Coronavirus

Steve Aoki Talks 'Neon Future IV,' Life in Quarantine & Living Forever in Billboard Live Interview

Not even quarantine can stop Steve Aoki.

While the famously road-friendly producer is posted up at his house in Las Vegas amid the pandemic, he's maintaining a positive attitude about promoting and releasing his latest album, Neon Future IV, during a moment when he's not able to tour.

"We're stuck here, so...we turned it into a fun interaction," Aoki told Billboard Dance during a recent Billbaord Live interview. "I'm doing the Instagram Lives; I'm forcing myself to work out every single day. It's actually been really, really great ... I've done a 15-day boot camp challenge where I work out and drop a brand-new song from the album, and it gets the conversation going around all this new music that no one's heard."

Released Friday, Neon Future IV is a massive, 27-track effort that features a barrage of collaborators from far-flung realms of music and beyond, with guests including Alok, Zooey Deschanel, Backstreet Boys, Sting and Yuval Harari, the author of one of Aoki's favorite books, Sapiens, which tracks the entirety of human history. Humanity's evolving relationship with technology has long been of particular interest for Aoki (a self-appointed "techno-future optimist"), with this concept serving as a primary theme for the Neon Future album series, which launched in 2015. (The previous Neon Future album debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's Top Dance/Electronic Albums chart in November 2018.) Other scientists, from Ray Kurzwell to Bill Nye to Kip Thorne, have been featured throughout the Neon Future LPs.

"We're using technology to eventually live indefinitely, to expand our creativity, to do things that we couldn't do with just our human body," Aoki says. "When you think of the word cyborg, you think of a scary half-Terminator metallic robotic and a half-AI, half-human. I don't wanna be any part of that -- a lot of people would probably say that -- but we use technology to get our car from one place to the next. We use technology to order food. We're using technology right now so we can communicate. We're using technology to connect with other people. So that's my version of a neon future, using our technology to the utmost potential to do things that are sci-fi-based."

Even the way Neon Future IV was made is technologically advanced, with collaborators on this "global album" connecting with Aoki both in the studio and on the Internet. Multiple continents are represented throughout the LP, "from Alok from Brazil, to Alan Walker in Norway, to Monsta X in South Korea, Lay Zhang in China, to Tory Lanez from Canada and Agnez Mo from Indonesia." And while Aoki doesn't consider himself a pop star like many of the artists he works with (he says he's grateful not to have the designation, as he'd dislike being on the cover of tabloid magazines), he syncs well with pop stars in the studio given his predilection for melody.

"With pop artists, the first thing in their head is melody. When I'm in the studio with Lauren Jauregui, or Louis Tomlinson, or BTS, that's what they think about first."

After launching his label, Dim Mak, nearly 25 years ago and becoming one of the most successful producers in the scene, Aoki says there are just a few abiding principals that have helped him build his empire, which now includes endeavors in music, fashion, books, restaurants, sports and philanthropy.

"I really do follow my gut," he says. "I do follow my passion still, in every project. If I don't really believe in it 100 percent, I just don't [do it]. We only have 24 hours in a day, and everyone has the same 24 hours in a day. ... Even now in the coronavirus and in the quarantine, our time is still limited."

Watch the complete interview above.

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