Next time you feel like a bit of a moan about how few holidays you get, spare a thought for DJ and producer Steve Aoki who plays 300 plus shows a year and takes less than an average working week off.
Okay, we understand the idea of travelling the globe and playing music to thousands of gibbering clubbers may not seem like work to most punters but the income tax man would beg to differ.
Anyway, we tracked Steve down on his uber-short vacation ahead of the Grammys where a Netflix film about his hectic lifestyle called I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead was nominated in the documentary category.
Steve also recently collaborated with One Directioner Louis Tomlinson on the track Just Hold On.
Steve, we’re speaking to you in Aspen, Colorado, how is it going?
It’s beautiful, I have a view of the mountains and the trees, it’s really nice.
Are you a country person at heart then or are you a city boy?
I’m a city boy that romanticises being away from the city.
300 shows a year and just four days off, is that all it takes to recharge the batteries?
I’ve got to take a break sometime, so I’m spending the days snowboarding and enjoying myself with my friends, I do that once a year and this is my four days off. I try to enjoy doing my hobbies. You get into a cycle and it becomes awkward when I’m not in the studio or touring and playing shows, I get fidgety, I have to get back into the grind. I’m lucky because I love what I do.
Where are you at your most creative?
That’s an interesting thing because before, I would have to find it in a a particular location but I’ve realised that my inspiration is everywhere I go and I need to be able to harness that and sometimes those moments of creativity are fleeting and you have to try and capture it when it comes. Luckily I get to travel the world and meet amazing creative people and you just have to be in the now and soak it in.
You spend most of the year travelling, what are your must-have travel items?
Just so I can survive, because I don’t have a regular sleep pattern, in order to sleep in a car or a plane, I have my eye-mask, my specific eye-mask, I have this obnoxious pillow I travel with and my headphones.
The most important bit about the eye mask is that it doesn’t touch my eyes so it looks like a bra for a doll, it’s bulging, I should paint some eyeballs on it. I put it on and it’s blacked out. I got my hood up, headphones on, if I’m travelling through Japan or China, I have a face-mask, you can’t tell who I am.
You’re working with the Migos, who were described by Donald Glover as ‘this generation’s Beatles’, what did he mean and do you agree?
I’ve know these guys for a long time, they played a show in Atlanta, we went into the studio and knocked out a song real quick. These guys are amazing, without writing anything down they get an idea and start vibing it out and just nail it in one go.
The thing about music is that you look at The Beatles and throughout history there are very few groups that define a sound and generation. That song Bad and Boujee is definitive of this time in America, of American culture, so I agree with Donald that they represent culture in a really massive way.
You had a new punk-influenced fashion collection showcased during New York fashion week, is this about scaling up 'Steve Aoki’ the brand?
I’ve been involved in fashion in one form or another for a long time, when I was 15 I was screen-printing shirts in my mum’s house for my first band and selling them on the road. So I knew it was something I wanted to do but it took a crazy long time for the Dim Mak collection to be ready.
We wanted to showcase it in the right way and so we turned the runway into a skate ramp so the energy of the [clothing] line was matched visually by what people were seeing as the skaters modelled the clothes.
You didn’t bother training models to skate then?
That would have been a disaster, we got some of New York’s best skaters that really knew how to rep the brand.
Lots of articles claimed New York fashion week was notable for how political some of the shows were. What is it like being a creative person working in Donald Trump’s America? Especially as a second-generation immigrant.
This is probably the worst period of time that I have lived in America, under this dictator-style, fascist president who is pushing his regime and clearing the rights of minorities, immigrants, women, the LGBT community, across the board - there are major steps backwards.
But one thing is for certain - the world is noticing that America itself is coming together and uniting as a voice. That’s why punk happened in the early 70s because it was the voice of protest and rebellion post-Vietnam and now its happening again. We’re having a renaissance. I’m excited about the voices and the people that are going to be speaking out.
There’s a lot of creative spirit, especially in music and the arts and fashion, it’s all part of a larger thing. The Rage Against The Machines of the world, they’re going to come back and inspire more people.
Can we expect some politically-charged material from you?
I can’t help it, it’s in my DNA and I’m not one to sit on the fence especially when something like this has shown its face. When I post something political or anti-Trump on my Facebook, some of the comments I get, you can’t believe how much ignorance is out there.
I might lose some fans by not staying neutral but I don’t have a choice, I have to use my voice.
Go to school, take extracurriculars. Go to college, get decent grades. Get an office job. It pays alright. It’s fine. Try dating. It’s fine. Spend weekends watching tv or finishing your workload. It’s fine. It’s fine. It’s fine. It's— “Fuck it,” Bokuto and Kuroo decide one day. “Fuck it all”. They fish around. They start saving up. They find a big old house in the north country, dilapidated and cheap, on a drive to nowhere, and save up. Save up.
