Steve Aoki is one of the world’s most famous DJs, known for his raucous delivery of some of the most frenetic electro tunes available. A performer like no other, he crowd surfs in dinghy’s, throws cakes at crowds and has one of the most loyal and formidable fan armies in the world. Steve is a DJ and producer, but also boss-man of the long established and highly regarded Dim Mak imprint; a label that have released a huge variety of genres from hardcore to electronic dance and beyond. Extensively touring with his camera crew, he interacts with his fans and produces documentaries, as well as owning his clothing line named after his record empire. A very busy figure, Mr Aoki took some time out – having just landed in Stocklholm (from Ibiza!) – to have an informal phone chat with Pulse’s Ellie Hewitt about Malcom X, Molly, and some sound advice for his kids. Steve will play at Mixmag Live at Fire, Vauxhall this Saturday the (15th of September) which you can buy tickets for here.
Talk to me about Dim Mak, what is the ethos behind the label, how did it come about? Dim Mak, well I started it when I was 19, that was fifteen years ago. I’ve put out everyone from The Kills, Bloc Party, The Mystery Jets The Gossip and now more recently people like MSTRKRFT, Infected Mushroom, The Bloody Beetroots, Datsik. I think very few labels can say that they have put out such a diverse collection of music, my label isn’t for any one genre. In the last fifteen years I’ve released around six clear genres and then so many other blends. Indie, dance, post punk, hardcore, electronica, there is no one specific thing we cater to. Just everything that is worthy. I have a huge amount of people working on me and I really depend on them and vice versa, it’s important to keep that alive. When I was 16 my brother was a mod and we always had his friends round, I was only a little kid but that’s stayed with me a bit. All music is related closer than people think.
One phrase to sum up Dim Mak? Malcom X ‘By any means necessary’ [Laughs]. It’s true though.
Your thoughts on EDM as a genre? There’s alot of issues that seem to go with it – twitter wars, long articles in newspapers, ‘the underground’ hating on it… You know what, the amazing thing about dance music is that there are no vocals and yet it ignites people, gets them going like nothing else. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, where you’re going or what you’re about, no one cares when you’re on that dancefloor. It’s such a uniting thing, it’s one of the only things in our generation that is actually about an almost equal community. What people don’t realise about the American EDM scene is that there are no dance music stations, this stuff ‘EDM’ to them is incredibly underground, these kids haven’t heard anything like it before.
How do you chill out? Honestly, between touring, producing, djing, touring, my clothing line and everything else there really isn’t much time for chilling. I try and keep myself in shape, keep fit and healthy. At the end of the day though, my music is my life, I’ve been doing this for the last twenty years. It’s hard to switch off when you’ve invested so much and, of course, you enjoy it.
What advice would you give to future producers? Stick to who you are and what you want to do. If you want to put out really experimental noise, do the best experimental noise you can do. Do it for you, no one else. If it’s good enough, people will listen. If it’s not good enough – you’ve had a creative outlet which everyone needs. The best thing about music is that people really respond to music, they don’t have to understand the language, there’s just an emotive response.
Where are you based at the moment? Right now? Everywhere! [Laughs]. I just got back from my show at Amnesia with Sonny [Skrillex] in Ibiza, it was the last show of the season and the atmosphere was completely amazing, huge vibes. I’m in Stockholm as we speak. I’ve been travelling a lot lately, my little thing is that whenever I’m in these places I take a bit of time to go to a cool landmark or whatever, and jump in the air – it’s these little goals that keep you human. I carry my camera crew and photographers around, because you know what, it’s really important to keep connected on that level to your fans. Really important to have that personal connection.
How did you start out in the business? Did you imagine you’d be where you are today? Absolutely not. I started out to love it, and I still do.
Do you see yourself DJing when you’re 60? Um, god I dunno. This life is a lot of fun but it’s so fast paced, very intense, there’s a lot of energy involved, I couldn’t make that decision now.
What advice would you give to your kids? When they go out clubbing? In life? You know what I’d say to them? Just be safe, be educated. People want to try new things, but be aware of the situation you’re in, your surroundings, the people you’re with. If you want to go find Molly then, well.
That’s so weird, as we call it Mandy in England, I didn’t understand that Cedric Gervais track at first. [Laughs] He should’ve made a UK version called ‘Where’s Mandy’, but back to what I was saying, people are born to make mistakes, but be educated. Be safe.