Steve Aoki’s 5 essential party tracksThe fifth highest-paid DJ in the world explains the key ingredients of a successful DJ set
According to Forbes’ annual Electronic Cash Kings list, Steve Aoki is the fifth highest-paid DJ in the world, earning US$23.5 million in 2015.
His habit of catapulting cakes into the audience and showering them with champagne has made him the godhead of the electronic dance music (EDM) party scene. Netflix documentary I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead paints a more nuanced picture of the California-based DJ and producer, showing a hardworking music enthusiast – the 39-year-old plays more than 300 club shows per year – behind the mischievous stage behaviour.
Here, Aoki explains the key ingredients of a successful DJ set.
Outkast - “Hey Ya!”
“If you’re a DJ it’s really important to surprise people. You need a good throwback track in your set that touches them like, ‘Yeah, I was jamming to this when I was young.’ My favourite curveball is Hey Ya! because it’s fun-spirited and has a lot of energy. Outkast has always been one of my favourite hip-hop groups. My first DJ name was even Kid Millionaire, which stemmed from an André 3000 song.”
Rage Against The Machine - “Bulls on Parade”
“Another essential ingredient of a good DJ set is energy, which is why I love to play this song – it’s a Molotov cocktail of music. Once the snare kicks in, the crowd goes wild. Then you hear the singer scream: ‘Bulls on parade!’ and all I want to do is thrash my head around. The song is also very nostalgic for me, because this band were under the umbrella of the hardcore punk scene, the scene that got me started.”
Steve Aoki - “What We Started”
“Make sure to always include a singalong in your set. For this I’m picking my own tune, because I produced it as the ultimate singalong. The aim was to make an EDM anthem, super catchy and lyrically really simple. I played it at Tomorrowland festival last July, and when people from 200 countries hearing the song for the first time immediately sang along, I knew that I’d achieved my goal.”
Steve Aoki - “Titanic”
“Some critics say I singlehandedly ruined EDM with my remix of Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On. At the same time, fans go nuts whenever I play it because of ‘the drop’. It’s that moment in a track after a build-up, when the bass drum hits and everyone goes nuts. For a DJ, the drop is a very effective tool, because, like in this case, it turns the track from angelic to very aggressive.”
Queen - “Bohemian Rhapsody”
“Choose the last tune for your set wisely, because people will remember it vividly. For years I’ve used this classic to close my sets. It’s one of the best pop songs ever, period, and everybody knows it. To me, it’s the perfect finish of the musical journey the DJ takes the crowd on, and with all its different sections, the song is a journey in itself. Besides, Freddie Mercury is my favourite singer of all time.”