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Nothing coy about Aoki


If you're doing 250 shows a year around the world, packing in some quick sight-seeing between playing to crammed dance floors becomes something of a habit. American DJ, producer and label owner Steve Aoki, not only juggles his life as performer and tourist but manages to find time to upload his life on Twitter and Instagram. 

Within hours of landing in New Delhi, he had visited India Gate, the 34-year-old managed to get himself photographed in the ubiquitous yellow-green auto, did the Aoki-jump in front of ten cops, trekked to Akshardham, took off his shoes at the mosque in Nizamuddin, and tucked into kebabs, naan, daal and biryani. By the time TOI-Crest caught up with one of the world's highest paid DJs, he looked like he could do with a good sleep rather than play to a club packed with 1, 200 teenagers. In Mumbai, he found his way to Dharavi, and tweeted a picture of him wearing a white kurta to his 818, 905 followers.

"Tired and sleepy yeah, but so excited, " was his first reaction. "Everyone has been so nice to me here. I look like such a weirdo with my long hair and tattoos but people everywhere have been so welcoming, letting me take pictures. I have seen Hindu culture, Muslims, and know Indians, but to see all this together in one place. It's just amazing. "

Amazing is also the word that can be used to describe Aoki's dramatic rise in the world of dance music. A late entrant to the world of DJing - the son of a former Japanese wrestler, he was 22 when he started spinning - he has in the last decade made the transformation from punk rocker to man who defines the electro house genre. Or, in his words: "I went from songwriting on a guitar to songwriting on MIDI keyboard. "

Aoki has been in bands ever since he was 16. "I revelled in that culture of live punk music, " he says. "I used to write a column for HeartattaCK magazine. When I started my own record, Dim Mak (after his childhood hero Bruce Lee), we used to sign on bands, and when I moved to Los Angeles, the easiest thing to promote my label would be to throw parties, Dim Mak parties. That's when I started DJing. "

Aoki invited bands to DJ and created the whole 'hipster' scene in LA. "That was my introduction to the world of DJing because I really wasn't part of that whole rave culture, " he explains.

Even if you are not a fan of his music, like this writer admittedly isn't, he brings the same rage, if not range of a live band to his shows. His shows are marked by his antics - cakethrowing, champagne-spraying and raft-surfing - with the music being pounded out at a volume loud enough to numb your brain and ears. It's no wonder that he's so loved by the kids.

Introduced to the world of electronic dance music, or EDM, through remixes, Aoki released his first remix album in 2008. Called Pillowface and His Airplane Chronicles, it featured tracks from artists like Justice, Peaches, Datarock, MSTRKRFT, Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand. Before he knew what, he had become one of the busiest DJs, on the circuit, touring the US and the globe, playing at clubs and festivals big and small. It was only earlier this year that he finally released his first solo album, Wonderland. "It took a long time because I didn't prioritise the release date. I didn't sequester off three months for it because I couldn't. It was only in 2011 that I told myself that I had to focus on getting this damned thing out. " After a brief pause, he adds, "I now understand the scope and it won't take me this long for the next one. "

EDM has taken America by storm. DJs are filling up stadiums that were earlier rock meccas. Everyone knows who Skrillex is, even if they don't know what dubstep is. Even though Aoki agrees that Sunny Moore has been a game changer, he says that there are other artists who have made an even more significant contribution. "For me the artist who changed the scene, brought about a resurgence of the genre so to say was Daft Punk, rather their comeback, " says Aoki. "Daft Punk have to their credit songs which are most commonly referenced in pop culture. The Alive 2007 Tour had a big impact. They changed the scene in America at large. The other artists that built the stage for the EDM revolution is Justice. They defined electro, not just as a sound but as a culture. It was quite similar to punk rebellion against dance music. Their sound was abrasive, referenced rock elements. They were huge. "

Except, that Justice may never find 3, 000 people in India waiting for hours to get in to a club to see a man throw cake at them.

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