With a lot of positive feedback and a few bands signed, Aoki moved out to LA to “do this record thing for real.” Today, Dim Mak Records (meaning “Death Touch” in honor of Bruce Lee, Aoki’s childhood hero) houses 50+ bands including Bloc Party, The Kills, Oh No! Oh My!, Dios Malos, and many more.
But starting his own label wasn’t enough for the energetic music lover from SB. It was during the creation of Dim Mak Records that Aoki accidentally fell into DJ-ing, and he hasn’t looked back since. After moving to LA, Aoki started throwing parties for his label, but found he spent most of his time playing records rather than mingling. It wasn’t long before one of Aoki’s friends asked him to DJ at his bar, allowing Aoki to play anything he wanted as long as he did not scare away any of the four customers at the bar.
“I had a really extensive record collection, but more based on the hard core, new wave, no wave, weird records that you would not normally DJ in a club,” he says. “Just through the evolution of just being into parties and playing records, I eventually learned how to DJ and got really focused on the art of DJ-ing.”
But Aoki isn’t your average DJ bumpin’ music on the dance floor. Over the past few years, he has revolutionized the club scene not only with new music but by opening club doors to bands including The Killers, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Interpol and many more and creating some of the hottest parties in LA, Tokyo and Amsterdam.
First there was Tuesday Nights at CineSpace in Hollywood, which has become the longest ongoing “party” in an Indie/Electro space in LA. “Most parties last for six months. If you are lucky, a year,” Aokie explains. Aoki’s party has lasted for almost four years and is still raging. Thanks to Aoki’s innovative take on spinning (often, he invites bands to spin tracks with him in the DJ booth) CineSpace has become “not really a venue, but more of a party where the bands come and play.”
On Sunday nights, Aoki also spins at LAX in Hollywood. The DJ-friendly atmosphere serves as the perfect venue for Aoki to cut loose in the booth and artists such as as Diplo and Mickey Avalon will often treat club goers to special performances.
For Aoki, it’s all about the kids and giving them amazing new music that he believes everyone should hear. “The songs on Sundays and Tuesday nights always change. There are always new songs, and it is always the new songs that I want to play, and it is the new songs that I think that people want to hear,” he says. “I mean, everyone wants to hear the classics, the songs that they know the best. You go to any club and people want to hear the biggest song of that moment in time. At our clubs, we can really break the box open and test all kinds of new stuff out there; work on new remixes or edit, play it that night, and get an immediate response. There won’t be dead ears because it will be something that no one has heard before. The music always changes and that is really the fun part of the night. Since the music changes all the time, with exception to the songs that I want to hear all the time, or what I think people want to hear, it revitalizes the party, it makes the party more fluid, not boring. You are not going to expect the same thing every single Tuesday or Sunday.”
Aoki has also taken his party all over the US and abroad, DJ-ing at clubs in Amsterdam, Berlin, Hamburg, Ibiza, Manila in the Philippines and Tokyo. Aoki is constantly on the road, sometimes playing two venues a night, 25-30 gigs a month, always managing to please hundreds of ears each night.
Recently, Aoki has started producing music under the name “Weird Science” with friend Blake Miller from Moving Unit. Together, they have produced a mix CD which drops this month. “The idea was to create a CD of the songs that essentially creates a party, like the party that I want to be at, through songs,” Aoki says, “I had a bunch of friends come sing new vocals over each track that I have made. We have Huffy, Mickey Avalon, Spank Rock, Amanda Blank, Steve fm Hot Hot Heat, Kid Sister, The Heist, and me and my sister are going to sing on a song. I basically called a bunch of my friends, created tracks of remixes, some of them mine, some of them others, for them to sing over. So when you listen to it, it is what I think of, visualize. It is like a party of all of these different people, almost free styling over these different tracks, rejuvenating the tracks.
And as if Aoki didn’t have enough on his plate, he has launched a clothing line as well, collaborating with his favorite designers including KR3W Apparel. What started as t-shirts, featuring Dim Mak artwork on them, has now evolved into a full line with jeans, sweaters, shirts, and shoes. Now the multi-talented DJ will not only have a say in what club goers groove to, but what they wear as well.
Filled with a passion for all that is cool and innovative, Aoki continues to shape the DJ-ing industry so others can thrive and his empire can grow even greater. Don’t be fooled by his eccentric persona. It is precisely his outside-the-box thinking that has allowed Aoki to transcend the DJ booth into a brand all his own.
Photos by Bobby Quillard