They quit their jobs and leave the city. They take out a loan and start fixing the house up. They’ll turn it into a bed & breakfast, they think. They get to know the locals. About a mile down the road lives a farmer, a youngish man named Ushijima. He knows some people and recommends them. They help with the plumbing. And the wiring. And the carpentry. And everything that this great lumbering beast of a house needs. Bokuto and Kuroo camp in the living room while the rest of the house is made habitable, using an actual tent against any leaks, and use a portable camping stove for the first few days before the gas and oven are working. “This is crazy,” they think laughingly, as they grill hot dogs and marshmallows over their dinky little stove, mocking themselves and this ridiculous idea of theirs.
They meet a guy in town named Terushima. He’s from the city too, like them (and his style of fashion certainly shows it, with his bleached hair, undercut, and tongue piercing), but he’s lived out here in the boondocks for the past five years. He teaches snowboarding and skiing to tourists at a lodge, up in the nearby, looming mountains, in the wintertime, having taken a lifelong passion and made a job out of it. He’s a little uncouth, but easy-going and has a good sense of humor, and they become quick friends. They tell him they’re opening a bed and breakfast. He laughs; he says he wouldn’t have pegged them for the type, they reply they didn’t either. He’s intrigued, and seems to nearly whoop with excitement when they invite him to come around once they’re open, and thanks them with vigor.
They post flyers around town and take an ad out in the paper to recruit employees. They chat up the local librarians hoping to get to know the town better, as well as maybe get the word out if it wouldn’t be too much trouble? The librarians tell them soliciting is frowned upon but they do have some brochure maps for the town if they’re interested, and then ask them to move out of the way for the people behind them in line. They don’t expect much, but when they’re in again a week later, one librarian, a calm, authoritative yet kindly woman in her fifties, tells them they have a potential candidate if they’d like to meet with her? They agree, and she leaves them and comes back a minute later with a small young woman who nervously, timidly introduces herself as Yachi Hitoka. She volunteers at the library after school but would like to try working as a maid, or a server, or whatever they need, and they tell her with a smile they’ll keep her in mind. The librarian tells them knowingly before they leave, after Yachi has gone back to work, that despite her timidity she’s a hard worker, and very good at what she does, and they’d honestly be lucky to have her as an employee. “We understand,” they say politely, and thank her.
They don’t have enough money to fix up the house, they realize, or at least not all of it. They make the painful decision to make sure everything needed is done for structural integrity, and then to leave several of the rooms untouched cosmetically. They’ll only have a handful of rooms for guests, but with hope and luck they’ll have the rest of the house fixed up with revenue within a year or two. On the bright side, the limit for capacity prevents them from taking on more customers than they might be able to handle; it’ll almost be like a trial period for them, a training run, and they’ll get sorely-needed practice in.
They hire Yachi. They open in time, and they get customers, though not many. Bokuto takes a day job at a restaurant to help pay the bills, and Kuroo translates some English literature into Japanese and vice versa for hire in his nights. Bokuto, the better cook, should be the one cooking for the guests, but he’s the only one who’d been able to find a job among the limited options the town holds for them, so he helps Kuroo improve his own culinary ability in the mornings and evenings before and after his shifts. “God bless his endless energy,” Kuroo thinks, his heart brimming with love as the other explains the finer points of a more complicated recipe.
Their first winter in the town they head up, at Terushima’s invitation, to the lodge he works at, and get to see him in action. He’s wearing a sleek winter sport suit that looks expensive as hell, and he swaggers a little as he moves around, until they get his attention, and then he comes bounding up to them, almost a bit like an excited dog, with a whoop and a holler. He shows them around the lodge and buys them lunch on his break, and then insists to try teaching them how to snowboard, or ski, their choice. Bokuto chooses snowboarding, Kuroo skiing (Terushima seems put out at that, and Kuroo supposes with amusement he chose wrongly), and Terushima does his best to teach them the basics. His efforts fruitless after one hour, he goes back to teach his afternoon class, and they decide to loiter and watch him teach. He’s calmer than they expected from a rebel punk, and more authoritative, and he’s surprisingly good with the children in the group.
They put out ads every once in a while, and they slowly build up local knowledge of their existence. They work hard, and it’s slow going, but eventually they get more customers. They finally manage to fix up the last few rooms, and their capacity expands. Yachi is a hardworking little champion, and in the evenings, on the days she can stay late, Kuroo helps tutor her in preparation for her entrance exams (she’s brilliant, clever, and innovative, and Kuroo laughs at the idea of her getting anything less than a scholarship to even a good school, but her mother is overbearing and Hitoka, sweet, and likely anxious even by nature, is riddled with insecurity, so Kuroo is happy to help assuage her fears any way he can). Bokuto sometimes sits in while they study and watches, leaning in, and his frequent gasps and exclamations of incredulity and praise earn laughs and blushes from her, and snickers, eye-rolls, and rebuttals of “Shut up, go do something useful” from Kuroo as he shoves him away by the face.
