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‘I always want to make music that jumps out at you. I like to envision a crowd rocking out – that when I’m done in the studio, I’m raging and I throw a keyboard,” he says, all fired up, with arms and long black hair flailing about.
Over Skype, Japanese-born electro house musician Steve Aoki (pictured) tells me he performed to a home crowd of 3 000 the night before. His long hair fills the computer screen, his tattoos peeking through a vest with the words “Dim Mak” (death touch) – his record label, aptly named after his childhood hero, Bruce Lee (there is a theory Lee was killed by a dim mak strike) – emblazoned across it.
Aoki is the badass of the electronic music scene and is fast becoming one of the world’s top dance music DJs. He performs an average of 250 shows a year, and headlines in more than 55 cities across the US and Canada. Aoki is no stranger to South Africa and he will be doing a three-city tour next month.
It’s his hit Beat Down featuring Anger Dimmas and Iggy Azalea, off his latest album Wonderland, that’s topping local charts.
From producing DIY CDs and running underground shows out of his Biko Room (named after Steve Biko) in his days at the University of California, Aoki’s loose ties to South Africa strengthened after he signed up our own electro maestro Haezer when on a visit here two years ago.
“When I like an artist, it’s more than the music, it’s the belief in the vision I have and the direction,” he explains. Other acts signed to Dim Mak Records are Bloc Party, The Kills and Klaxons.
Known for his remixes of Michael Jackson’s Dancin’ Machine, Duran Duran’s Skin Divers and Lady Gaga’s Government Hooker, Aoki’s mixing magic is in demand.
“The artist’s management or the record label hits me up. I rarely want to do it because I don’t have the time,” he chuckles.
The crazy, eccentric aura never leaves Aoki, who is known for extreme antics during live gigs. The mixologist can be seen riding a canoe to the stage, or diving off a trampoline, which left him with a sprained neck after a bad landing.
Aoki is adamant he’ll be bringing strictly Aokiness on his tour: “It’s so people can get the full experience. I’m constantly evolving, artists like to use the same synths, kicks. I’m working with a whole new drum palette. I’ll take them on a journey to another mental space.”
On December 11, Aoki will release his next EP, End of the World As We Know it.
• Catch Steve Aoki in Cape Town at the Harrington Street Block Party on December 7, Joburg on December 8 at H2O Wild Waters and Durban at Wave House on December 9.