What happened when I partied with EDM king Steve Aoki
The DJ invited me to experience his life for 48 hours in Ibiza
The Sun joins 3,000 hardcore party goers watch the most anticipated night of the summer – Steve Aoki at Pacha.
The EDM (Electric Dance Music) DJ has crammed in a mind-boggling 28 shows in just 22 days over the summer. Aoki’s unusual mix of pop, dance and hip-hop music makes him unique and has mainstream stars like Will.I.Am, Iggy Azalea and LMAFO queue up to collaborate with him.
Once frowned open, EDM now rules in Ibiza with dedicated fans flocking from all over the world to be part of the shows.
“The walls between genres are falling down and other worlds are asking us to use their records and create a different sound”, Aoki says.
“I work with mainstream people from house to techno and it’s allowed me to be free and liberated. It’s a great feeling to not be stereotyped.”
Despite a distinct lack of sleep from the night before, his day begins in the gym where he’s put through a punishing routine by his personal trainer.
Even being the world’s fifth highest earning DJ last year (earning £15million according to Forbes) Aoki uses a public facilities and even asks local gym rats for tips between sets. He also asks me to lend him a Euro to buy some fruit following our workout.
Headlining Pacha ultimately means Aoki is well known on the White Isle and on this rare day off the 37-year-old joins friends, the Mambo brother’s, owners of Ibiza’s world famous Café Mambo, on their private boat.
A self-confessed adrenaline junkie, the music producer doesn’t drink or do drugs so finds other ways to feel alive.
“I’m an adventure seeker, I like hanging around with people who push you to the limit. I’d like to hang out with Bear Grylls because he’d always be up for cliff jumping and parachuting into caves and stuff”, he explains as I help him into his wet suit.
Being an unconventional DJ means dance music purists haven’t always accepted him or his show, which includes Celine Dion’s Titanic theme ‘My Heart Will Go On’.
His European tour manager Michael Theanne explains that Aoki worked for peanuts and stayed in dive hotels before being taken seriously. He’d even leave the party island straight after a show because he didn’t like being an outcast here.
“Steve would work for nothing for nearly two years playing small side rooms in clubs before he enjoyed any of the success he has today. He wasn’t made to feel very welcome”, Theanne, recalls.
Things began taking off in 2007 when Aoki was awarded, ‘Set of the Year’ at the Ibiza Awards after catching the eye playing a small room in Pacha, the club where he’s now the star attraction.
A non-stop tour means a good night’s sleep is alien to him so he’s mastered the art of power napping at any given opportunity. Even as we’re out on the choppy ocean he’s somehow able to get some shut-eye.
“You just have to sleep when you can. I’m really good at two minutes naps. You can’t get 8 hours of sleep a night, you just can’t. I meditate so that’s like a sleep for me, sitting there and focusing on one thing makes me feel refreshed and alive afterwards.”
Luckily his crew, a small team of video producers, tour managers and a photographer know when he’s about to nod off. The car, or private jet he rents, which can cost anywhere between £1,000-£5,600 AN HOUR, falls silent allowing him to get some shut-eye.
Following an afternoon of snorkelling and scuba diving, we drive to his rented villa in the Ibiza hills with panoramic views of the Mediterranean, a world away from the dingy hotels Aoki was staying in just a few years ago.
“I never aimed to be the biggest DJ or anything, I didn’t have any far fetched goals when I started out, it’s always been about the present and working with what you have in front of you now”, he says with a smile.
Right now life couldn’t get much better for him. He’s just bought a pad in Las Vegas (complete with a foam pit room) for himself and his fiancé, Australian model Tiernan Cowling. He also has a residency at Hakkasan alongside Calvin Harris and Tiesto.
With just a few hours to go before the pre-party set at Café Mambo, now would be a good time for Aoki to get some rest, but instead he chooses to play a competitive game of Monopoly with his crew.
The dice rolling lasts for three hours and is full of forfeits for the losing players. ‘Aoki Bootcamp’ as the DJ refers to it, is a series of non-financial penalties he and his team complete for losing bets. In this case, the Monopoly loser has to make tomorrow’s breakfast and do 100 press-ups.
Members of ‘Team Aoki’ can eat whatever they want but anything considered unhealthy under ‘bootcamp rules’, like bread, chips or pizza is punishable with 100 press-ups.
With an estimated net worth of £26million Aoki, who is constantly mobbed by selfie-hunting fans, doesn’t need to put himself through such a punishing schedule but yet he refuses to slow down.
“I do it because I’m grateful. When you’re grinding from the bottom and working for a bar tab and you’re just happy because the people in the bar liked your set, you want another one, It’s the same when you headline a festival or have your own night at Pacha, you want to keep doing it over and over”.
Does he feel like he has a responsibility to the fans of EDM? No.
“I don’t feel a responsibility because I can stop at any time. I’m not tied to it”.
A master of self-promotion, he’ll always stop for a photo or to sign an autograph and understands the power of social media.
“The fans drive me on and now social media allows you to see what the fans are saying, whereas before it was difficult. I like to meet them and hear about how my music has changed their lives”.
Following the pre-party, we battle our way through the crowds and into his waiting car. Aoki has a few hours to change and shower before the main show.
The DJ prides himself on the energy he brings to his show and beats tiredness using his power-napping skills to get through his three-hour-long set.
On the dance floor, thousands of revellers stand arms aloft, being served hit after hit by the EDM chief, but what stands out most about his set is the moment the fans have all been waiting for – the ‘caking’.
Right on cue, he stands on the DJ booth and hurls specially made cakes at the wanting crowd. For these fans it’s considered an honour to be splattered by the flying dessert.
One female party-goer even holds a banner begging to be struck by pudding. Aoki duly obliges, giving his target a face full of sponge, which is met with the loudest cheer of the night.
With that, his show draws to a close.
I give him the thumbs up and ask how he can ever top the feeling of being the world’s number one EDM producer.
“Oh, I’m not done yet, forget Earth, I want to be the first person to DJ in outta space!”
He’s deadly serious, and with little in the DJ world left to achieve on Earth, who’s to say he’s not the man to do it.