FFWD REW

Steve Aoki is not a sex addict

EDM star debunks rumours and discusses the future of the genre

Even counting Daft Punk there have been few figures in electronic music as enduring (and divisive) as L.A. producer Steve Aoki. Though he rose to prominence with mid-’90s with his excellent label Dim Mak — who brought new-guard indie-tronic stars like MSTRKRFT Bloody Beetroots and Klaxons into pop culture’s collective consciousness — Aoki also established himself as an EDM chameleon: As a businessman he hawks headphones with Sol Republic runs Dim Mak’s clothing wing and operates two restaurants. (His father Hiroaki founded the Benihana resto chain in NYC.) As a producer he’s worked with everyone from Kid Sister to Tiesto and earned a Grammy nom for Wonderland 2012’s house-meets-dubstep explosion. And as a live performer he’s no stodgy lodged-behind-the-decks type; rather he’s a explosive mess of greasy hair spilled champagne and relentless energy. No surprise then that he’s served as a my-first-dance act for countless over-it hardcore kids. (It doesn’t hurt too that Aoki has roots in punk rock and a track featuring members of Die Kreuzen.)

Indeed he’s a lot to unpack. So prior to his performance at the Badlands Summer Music Festival we caught up with Aoki to talk sex addiction Dim Mak sunglasses and why he has an unbeatable poker face.

Fast Forward Weekly : Hey Steve what’s good?

Steve Aoki: I just got back in L.A. and I’m heading out to a video shoot! I just got back from Europe and it was great. Europe is usually pretty well my whole summer — even if I’m back here — and the shows out there are just great.

They sound it. There have also been some rumours about your show in Torino Italy about you getting blasted on MDMA humping your CDJ and getting escorted off stage. One blog even claimed you admitted to being a sex addict. What really happened?

Oh the whole thing about humping the CDJ? That was a total bullshit lie! I mean first of all I don’t even do drugs. I don’t even drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes. People assumed that [the story about sex addiction] was true maybe because I’m so physical onstage. But I wasn’t escorted offstage or anything! The whole story’s not true — some blog said the owner of the Torino club was a waste management guy and there’s no such guy. It’s just so so funny and I’m so surprised people believed that story was true.

Why do you think people believed it?

I don’t know. My show’s pretty outlandish as is [it often includes Aoki crowdsurfing in a raft and champagne shower]. I mean I’ve caked fans and the idea sounds pretty ludicrous when it’s taken out of context.

About your live show. What can we expect in Calgary?

I’m introducing a lot of new music and [for all the theatrics] the spine of the show is based around the music. I’m introducing a whole lot of new music. I’ve been working on this album called Neon Future . With Wonderland I started moving away from four-on-the-floor records; I was working mainly with vocalists for the album and I started producing other things like dubstep records. But with Neon Future I’m doing 140 bpm kind of stuff it’s a lot of four-on-the-floor. I’m also collaborating with different producers on the new songs and it’s a whole new can of worms — I have songs with Knife Party Rehab John Dahlback and Flux Pavilion. A lot of the album’s done. I’ve been testing out new songs so a third of my set will be all-new Aoki.

When’s Neon Future set to drop?

There’s no date yet. I’m 50 per cent done and the other 50 is getting vocals. That’s the long part because you have to deal with other labels and management. It’s a lot of paperwork. It’s just a long process and I have a feeling it won’t be done ‘til next year. But I’ll be dropping new singles — like “Boneless” and “Year Million” which is an instrumental track I wrote last August.

Amazing. So Dim Mak has been in the game long enough to see pop-electronic music transition from the ’00s electro to dubstep and now to house. Where to next?

Well you’re seeing electronic music get more commercialized. But the soul of it can’t be mainstream especially in North America because it’s about the beat not the vocals. The Swedish House Mafias and David Guettas of the world might get radio play but the thousands of artist who are expanding the music are all in the underground. So when electronic music is expanding I just see it as a growing underground.

Speaking of evolution you come from a hardcore background along with dudes like Skrillex who played in From First to Last and Moby who played in an NYHC band. Do you see a burgeoning link between hardcore and EDM?

Sure. I mean I’d say the most obvious link is dubstep. It’s heavy and it’s more about sound design and how to make your wobble sound unique and crazy. Dubstep’s all about bass; hardcore’s all about screaming your head off.

Beyond music you’re also a successful businessman — along with Dim Mak you own clubs and restaurants. Any new ventures coming down the pipeline?

Right now my main focus is going back to Dim Mak. We’re moving offices soon we’ve expanded our clothing line; we’ve gotten into Forever 21. It’s something we’ve never done before: At one point we didn’t want to be in any chain we wanted to stay direct with our fans. But we’ve opened doors to a few stories and it’s an exciting time — we’re opening up an eyewear line too and we’ve partnered up with an Italian [manufacturer] so all Dim Mak stuff is going to be made in Italy.

Awesome. So what are your thoughts on Calgary?

I’ve been playing Calgary for years and years. It’s one of my fave places in Canada had some amazing memorable shows — I did an amazing stage dive into the crowd there before I brought rafts to my show. And I always end up playing poker at the Stampede. So you might find me there — I’ve won some crazy pots there.

Well if you end up at the casino good luck. Rob some locals blind.

Thanks! And thanks for the interview!

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