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Steve Aoki On The Importance Of Live Theatrics & The Fall Of Aussie EDM Festivals

Steve Aoki has been active as a producer and DJ for the best part of two decades now, moving to electronic music after cutting his teeth in rock bands in his youth. He’s been a premier hitmaker and tastemaker in EDM for a good decade now too, and his live show has remained one of the most entertaining in the electronic music scene for some time.

One of the reasons why Steve Aoki has remained one of the most exciting names in music for such a long period is that he’s never been afraid to go against the curve. Recently, he remixed Blink-182 to mixed reviews, but that hasn’t phased him and he’s gone ahead working on collaborations and is also building up releasing his next record Neon Future III.

We caught up with Steve ahead of his MTV Beats And Eats Performance this weekend to chat about the death of Australian EDM festivals, coming full circle to work with rock bands again and the changing way that millennials listen to music.

Music Feeds: How excited are you to be back in Australia?

Steve Aoki: I never get a chance when I think about coming down here. It’s becoming less and less frequent – because the festivals are gone. Now it’s even more special that I’m here, so I’m really happy to be down here. I know tonnes of people are coming out for the show – and I’m spending a lot more time in Australia than anywhere else I’ve been recently.

I was just in India recently for an hour and in Indonesia I was there for about ten hours. I’m in and out of a lot of places, so what I had the opportunity to come down here I didn’t just want to come down for one show – so I did the Melbourne show and a club show at Marquee, and presenting at the ARIAS. I just thought ‘let’s have some fun, let’s spend a week here’ because it’s summer time; the best time to be down here. I love Sydney, I love the city and I have tonnes of friends because I’ve been coming out here and touring for close to a decade.

MF: You’ve obviously played Stereosonic and Future a bit in the past. What do you think about the fact that it and other festivals are gone now?

SA: I was asking a lot of questions yesterday. What happened? Stereosonic and Future have bowed out. Where do artists like myself, in the electronic space, go to play and to build our careers down here? People are still trying to figure it out. I think maybe at the end of the day Australia needs some time, some breathing room to regrow again.

I remember when I first started coming out here; I always listed Australia as a country where pound-for-pound it was a festival culture country. Every weekend in your summer and our winter, it was a blessing to come down here, because it was just beautiful days and everyone out having the time of their lives.

MF: It’s interesting that you think it’s rebuilding, and there’s fewer opportunities – especially at a time when Australian electronic music is particular strong in the States.

SA: I mean Flume has definitely taken the world by storm. Definitely building his own thing, I’m a huge fan of his for what he’s doing. I love a lot of the artists down here, and I’m just happy to be here playing MTV Beats & Eats.

MF: Your live show has such an incredible reputation for your on-stage theatrics; with cakes and everything else that goes into it. How important to you is incorporating aspects like theatrics and visuals into your shows?

SA: When I think about a live show – music is a large component obviously, but fans are there for an experience, and experiences are visual. You get an energy from the people around you based on what’s happening on stage and certain things that happen on stage, it’s all part of the entertainment. Whether it’s how a DJ is playing a record or how a band is performing.

For MTV Beats And Eats coming up this weekend, 40% of the music I’m showcasing in Wollongong is going to be unreleased, so hopefully that’s a treat for people. I’m sure there’s a lot of fans out there that might only know one song, but I’m going to introduce it as if it was one of my headline shows because I’m really excited and really proud of all the new music I’ve been working on.

It’s going in different directions, like when I go in the studio with different artists I definitely keep a blank slate so that way we can work on the best music we can together and find a new road we can go down. That leads to all these really interesting new songs. There’s a new song with 2 Chainz and a new song with Lil Yachty, and I’ve just finished a remix for My Chemical Romances Black Parade, for the 10th anniversary release – so that’s a really great throwback that I’m sure a lot of My Chem fans will like. We’re releasing that at the end of the month so that’ll be super fresh. It’ll be a mixed bag of really cool stuff.

MF: Even after all these years you’re still taking EDM to new places, remixing MCR and recently you even performed a live Blink 182 remix with the band. Do you feel it’s important to keep taking your music to new places?

SA: Well for me it’s a cyclical thing, because I came from being in a band. Before I was even a DJ I was a guitarist, played bass and sung in a band. So I grew up listening to Blink-182, My Chem and Linkin Park, Fall Out Boy. So to be able to go back in the studio and work with them, and do collaborations with… I’m proud to say there’s a new song with Blink-182 that’s the first collaboration they did outside their genre which will be coming out next year. Being able to do to Bored To Death remix and do it live with them was really cool.

In terms of the My Chem song, I’ve been friends with Gerard (Way) for a long time so to be able to do this remix it’s nice to bring it back to my roots. There’s a lot of the boundaries of what you’re supposed to do and what you’re not supposed to do – there’s no rules anymore. The same fans that love all these bands, they also like my music and Flume. The way millennials listen to music, on Spotify and streaming services, they don’t just listen to one genre.

MF: So how’s ‘Neon Future III’ coming along, can we expect it to be released pretty soon?

SA: The way that I’m going to release it is I’m just going to release song after song after song, and the album will eventually come out. I was going to release the album at the beginning of next year but now I’m dropping a big song in December, and I’m not going to play that before then. It will be the very first time that I drop a song the day it comes out, live. Usually I drop music and test it out live at my shows, but this will be a special surprise with an incredible vocalist, and we’re going to do it live in December.

I’m going to be playing five new songs from Neon Future III this weekend. It’ll be a different set to what you would’ve expected three years ago, plus the sounds are changing. It’s not necessarily about the most effective EDM drop – it’s about what’s going to take you to that place that makes you remember the set.

Steve Aoki plays MTV Beats And Eats Festival this weekend.

MTV Beats & Eats 2016

Saturday, 26th November

Stuart Park, North Wollongong

Tickets: MTV Beats & Eats

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