“Dim Mak is hitting 20 years next year. Wow, that ages me. I’m up there, man! I’m getting old,” says one of the hardest working DJs in the world, STEVE AOKI, when asked about his record label. Steve just had his fifth show here in Manila, a sold-out show that was held at the The Palace Pool Club last October 16. I had a sit down with STATUS Magazine’s its first cover boy as he gives us updates about his career, his thoughts on EDM, and how he takes care of his hair.
Hi, Steve! You were our very first cover way back in 2008. It’s been seven years! What have been the most notable changes that happened in your career since then?
I guess for me, the big highlights would be finishing really big pieces of work like Wonderland, Neon Future 1, Neon Future 2, and Neon Future Odyssey. All those projects took years of time, development, creative structuring and arrangement, hours and hours of studio time. The first one being a Grammy-nominated album was one of the most impressive moments of my career. The touring schedule has been always really hectic and really fast-paced, and a lot, a lot of touring. The shows got bigger, which is good.
I also survived certain genre bubbles. When genres come into popularity, they also evolve into different genres and sound, and when that happens, a lot of artists get stuck, and they don’t grow past that. I’m fortunate enough to have grown past that up until this point. Who knows, maybe next year, no one knows who I am? So we got to keep on hustling, never sleep on your work.
You’ve been in Manila several times, what have been your best memories here?
I remember one time, Manny Pacquiao came in the booth with me and raised my arm. I was like, “Holy Shit! It’s Manny Pacquiao!” That was really an awesome moment. I also remember that I canceled my first show here because I wanted to do this movie in the States. The producers moved the date of my show, but the schedule of the movie moved as well to the final date that I was playing here, so I just turned down the movie role. It was a scene wherein I’m a slave DJ in this office for this CEO, and the movie ended up being Tropic Thunder. I was supposed to be Tom Cruise’s character’s slave DJ
Did you regret turning down that role?
Yeah, I did, but I had a really good show, and it got me a cover on STATUS Magazine.
Your gigs have been known for being so epic, “caking,” physical, and so much fun. Where do you get the energy to do this almost every time?
If you’ve ever seen it, it could never get old; it’s really such a fun moment. No matter how many cake faces I’ve given, it’s always a lot of fun; it’s always a new face. It’s always a new energy. People really, really want it! I aim for those people who have signs. I’ve caked a little kid before; the parents picked him up, put him on their shoulders ,and he had a sign. He was probably around 10-years old, cute little kid too. I also caked a DJ’s mom, probably in her 50’s.
What are your essentials before starting your set?
It’s actually the essential things that I think about are the things that I don’t want to have. I don’t want to have my phone and my wallet in my pocket. I take off any jewelry. I’ve had jewelry ripped off of me, even my shoes. You just got to be prepared. And I just want to be in a state of nothing before I start. I want to just go in there, and just be calm; I just want to be at peace. Because sometimes, if you get too adrenaline pumped, it’s like when you pregame before when you go party and then you drink too much, and then you end up not going out. I’d rather have no pregame and then give everything during the set.
How much do you think has EDM evolved from recent years?
EDM is a new term; I think it’s like what? 5 years old? I remember, I was part of the Electro scene from 2005 to 2010. It didn’t die, but it just proliferated its sound into different genres, I think mainly EDM. So EDM would do similar things, the sound itself will digress and will also split up, and artists will take elements and do something different and create their own sound.
It’s a great time right now; there are so many cross-genre mashes happening, and that’s my favorite thing to do. That’s what keeps it interesting for me. Being in the studio with Linkin Park to Fall Out Boy to Walk Off the Earth up until Rivers Cuomo of Weezer. I love working with bands and hip-hop artists, I love working with everyone, and I want to continue doing that. If you don’t care about the critics, there are no boundaries. If you get too fixated on what people think of you now, it will kill your creativity. You just have to think about what you like and believe in it.
You mentioned that you’re going to cut down on touring, how is that coming along?
I already have. Before, during this time, I was doing 300 shows, but now, I’m only doing 220 shows, 80 shows less, that’s a lot. It just gives me more studio time. The thing is, you still have to put music out, plus I enjoy it, I love being in the studio.
What’s the biggest misconception of people about you?
There’s probably a million misconceptions about me, but I don’t know which one is the biggest. Well, I heard one girl at the airport, she thought I was Avicii, she said, “You look just like Avicci! You are Avicci.” And I said, “No, I’m not Avicii, I promise.”
How do you keep your hair soft, silky, and smooth?
I was just doing it. I was maintaining it with my fingers, pulling out the tangles, and I do this regularly. I also use a lot of conditioner.