If there’s one thing you need to know about Steve Aoki, it’s that the guy is prolific as hell. He’s a Grammy-nominated DJ-producer; he’s the founder of music label Dim Mak Records; he’s a fashion designer, surfer and philanthropist. But this year, the 41-year-old polymath leans into another occupation: he’s now a published author.
Titled BLUE: The Color of Noise, Aoki’s new memoir captures a lifetime spent making beats, starting parties and slinging [vegan] cakes into the faces of his fans. This month also saw the release of “Let It Be Me,” his joint pop-EDM single with the Backstreet Boys. In celebration of his latest endeavors, Aoki rocked a classic BSB shirt and spoke to Rolling Stone about some of the firsts he chronicled in his book: from his first punk show at 14, to the first of his many sold-out concerts and festivals.
On his first live show: “Before I was in a DJ, I was in bands,” says Aoki. “My first live show was in the guitarist’s living room — it was four of our friends, and their parents in the back. I taught them the lyrics to one song, so they could sing along with me when the song came out.”
On the first song he ever wrote: “I actually played guitar, I played bass, I played drums and I sang on a 4-track Tascam recorder. Without that, I wouldn’t have broken down the barrier of entry for me to try to create my own future.”
On taking his first women’s studies class: Aoki graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara with B.A. degrees in sociology and feminist studies. “The first course I took was a feminist professor teaching the history and social critique of pornography,” he says. “It was the gateway drug for me to take more courses.”
On meeting a personal idol: “Fugazi was performing at the Shrine,” recalls Aoki. “Fugazi is one of my favorite bands of all time; it was an incredible show. I was waiting on the side where the band would walk off the stage. Joe [Lally] the bassist walked by and reached for me. He reached out, almost touched my hand… and like a puff of smoke, he was gone.”
On his first sold-out concert: “It was at the Palladium in Los Angeles in 2011. That was a big year for me; I remember doing the Identity festival tour across the United States, and that’s when EDM exploded in America. That’s when I could start doing my own show.”
On meeting the Backstreet Boys: “We were all on a flight from Vegas to L.A. We landed and I was waiting for my bags [when] they approached me. I was like, ‘Oh damn, it’s the Backstreet Boys!’ I couldn’t believe how nice they were.”