My Favourite Game

The elec­tro-house pro­ducer on the ap­peal of es­ports, be­ing a char­ac­ter in Dragon Ball, and bet­ting big on Street Fighter bouts

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Mu­si­cian and DJ Steve Aoki talks COD and buy­ing an es­ports team

Steve Aoki is a mu­si­cian, DJ, pro­ducer and the founder of Dim Mak Records. He also set up the Steve Aoki Foun­da­tion to sup­port re­search into de­gen­er­a­tive brain dis­eases, and reg­u­larly streams char­ity matches on Twitch. More re­cently, he bought es­ports or­gan­i­sa­tion Rogue, and cre­ated a Dim Mak im­print called New Noise, which aims to pro­vide roy­alty-free mu­sic to Twitch stream­ers.

Why did you buy an es­ports team? I might not be great at gam­ing, but I’ve been a gamer since I was a lit­tle kid. I’m al­ways look­ing at what in­spires me, so it’s not just about mu­sic – it can be any sort of en­ter­tain­ment. With the rise of gam­ing turn­ing into an ac­tual sport, this was an ex­cit­ing ven­ture to get in­volved in. I was re­search­ing dif­fer­ent teams, and Rogue are kind of like the un­der­dogs who are tak­ing down Over­watch. They’re lo­cal guys, too, from Las Ve­gas, which is re­ally cool. And they have this edgy vibe and im­age, and I just thought, ‘This is to­tally up my al­ley.’

You’re also a fairly reg­u­lar streamer – what is the ap­peal for you? I’ve been re­ally strate­gic about my streams – it’s not like I’m sit­ting down and gam­ing ev­ery day. I don’t re­ally have the band­width to do that as I’m ei­ther pro­duc­ing mu­sic or tour­ing a lot. But when­ever I can, I like to make an event out of it. I met up with Team Liq­uid re­cently, and we all gamed to­gether on Over­watch. That was a lot of fun. And be­fore that I was do­ing a Street Fighter thing with Twitch where I was bat­tling other artists. It was fun to watch.

You lost $10,000 in a char­ity match with Kid Ink. That must’ve been tense. It’s a lot of money, but we make sure it goes to char­ity – and I do­nate a lot any­way. But when you’re play­ing it’s like you’re watch­ing the Su­per­bowl and you’ve got money on it. It gets rid of the whole, ‘Oh, let’s just have fun’ men­tal­ity. It’s like, ‘No, I have to win.’ [Laughs.]

Do you play much when you’re on tour? For the most part last year I would pro­duce on the road, but this year I’m spend­ing a lot more time at home so I’m gam­ing on the road in­stead. I play a lot of iOS games. I’ve put out my own iOS game called Beat Bomb, and made ex­clu­sive mu­sic for it that’s only avail­able in the game. But I ac­tu­ally travel with a PS4 as well – I have an LED mon­i­tor that sits on top of the con­sole. I’ve just got Mafia III, and I’m look­ing for­ward to play­ing Call Of Duty: In­fi­nite War­fare. At home I have an Xbox One with Gears Of War 4, too.

As well as Beat Bomb, you’re also a char­ac­ter in Dragon Ball Xen­o­verse 2. How did that come about? That was a re­ally big mo­ment for me. I’m an anime junkie, and when I was at col­lege I was in an anime club, and ev­ery week we’d go to sit in a hall and watch ani­mes, trade sound­tracks and geek out over them. My 18-year-old self would be jump­ing up and down like a lit­tle kid if you’d told him he was go­ing to be in Dragon Ball Xen­o­verse 2. Orig­i­nally they hit me up about do­ing some mu­sic for them, and then get­ting to be in the game was not even a cherry on top – it was just ex­tra fuck­ing cake!

On the topic of mu­sic, what was the think­ing be­hind New Noise? I’m al­ways try­ing to find dif­fer­ent ways to fuse my plat­form, and the Dim Mak plat­form, to cre­ate these bridges be­tween our worlds. I re­mem­ber in 2007 when giv­ing away mu­sic was a huge taboo. We gave out a sin­gle and a lot of the part­ners that we had were up­set about it. But the records we gave away were also the records that sold the most… New Noise is the same kind of cir­cu­la­tion con­cept. We cre­ated a sub­la­bel so that it’s easy for gamers to use our mu­sic when they’re stream­ing. It was a big push for us to make sure that we put our­selves out there in the Twitch com­mu­nity, in the gam­ing com­mu­nity: ‘Hey, you guys can use our mu­sic for free.’ That was the whole point – get our mu­sic out there, and give back to gam­ing cul­ture a bit more.

“Get­ting to be in the game was not even a cherry on top – it was just ex­tra fuck­ing cake”

And what’s your favourite game? It changes over time. Nowa­days I don’t have time for RPGs too much. I tried to play The Witcher and Fall­out, but you don’t re­ally get that far in a cou­ple of hours of game­play. So now I’m like, ‘Get me into a mis­sion, let me shoot some peo­ple up.’ I’m still hooked on Black Ops. It’s in­cred­i­ble – the move­ment, the look of it. I’m ex­cited about the next one.

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