Go Away With … Steve Aoki

By Jae-Ha Kim
Tribune Content Agency
February 13, 2018

Steve Aoki — a world-famous, Grammy-nominated DJ and producer — has collaborated with artists such as will.i.am, Linkin Park and Fall Out Boy. Most recently, he worked on the remix of BTS’ hit single, “MIC Drop,” which was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America. Known to foodies as the son of Benihana founder Rocky Aoki, he does philanthropic work through his Aoki Foundation, which supports brain science and research areas.

Aoki, who has run his Dim Mak label for more than two decades, currently is on the road with his KOLONY US Tour. Fans may stay in touch with him via Twitter and Facebook.

Q. What destinations are on your travel bucket list?

A. There are quite a few. There are a lot of places that I know work won’t take me that I think about, like the Maldives or Machu Picchu or the pyramids in Egypt. It’ll take me a while, but I’d like to get to the Galapagos and see those turtles and the wildlife. Those would be fascinating to see one day, where I would definitely feel like an explorer.

Q. You recently traveled to South Korea, site of the 2018 Winter Olympics. What was that like?

A. It was wonderful. I’ve been going to Korea playing shows for over a decade. It has been very interesting to see how K-Pop has grown in popularity worldwide. I love K-Pop and am so happy that BTS is having so much success and that my remix was so successful around the world. I’m glad that I was able to be a part of that.

Q. Will you return to Korea to collaborate with them again?

A. I would go back anytime. We have a few other collaborations in the works and they’re going to blow your mind. This is their time. They are all such great guys.

Q. You and (BTS member) RM traded clothes. What was that all about?

A. (Laughs) He said, “I love your sweater,” so I gave it to him. So he took off his jacket and said, “Here, take this.” I’ve never done that with anyone else. Whenever I see him, I light up like fireworks. Next time, I’m going to tackle him, because I love the guy so much. We’re definitely brothers from different mothers.

Q. What else did you do in Korea besides work?

A. (Laughs) Eat! I really love Korean food. The very first restaurant I invested in was a Korean barbecue restaurant in Los Angeles. I’m not a beef eater, but I love everything else, like bibimbap and kimchi. Kimchi actually is one of my favorite things, period. I can eat it morning, noon and night. You could add kimchi to anything and it makes everything taste delightful.

Q. Where was your first paying gig?

A. It was a small place in Cahuenga, California. It was my first kind of residency. I didn’t get paid in the beginning. Later, they said, “Here’s $50.” I was like, “I got two 20s and a 10! That’s pretty awesome!” (Laughs) I got to do what I loved to do and figured out that if I did enough of it, I could pay off my debts. I had this little piggy bank kind of jar and I kept putting all my money in it. It was all about being thrifty, saving and spending my money wisely. All of that helped me become a good businessman.

Q. When you do get time off, do you prefer laid-back vacations or being on the go?

A. I’m a scuba diver and snowboarder and love doing all that kind of stuff. I like staying active. A dream trip would be to go to Alaska and go snowboarding. That would be incredible.

Q. You’re literally in the Guinness World Records as the “most traveled musician in one year.” When are you ever going to make time for that?

A. (Laughs) I know! I keep telling myself that at some point I’m going to slow down and make that happen. And then each year I stay on this busy schedule. I love what I do and it’s difficult to sustain a career in music. At some point — who knows when — my stock will drop. I’m just happy that people still love my music. I will have to wait on all those fun adventures.

Q. What is your best vacation memory?

A. I went to Hawaii recently with my mom, siblings and their kids. We rented a house and stayed right on the beach. It was absolutely gorgeous. It was time away from everything and we went kayaking, swimming, snorkeling and hiked. Hawaii is a great destination. You get some rain, of course, but it’s always beautiful and warm with blue skies and blue water. It’s a perfect place for a family to have a little adventure.

Q. When you travel in Asia, do you feel more anonymous than when you are in the U.S.?
A. I do. In Japan, there are a lot of other Japanese men with long hair and facial hair and similar facial features, so I’m not uncommon. I can kind of meander around and go shopping and no one knows who I am. Honestly though, I never go anywhere expecting people to know who I am. At the end of the day, you’ve got to be as normal as possible and do the things you want to do. That helps keep me grounded.

Q. What have you learned from your travels?
A. Every place offers something really exciting. People ask me where is my favorite place to perform and I can’t name just one place, because every place offers something unique. When I visit somewhere, I really try to take my time and find the culture and figure out what makes it distinct from a different place. That’s one reason why I tour as much as I do.

© 2018 JAE-HA KIM

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