By Scott T. Sterling
In the world of EDM, Steve Aoki remains one of its most controversial figures. Often targeted by critics for his live show’s heavy emphasis on outrageous props, Aoki’s penchant for riding inflatable rafts over festival crowds and particularly smashing fans in the face with cakes has made him one of the most polarizing (and popular) DJs working today.
In a new essay for The Daily Beast, Aoki has come out in defense of his theatrical shows, explaining the origins of “caking” and why he’s continue to do so into the future, critics be damned.
“I was thinking of new ways to engage with my audience and with a bit of serendipity and inspiration the cake was born,” he said “It was inspired by an Autoerotique music video, an artist on Dim Mak, that made a great music video where cakes exploded in people’s faces as they blew out the candles. I literally woke up with the idea of caking someone while playing that song to help promote the video while playing the song. After I retired the song from my set six months later though, I didn’t retire the cake. Fans had been shooting videos and showing their friends. They saved their cake-covered shirts like a badge of honor and it became a strong element of my show. The cake had gone viral.”
Aoki will surely raise some eyebrows and generate more internet discussions for his reasoning behind making his shows such interactive events as opposed to staying hunched over the decks in serious mixing mode the entire time.
“For people that don’t know what DJs are actually doing up there, when you’re not mixing into the next song or out of the previous one, there is not a lot to do,” he opined. “Of course twisting knobs (taking out the lows, turning up the highs to create your own musical story is all part of DJing itself) but it’s not absolutely necessary…Do I fuxx with the EQs and twist knobs? Yes, of course I do, but I might not do it all the time.”
Ultimately, Aoki defends his position by explaining that every DJ has his/her own way of creating “a musical story,” and his just happens to involve smashing birthday cakes into the faces of his legions of adoring fans.
“This is my expression. This is my way. So the question is, do I sacrifice all that? When I perform, I don’t think about the haters, the trolls on the Internet or anyone anywhere else in the world,” he said. “All I care about is the person in front of me, and I want to make that moment important…something special. I want to make that connection so powerful, something that will never be forgotten. And that’s why I bring the cake out or the raft out.”
Aoki (whose forthcoming album, Neon Future 1, has been pushed back to a Sept. 30 release date, will be manning the decks and the birthday cakes at this year’s Made in America festival, making appearances at both the Philadelphia and Los Angeles edition set for Labor Day weekend (Aug. 30-31).
In the meantime, please enjoy one of Aoki’s most impressive cakings ever below.