Steve Aoki has a lot to celebrate. For one, he just made it another full circle around the sun, celebrating his birthday alongside a crowd of 5000 at the legendary Shrine Auditorium, in his hometown of Los Angeles. Secondly, while December may mark the end of the world as we know it, Aoki is perfectly content providing the soundtrack to the hyped doomsday chaos. After a full year of extensive touring and running Dim Mak Records, Aoki’s latest EP, It’s the End of the World As We Know It, is finally ready for the masses.
Prior to a 20-hour-plus trek to South Africa for his upcoming weekend tour, Aoki took some time to shed some light on conspiracy theories, what it’s like having his own app, and the back-story on his brand-new collaborative EP.
Do you buy into any of the conspiracy theories about doomsday, or is the title of your new EP, It’s the End of the World As We Know It, your way of having fun with it?
I love conspiracy theories. I think they are fun. It’s fun to think of all these crazy things that might happen. It’s part of the adventure—you’re supposed to take it to these wild places. If it’s the end of the world, let’s go out with a bang, you know. That’s the point. We’re only here for so long, so make the most of your life.
And for the album?
Throughout the year, I’ve been touring like crazy, so I haven’t had too much time to sit down in my own studio and come up with a major concept, so that’s why I was like, okay, it’s the end of the world, 2012, let’s put these three songs together. It’s three different collaborations I did with different producers, so I figured we’ll pack it all together. I produced them at different times throughout the year, so there were different influences and sounds in each song.
What was it like collaborating with different people for each track? Can you break down each one for us?
The first song I did with Annger Dimas; I always work together with this guy. He’s one of my really good friends, and we have really great chemistry working together in the studio. I got Kay (of My Name Is Kay) on that record to amp it up a bit more and make it a bit more vocal obviously. I’ve been dropping that record since Ultra. That’s where I debuted the song, and now it’s finally coming out.
As far as “Omega,” we got Dan Sena on it and we got Miss Palmer, who also sang on “No Beef,” and it’s one of the more commercial-sounding records and I’m really happy with that one.
“Transcend” is a record I started with Rune RK actually over a year ago. We were in the studio together, in the UK, and we rented a studio out there to do some work together. The song transformed and transcended into the song it became, so that’s why it’s called “Transcend.”
When does a track feel “finished” to you?
Sometimes, they feel finished right away. “Turbulence” and “No Beef” were both written in the span of no more than four hours. Both those songs were done fairly quickly. Sometimes, things take time. I’m working on a record with Knife Party that’s coming out next year, and it’s still not done yet, but I’m dropping it every set. We did two studio sessions on that record, so sometimes it takes time to really fine-tune all the sounds and what we want to do with it. I really take it case by case, because each time can be different.
With these three for the EP, “Transcend” took the longest. It really morphed into a lot of different songs and melodies before sticking with the version we went with. “Omega” took the better part of this year to actually finish and “Singularity” was sort of a quick one. Angger and I rocked the music out on that one with one major session and fine-tuned it in another.
After putting so much work in over the past year, are you excited to finally have the EP coming out?
Yeah, I’m excited! It’s already all over YouTube and people have been listening to live rips of it from my sets. I’m excited that now they can actually download high-quality files of these tracks. Especially “Singularity”—I’ve been playing that one out for the course of the year.
I’m happy that people can now get it. I’ve been seeing a lot of comments about it since I’ve opened up my sets with it, and people getting excited about the release. “Omega” is a later song. I just started playing that one out in the last couple of months. And “Transcend” I’ve just started dropping, so those two are the more fresh records that have been circulating.
The concept of the EP translates really well visually. Can you tell us about the art behind the release?
I pretty much have the creative direction on all the art. For this, I was thinking like, I’m releasing an EP at the end of the year, it’s going to be December 2012, the Mayan calendar… The Mayan calendar is all about new beginnings, but there is the other comedic route to take about it. Thinking about all the other different, crazy shit that might happen—earthquakes, thunder and lightning, an alien invasion, a guy with a big white beard come down from the sky zapping people.
I mean it wouldn’t be funny, but it would be funny—seeing UFOs or gigantic creatures coming from underground, after an earthquake. I don’t know, just chaos. What I was saying to my artists for the EP was like, just think about all this crazy shit—aliens, gods, Mayan pyramids, and people running away from it all.
What was it like playing in your hometown for your birthday and then in Mexico City on your actual birthday?
I had my birthday bash at the Shrine in Los Angeles and I actually put up a video on YouTube of the actual show. It’s on my YouTube channel where I post up videos from tour life pretty much once a week so you can check it out there. That show was one of the most critical shows of my career. LA is my hometown; it’s really important for me to have great shows there. The Shrine is legendary and it’s a really big venue. I was worried. We got there, we sold it out and I couldn’t believe it. It was one of the most accomplished efforts in my life, so I was really, really happy. The people, my friends, my birthday, all in this legendary place. 5000 people. It was just incredible.
Mexico City was also an unforgettable night. That was actually on my birthday and I have an amazing fan base in Mexico. Sold out the Six Flags venue, like 6000 people. The crowd was just nuts.
Do you check out fan photos that people make with your #Aokify app? What’s it like having your own app?
On my Facebook, there’s an Aokify page and it uploads in real time anyone who hashtags #Aokify with their photo, so I’ve been checking it and reading all the comments of what people are saying. People are having fun with it. We put up a new sticker package and it’s from my rider, my tour rider that got exposed. We just made more underwear and socks and pizza, more stuff you can put on your face, all stuff from my tour rider. We’re making a holiday pack that’s coming out for December, in a week or two, with Santa Claus and snowballs. I love putting stickers and illustrations all over my photos. I was doing that even before this app. It’s made me really happy that it’s been downloaded a lot. Happy people are using it.
Next up for you is a tour in South Africa. Have you played there before? What was the scene like?
I played there two years ago. I didn’t know what to expect. The crowd was awesome, and this was back in 2010. I’m excited for these three shows in Durban, Cape Town, and Johannesburg this weekend. It’s a fascinating place because it sounds like it’s so far away. It’s definitely a long flight. I’m going to LA then London then South Africa; it’s like a 20-22-hour flight. The scene there is definitely full energy. Last time, we got to explore the city and went to the safari, the national park. I think we’re going to do something similar this time again.
If the world doesn’t in fact end, what can we look forward to from you in the next year?
Next year, I’m spending the first three months focusing on starting my second album. Then I have a major collaboration I’m working on with a band that will be coming up. Then will start heavily touring in April, playing Ultra again. Probably will be frequenting the small clubs in Los Angeles when I’m home. I always do these surprise sets where I don’t announce anything. I’ll do like a 30-minute trap set that no one knew was coming; it’s really fun to do things like that.