Steve Aoki is a well-known American DJ and record producer of Japanese origin. While in college, he established his own record label, ‘Dim Mak,’ which released music by bands such as ‘The Bloody Beetroots.’ He started his career with remixes, with the Los Angeles-based band called ‘Moving Units.’ His debut mix album, ‘Pillowface and His Airplane Chronicles,’ was featured on ‘Essential Mix,’ which was aired on ‘BBC Radio 1.’ He toured with different artists and put up shows across the US, Canada, China, and Japan, becoming famous for performing acrobatic stunts on stage. His debut solo album, ‘Wonderland,’ was nominated for the ‘Best Dance/Electronica Album’ at the ‘55th Annual Grammy Awards.’ He is married to Tiernan Cowling and runs his own clothing line, ‘The Dim Mak Collection.’ He is the founder of the ‘Steve Aoki Charitable Fund,’ which contributes to humanitarian relief and medical research. Of late, he has announced the release of his EP called ‘5OKI,’ which is a cross-genre project, featuring artists from around the world. He wishes to give back to the world what he has gained from it, and he believes music is one of the ways in which he can do his bit.
Childhood & Early Life
He was born Steven Hiroyuki Aoki, on November 30, 1977, in Miami, Florida, US, to Japanese parents Rocky Aoki and Chizuru Kobayashi. His father was a wrestler who later opened the ‘Benihana’ chain of restaurants. He has an elder sister named Kana and an elder brother named Kevin. He also has a half-sister, Devon Aoki, who is an actor and model.
He was raised in Newport Beach, California, and graduated from ‘Newport Harbor High School’ in 1995. He was a member of the school badminton team. He earned two BA degrees, one in feminist studies and the other in sociology, from the ‘University of California,’ Santa Barbara. He started playing chess at the age of four and was a champion in school and college.
While in college, he was part of the ‘Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist League,’ a clandestine Maoist organization in the US. He also ran underground concerts from his hostel room in the ‘Santa Barbara Student Housing Cooperative.’
He produced do-it-yourself records and established his own record label, ‘Dim Mak,’ by the time he was 20 years old. His company released music by artists such as ‘The Bloody Beetroots,’ ‘Infected Mushroom,’ and the ‘Mystery Jets.’
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Aoki joined the Los Angeles-based band ‘Moving Units’ with Blake Miller and started his career by making remixes. He was part of a few other bands such as ‘This Machine Kills,’ with whom he released an album through ‘Ebullition Records.’
He joined ‘MC5’ bassist Michael Davis’s ‘Music Is Revolution Foundation’ in 2006. The foundation is a non-profit organization that provides music education support in public schools.
He released his debut mix album, ‘Pillowface and His Airplane Chronicles,’ in October 2008. He was also featured on ‘Essential Mix,’ which was aired on ‘BBC Radio 1’ in August 2008 and October 2012.
He continued to make remixes of various artists, which he made popular through his ‘YouTube’ channel and his ‘Twitter’ account. His remix of the song ‘Forever’ originally sung by Drake, Lil Wayne, Eminem, and Kanye West, peaked at the top of ‘Hype Machine’s chart in December 2009.
In 2010, he started touring with different artists and put up shows across the US and Canada. He also toured China and Japan and gained a large fan following in those countries. He became famous for performing acrobatic stunts on stage and interacted closely with the audience.
His single ‘I’m in the House,’ which was released in collaboration with Zuper Blahq in March 2010, reached the top five of the ‘UK Singles Chart,’ the ‘UK Dance Chart,’ and the ‘UK Indie Chart.’ The song was also featured on ‘MTV’s reality series ‘Jersey Shore’ and in the movie ‘Piranha.’
He released his debut solo album, ‘Wonderland,’ in January 2012, and it was nominated for the ‘Best Dance/Electronica Album’ at the ‘55th Annual Grammy Awards.’ His first EP, ‘It’s the End of the World As We Know It,’ followed shortly.
He became the sixth-best DJ at the ‘2013 America’s Best DJ’ competition, promoted by ‘DJ Times’ magazine and ‘Pioneer DJ,’ for his number ‘A Light That Never Comes,’ which was created in collaboration with ‘Linkin Park.’
During this period, he produced a number of tracks that were used for various commercials, TV shows, and movies. For instance, ‘Get Me Outta Here’ was used in a commercial of ‘Scion’ and ‘Back to Earth’ was part of the soundtrack of the movie ‘Step Up: All In.’
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His two-part album, ‘Neon Future’ (Parts I and II), was another success. Both parts I and II peaked at number one on the ‘US Dance/Electronic Album’ list, in 2014 and 2015, respectively. His popularity soared and ‘Relativity Productions’ decided to distribute a documentary on his life titled ‘I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead,’ which was recorded during the period when the two parts of ‘Neon Future’ were being made.
He released his fourth studio album, ‘Steve Aoki Presents Kolony,’ in July 2017. He then produced a number of singles with artists from around the world, including the Korean group ‘BTS.’
Lately, he has announced the release of his five-track EP, ‘5OKI,’ which is a cross-genre project, featuring Quintino, Laidback Luke, Hardwell, and other artists from around the world. He once stated that he wanted to give back to the world what he had gained from it and that music was one of the ways in which he could do his bit to unite the world.
He has released four studio albums: ‘Wonderland’ (2012), ‘Neon Future I’ (2014), ‘Neon Future II’ (2015), and ‘Steve Aoki Presents Kolony’ (2017).
He has appeared as himself in a number of films and TV episodes, including ‘Arrow: The Huntress Returns’ (2013), ‘The Distortion of Sound’ (2014), ‘I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead’ (2015), ‘Point Break’ (2015), ‘Why Him?’ (2016), and ‘Bill Nye Saves the World’ (2017).
Awards & Achievements
He won the ‘Best Set of the Season’ award at the 2007 ‘Ibiza (DJ) Awards’ ceremony, which was closely followed by the ‘Best Mix Album of the Year’ at the 2008 ‘Billboard Awards’ for ‘Pillowface and His Airplane Chronicles.’
He was nominated for a ‘Grammy’ for his album ‘Wonderland’ in 2013 and was awarded the ‘Chiuku Award’ at the ‘MTV Latin America Awards’ ceremony in 2015.
He married his long-time Australian girlfriend, Tiernan Cowling, in Hawaii in 2015, after being engaged to her for five years.
Besides music, he runs his own clothing line called ‘The Dim Mak Collection’ and currently lives in Henderson, Nevada. He is a devoted poker player and has played with celebrities such as Antonio Esfandiari and Joel Madden. He also co-owns two restaurants.
He has been a supporter of ‘People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ (PETA) since his teens and has appeared in their anti-fur campaign. He is also the founder of the ‘Steve Aoki Charitable Fund,’ which contributes to humanitarian relief and medical research.
Aoki features as a celebrity character in the video games ‘NBA 2K8’ and ‘NBA 2K9,’ though he admits being a terrible basketball player.
He gave DJ lessons to Michael Phelps and received swimming lessons from the champion himself, in return.