Steve Aoki is certainly one of the busiest men in music today. Not only does he DJ, produce and remix tracks around the world, he heads up Dim Mak records, plays in a band and has his own successful clothing line. Currently in the middle of a European tour, Contactmusic.com caught up with him on one of his flying visits to London at the Ministry Of Sound Headquarters. He spoke about his many different projects, his roots in punk and hardcore music, the diversity of his upcoming album and the future of dance music. We also quizzed him about his new single, I'm In The House which is released this week and see him collaborate with the 'mysterious' Zuper Blahq. Here's what he had to say.
CM: So, you're in the middle of a European tour, how's that going?
SA:)I've done three gigs so far and they're all sold out, so that's a good start and I have three more gigs, so it's like a smaller tour, Geneva, Milan and Dusseldorf tomorrow.
CM:)Can we expect to see you play London soon?
SA: Not this time, I'm doing the SW4 festival in London (28th/29th August 2010) and possibly a gig that night, so that's my next London date.
CM: I'm In The House is released on March 7th, can you tell us a bit about the track?
SA: The track is the first single off my album and the album is going to be coming out most likely in the fourth quarter of this year. It's a track with a new artist, Zuper Blahq who is a very close friend of mine. I wrote the track originally as more of a club record and he heard it and that was the one he wanted to jump on. So we went into the studio and he did his vocals and slam dunked the vocals in my opinion. He made it more of a Dim Mak track. He's doing a lot of name dropping; he's also name dropping artists that he's working with on his on album like Boys Noize. And then the other people he's name dropped like MSTRKRFT and Bloody Beetroots there on Dim Mak.
CM: Is it representative of the type of tracks that we will see on your album?
SA: It was a really great start for getting the jist of what I'm going to do for this album. The album is really going to be across the board, I have this really fun dancy track 'I'm In The House', I've just finished a track with Rivers Cuomo from Weezer, which is more of a rock track. I did a track with Kid Cudi, another big club track with Lil Jon and I'm finishing up with four more tracks to finish the album.
CM: It's already doing very well over here in the UK with mainstream radio play etc. How has it been received in Europe?
SA: I get the updates but I don't actually see it doing well but yeah, it sounds great, I'm excited. I was just in Amsterdam yesterday doing a track with Laidback Luke and the label there said it's doing really well and in Italy and Germany I hear its doing well. I don't get all the updates from all the labels, I hear from friends, so if they're seeing it, I feel like it's doing well.
CM: Dance music does seem to be having more of an impact on other genres these days, there's more of a crossover, would you agree?
SA: Yeah, I can only say the best territory for me to understand that is in America. America, as far as the dance movement is concerned is the last guy in the race. Now there's a huge commercial revival with dance music in America. Like the fact that David Guetta is charting on the top five playlists across the biggest cities, it's a big deal. He was able to cross over and now people are hearing dance music in a different way. There also all these artists that are already at the top of the charts and now they're using dance samples and dance references and the sound in general is going to be a cross over for the American audience. So dance will no longer be an underground thing.
CM: Obviously dance music is what you do now, but what got you into music, what are your influences?
SA: My roots weren't in house music or electronic music, my roots were always in live music and rock, punk and hardcore, that was really where I came from. My influences and my references and where I'm shaping this album have a lot of influences. Where my head is at as a DJ and where my album is at, I'm walking this fine line. Because what I want to do with this album is different to what I want to do with my DJ sets. When I DJ, I try to programme playlists that have the best potential to make the kids go crazy! This album is not really about that. I just want to put together a really great diverse musical album. I want it to have dance elements but also rock elements, I'm doing a track with Travis Barker on drums and I'm singing on that song and that's like a rock, kind of electronic song. It is an electronic based album but the influences are all over the place, is going to be interesting. I also have a record coming out in April of my new band, Rufoki, a studio band with Bob Ruffle from the Bloody Beetroots and we perform the music live and that's a hardcore band, I sing and Bob plays the guitar.
CM: You've collaborated with a lot of very well know artists from all types of genres, how do you decide who to work with and what tracks to remix?
SA: The remixes are sent in through management of the artist and label, for the most part that's how it's usually done. So All American Rejects, Lenny Kravitz, Michael Jackson, and some of these bigger names are all from labels coming to my management. As far as collaborations and working with different producers as well as different vocalists, for the most part its friend related. It's like we have something that bonds us and we can find something unique in our styles of production. When I first worked with Laidback Luke, he's an electronic house guy, but my roots don't come in house, so we find out what we can create together from our two different worlds. The same with Afrojack, we just nailed it, two days in the studio we wrote five songs, our chemistry was on point. It's great to work with different producers, their way of arranging and building the architecture of a track and the rhythms and melodies and harmonies and ideas, it's a lot of fun.
CM: As a DJ, you play loads of different venues, how do you adapt your set for each occasion?
SA:)When I know the crowd is there to come and see me play, then I play about 80% my own music because I feel like they are coming to see me play, so I don't wanna just play my favourite tunes. I used to tour in a band and when you tour, people want to see you play your songs and your big hits, so I just transfer that concept when DJing. But when I'm playing a party it's a little bit more fun for me because I just play fun songs that I like, so I have to look at it in different ways.
CM: You have a lot of strings to your bow, not only in music but you also have a clothing line, how did that start?
SA: I blame it on DJing because the DJing opens doors, you meet people that can help you on different areas that you thought you never even had any potential in. I got asked to play for a tradeshow called Magic; it's the same as Bread And Butter in Berlin. Its where all the fashion labels and brands come and show their lines. They also gave a booth to sell our merch t-shirts and from that we got into a couple of stores because our shirts were interesting enough. Then this company hit me up and said we'll help you develop a line and we built it up and we are now doing merch t-shirts for bands and we developed the line very organically. Now it's been almost four years and we have over 100 stores that carry our stuff around the world. We have expanded into a full range, not just t-shirts, we have leather jackets, denim, fleeces, and sweaters. As I was getting more into fashion, I started lines for other brands, so I started this shoe with their shoe company called supra. This came from a woman's boot, the idea of buckles; it's basically a high end sneaker. But guys don't usually wear buckles; its more of a feminine concept but if you put it on a sneaker and toughen it up a bit. It took a little bit to take on but we kept redesigning it and now it's a real good selling shoe. I design for Crew and headphone for WeSC. So the company is really building but it started by accident in a way.
CM: With all the different things you do taking up your time, what do you enjoy the most?
SA: The source of everything I do is music, being able to help develop an artist is the main thing. Seeing a brand new artist that hasn't formed and moulded itself yet, to becoming a global influence. Being a part of that is a really good feeling. Seeing something really grow and expand and reach across the world. Like the Bloc Party thing for Dim Mak was a really big deal. Although we only really covered the American side,it started in a really small place and just blew up after that. And the Bloody Beetroots, seeing them grow from doing really sick club remixes to now them becoming an amazing DJ live act and producing these massive tracks around the world, to now developing into a live band, it's just seeing that progression that's so amazing. And we haven't even tipped the iceberg with their live performance. I just foresee when that comes full circle, and they tour that around the world, it's going to be big and seeing that is an amazing thing. So at the end of the day being part of producing tracks that connect to a lot of people, that's what's amazing.
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