For all the international DJs signing to multi-date contracts with Las Vegas clubs, none has a place here. Over the years, they’ve come here to work, but moved to Los Angeles, despite playing Las Vegas more frequently than anywhere else.
Steve Aoki, however, saw the futility in this. So the 36-year-old EDM producer who DJs exclusively in town for Hakkasan and Wet Republic—also famous for riding over audiences in a rubber raft and “caking” their faces—left his longtime LA home and moved to the Vegas Valley. We caught up with him to ask why.
Welcome, neighbor! What spurred the move? I love Vegas. I didn’t know I would feel so comfortable about moving, because my heart is definitely in LA. A lot of my building blocks—who I am kind of as an artist—all came from being in LA. Leaving that behind was difficult, but the transition was not so difficult because I’m not so much there anymore, which is the main reason why I decided to leave. I’m more in Vegas, and I want to start creating a place and building there. I’m excited about what Tony Hsieh is doing there with the Downtown Project and seeing a real culture developing for the locals.
Many associate you with LA, including me. Do you think that’s changing, given how often you play here, and all the photos of you playing here? Definitely. I do an LA show maybe once a year. And I’m in Las Vegas once or twice a month.
Why do you think international DJs are so hesitant to make the move here? For a producer, you want to be in LA. You want to be close to the action, and in LA there are always singers, artists, songwriters, collaborators and other producers. It’s easy to get access to all that, which gives you more opportunity to work records. That’s the one thing that was hard to leave behind. But I still go back to LA to work. My studio still exists in my house, even though I gave it an obituary already (laughs). And I found an incredible studio in Las Vegas ... if I work by myself, I can work pretty much anywhere.
Have you enjoyed the city yet as a resident? Do you have a favorite pizza place or a new hairdresser to cut those famous locks of yours? One of the other really big things about LA I thought would be difficult to find [in Vegas] is the over-excessive amount of access to incredible and healthy food. That’s the one thing I’m exploring the most in Las Vegas—looking deeper outside the Strip for really great food options, including organic food options.
As far as stuff I’ve tried out that I really like, one place that I’ve had on my rider is Greens and Proteins. I feel like there’s not enough places like that. I’m hoping with the Downtown Project that more places like that will show up. ... I want to see more cold-pressed juice places and health-food options and yoga options—how to make your lifestyle healthier and happier. A happier community is going to change it.
Explain why your next release, Neon Future, will be a two-part album. They’re two different soundscapes and projects. Neon Future Part 1’s songs are more gelled and cohesive. The storyline will continue through Part 2, as well, but Part 1 is more the introduction and with Part 2, you’re already in that world. It’s like you’re in the alpha stage of sleep and you go into the beta stage. It’s deeper, more emotional.
Is the title also a nod to your new home? I guess you could put it that way. Neon Future is 100 percent a transition. It’s definitely a transition in life, especially for me.