While prepping for a Summer show, Steve Aoki told BuzzFeed how he gets down — on and off the stage.
1. At first, money will be tight.
“In the beginning, we were getting $20-30 a show. We would work our fucking jobs and pay our fucking bills and like, earn enough money so we can get back on the road, we actually lost money on the road. We did it because we fucking loved it. There’s no daddy’s checks paying for this shit — just getting together and doing what you love to fucking do and doing whatever you can to get by. That’s the world I started in.”
2. You’ll be forced to nap in odd places.
“I came from a background of touring where the lifestyle was absolutely flipped from what I’m doing now. Right now, I’m being driven by a driver in a comfortable seat. And I flew on American Airlines to get here in first class. I’m not trying to say like, ‘Oh, I’m balling.’ I’m just saying where I came from — I’ve toured with a band in my car and we slept in it for weeks. I was sleeping in the driver’s seat pulled over on the side of the road. We would sleep on any basement we could find and never get a fucking hotel room, because we could never afford it.”
3. It will take people a while to respect you.
“I started DJing post college in Santa Barbara, then I moved to L.A. to start promoting Dim Mik Records’ parties and that was pretty much the only way I could get hired. Because who’s going to hire this DJ who just started? I was just playing records and I had this really big vinyl collection maybe 80 thousand records and I would just play whatever the hell I wanted to play.”
4. And keeping your life together without the structure of home is tough.
“You have to change what you think home is. You feel comfortable whether you have a girlfriend or wife or boyfriend whatever come with you, if you need to maintain a workout find places to workout in the city [you’re in]. At the end of the day that’s the only thing that’s difficult to get. You have to have a regimen, a team, just to instill that kind of spirit.”
5. Playing weird shows sucks, but it will help you make friends.
“I’ve played in a bar, properly, no dance floor at all, sitting in a chair with two turntables playing screaming hardcore music. While people are trying to drink beers and have conversations they weren’t happy. I didn’t get paid but I played the gig because my buddy was the bartender. He told me he loved my band, record collection.”
6. You’ll have to try a bunch of approaches before you find your musical trademark.
“I remixed 20 artists even before making my own track,” Aoki said. “I only started becoming an artist because I started remixing the indie bands. And that trend started showing in 2005. I called Diplo and asked him to remix Bloc Party and I was going to remix the B-side. That was the first remix I ever did.”
7. But once you find your footing, it becomes your responsibility to stand for something.
“I first got into animal rights when I was really young, a tween essentially,” Aoki said. “It’s been difficult to stay vegan on the road and I eat meat now, but I still don’t wear fur. I’ve been a PETA supporter since I was 14-15 years old, because they’re out here to protect animals and animals being abused. I’m happy they’re out there doing their thing, and I can be a part of it.”
8. And once you’ve blown up, you’ve got to reflect some of your shine back on the little guys.
“These starving bands that are doing it in and out — they get no fucking sleep and they’re getting paid shit. But they’re not complaining. They’re not crying. And you never really hear anything about that.”
9. But most importantly, keep things fresh every night, for yourself and everyone else.
“I made a 4,000-pound cake and brought it on stage with Travis Barker to celebrate 1 million likes on Facebook. We asked fans what they wanted to see and they said, “we want to see you get caked.” So we just made a giant cake and I jumped into it. It was amazing.”