Thump recently sat down with Steve Aoki during Miami Music Week, where the rockstar-DJ shed light on the origins behind his signature cake-throwing theatrics, the intersection of punk rock with dance music, and his thoughts on DJs being entertainers. We capture some of the highlights below, but find the full interview here, including his story about Johnny Depp getting turned down by a club.

THUMP: You’ve built up a reputation for doing these really theatrical stunts on stage, like caking people and riding rafts through the crowd. When was the first time you caked someone? 

Steve Aoki: The idea was from a music video by this guy on my label called Autoerotique. He did a video for his song, “Turn Up the Volume,” where these cakes would explode in slow motion in peoples’ face after they blew out the candles. It was really cinematic—beautifully shot. The song went viral because of the video, so I came up with the idea of promoting the song by caking someone. That was the concept—the actual cake I had in the beginning would say “Autoerotique, Turn Up the Volume” on it. For the first six months when I added that to my rider, someone would have to write that on it. By the time I retired the song, caking people had just became part of the show.

Have you always been good at hamming it up for your audience? Or did you make that transition as you performed for bigger crowds?
There was definitely a transition. When I first started, I was DJing at bars and at VICE parties. I still consider Suroosh [Alvi] one of my gurus in a way, because he helped me and my label Dim Mak out. Back in ’03 to ’06, I was playing parties where it was just a bunch of kids that weren’t there to see the DJ. They were there for the party. When you’re in that environment you don’t ham it up because they don’t even care who you are. They’re just there to hang out with their friends. In the early part of DJing, I was in a world of DJs that didn’t know how to DJ. 


You brought punk rock to dance music.

Yeah, you bring that ethos, you bring some styling in the music. Obviously I’ve evolved as a producer and a songwriter, but working with bands like Linkin Park is a dream for me too. I’ve been listening to their albums since Hybrid Theory. My new album Neon Future has another rock collaboration with Fall Out Boy, who are very good friends of mine. We’re at this place where now we can see eye-to-eye, but we’re in two different worlds. If I was still in my old band This Machine Kills that would never happen, nor would it make sense.  

Photo Credit: Wasabi Fashion Kult