Steve Aoki’s neon world blazes brighter—and louder—than ever with a profusion of projects in music, clothing, sneakers and beyond.
“I have so much to offer, and I want to share,” Aoki says. “At the end of the day, music is about sharing.”
Multifaceted doesn’t begin to describe Steve Aoki. When he’s not touring the world, playing shows for millions of raving fans and tossing cakes into the crowd, the DJ—who turns 40 on November 30—is in the studio rolling out track after track, building and collaborating with lifestyle brands, dreaming up video-game concepts and more. But for a fleeting moment, you just might find him in our city, enjoying a meal at his Lower East Side restaurant, Dudley’s, before he’s on to the next big thing…
At the core of your career, you’re a musician. But you also have your hand in a host of interesting projects, like your new gambling video game with GameCo, Steve Aoki’s Neon Dream. The gaming world and EDM, there’s a synergy there. I’ve done remixes for Dragon Ball Z, Injustice 2, Nintendo and PlayStation. Gaming is something I’m already involved with, and the casino world is my bread and butter. I’ve been playing in casinos in Las Vegas for over 10 years. I love Temple Run and all those infinite-runner games, so we thought, Let’s do one of those and put it inside this neon future realm. My last two albums were Neon Future I and II, and I tie in music with futurism and the exploration of space and technology, so we called it Neon Dream. Music is a big component. You can hear releases from my label, Dim Mak, in the game.
You just launched the “I Move Me” campaign with ASICS. How does the brand relate to your lifestyle? An ongoing part of my lifestyle is working out. It’s something I attribute my stamina to, being on the road for so long. Working out gives me a challenge, it gives me motivation, and you’re sculpting yourself and maintaining your health. The lifestyle space is a huge part of my [career], designing for Dim Mak and working on building Vision Street Wear, so to apply that to the athletics world is a no-brainer for me. ASICS gave me the opportunity to not just be the brand ambassador, but to create a trampoline to build on this brand and give them my vision. Expect some really cool Aoki collections coming out through ASICS.
You’re also the co-owner of Vision Street Wear, which recently dropped a new sportswear collection at Topman. It’s amazing to go back into the archives and fulfill a dream you had when you were a kid. When I was a kid and started skating, I was rocking Vision. They’re a heritage skate brand with such rich culture, and [they were] part of the early years of skateboarding. To bring that back now, decades later, is so exciting. And to bring it back in America, we needed a really great partner—Topman was by far the number-one choice. You have to maintain the integrity of the brand. I want to keep the logo and the heritage there but build upon it and make it more fashion accessible.
What inspired you to make a hip-hop album with your latest release, Kolony? There’s nothing better than surprising people. I’ve been working with hip-hop artists since day one. My first single was with will.i.am, and I was remixing Drake before 2010. All my previous albums had hip-hop artists on them, but with Kolony the process was different, and it is truly an EDM hip-hopinspired album from front to back. I’m using Kolony as a vehicle to create more music under the same brand. The whole process was incredible, working with Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Yachty, Migos, 2 Chainz, Gucci Mane, T-Pain. And we’re doing a music video for every single song. For “How Else,” the video took us one year to make and we shot over 260 shows. There’s over 5 million people singing along to “How Else” in 60 to 80 countries.
What ties do you have to New York? When I think of New York, I think of my father [Benihana founder Hiroaki “Rocky” Aoki]. Growing up on the West Coast, my father always lived in New York City or New Jersey and I would visit him. I thought of him as a superhero, so New York was this incredible city. When I think about breaking open a certain moment in my career, I want to do it in New York. It’s so deep in my heart.