The electronic music world is a fickle industry. Maintaining success in the EDM aka electronic dance music sphere is arguably harder than any genre. Tastes change all the time, new sounds take over almost with the blink of an eye, thus, DJs come and go with the speed of a bullet train.
One survivor is Los Angeles native Steve Aoki. In the game since the '90s, Aoki not only produces, he’s also one of the most relentless touring DJs, playing countless shows a year. He’ll roll through Texas on his Kolony tour — hitting Stubbs BBQ in Austin February 28; The Bomb Factory in Dallas on March 1; and Revention Music Center in Houston on March 2.
So how does he maintain the type of lifestyle that revolves around a party?
“I eat clean, lean and healthy,” Aoki said from a tour stop in England. “I also make an effort to practice meditation. That is a huge part of maintaining the stamina it takes to do this.”
Aoki’s tastemaking label Dim Mak has been going strong for 22 years. It broke many cutting edge rock and electronic acts including Bloc Party, The Kills, MSTRKRFT, The Klaxons, and more. It also served as a way to get out his music as he’s collaborated with some of the world’s best electronic producers.
His latest project is Kolony, a hip-hop album that’s more of a collective work, featuring some of the hottest, up-and-coming artists, including Migos, Lil’ Yachty, Gucci Mane, Lil Uzi Vert, and 2 Chainz. Always shifting sounds to stay at the forefront of the latest sound, Aoki started work on Kolony based the type and frequency of his studio guests.
“I was always in the studio with different hip-hop artists,” he said. “I thought to myself, this actually deserves its own project. It’s more than an album, it’s a brand.”
Branding is huge with Aoki, as Dim Mak has represented the youth and energy of his audiences, his shows featuring insane antics, such as throwing cakes and crowd surfing in a rubber dinghy. Kolony sees a shift in tone for the DJ/producer, but it was a challenge he was excited to take on.
“There was a learning curve for me,” Aoki said. “It’s finding a groove to let them do their thing, then I can add to it. It opens me up to new directions.”
He sees Kolony as a means to building yet another arm of the Aoki empire, tapping into another segment of youthful audience that’s rapidly gaining relevance within the mainstream.
“It’s beyond a genre, it’s cultural,” Aoki said. “It transcends music. Working with artists that build that culture, it was great.”
It would seem like he has a lot to fall back on if the EDM or hip-hop scene passes him by. He’s built a decently successful record label and an e-sports business called Rogue — as well as having served as the resident music director at Surrender, the club located in Wynn Las Vegas, where DJs can make up to $400,000 a night playing to packed crowds.
But music is still his passion, and touring is still his bread and butter, as evidenced by his recent UK tour and six week U.S. tour with both Desiingner and Grandtheft in tow.
“Music is everything,” Aoki said. “Music keeps me young and keeps me relevant. It is a huge priority for me.”
Aoki spins (and possibly throws cake) at 6 pm Thursday, March 1, at The Bomb Factory, 2713 Canton St., Dallas. Tickets are $30-$500.