I was quick to realize that the hustle and bustle of Downtown Los Angeles was the perfect location for Steve Aoki’s studio, as the constant commotion and energy mirrors his daily life. I entered the industrial building on a crisp November morning, nervous and excited to meet an electronic music legend. After jetting up to the sixth floor, I waited in the lobby of Dim Mak Studios on a black leather couch atop concrete floors with underground artwork on the walls and immediately felt a sense of relief – this wasn’t going to be a typical buttoned up interview. Posters of iconic lineups from festivals like Electric Daisy Carnival lined the studio as Aoki’s team buzzed around, keeping his empire alive.
The LOCALE team instantly connected with their energy, creating a relaxed yet get-shit-done attitude in the studio. Photographers Jared Schlachet and Joe Magnani of JSquared Photography came prepared to use our Profoto strobes but found that his record label had some fluorescent tube lighting that they use for video. “We decided to use those in different configurations to get some interesting catchlights in the eyes, ” Magnani added. “We feel like this made for some very intimate and interesting close up portraits of an incredibly talented performer and artist. For the rooftop shots we just used Los Angeles sunlight with a few bounce boards to fill in shadows.”
Wardrobe Stylist Mimu Motamedi was inspired by Steve Aoki’s streetwear-influenced style, and incorporated garments from his Dim Mak Collection. “Steve had amazing accessories, which helped showcase his personal style to the next level, ” Motamedi said. While sticking to a monochromatic color scheme, she wanted to pay homage to his punk influences, some of which can be seen in the details. Groomer Sonia Reshetnikova added, “While I was grooming him in his studio with some of my favorite men’s grooming products from Baxter of California,
It was a truly unique experience to hear Steve’s stories about growing up in Orange County and making it in LA.”
Because Aoki’s multiple Las Vegas club residencies require him to live in Sin City, his bedroom attached to the studio in Los Angeles is where I first stepped into his world. Aoki sat in sweatpants on his couch uploading a Snapchat about the pop up shop for his clothing line later that day, showing how his schedule is planned to the minute each day. Despite the time constraints, the time in which I talked with Aoki to learn about his background and inspirations was one of the most memorable of my life.
Admittedly, I was only able to ask about half of the questions I had prepared before he bounced off to the pop up shop. So, his publicist invited me to go backstage at his upcoming show, the Dim Mak 20th Anniversary concert in Huntington Beach, in order to ask the rest of the questions. Not a bad compromise.
I immediately accepted, and it was backstage amongst his welcoming friends and family where I was able to wrap up the interview. And of course, I had to stick around to watch the show. The booming bass, screaming fans, and neon lights comprised an unparalleled energy that proved why Aoki is still at the top of the electronic music industry today.