Being Steve Aoki is a dangerous job. But paparazzi and stalkers are the least of the music celebrity’s worries. The Japanese-American DJ is the Evel Knievel of the EDM world, stage diving and crowd surfing on the regular. A trampoline leap gone wrong in Puerto Rico earned him a trip to the emergency room. Aoki’s video team documents the incident in “Puerto Rico Stage Dive Trampoline Fail: On the Road with Steve Aoki #37” on YouTube. Even though he’s in obvious pain, Aoki insists on playing one more song for his adoring fans before being whisked away in an ambulance. Dim Mak Records, the imprint Aoki founded while still in college at UC Santa Barbara, took its moniker from an allegedly lethal attack technique that some believe may have been responsible for the death of Aoki’s childhood hero, Bruce Lee. Lee may have influenced Aoki’s daredevil behavior to a degree, but the long-haired DJ credits his risk-taker and tastemaker traits to his flesh and blood. Read on to find out what else we gleaned about the cake boss when we Skype-chatted with him in India.
What is your earliest music-related childhood memory?
It was less about the music itself and more about the culture it creates. I grew up with an older brother who was a Vespa-driving mod. So when he was 16, hanging with his mod friends, listening to the Jam, I had no idea what I was witnessing, but I knew it was the coolest thing ever.
Were you always a daredevil? Is your childhood hero, Bruce Lee, to blame?
My father is to blame. He was the real daredevil, breaking world records with hot air ballooning, racing offshore speedboats and driving Gumball rallies every year.
Where did the name for your label Dim Mak come from?
It means “touch of death.” It has a mystery behind it that I really liked. A strange mysterious connection with how Bruce Lee died and what he could harness.
What’s Dim Mak got on deck?
Fuckloads of insane music that’s all across the board, extremely interesting artists: Kenna, Dirtyphonics, Clockwork, R3hab, myself, Borgore, Botnek, Garmiani, Deorro, Autoerotique, Coone, Felix Cartal, Keys N Krates, Infected Mushroom and others.
How flexible do you have to be as a songwriter and producer when working with so many collaborators?
Nothing is fixed, especially in music. New inspirations will lead you to different ways to comprehend, create sounds, find new ways to expand yourself as a producer and songwriter. When I work with vocalists, I try my best to stay as flexible as possible, and I have no choice but to work with the tools and craft that I already know, but find that medium that fits in between my world and theirs. If you can’t bend much, the process can be difficult or impossible.
You eat well, and you don’t drink or smoke. Would you consider yourself a health nut? Are you trying to live forever or something?
Let’s just put it this way: If and when singularity does happen, I do hope it happens in my lifetime.
Did ‘caking’ used to be a once-per-show stunt? I feel like the number of cakes per show has been on the rise.
It all varies per show, but sometimes, even 15 is not enough; sometimes one is enough.