They’re studying one night when Yachi thanks Kuroo again for his help. “What’s this?” he asks, gasping in an exaggerated manner. “I told you to stop thanking me.” The first thirty times were more than enough, and he’s told her so. “I know,” she says, “It’s just that—” “What?” he asks, goading. She pauses, working up her courage. “I think you’re the smartest person I’ve ever met,” Yachi says. “Well,” he replies, regrowing his grin once his shock’s worn off, “that’s flattering, because you are definitely the smartest person I’ve ever met.” He manages to reply with his usual lazy smirk and drawl, but, unused to being complimented so straightforwardly, he can’t quite help the blush spreading slightly across his cheeks. Yachi, for her part, combusts and stammers out Thank Yous and Oh Noes with a crimson face, too shocked to notice how touched her tutor is. Kuroo waits for her to calm down, and then they continue as if nothing happened.
All the while, Kuroo and Bokuto are forced to examine their feelings, which slowly, imperceptibly, have been changing over time. “When did this start?” They ask themselves, ask each other, but neither has the answer; maybe when they hatched this scheme, probably long beforehand. Maybe in high school, even, when they were young and things were simple enough to categorize as deep friendship. Maybe there wasn’t a single point where they crossed the line; there couldn’t have been, they’re sure, with how gradual it all happened. How natural it feels, they realize. They start having a talk one quiet night, but neither can finish it, and words die on their lips as they go back to watching tv. It takes a few days to find the courage to finish.
It’s three years (well, three years and five and a half months, but who’s counting) after it first opened that all the invited guests gather on the house’s front lawn. Officially it’s an engagement-cum-life pledge celebration, and legalized gay marriage is still years away for Japan, but they all know what it’s supposed to be. Yachi’s there, along with the greying librarian her mentor; Terushima is there, filming the reception with a very expensive-looking video camera and a wide, ecstatic grin (when he’s not looking impish and smug, claiming he saw them coming years beforehand); Ushijima too, who, earthen and straightforward but believing in a take-life-as-it-comes philosophy, had become good friends with them and had never bat an eye (surprising them) when they themselves had become something more; along with the many other friends they’ve made in the town, including even a few former guests.
(To see other mood boards as H+L Fics, click here)
Top Left: Teacher!Harry,
Teacher!Louis, Snow Day AU Louis lives for snow days. Apart from summer break,
they’re basically why he became a teacher (alright, maybe that’s not true and
he does love his kids, but snow days
are just the best). And he was planning on spending this day snuggled up in bed
with a cup of coffee and a book, but now the other third-grade teacher Harry is
banging on his door all bundled-up with plastic sleds under his arm and a
thermos of hot chocolate, begging Louis to come with him. And who is Louis to
deny someone who trudged all the way over here (it has nothing to do with the
secret crush Louis’ had on Harry since he came to the school six months ago). So
they make their way to Harry’s “perfect secret spot” and spend the day having
snowball fights and sledding down small hills, and when the sun is finally
beginning to go down, they’re sitting underneath a tree catching their breath –
and Harry leans over and warmly kisses Louis’ pink cheeks saying, “Thanks for
Strangers to Lovers This was supposed to be a perfect ski trip, but with
Niall catching a cold and staying back at the lodge, and Liam taking a rest day
for his sore legs, it looks like Louis is all on his own to hit the slopes this
time. And that’s fine with him, he can handle that. Except now he’s on the ski
lift next to an incredibly fit stranger, and… it stops. And it doesn’t start
again. And after the inevitable awkward silences, the stranger (Harry, he says his name is) suggests
they spend the time getting to know each other. So the next two hours
(seriously, how long does it take to fix a ski lift?) are spent asking twenty
questions, giggling over ridiculously cheesy jokes, and scooting closer and
closer – until finally Louis admits how cold he is, and Harry wraps a warm and
comforting arm around him. When the ski lift finally starts moving again,
neither of them are ready to say goodbye.
Marco Siffredi was a 23-year-old French snowboarder with great aspirations. One such was to be the first person to snowboard down Mount Everest. He achieved this aspiration on 23 May, 2001, with the help of oxygen. However, due to lack of snow, Siffredi had to snowboard down an alternative route, the Norton Couloir, to the one he considered the Holy Grail of snowboarding, the Hornbein Couloir. Dissatisfied, Siffredi decided that he would attempt to snowboard down the Hornbein and departed for Nepal in August 2002, reaching the summit of Mount Everest on 8 September, 2002. The weather quickly changed and the two Sherpas that accompanied Siffredi urged him to turn back as it was much too dangerous and Siffredi was complaining about being weak and tired. Siffredi disregarded their warnings and began to make his way to the
Hornbein after resting for one short hour. It was shortly after this that the Sherpas lost sight of him but later reported seeing what they believed to be a man sliding down the face of the North Col. A search party discovered that snowboard tracks end approximately 1,500 feet down the Horbein Couloir. His body was never found.