When Steve Aoki first envisioned the Neon Future concept back in 2013, he saw it as a meeting point for his fascinations with music, technology, sci-fi, and graphic novels. While author and inventor Ray Kurzweil popped up on Neon Future I and Bill Nye appears on this third installment, pontificating about life on Mars, Aoki’s fifth studio album is more than just a forum to drop, uh, science over EDM beats. It’s really an exploration of dance music’s possibilities. The LA-based producer/DJ/label head tells Apple Music how he and his far-flung list of collaborators folded country, rock, pop, hip-hop, and reggaetón into his already genre-blurring take on dance music.
How did you approach artists from other genres to work with you on this?
I always wanted to do a record with a country artist, but it had to be natural. With Lady Antebellum, they were equally as excited to work with me. That was one of the very exciting curveballs on the album. It took over a year to finally get it to the place where we’re both like, “Okay, we’re done with it.” I think it’s important to do that, when you can sit on a record and the song still feels fresh and new because it’s not, like, married to a trend.
How about with Jim Adkins from Jimmy Eat World on “Golden Days”?
This is a really great story: Back in ’97, ’98, I was in college and Jimmy Eat World played in my living room and my kitchen! Like, two different times! I remember the first show we had them play, in the kitchen, to like 15, 20 people. Back then, I was in bands, so I looked up to Jimmy Eat World and would try to play guitar like that. So the musical-collaboration dream ended up happening 20 years later. I wrote that song with Calum Hood from 5 Seconds of Summer, Mark Hoppus, John Feldmann, and Travis Barker. It all started in a real raw, live studio space—me with, like, some of the greatest minds in rock right now.
What excites you most these days, musically speaking?
I need diversity—not just in the world, as a human being, but musically. The more diverse I see things, the more colors are added to the palette, the more I can think outside my own box. There’s definitely a strong convergence with a lot of Latin sounds, like reggaetón, and EDM. When I play in Spain, “Azukita” [with Daddy Yankee and Elvis Crespo] is the biggest song in my set. When you try something different and your fan base follows that, it’s a really amazing feeling.