Home Artificial Intelligence Steve Aoki Talks Embracing AI in Music Making, Asian Representation

Steve Aoki Talks Embracing AI in Music Making, Asian Representation

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Steve Aoki has seen the future and he’s unafraid. The world-beating DJ/producer and cake boss tells Billboard in this week’s cover story that while he’s still a bit of a “novice” at using artificial intelligence to create music, he thinks AI is here to stay and we should all just figure out a way to ride that bucking digital sandworm.

“I use it mainly for lyric generation. It has actually helped me quite a lot,” Aoki, 46, says of incorporating AI into his studio routine. “If I have an idea of what lyrics I want to put down on a record, I’ll work that out with AI, and if I have a songwriting team in my house and we get stumped, we can always use AI. As far as sampling, I’ve used AI to get a particular female sound using certain words, and that has been fantastic.”

Aoki, however, is clear-eyed and confident that AI is not the solution to all our musical conundrums. For instance, asked if his creativity is based more on experience or data, he says you can’t type “What’s Steve Aoki’s biggest song on the festival circuit?” into a database and get the right answer. “[Artificial intelligence] cannot generate that,” he says, noting that his 2011 Afrojack collab “No Beef” came out before streaming was a big thing, “but everyone knows the vocals to that at my shows.”

As for the possible worst-case-scenario that AI could replace producers and DJs in the future, Aoki says he’s sure the powers-that-be are building in “safeguards” to avoid such a situation now that the digital genie is fully out of the bottle. “You can’t stop AI. It’s not like, ‘Oh, f–k. AI is going to take away our jobs. F–k technology, it’s going to take away jobs,’” he says. “You can’t. You just have to ride the wave with it and just start building safeguards as we go. We’ve been doing this the whole time with the internet.”

Elsewhere in the chat, Japanese American Aoki also talked about the importance of AAPI representation in music and how it’s changed in the years he’s been behind the decks. “I remember when I first got into music in high school, the first thing I did was sing. You just didn’t see Asian singers,” he says. “You just didn’t see Asian people in music, period, and if you did, they were really quiet, like the singer of Hoobastank [Doug Robb], whom I looked up to.”

In fact, in a full-circle moment, Aoki reveals in the cover story that he’s currently working on a remake of the band’s 2004 hit “The Reason,” that he’s super excited about. “There’s a Steve Aoki-Hoobastank record coming soon,” he says. “But it was cool to actually work with that guy [Robb] because I remember looking up to him when I was in high school.”

Another artist he recalls admiring around 2003 when he was first getting into production was the Neptunes’ Chad Hugo. “I was in L.A., and I remember hiring someone on Craigslist to teach me how to use Pro Tools because I just started dabbling on the computer,” he says. “And I was like, ‘Chad Hugo, that’s my hero because he’s Asian, but he’s also quiet.’ I’m always like, “Where are the loud ones?” I wanted to see someone Asian that’s just loud and in charge and commanding audiences.”

Check out the full story and photos from the cover shoot here.



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