Entertainment & Arts

Steve Aoki: the man who works 361 days a year

Steve Aoki Image copyright Ethan Miller
Image caption Steve Aoki says he is inspired by the protests against the political changes in America

Next time you feel like a bit of a moan about how few holidays you get, spare a thought for DJ and producer Steve Aoki who plays 300 plus shows a year and takes less than an average working week off.

Okay, we understand the idea of travelling the globe and playing music to thousands of gibbering clubbers may not seem like work to most punters but the income tax man would beg to differ.

Anyway, we tracked Steve down on his uber-short vacation ahead of the Grammys where a Netflix film about his hectic lifestyle called I'll Sleep When I'm Dead was nominated in the documentary category.

Steve also recently collaborated with One Directioner Louis Tomlinson on the track Just Hold On.

Steve, we're speaking to you in Aspen, Colorado, how is it going?

It's beautiful, I have a view of the mountains and the trees, it's really nice.

Are you a country person at heart then or are you a city boy?

I'm a city boy that romanticises being away from the city.

300 shows a year and just four days off, is that all it takes to recharge the batteries?

I've got to take a break sometime, so I'm spending the days snowboarding and enjoying myself with my friends, I do that once a year and this is my four days off. I try to enjoy doing my hobbies. You get into a cycle and it becomes awkward when I'm not in the studio or touring and playing shows, I get fidgety, I have to get back into the grind. I'm lucky because I love what I do.

Image copyright Vivien Killilea
Image caption Steve collaborated with Louis Tomlinson in 2016

Where are you at your most creative?

That's an interesting thing because before, I would have to find it in a a particular location but I've realised that my inspiration is everywhere I go and I need to be able to harness that and sometimes those moments of creativity are fleeting and you have to try and capture it when it comes. Luckily I get to travel the world and meet amazing creative people and you just have to be in the now and soak it in.

You spend most of the year travelling, what are your must-have travel items?

Just so I can survive, because I don't have a regular sleep pattern, in order to sleep in a car or a plane, I have my eye-mask, my specific eye-mask, I have this obnoxious pillow I travel with and my headphones.

The most important bit about the eye mask is that it doesn't touch my eyes so it looks like a bra for a doll, it's bulging, I should paint some eyeballs on it. I put it on and it's blacked out. I got my hood up, headphones on, if I'm travelling through Japan or China, I have a face-mask, you can't tell who I am.

You're working with the Migos, who were described by Donald Glover as 'this generation's Beatles', what did he mean and do you agree?

I've know these guys for a long time, they played a show in Atlanta, we went into the studio and knocked out a song real quick. These guys are amazing, without writing anything down they get an idea and start vibing it out and just nail it in one go.

The thing about music is that you look at The Beatles and throughout history there are very few groups that define a sound and generation. That song Bad and Boujee is definitive of this time in America, of American culture, so I agree with Donald that they represent culture in a really massive way.

Image copyright JP Yim
Image caption Steve wearing clothes from Dim Mak's fashion line

You had a new punk-influenced fashion collection showcased during New York fashion week, is this about scaling up 'Steve Aoki' the brand?

I've been involved in fashion in one form or another for a long time, when I was 15 I was screen-printing shirts in my mum's house for my first band and selling them on the road. So I knew it was something I wanted to do but it took a crazy long time for the Dim Mak collection to be ready.

We wanted to showcase it in the right way and so we turned the runway into a skate ramp so the energy of the [clothing] line was matched visually by what people were seeing as the skaters modelled the clothes.

You didn't bother training models to skate then?

That would have been a disaster, we got some of New York's best skaters that really knew how to rep the brand.

Image copyright JASON CONNOLLY
Image caption Steve says of US protests: 'I'm excited about the voices and the people that are going to be speaking out.'

Lots of articles claimed New York fashion week was notable for how political some of the shows were. What is it like being a creative person working in Donald Trump's America? Especially as a second-generation immigrant.

This is probably the worst period of time that I have lived in America, under this dictator-style, fascist president who is pushing his regime and clearing the rights of minorities, immigrants, women, the LGBT community, across the board - there are major steps backwards.

But one thing is for certain - the world is noticing that America itself is coming together and uniting as a voice. That's why punk happened in the early 70s because it was the voice of protest and rebellion post-Vietnam and now its happening again. We're having a renaissance. I'm excited about the voices and the people that are going to be speaking out.

There's a lot of creative spirit, especially in music and the arts and fashion, it's all part of a larger thing. The Rage Against The Machines of the world, they're going to come back and inspire more people.

Can we expect some politically-charged material from you?

I can't help it, it's in my DNA and I'm not one to sit on the fence especially when something like this has shown its face. When I post something political or anti-Trump on my Facebook, some of the comments I get, you can't believe how much ignorance is out there.

I might lose some fans by not staying neutral but I don't have a choice, I have to use my voice.

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