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Punk at Heart

music_SteveAokiOutcast turned electro musician, Steve Aoki, makes nonconformity cool
As a young boy growing up in Newport Beach, Steve Aoki stuck out like a sore thumb. He was too small to fit in with the jocks, he had a traditional Japanese home wherein no English was spoken, he loved rock music, and his father, a former Japanese Olympic wrestler and the founder of the Benihana restaurant chain, was an estranged figure living on the east coast.

“The status quo is very conservative, one-sided, with not much character,” Aoki says of Newport. “You’re either in, or you’re very out.”

When he couldn’t break into the athletic circle as a teenager, Aoki was welcomed with open arms into the punk community—a niche that the now-electro house musician credits as his inspiration in song and in life.

“The punk rock scene in Newport Beach was thriving—it’s very much like Revenge of the Nerds,” says Aoki, who began making music at 16. “Before I was introduced to electronica, I was a live rock guy, recording tracks in my bedroom; that became my life.”

Today, Aoki’s eclectic musical influences are ever-present in his rave-ready tracks—high energy techno remixes of songs by a myriad of artists from all genres including Drake, Robin Thicke, Bloc Party, Snoop Dogg and Duran Duran.

“It’s the same kind of musical ethos I grew up with,” says Aoki. “It’s the evolution of an ideology that started when I was 13—the punk spirit. As I became more educated, I was able to make it more sophisticated.”

A graduate of UC Santa Barbara—he has a B.A. in Women’s Studies and another in Sociology—Aoki has come a long way since producing underground concerts at the Santa Barbara Student Housing Cooperative in Isla Vista and churning out DIY records.

On average, Aoki says, he’s on tour 250 days of the year; he’s the head of Dim Mak record label, named after his childhood hero Bruce Lee; and this summer he’s releasing his second album and launching a full range fashion line, which he’s been prepping for years.

Asked how he feels to be one of the biggest names in dance music, Aoki says, “Tired. I was doing more touring earlier in my career, but I needed to bring myself back and create a more meaningful show for people.”

His stop by the Civic Auditorium tonight, is one of many on his nationwide tour to promote his upcoming album, a labor of love, which has taken three years to complete.

“It’s one of those projects that you think is never going to be finished—things are constantly evolving and changing over time,” laughs Aoki. “I did two tracks with Travis Barker and the rest are more non-rock with will.i.am, Kid Cudi, LMFAO and others.”

To the untrained ear, the untz-untz backbeat, turntable scratching and heavy reverb might scream “club record,” but he insists that his songs aren’t created for that purpose.

“It’s more about the art of writing a song,” says Aoki. “When I write a song, it has more steps, often with a singer in mind. When I write a club record like ‘Wake Up Call,’ I can sometimes do it in two hours—some of my album records took six months to make. I just want people to have fun.”

To expose the world to his self-proclaimed “loud, sometimes very noisy, sometimes aggressive” tracks, Aoki says he has relied on his punk roots.

“Punk is about figuring out how to do something yourself and being active in your community,” he says. “[That ideology] is why my label was able to survive through grassroots marketing, before viral was even a word. You can use the punk philosophy in all aspects of life.”


Steve Aoki plays at 8 p.m., Thursday, June 2, at the Civic Auditorium, 307 Church St., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $44.50. 420-5260. Can’t make it? See him perform at Identity, the first touring electronic-only music festival, on September 3 at Shoreline Amphitheatre.

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Heart Me Up

In defense of Valentine’s Day

 

“be(ing) of love (a little) more careful”—e.e. cummings

Wednesday (Feb. 10) is Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins. Friday (Feb. 12) is Lincoln’s 207th birthday. Sunday is Valentine’s Day. On Ash Wednesday, with foreheads marked with a cross of ashes, we hear the words, “From dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return.” Reminding us that our bodies, made of matter, will remain here on Earth when we are called back. It is our Soul that will take us home again. Lent offers us 40 days and nights of purification in preparation for the Resurrection (Easter) festival (an initiation) and for the Three Spring Festivals (at the time of the full moon)—Aries, Taurus, Gemini. The New Group of World Servers have been preparing since Winter Solstice. The number 40 is significant. The Christ (Pisces World Teacher) was in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights prior to His three-year ministry. The purpose of this desert exile was to prepare his Archangel (light) body to withstand the pressures of the Earth plane (form and matter). We, too, in our intentional purifications and prayers during the 40 days of Lent, prepare ourselves (physical body, emotions, lower mind) to receive and be able to withstand the irradiation of will, love/wisdom and light streaming into the Earth at spring equinox, Easter, and the Three Spiritual Festivals. What is Lent? The Anglo-Saxon word, lencten, comes from an ancient spring festival, agricultural rites marking the transition between winter and summer. The seasons reflect changes in nature (physical world) and humanity responds with social festivals of gratitude and of renewal. There is a purification process, prayerfulness in nature and in humanity in preparation for a great flow of spiritual energies during springtime. Valentine’s Day: Aquarius Sun, Taurus moon. Let us offer gifts of comfort, ease, harmony, beauty and satisfaction. Things chocolate and golden. Venus and Taurus things.

 

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