Steve Aoki Talks Hardcore and New Collab with Travis Barker

The superstar DJ pauses for a moment to stop by our studios

March 12, 2020
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It's not everyday one of the most famous DJ's in the world drops by your work, but Steve Aoki is here.

Today is release day for his new collab, "Halfway Dead", featuring Travis Barker and newcomer Global Dan, with Alt 92.3 as one of the few premier stops of promo before he sneaks in a quick nap and heads to Brooklyn Mirage for another date on his seemingly endless procession of touring. On average Aoki plays around 250 shows a year, with last night's gig in Toronto being the latest greatest night of someones life, though just a regular day for Steve.  We're sitting in our theater chatting as they set up cameras and test audio levels.  Aoki is lamenting a late night basketball game, which took away from the DJ's already minimal sleep schedule as his management team, 6-8 people deep, looks on from the audience, similarly dazed from the intense travel and press blitz. 

Steve Aoki at ALT 92.3 in the RADIO.COM Theater with Bryce
(Photo: ALT 92.3)

Aoki wasn't always the globetrotting household name your parents have come to visualize every time they hear the term "EDM" though, in fact, his humble beginnings are rooted in the DIY hardcore scene of his college years, playing in bands and throwing shows in his tiny yet fabled apartment living room, dubbed "The Pickle Patch".  Across its brief existence, Aoki claims the space would host near 20 shows a month, no doubt preparing him for the rigorous touring schedule that would one day become his daily routine.  Casually he shares in our interview that bands like Jimmy Eat World and At The Drive-In were just two of many who graced the stage-less space, alongside Aoki's many groups of his own, including one named, affectionately, Fuck You.

It was through taping these rowdy nights on a Tascam recorder that Aoki found the inspiration to start his now synonymous brand, Dim Mak, which would joint venture with VICE to release early indie acclaimed acts like The Kills and Bloc Party before pivoting to electronic music.  That transition came in tandem with the launch of Dim Mak Tuesdays, a legendary party at LA's Cinespace which directly coincided with the rise of electronic music in the US.

 "Either the time Lady Gaga came through, or when Thomas from Daft Punk played without his helmet", Aoki smiles and shares as he describes DMT's wildest nights.

Now, however, we're far from the innocent days of Bloghouse.  EDM is big business and Steve is one of its premier assets, with his hands in everything from publishing (he has a new biography out now), to TV (a Netflix special titled Sleep When I'm Dead dropped in 2016), to his own pizza company, Pizzaoki (we see what he did there).  This latest collab with Travis and Global dan finds Steve re-teaming with the Blink drummer for the continuation of what's been a long career of both friendship and creativity, where collabs date back to the drummer's first solo outing.  Travis is his goto guy when it comes to drums, Aoki casually raves as he breaks down the track, big upping Global Dan in the process.  Though the tune bares Aoki's name at the top of the bill, it's all set up for Dan's new album, which will arrive on Dim Mak and is entirely produced by Steve, a career first which he says tested the limits of his schedule but ultimately proved immensely rewarding.

Despite his infectious optimism, enthusiasm, and general presence, it's not hard to see the lifestyle takes a toll on the DJ though, the human body has its limits and Steve has pushed them for years.  But if it seems like now is the time to slow down, a victory lap to take in all he's accomplished, Aoki hasn't noticed.  He's leaned in, engaged, and excited as ever about sharing the new music he's been working on, the artists he's signed, reaching out to new like-minded creatives to create new hybrid sounds and ideas.  His vision of utopia, the Neon Future for which many of his albums and his studio bear the name, has yet to be achieved, and with the same 24 hours as everyone else, Aoki only has so much time to help achieve it.  So, for now, he charges ahead.  Leaving our studio to prepare for yet another set in front of adoring thousands.  After all, there will be plenty of time to sleep, when he's dead.