November 6, 2012


Steve Aoki On EDM: "You Don't Need An Album Every Year, Just a Few Songs"

C Flanigan
C Flanigan

When Fuse caught up with DJ/producer Steve Aoki, we learned the EDM personality—and inspiration behind Fuse's reality show Chasing with Steve Aoki—has some serious plans for next year: A new album! Even though he spent years crafting his full-length debut, Aoki says he's hoping to have the follow-up effort started—and maybe even released—before 2013 is over. 

Aoki also told us which of the challenges on Chasing Aoki are his personal favorites. Although he's partial to the cake-diving task (he often throws cake at his audience), he's also a big fan of the champagne-shattering bowling game contestants played in the latest episode.

So from booze bottle bowling to his thoughts on soul-sucking major labels, here's what Aoki had to say.

So you are a touring DJ, a fashion designer and you have your own record label, Dim Mak. Does handling all that take time away from working on new music?

For a lot of those businesses, I depend so much on the teams that work on that day to day. At Dim Mak alone there are over 18 people employed full-time. They work on all different aspects of running the music and the merch business. In the beginning, though, I was covering everything. During that period of time if you asked me, "How do you have time to produce music?" I wouldn't know the answer. I don't know: I just did it. As Dim Mak grew I was able to hire people. In the beginning I was all about developing other bands and artists and helping them to grow in the ways they wanted to be grown. But as the business grew I was able to hire others to handle that so I could focus on my own music. I'm very much part of the process of Dim Mak still—I get the executive say on most decisions—but without a solid team we wouldn’t be in business like this.

You worked with Travis Barker on your Wonderland album. After many years on a major label, Blink-182 recently went independent. That seems to be more common with major artists these days. Do you think that's the wave of the future?

Oh yeah, that's the way the business model is shifting. These major institutions would literally sell your soul to grow your art. Unless you're just like, "I need to get paid," it's not that great. Because at the end of the day, the advance is a loan. But it sucks you dry. Don't get me wrong: I have nothing against major labels. I just think the business is changing and artists don’t necessarily need that institutional power anymore to grow. It's amazing what artists can do in this day and age without label support.

Are you thinking of Facebook and Twitter specifically?
I think it's most possible because of the Internet at large and Facebook and Twitter are supplemental. But they're not the main focus. The driving force is content and services that share the content. YouTube and iTunes and Beatport, stuff like that. Whereas Facebook is connecting people and what they like, and Twitter is just engaging artists with fans. You have to like someone to follow them and know about their music in the first place.

What do you have in the works musically?
I have more collaborations coming up. I spent a greater part of last year finishing up Wonderland and I've been touring nonstop this year, so I really need to focus on my collaborative projects on the road because I haven't been home much. I have a collaboration with Knife Party called "Piledriver" coming out and a record called "Singularities" coming out at some point. And then the first point I can find time next year, I'm going to be focusing on album number two. I've been turning way remixes that have been sent to me because I really want to focus on 2013.

Are you hoping to have the album out in 2013 or just start it?
That's the goal, but you never know. The great thing about the dance/EDM world is it's not like you need an album every year. You just have to release few songs that translate to a global audience. And that’s why some of the best, most popular DJs don’t even have an album out. Avicii doesn't have an album out but his music translates across cultures and languages to people all over the world.

Contestants on Chasing with Steve Aoki take on a variety of strange challenges. Where did all these ideas come from?
The producers who put this together are awesome, creative people. I love the cake challenge [contestants were forced to dive into a huge cake for clue cards]. I've done that myself. When I reached one million "likes" on Facebook, I asked all my fans what they wanted me to do. One thing that kept popping up was, "You should cake yourself! You've caked everyone else, now you should get caked." So I made a 2,000 pound cake and jumped into it. I was standing knee-deep in the cake and throwing it around. That was exciting and weird.

So we gotta ask: Why the cake fixation? Why not pie?
Cake is…. soft, sugary, I don't know. I mean, you don't want to hurt anyone. You can't throw an apple pie at someone. That would just be weird. You want a big, frothy white cake. When it explodes, it's like getting hit by a pillow.

One of the Chasing challenges involves the city of Austin, which you're a big fan of. Any recommendations for travelers?
One place that I'm obsessed is Hoek's Pizza. I don't know if the quality of food there is actually different but the ambiance is great. It's a heavy metal pizza joint: They bake pizzas and it's pitch black in there. They're blasting death metal and they really just don't care about anyone. It's like this weird vibe, like the opposite of hospitality. And possibly cleanliness. Who knows what's going on in there: It's pitch black. But I always eat at Hoek's Pizza. Hands down, it's the first place I go to.

So people are competing to hang with you on this show. Any DJs you'd compete on a reality show to get the chance to hang out with?
The DJ world is really small actually: We already all hang out with each other. It's such a harmonious world of artists. You never feel like you’re competing, there's no negative energy. You never hear of beefs in the EDM world because everyone gets along and plays festivals together. From the trance to the dubstep world, we all party together anyway.

Any non-EDM artists you'd compete in a reality show to hang with then?
If they were still alive, it would be Kurt Cobain or Freddie Mercury. Freddie Mercury is one of my favorite singers of all time, and Kurt Cobain is just a cool motherf--ker. Or Zack de la Rocha, because Rage Against the Machine is like my favorite band. Or maybe hanging out with Fugazi. They're still one of my favorites. 

Watch the latest bottle-busting episode of Chasing with Steve Aoki right here.