Unlikely BFFs Steve Aoki and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti on Japanese Synth-Pop, the First-Ever LAoki Concert and Cake

Steve Aoki Mayor Eric Garcetti 650
(Photo: Courtesy of Steve Aoki)
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (left) and Steve Aoki jumping at L.A. City Hall. "I follow Steve's Instagram feed and I figured it's what you're supposed to do," Garcetti explained, "and nobody would ever expect the mayor to jump."

Several thousand revelers will fill the streets of downtown Los Angeles on May 16, when DJ Steve Aoki and special guests like Will.i.am and Travis Barker take the stage at the first LAoki free concert. Presented in conjunction with the city, Mayor Eric Garcetti and Dim Mak Records, fans are required to sign up for information on the Mayor’s Volunteer Corps in order to attend. Aoki, 37, and Garcetti, 44, sat down with Billboard to talk jazz, 1970s Japanese synth-pop and, of course, cake.

Billboard: This is the greatest conference call ever with Mayor Garcetti and Steve Aoki.

Mayor Garcetti: Well, first we wanted to announce beforehand that Steve and I are going to jump in the race for President. I'm willing to be his vice-presidential candidate. We want to give Billboard an online exclusive which you can run after the interview is done -- but if you want to talk about Steve Aoki that's cool, too.

Steve Aoki: That is the big story. I didn't know we were going to give it away so early, Eric, buy hey, why not? 

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I feel like Woodward and Bernstien, thank you for the scoop. How did you guys meet? 

Garcetti: We met at the pool room over at the Redbury over at the lounge

Sounds like a black tie affair… 

Garcetti: Yeah, it was just the two of us in black tie playing pool with each other -- except for the black tie part of it.

So you're a real music fan. I know you play jazz piano and were active at Columbia in music theatre. Where do your tastes lie and do you still play?

Garcetti: Yes, I still play. I have a piano in my office and sometimes during meetings I'll sit down and goof on the keyboard a little bit. I still write music, everything from jazz to singer-songwriter stuff but my tastes are all of the above. I did a KCRW guest DJ set and they asked me to pick my five best songs ever. The reason I like Steve Aoki is because I can trace my love of electronic music all the way back to when I was listening to not just new wave but to YMO [Yellow Magic Orchestra] which to me was the ultimate Japanese band and launched synth electronic music. One of their songs was one of the five that I chose as the most influential in my life.

Have you ever collaborated or played music together?

Garcetti: No, not yet….Maybe during LAoki I'll have to get up there for something or if not sometime soon.

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Any desire Steve to get into politics, much like the Mayor is into music?

Garcetti: The best way we could do it is we could just switch work  days. I'll take a show at the Dresden and you can give next year's state of the city address -- so maybe we'll just do a switcheroo. 

Aoki: I went to City Hall and put on my nice suit and tie -- my Dior suit, it felt pretty good being at City Hall with the Mayor so I was like, alright, I could do this.

Garcetti: He looked good.

I'm told only 5-10,000 people can attend the event, will there be a live stream or perhaps a recording of the concert on the backend?

Aoki: We plan to do a recording of it, we'll figure out how to get those big crane shots without having to hire the crane. We're definitely going to do some kind of documentary around the show, something special. 

Garcetti: I'll give you permission for drones.

What other music festivals do you have planned for L.A.?

Garcetti: We always have other stuff that's going on -- there's cool music festivals up and down. There's the Eagle Rock Music Festival that has some cutting edge talent that come out. We've got the Central Avenue jazz festival which used to be where Mingus and all the jazz greats played and that's been gathering steam. But right now I can say this is going to be the biggest thing probably this year in Los Angeles and we're excited about it.

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How did you agree to do a jump photo? 

Garcetti: It was real easy, he said you wanna jump and I said yeah. I follow Steve's Instagram feed and I figured it's what you're supposed to do and nobody would ever expect the mayor to jump, but that's what LA is all about -- the unexpected.

Will you throw Cake and Champagne at LAoki? 

Aoki: The one thing I always want to push for is that level of fun. And that's one thing about cake, everyone loves a cake. The people who want to get caked, definitely want to get caked, I'm definitely brining the cake.

Mayor Garcetti are you okay with getting caked if that should happen? 

Garcetti: I really like to supervise my constituents and make sure that they're happy and I wouldn't want to take one piece of pie away from their faces.

A version of this article first appeared in the May 23 issue of Billboard.


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