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"This is a proper live show. I'm not DJing with CDs, I'm playing Ableton Live so all my music is cued with the visuals and lighting," Aoki tells Spinner from St. Louis, MI, the latest stop in a 60 day run of shows with Datsik. "It's all of my own stuff -- my new remixes and songs from 'Wonderland.' It's a full take on my music."
Though he's busy -- "I'm on the road over 200 days a year" -- Aoki says he forced himself to find time over the past three years to make 'Wonderland,' an album that's more cohesive than his prolific roster of remixes for artists like Kid Cudi and Chester French.
"The whole idea of putting out a single is for the club, whereas with an album I wanted to showcase my songwriting abilities," he says, adding he performed and played in hardcore bands in the pre-Dim Mak days. "DJs are defined by songs. The top 10 guys, like Avicii, don't need albums to be successful, but what defines a band is albums," he says. "I'm still living in that world of riding between the two."
'Wonderland' is really a chronicle of the influences that have shaped him, says Aoki. "There's dubstep, more halftime, and more progressive stuff I wouldn't put out as singles," Aoki explains. "And there's also a hardcore record where I'm singing. And then there's 'Control Freak,' with Blaqstarr which, to me, is funky and totally inspired by Justice."
The guest appearances on 'Wonderland' might seem weird and varied -- from Kid Cudi to Rivers Cuomo to members of Die Kreuzen -- but that commingling aesthetic, and his ability to market it, is really what seems to define Aoki's success. He's recently signed Datsik -- "we took a risk signing a dubstep artist" -- and Israeli psytrancers Infected Mushroom. "Dim Mak's been around for 16 years now, and we've survived, and I think it's because we've figured out how to evolve and sign different kinds of artists. It's about taking risks," Aoki says.
Risk-taking is becoming less difficult in some ways too, he opines. "Three or four years ago there was a huge separation of genres within EDM culture that would never co-exist. Now trance isn't just a traditional 140 BPM and guys like Tiesto are playing a lot of electro house," Aoki explains. "And it's not alienating like it used to be -- you can like trance and dubstep and electro house and not even know it."