Steve Aoki, one of the highest paid DJs in the world, is known for his long black hair and his tendency to hurl cake into the audience at his shows. MOVE spoke with the artist prior to his Jan. 28 show at The Lou in St. Charles about his Grammy nomination, politics and his new collaboration with Louis Tomlinson on the single “Just Hold On.”
MOVE Magazine: What was your reaction to your Grammy nomination? Steve Aoki: I couldn’t believe it. I really couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t even looking. I mean, you look at the list, it's pretty crazy — it's like Beyoncé, Yo-Yo Ma, The Beatles. I'm excited. I was shocked and kind of side-winded by the whole thing.
MOVE: How has this tour been going so far? SA: It's been great. We did this run out here in New York doing a ton of press for “Just Hold On.” And I’ve never seen the kind of response for any other song. Being a part of, now, Louis Tomlinson and One Direction’s world of how incredible their fans are, and their fans work together as like a beehive, and they just help push songs, and it’s like the best street team you could ever imagine. I've been very fortunate to have them push this song in all the different ways they do. We let that be the guide first and see if radio connects and see if different press or different people connect with the song to help get more people to listen to it. Playing Jimmy Fallon was a huge deal for me; obviously I’ve been watching the Tonight Show since I was a kid. Being able to play it, perform live — and not just DJ, but to perform with a band — that brought me back. That brought me back. It was a bit hairy at first. I was really nervous but I got into the groove, but I was really nervous to be playing keys.
MOVE: What can you say about the new direction with your music? SA: The thing is, every song I do when I collaborate with different artists, I want to keep my slate really clean and open, and I want to go in any direction. It doesn't necessarily have to have this negative drop for the clubs or have to have this certain arrangement that people know about, the Steve Aoki sound. It's really about making the best song I can possibly make with the person in the room that I'm working with. We can use a completely new sound set; we can use a whole new arrangement of kicks and drums, and in this case, and this is what the great thing about working with so many different artists, is that it expands my direction. It expands my horizon as a producer, too, to be able to work in any format, any genre. I love being in the studio with Lil Uzi Vert, and at the same time jumping into the studio with Blink-182, and then jumping into the studio with Louis Tomlinson. And finding common ground with all those different artists.
MOVE: What do you think of the current state of affairs in the U.S.? SA: I made a pretty public statement on my Instagram and Facebook. I do it a lot more than other artists, but I always want my music to speak for me on my page. With something like this, you can't sit idle. We’re taking steps back on all the progress that [President Barack] Obama made, that the U.S. made in the last eight years, and now we're back in time. It’s just not a future that I envisioned or a future that I’m proud of. The future that [President Donald] Trump wants is not a future that I want. I’m embarrassed about what he’s doing, and I can't agree with the platform that he stands on. I have no choice; I have to say something. When artists come out of their shell to say something, it really inspires me. You go through the comments on my Instagram, it’s not all happy faces and smiles. It gets a bit heated on there, and I knew it was, and I’m okay with that.
MOVE: Before we conclude, is there anything you want to add and impart to our readers? SA: Just get ready for lots of new music. You're gonna see a high-energy show. Like there’s certain things I have to deliver. I know people want the cake, I’m bringing the cake, I’m bringing dessert with me, and things like that are fun for the show that I won't retire. Should be a fun show, lots of new music. I can't wait to get back. Every time I've been through Missouri on my bus tours, it’s lit, man. My last shows were sold out, they were f---ing epic, and I hope this show coming up will be just as wild my previous.
This interview has been edited for style and clarity by Katherine White (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Katie Rosso (email@example.com).
Jay Encina contributed reporting to this article.