My Las Vegas
The globetrotting DJ talks about moving to Vegas, feeling at home at Wet Republic and what he does after a set.
Always an active participant in the music scene, Steve Aoki played in bands, wrote for a music ‘zine and put on more than 450 shows in college before starting his own label, Dim Mak. His electronic style has made him a popular DJ the world over, especially in Las Vegas—and in turn, Aoki calls MGM club Hakkasan “my favorite nightclub to play in the world.” His album “Neon Future” comes out this month.
When was the first time you came to Vegas?
Probably around 2005. I played the Foundation Room at Mandalay Bay. I was playing hip hop—I was a DJ, like I am now, but I didn’t have any music. I was just DJing what people wanted to hear. It was honestly tougher, because the DJ back in that time period was anonymous. Your job was purely to keep the whole place dancing. If you played the wrong song and people left the dance floor, you might get kicked off at any given moment. As an artist, I’m not thinking like that, I like to introduce songs that no one’s heard, and I might introduce four of them in a row if I want to.
What do you like best about performing in Vegas now?
I really feel like it’s my backyard when I’m playing at Hakkasan and Wet Republic. It’s fun—I’m not really nervous or scared if something was to happen when I couldn’t control, because that’s when you get nervous, as an artist—there are certain variables that you can’t control, like where your set gets [bleeped] because of some technical issues with sound or whatever it might be. But even if that happens, I just feel more comfortable there. I’ve been playing at Hakkasan for a couple of years now. It’s got the best sound, it’s got the best room, a good team. And the crowd’s always different. That’s another great thing about Vegas—each weekend you’re playing to a
completely different, brandnew crowd. When you were a kid, did you know you wanted to be in the music world?
I did. I was a tween when I got into hardcore and that whole sound and movement. I really felt that music would be part of my life.
How did you make yourself part of the scene?
To gain respect from your peers, you do that by being proactive in your community and being creative in different ways to push your sound, your music, your culture. Whether it’s doing a ‘zine, whether it’s putting on shows, producing shows for other artists, whether it’s being in a band. When I was in college, I was just very involved in my community. I was putting on shows, then I started a label—it was a very natural kind of progression.
What’s the meaning behind your label's name?
Dim Mak is a martial art move otherwise known as the Touch of Death. My childhood hero was Bruce Lee, and I wanted to have some sort of connection with him. There’s this mystery that he was killed by the Dim Mak, and the mystery holds that he was able to do Dim Mak, so that was my way of paying homage.
At Wet Republic