your inspiration behind the album?
Steve: It is an entirely feature based album. I spent three years working on the album and had Travis Barker, LMFAO; it was very diverse. I thought of myself like a nucleus and everything else extended outward. This is my world but there are many different genres that define my artistry.
Working with such a diverse group of people – from Weezer to Lil’ Jon- did you ever worry that the album would end up sounding a bit schizophrenic?
Steve: It’s a collection of singles and I wanted to make it diverse and not one particular genre. So doing songs with Bloc Party and Lil’ Jon, its all just music to me. They are all friends of mine, and artists I’ve worked with in the past but I want to make it fun too. I wanted to have fun with this album so I just played out the remixes like Cudi the Kid, Come With Me, you know, all these tracks and now were apart of the whole puzzle.
Do you think you’ll continue to have guest-heavy albums, or do you plan to start experimenting more on your own?
Steve: I don’t know, I mean…we’ll see. I’ll be starting album #2 in January, and I really enjoy working with vocalists because for me as a producer, I like to push my craft forward. Otherwise it’s just an instrumental without that extra element added to it, which [adding a vocalist] makes it more exciting.
It took a couple years to release Wonderland, and you’ve stated that electronic music changed quite heavily during the course of the album’s creation. Looking ahead, how do you see music changing in 2013? Do you expect to see more hip hop/house music crossovers?
Steve: There’s always going to be crossovers! The culture of hip-hop is all about sampling beats and rapping about the current state of affairs. They sample old funky beats and talking about shit thats happening now and redefining it into their world. World’s have collided, and it’s now being accepted, so it’s really a whole new frontier! There are already so many different genres merging across and sometimes the end result isn’t a dance record, but a pop record or a hip-hop record. It’s a hybrid.
Within Wonderland, what are you the most proud of?
Steve: Finishing a whole body of work was a big, big goal for me and getting it done was great. There were artists that I love, and we shot killer videos. Having the whole package was great! Writing interesting song with artists and making great visuals is all part of the magic.
I’ve got to be honest here, your tour dates are insane! You once did 18 shows in 17 days, 11 of which were back to back. So I’ve got two questions – How are you still alive? And more importantly how do you find time to work on new projects with such an aggressive touring schedule?
Steve: Well, this year I rarely even worked in my studio at all. I probably worked in my studio like 10 days out this whole year. So, last year I had a different agenda and different priorities. This year was a crazy tour and really hammering Europe. It’s one of those places that is a really important place for dancing music and it was very strategic doing a full scale tour in the U.S., doing 57 shows hitting Canada and trickled for six months in Europe in the meantime. I was doing shows here and there and now im hitting Asia and opened up in India for the first time. [The] Australia tour… I just got off that, and this year is all about touring and studio time. I really focused all my studio efforts on the road so pretty much everything I came out with recently was all on the road. Dead Meat tour bus, yeah, I brought my computer and equipment, I brought my midi and collaborated the fuck out of it. Next year, I’m working on my album so I will regulate alot of time in the studio. More collabs with other artists but I can’t mention it until we’re done.
When you started your label Dim Mak over 15 years ago, your aim was to showcase many different genres of music. Fast forward to now – music has evolved heavily and incorporates many different sounds and cultures. How has the Dim Mak label evolved in the past decade?
Steve: In 2002, we actually put out the first record and that point in time, record labels and the music industry finally noticed what I was doing with Dim Mak. Finding the artists that you believe in and influenced, that was our start in that world and opened doors to working outside our small independent way of thinking. Starting in 2003, things started ramping up and I got a deal with a major label. The album hit 350,000 physical copies and the label started making money. Then we had employees and moved into an office [and] by 2005 we had physical releases. Then, digital came in, physical went out; 2007-2012 was the introduction to dance music. Now we have this plethora of genres of art where different artists and different worlds work keeping it diverse. It’s not about staying with one specific sound. I want to break out of that; future music!
Dim Mak Clothing just unveiled its Fall 2012 collection. What is the biggest challenge with encompassing the arts, culture, and music all into one brand?
Steve: Just take different elements of what’s happening now and what we like and put it out. Some of the designs, we keep in there for awhile because we keep what kids like and wear on a global scale.
Do you have any favorite anime?
Steve: I like Armitage, and I’ve always been into android culture and robotics since I was young. I love anything to do with the future. I’m a big sci fi guy. It’s a shame though because anime’s kind of storyline shows us how technology takes humanity and ruins it but [I think] it’s the opposite. I like the older ones, like 10-15 years old. I haven’t kept up with the newer ones.
Thanks so much and good luck with your next album and the rest of your tour!
Steve: Thank you, I appreciate it!
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