EDM

Steve Aoki on How His Gigs Are "About Gettin' Crazy and Going Wild," With or Without Cake

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The good news is that the Dim Mak czar and attention-grabbing DJ/producer will still be flinging frosted baked goods (which is known as, "caking up") at events where he's the headliner or at his club shows, including his gig on Thursday night at Livewire in Scottsdale when he brings the Neon Future Experience to the Valley.

Good thing, too, since its one of Aoki's signature bits (along with spraying champagne on his audience or crowd-surfing in an inflatable boat) and is something that any hardcore EDM fan or club kid should experience at least once.

Needless to say, the 37-year-old artist is big on the performance aspect at his shows and is credited with helping to amp up theatrics in the dance music world, which is a byproduct of his love of punk and history in the hardcore scene. Aoki, a former hardcore kid and member of such bands as This Machine Kills and The Fire Next Time, also drew inspiration for his music from the world mosh pits and three-chord thunder.

"I went from writing guitar lines to writing in a computer and my first [EDM] records were very aggressive and I was sampling guitars and learning how to use distortion in my music," he says.

New Times got a chance to cover such topics with Aoki when he was in the Valley last month for Super Bowl weekend and also discussed the more theatrical elements of his performances and how he tries to strike a balance between the visual elements and stunts with the music.

The good news is that the Dim Mak czar and attention-grabbing DJ/producer will still be flinging frosted baked goods (which is known as, "caking up") at events where he's the headliner or at his club shows, including his gig on Thursday night at Livewire in Scottsdale when he brings the Neon Future Experience to the Valley.

I read on the Internet recently that you're not doing the cake thing anymore at festivals.

I'm doing it selectively...changing it up a bit. I'm making it more special for the Steve Aoki shows. That way more fans are going to experience something unique there. And then at the festivals, if I'm on a multi-tiered lineup and I'm in the middle of a bunch of different artists, I don't want to cake a bunch of non-Aoki fans, either, on accident. You know, for example, the whole front row is just Aoki fans then, yeah, then its a different scenario.

What about the champagne spraying or the boat rides through the audience? Those are sort of your hallmarks.

Those ones are part of all my shows, they're always going to be around.

Awhile back, Wolfgang Gartner sort of dissed DJs who do a lot of stunts at their gigs -- specifically saying, "I don't throw cake at people" -- and that he prefers to keep it about the music. What's your response?

Um, my response is that everyone has a right to their own opinion. It wouldn't even bother me if he said my name. I wouldn't be offended, honestly. Because, I mean, everyone's got an opinion and its not like he said, "you can't do it." I mean, he doesn't like it. There's a lot of things that I don't like either. I can't name them off the top of my head, but I'm a little more open-minded when it comes to what people do as a form of entertainment. If they potentially hurt people, then I'm not really down with it.

At the same time, I wish I was at a GG Allin show when he was like shitting on the ground or throwing shit in the air.

Was GG Allin an inspiration for you?

I mean, I wouldn't say that he's an inspiration for my show, but I'm a punk kid so you see these videos of what happened back in the day, like these videos of Darby Crash where he cut himself across the chest and just like screaming, his mouth bleeding. Or even David Bowie doing something or Jimi Hendrix lighting his guitar on fire, like those kind of things I remember. I love that shit. If you boil it down to entertainment entirely, you don't have to light your guitar on fire and still do a solo, but its fucking epic.

Right.

I remember seeing the Bloody Beetroots in 2011 when they played at Stereosonic and they lit their CDJs on fire at the end of the set and it was fucking sick. I mean, I come from that world, too, the world of stage dives where its not about composition, like being composed, and looking clean. It's about ripping everything apart and that's where I gain inspiration and passion.

I just went to straight edge hardcore show in L.A. a couple of days ago for this new band that I just signed, actually, on Dim Mak called XTRMST. Its Davey Havok and Jade Puget from AFI's side project. Those guys have been straight edge for over 20 years and...fuck, man, that feeling of watching that kind of energy, just people just screaming over you and grabbing the mic, like everyone singing together. It's sick. I got on the stage and I sang a Minor Threat song with Dave.

Which one?

"Filler." And it..felt...so...fucking...good to be on the mic again, because I used to be in a hardcore band [This Machine Kills].

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.