Workaholic superstar DJ Steve Aoki exudes optimism at every turn | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Workaholic superstar DJ Steve Aoki exudes optimism at every turn 

click to enlarge Steve Aoki

Steve Aoki

Brian Ziff

Is there any pop star with a career like Steve Aoki’s? How many other sons of business magnates got into hardcore in the 90s, wrote for radical punk zine Heartattack, led a screamo band that released a split with Japanese posthardcore legends Envy, and ran a DIY space that hosted the likes of Jimmy Eat World, Planes Mistaken for Stars, and Atom & His Package? How many launched a punk label in the 2000s that went on to release music by some of indie rock’s finest (the Dim Mak catalog includes Bloc Party and the Gossip) while carving out a niche as one of the most beloved DJs in the Los Angeles nightlife scene? How many crowd surfed on inflatable rafts during DJ sets and threw sheet cakes at eager fans—and still managed to transcend electroclash to become one of the dominant faces of EDM? How many then outlived EDM’s bust to become one of the ten wealthiest DJs in the world, or in 2019 collaborated with the Backstreet Boys and released a dance cover of the Dave Matthews Band? None but Steve Aoki. The arc of his life story so far (he’s 42) makes his September memoir, Blue: The Color of Noise (St. Martin’s Press), an enthralling read, despite his unimaginative prose and odd writing tics. He infuses his book with the same unrelenting optimism that comes through in his every sparkling synth note and quavering bass drop. In his recordings, Aoki massages mainstream electronic music for sensitive pop ears, which often means his presence fades into the background when he teams up with better-known personalities. On that Backstreet Boys collaboration, “Let It Be Me” (which should also appear on Aoki’s forthcoming album, Neon Future IV), he seems as superfluous as DJ Khaled.   v

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