Steve Aoki is a nascent futurist. Most know him as a superstar DJ and EDM mogul; but behind the veil of popular perception lies a man driven by the promise of sci-fi, Technicolor dreams. On his latest releases, Neon Future l and ll (Dim Mak / Ultra), we hear serene prophecies of a glorious, space–age destiny, gently couched amidst ambient intros and interludes betwixt customary throbbing basslines, torrid synths, and starry guest vocals from the likes of Linkin Park and Snoop Lion. Author and futurist Ray Kurzweil, theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, and Hollywood heavyweight J.J. Abrams all lend voice and perspective to the Neon Future records. And with childlike awe, Steve enthusiastically shares futurist theories and rhetoric, and explains how they have influenced his work and aesthetic.
Now approaching his late 30s, Steve demonstrates no signs of slowing down. Sharp and graceful, the astute businessman tours 300 days out of the year with a portable studio in tow. Between the launch of a new high-fashion Dim Mak apparel line in Tokyo and his obligations surrounding the release of Neon Future ll, Aoki spared a few moments to speak with us about his dad, deep house, DJ AM, community, and the future, all from the comfort of a sunny downtown loft. After responding to a text from LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, Steve settles in:
LA CANVAS: Was your family supportive of you being a DJ, pursuing music?
STEVE AOKI: My father never gave me a single dime. It was just his way of saying, “you need to figure shit out on your own.” Even though he was a wealthy, flamboyant businessman and entrepreneur, he was smart in not spoiling his children with the wrong spoils. My father was an adventure seeker. I was lucky to be spoiled by traveling with him growing up, going to all these places around the world and returning refreshed and inspired. There’s no doubt my success is derived from watching him do his thing.
LAC: What was the catalyst for realizing you needed to do more than just be a DJ in order to transcend regional boundaries?
SA: The original catalyst was being this lost kid and finding a community that supports me for who I am, and me wanting to be productive in that community. The community at that time was straight edge hardcore. When I was growing up in Newport Beach, it was middle and upper class white suburbia. In order to get respect in straight edge hardcore culture, you had to be productive. I learned how to put on shows, I started a zine, and I was in a band. I was so passionately involved that I picked up a guitar, I stole copies from Kinkos to make the zines, I found a community center to do shows for free. The same principles apply to every business decision I’ve made since, ‘cuz it’s all about spreading the word and preserving the community. DJing didn’t start until I came to LA and needed to build Dim Mak. That’s when I started promoting and opening up for friends at bars.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY RICKETT + SONES