Steve Aoki Interview: Dream Collab, Australian Festivals, Hard Decisions, Commercial vs Dance Records + More

Two time Grammy award winner and the hardest working DJ in the world – Steve Aoki, sat down with us for an interview whilst he was in Australia. We talked about his cross road in college, the state of the Australian festival scene, a dream collaboration, new music and much more!

How is it being back in Australia?

It’s been a couple years since I’ve been back in Australia, last time was for the Aria Awards. It was pretty awesome to apart of what felt the the Grammys but here in Australia as well as seeing all the artists down here. I saw Flume and he won tonnes of awards! I love Australia, I have a fondness for this country and I’ve actually come down here a lot through the past decade. I’ve also seen the whole culture of electronic music shift and change and festival culture come strong and go away. I always love coming down here so it’s nice to be back. I feel like there’s a surge and a want for that same kind of festival and electronic energy that I experienced in the early 2010’s. Which will be exciting because that means I’ll get to come out here a lot more! Plus my new album ‘Neon Future III’ dropped so I want to let my fans down here know about the new album, I’m very proud of all these songs. I’m excited to see the success of ‘Wasted On Me’ down here and how the radio is picking it up and overall supporting this record.

Back in late 2016, you were shocked that Australia didn’t have any significant dance music festivals after Stereosonic and Future Music Festival ceased operations. With the arrival of Ultra in Australia as well as other large festivals starting to pop up – do you think Australia is on it’s why back to becoming a key location for artists?

Yeah so because of Ultra and other festivals starting – they’re bringing down more EDM acts to Australia. Really it’s the culture of how things move, there was a big wave of festivals coming in and then I guess from around 2015 – 2018 there was a lull. The culture changed as well as people’s interests. These mega national touring festivals were obsolete.  There needs to be someone to pick up that spot again and people are getting excited, they want it! The idea of it being over saturated and then turn to a delusion, then a want and need for festival culture.

Nobody can deny what a festival can bring to people, the energy, the community, the spirit. A big part of the overall culture in Australia was the gathering a festival would result in, everyone went to the festivals! Doesn’t matter who you were, what music you listen to – you went to the festival to see these artists.

You had a crossroad in college, you either choose to continue down the academic route or progress with your label Dim Mak. How hard was that decision for you?

The decision was very difficult when I wasn’t sure if i would even get into the schools i was applying to. I was in a crossroads of going to graduate and/or conduct a PHD program or pursuing my record label Dim Mak. The hardest decision was when I didn’t have the answers from the schools. I applied to 15, but once I got accepted to 2 – then I had to make the decision.

Before, it was all up in the air, once I knew I could actually go down the school route I could think critically about what that route would look like. I could clearly see both futures and I couldn’t do that before I was accepted.

The answer to all is that once I could have a clear vision of both sides, I was able to make a very easy decision. The takeaway here, for people reading this that may have a critical crossroads is; in order to make the decision easy for you, make sure you know both sides of the potential futures that you could be embarking on. If you don’t know, you’re going to have a hard time. If you do have a good idea, the decision becomes very easy and natural and you just need to follow your gut and your heart. And I did, and I followed music.

Your Neon Future comic book launched in October, was that a bucket list moment for you?

Yeah I’m very excited about the comic book! Right now I’m really obsessed with the future, obviously with ‘Neon Future’ – I’m obsessed with science, tech and most notably science fiction concepts of us turning into robots or becoming god-like. It’s kind of like our evolution on becoming more and more immortal. What that future looks like is a very exiting path that and I love to see down that road. Everything I’ve just mentioned goes back to when I first opened up comic books when I was just a kid – before I was even into music. That opened up my curiosity and I was obsessed. It evolved into science fiction, into science research, which turns the science fiction into science fact. Then applying that into my music. Now we’re full circle, making the ‘Neon Future’ comic book storyline – an epic epic storyline! Issue #1 is out now and issue #2 launches April 24th. It’s a great introduction into the world of ‘Neon Future’, please read it – if you can! You can find it on Impact Theory Comics.

The third Neon Future album was just released, it includes commercial music as well as dance floor friendly tracks – do you make sure to incorporate dance music in all your projects?

With every album, I need to make sure there’s a convergence of the culture that brought me up and the other cultures (I saw plural because I’m attracted, I’m challenged and I’m draw to many different cultures of music). I think the idea that I’m drawn to all these different worlds of music allows me to be a better producer, musician, song writer and better human being overall. I like to always have elements of where I came from. I don’t want to base the music I make on what the fans want. With ‘Neon Future 3’, you do have these commercial crossover records, but you have the ‘Hoovela’ type of tracks also – that are straight bangers for the club/festival. It’s important to emulate those worlds.

You’ve done so many collaborations – from your mum, to blink-182 to Hardwell, do you have a dream collaboration that you haven’t done yet?

I’m always putting this out there, I’m not sure if it’s going to happen. But I’m not going to stop until I get a very hard no. Elon Musk – the dream is to be in the studio with Elon. To see what happen, what musical narrative could happen with us working together in the studio. With Elon, and artists like him, I’m not sure if he even has a musical background but that’s not what’s important to me. I want to be in the room with him and connect our brain and see what comes out of that. So my collaborations are wide and varied, I’m going to continue to think like that.  With ‘Neon Future 4’, coming out this year – I’m really trying to find what the next one will be. ‘Neon Future 3’ was Bill Nye, ‘Neon Future 2’ was JJ Abrams and Kip Thorne, and ‘Neon Future 1’ was Aubrey de Drey and Ray Kurzweil. ‘Neon Future 4’ has got to be big, got be awesome and epic.

You just mentioned Neon Future 4 is coming up, do you have any other upcoming projects you can tease?

‘Neon Future 4’ is another mega cultured collaborative project across the board. Songs that I have been working on in the same time frame as ‘Neon Future 3’ as well as new songs I’ve been working on in the past year, also what I’m currently working on now. It’s going to be a mix of all kinds of stuff in there. That’s my next main project. However I am working on other songs with artists for their own projects. I can’t really discuss them as in some instances I’m just the producer and they’re going to have the creative say on how it’s going to be presented to the world. Lots of different projects at the moment, in the studio with tonnes of different artists all the time. I always love to surprise people and get funky with it!

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