DJ Steve Aoki takes Boston stage by storm
Published: Monday, March 5, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, March 6, 2012 00:03
I caught world-famous musician, producer, DJ, and creator of Dim Mak Records, Steve Aoki, on the phone while he was in North Carolina for his 2012 North American Dead Meat tour (which hit Boston on Feb. 16). Due to the fact that North Carolina has a strong country music presence, I asked Aoki if he ever thought about collaborating with a musician from that genre. Initially, he seemed somewhat stumped, but he quickly decided that country and rap could mix well and offered the idea of "Ice Cube and Garth Brooks."
He pondered my question further and said that if he could, he would work with Johnny Cash. Aoki was specifically thinking about the cover Cash did of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt." He said the collaboration would have an "incredible, country and industrial" vibe. Aoki also notes that "Hurt" is such a powerful song that it almost makes him want to cry.
When asked if there are any other musicians he wished he could work with, he responds with Beethoven because of his "genius, uncanny ability to write music." He even goes on to say there is "something extraterrestrial" about his musical ability. However, the living artist Aoki most wants to collaborate with is Zach de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine.
While Aoki speaks passionately about other artists, whether or not he has collaborated with them, he certainly has a huge accomplishment under his belt upon releasing his Wonderland album, which took "three, even four years" to produce. He mixes artists such as LMFAO, Wynter Gordon, Lil John and Chiddy Bang.
He describes this album as a "monumental moment" in his life and compares it to an artist not being able to show any of his paintings or artwork for three years. He was aching to get his music out but had to hold the songs "in a vault" in order to "release it all in one collection."
Aoki admits that his "heart rate jumps" every time he hears the word "Boston" because "the crowd and people are so amazing, vibrant, and bring positive energy."
He actually wished the venue was bigger (he performed with dubstep producer Datsik at The House of Blues) because the tour is completely unique and wants as many people as possible to experience the new visuals, songs and selected tracks.
Aoki explains that his tour is a live production where he controls all the lights and visuals, not simply a DJ set. I jokingly ask him if he has a signature dance move for this tour and, while we laugh for a bit, he says I'm just going to have to check it at the show because those types of moves are "hard to describe."
Observing Aoki, he possesses this sort of outer-worldly quality as he allows the music to take over his being. Everything about his movements demonstrate his true connection and feeling of the music as opposed to having a replicable "dance move."
Aoki's interaction with the crowd is what sets him apart from other performers. From crowd surfing on a blow-up pool toy with fans, to spritzing the audience with various beverages, to throwing cakes, he certainly knows how to show his fans a memorable (albeit messy) good time.
Datsik, who performed before Aoki, also demonstrated a true and tangible passion for his music and a connection to the audience. As he vigorously jumped to the deep bass beats, he spoke out to the audience to ensure they were enjoying the songs (and received none other than an overwhelmingly positive response). Aoki knows the crowds are never disappointed by his "crazy bass set."
Furthermore, Aoki describes Datsik as a great friend and "amazing dubstep producer." Aoki signed him as the first dubstep artist to his label, Dim Mak. Aoki notes that he "loves him to death."
Datsik is not much older than seniors here at Brandeis and I asked Aoki for any advice for DJs looking to turn their college extracurricular activity into something more. Most importantly, Aoki advises DJs to "have fun and enjoy yourself in a positive environment." He says, "You don't have to be the star, it's about everyone else." He advises producers to "believe in your art," and that "your heart has to be in it."
Aoki is known for his social media outreach, especially when it comes to his "Tag Yo Self" Facebook page, where he is known for taking photographs with the audience at each show, in addition to creating albums for each event. He is especially passionate about interacting with the fans and the crowds at his shows because he quite humbly puts it, "It's not my show, it's their show; actually, it's our show." His recognition of the symbiotic relationship between his crowd and himself is undeniably refreshing for a celebrity of his status. He notes that at a show it is a "call and response" and "without the crowd's energy, there is no show."