Pushing out the showboat! Steve Aoki moors up at People in Dubai
When it comes to pushing out the boat, Steve Aoki does it like no other DJ. The showboat, that is. Our friends at Hype jump on board as the electro-house DJ and Dim Mak Records boss brings his party antics to Dubai for the first time…
America and Americans love rock music. They love it so much that large swathes of the country get so annoyed by anything that isn’t rock that they pile it up and burn it to the ground. Literally, as you will know if you’ve heard of Disco Demolition Night, which saw a crate filled with disco records blown up on a baseball field on July 12, 1979, at Comiskey Park in Chicago, Illinois. As such, that EDM has become such a big thing Stateside is somewhat baffling. Until, that is, you investigate the key players.
One of those is, unmistakably, Steve Aoki, the Dim Mak label boss. Sure, he makes laser-lit, raved-up electro-house from electronic instruments, but the reason he has become so well loved in the States is that he wraps it all up in rockist ideals: he has long hair, encourages moshing at his events, throws cake at his fans, sprays champagne, rides rafts on the dancefloor and basically carries on like rock icons Linkin Park, with whom, funnily enough, he recently collaborated.
It’s a far cry from what most of us recognise as dance music, but that’s not stopped him becoming one of the most popular acts at electronic festivals, clubs and gigs around the world. Essentially, he, along with peers like Skrillex, has become the acceptable face of dance music for the American masses who previously thought dance music too black or generally against the guitar-led grain.
Aoki’s early life was standard enough – the now 36-year-old was born in Miami, Florida, and grew up in California, where he went on to attend the University Of California, Santa Barbara, and graduated with two BAs.
Though his chosen subjects were Feminist Studies and Sociology, it was at college that he also first started producing his own DIY records and hosting parties. In his 20s he set up his record label Dim Mak, as well as playing in a number of bands including This Machine Kills.
Before long the label began picking up steam and released music by electro-house artists such as MSTRKRFT, Klaxons, Infected Mushroom and Mystery Jets. As a DJ, Steve put in plenty of legwork, relentlessly touring American colleges and performing an average of 250 shows a year. It was likely around 2008 that the wider world really started to take note, though, after Aoki got his first Essential Mix on UK station Radio 1. Another one came in 2012, and by then his place atop the EDM throne was pretty much assured.
That same year was actually the first and only time Aoki has ever released a fully solo EP. His norm is to collaborate with a wide arrange of artists from many different backgrounds. Many of these appear on tour with him and have included everyone from Afrojack to Chris Lake, Laidback Luke to Armand van Helden. Said shows are unlike anything else in the electronic world. His antics are famed, and the bare spectacle of the lights, lasers, CO2 cannons and everything else make for pure sensory overload.
Known for surfing crowds in inflatable boats and jumping around on trampolines, he came down to earth with a bang back in 2012 during a performance in Puerto Rico when an ill-timed trampoline jump sent him flying against the side of the stage. A trip to hospital ensued and it turned out there were no broken bones.
One thing you can count on at an Aoki gig is cake. The hirsute DJ tosses the stuff at every gig. “We have to make sure the cake is soft, fluffy,” he told Vibe in August last year. “The crowd knows what to expect, especially the front row. Whoever makes the biggest sign usually gets the cake. I’ve hurt my shoulder throwing cakes this year. I’m not kidding. I’ve had a physiotherapist work on my shoulder every show to, like, get it prepared and ready. It’s all about comfort on the splatter of the face; you don’t want it to hurt. English cakes, for one, are the worst cakes; they are these brick cakes not meant to be thrown at anyone’s head or body parts. So never British cake. Never, never.”
It’s to be seen whether Steve will be launching the sweet stuff when he drops in to play high-end club People by Crystal on Thursday (who’d pick up the dry-cleaning tab?). With two new collaborative EPs out with Coone and Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike in the same week or two, there’s a good chance you’ll hear some of his newest material to boot.
Raffles Hotel, Sheikh Rashid Road, Dubai. Tel: (050) 2972097. Taxi: Raffles Hotel. Thursday February 6, 11.30pm to 3am. Dhs400. peopleofdubai.com