He is not only one of the most famous DJs in the world. The areas in which the American Steven Hiroyuki Aoki, better known as Steve Aoki, has ventured, always with success, are so diverse that he has become one of those figures who go beyond the strictly musical, to be considered as people of entertainment.
And it is that in addition to his career as a producer, record executive and of course, music star, the artist has stood out as an entrepreneur in the restaurant industry, fashion and even science.
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In an interview with El Sol de México, Aoki talks about all these facets and recalls his connection with such current movements as feminism and punk, with which he was linked long before he became a celebrity.
Skillful, as is every figure of his size, he wastes no time and is quick to say that he has launched a new Latin division of his Dim Mak label, which bears the name of Dim Mak En Fuego, with which he has signed the Mexican band Aquihayaquihay, and the Venezuelan singer Andrekza.
“I love watching young artists grow up and I’m very, very excited and happy about this,” he says.
Steve, in the last few years you have given up your interest and connection with the Latino culture.
Yes! Well, ever since I went on tour as a DJ, one of my favorite places to play was Mexico, and this is because the crowd is always so energetic, so passionate and caring. Definitely, the best crowd is there, because it’s wild, I promise you… I remember I played in León, for about 150 thousand people and that was one of the best shows I’ve ever had. I am very grateful to my fans in Mexico and, in part, that is why I want to make more Latin-influenced music; that’s where my music goes, so I thank Daddy Yankee for supporting me, Elvis Crespo, Nicky Jam, J Balvin, El Alfa and Maluma. Soon a new song by Farruko will be released… They have all been a great support for me.
Then you must already master the Spanish language …
(laughs) Little! I actually have to learn it. I promise it’s something I have to do.
But more than a particular interest in Latin, Steve Aoki’s sights are on continuing to expand into different markets, as he shows with one of his latest singles, entitled “Mambo”, in which he shares credits with the Dominican El Alfa, the Italian Sfera Ebbasta, French-Mauritian Willy William and Jamaican Sean Paul, along with American producers Play-N-Skillz.
“I love El Alfa, for me it is the future of music; but this track is about being global, citizens of the world. I love being able to have so many languages in one song: English, Spanish and Italian, all dancing to the same beat. I am very happy for how rewarding it is to work together and for the success the song is having ”, he tells us.
According to your biography, you graduated from the University of California with graduate degrees in Sociology and Women’s Studies. Do you consider yourself a feminist?
Yes, and although I am not always saying it out loud, I definitely want the world to see that men and women are not in equal places; the world that I would like to see is one where there is equality… We need a place that represents men and women equally, we need to look at history and fight for there to really be progress; we have to fight because men and women are equal persons.
Few know of your foundation, which is dedicated to regenerative medicine of the brain. How did that idea come about?
It is that, if you really think about the human brain, it is one of the most unknown, phenomenal and fascinating things in the world. It’s crazy. It is something that if we really understood, we would go much further. Researchers are so fascinated with the brain, although unfortunately that conversation stays in a very small circle, because they don’t have enough funding. The foundation of the foundation is brain health, research and the search for ways to cure diseases related to it. You cannot imagine how many people suffer from degenerative brain disease. If you think about the people you know, there will be at least one or two, and everything can get worse, for them we need more funds for research and to find cures, that is the goal. So I’m very happy to do what I can in that regard.
Speaking of diseases, Aoki says that during the pandemic he has been very busy, focused on different things. And it is that its multiple activities, inside and outside of music, must require, at least, a good organization.
How do you go about doing so many things at once and making sure they all work out?
Well, you have to form teams, and for everyone to be really good, that’s very important. Each of the teams I work with is very happy to do their thing; you need to have good people around you and you have to learn to manage them. It’s a 24-hour-a-day job and having a plan and structure; only then can I be focused on every aspect.
Going back to music, how do you remember the first part of the two thousand, when you released major albums by rock bands like Bloc Party, The Kills and The Mystery Jets?
It was a very fun time, I remember it very well. It was even before I started as a DJ … I was so young. I treasure those moments; they were very important things, and without which we would definitely not be where we are now.
His relationship with punk
But Steve Aoki’s connection to rock, and more specifically to the punk side, dates back many years before his career began. The hardcore gigs that he organized in college are well known, and his subsequent coincidence with Michael Davis, the bassist of the protopunk band MC5, when he directed the altruistic foundation Music Is Revolution.
Later, as an artist, we would hear him doing songs with bands like The Exploited (“The Kids Will Have Their Say”) and remixing the Crass band’s classic, “Banned From The Roxy”, in a very consistent dubstep version.
The ability you have to collaborate with all kinds of people is surprising, from the most mainstream, even the most punk, as in the case of MC5, The Exploited or Crass.
Hey, you really know it! Yes, at the beginning of my musical career I was lucky enough to be able to work with Crass; It was something that I never thought could happen, so when the possibility arose, I did not hesitate and I ventured to do it. About MC5, well Michael Davis invited me to work with him on some things and I also did it with his wife, Angela Davis, who is a wonderful woman … I grew up with MC5, and I love rock, I love punk, all that history . In general, I love finding ways to collaborate with different types of people. It has been wonderful to look back and see what I did with all those amazing people.
Speaking of other artists, recently when Daft Punk broke up, you said they were a very important band to you.
Yes! Daft Punk for me they are the most important figure in my life, because they are like an experience of evolution, something that generated many emotions and that changed me. And I’m not kidding: they changed me as a person, spiritually and emotionally. But they also changed the way I thought about the creative process and the way of producing. It’s crazy to think of everything a show can do for you, and that’s the power of music, so when we go back to playing live, the first thing I want is to go back to Latin America to experience it again and give it my all. .
Then you will definitely go back to Mexico.
Yes, I sure will. I have a show pending at a festival in Cancun. You can count on that. I have been touring Mexico for over a decade and I consider myself very lucky for it… I am very grateful to all the people of Mexico for their love and support of my music… Thank you!
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