If you go
What: Steve Aoki, in concert with Waka Flocka Flame, Borgore.
When: 7 p.m. Nov. 19.
Where: Roseland Theater, 8 N.W. Sixth Ave., Portland.
Cost: $35 for those 18 and older, through TicketsWest, 800-992-8499 or http://ticketswest.com
When is an electronica tour not simply an electronica tour? The answer is beginning to be any time Steve Aoki puts together the bill.
This fall's Aokify America tour breaks from the standard practice of electronica tours limiting themselves to artists from that genre, as Aoki, one of the biggest names in electronic dance music, is bringing out hip-hop act Waka Flocka Flame and electronic bass music master Borgore as his opening acts.
In an early October phone interview, Aoki said he began to appreciate the idea of bringing out artists from other genres after doing a tour earlier this year with rising hip-hop star Kendrick Lamar.
"When I looked out in the crowd, one thing I loved is I saw how diverse the audience was," Aoki said. "I saw people that were there for hip-hop and Kendrick. And you saw people that were there for electronic dance music and myself. And the shows were packed all the way to the end. It was a really, really great feeling to be able to converge two worlds and do it in a harmonious way. I love being able to bring more, instead of just playing to my crowd, I want to play to more than my crowd as well."
The styles of music performed by Aoki, Waka Flocka Flame and Borgore may be different, but Aoki feels the three share one important attribute: a talent for showmanship.
It makes sense that Aoki would value that attribute. He is known as one of the most flamboyant performers in the electronic music genre.
Where many DJs simply groove along to tracks they plays, Aoki is a whirlwind on stage, pogoing to his songs, tossing his long black hair and even sometimes leaping from the stage to crowd surf — moves that were natural for him, considering he grew up going to punk rock shows.
He is also continuing to build the visual part of his show, and has added some new toys to his arsenal of stage props and effects for the Aokify America tour.
"I'm going to introduce a new addition to my performance, which is the Neon Future technology," Aoki said. "'Neon Future' is my new album coming out next year, and the technology is stuff like one-of-a-kind pieces that I've been developing with a team to harness almost like this androidlike neon future. That's exactly what it is. It's technology with CO2 and LEDs and a lot of interactive elements like these gloves I wear, where I can blow up CO2 and then I'll light up a headdress that I wear … It started off being really cumbersome and really rigid and hard to deal with. Now it's more mobile and we keep advancing the technology for the tour."
One signature that will be back for the tour is Aoki's trademark gimmick of throwing cakes at members of the audience, another part of the show he continues to refine.
"Round cakes are really nice," he said. "They have to be the right weight. They can't be too light. The back of the cake is also important, not for an aerodynamic element, but for safety, because I want to make sure when the cake hits the face, it's a soft pillow of sugar and goodness."
Aoki's outgoing stage presence is ironic for an artist who initially wasn't even focused on songwriting and producing -- much less live performance. Instead Aoki, 36, started out planning a behind-the-scenes career in music.
In college at University of California in Santa Barbara, he began booking house concerts. He also started Dim Mak at age 19, which quickly developed into a full-time venture, as some of its early releases featured notable acts such as the Kills and Bloc Party.
Aoki proved himself to be quite the label promoter. One particularly success endeavor was hosting Dim Mak parties in Los Angeles, at which notable acts (including the Killers, Bloc Party and the Shins) came out to DJ for the evening.
This is where Aoki first started working on his own deejaying skills, and for the past eight years or so, he has spent much of his time doing DJ gigs and working as a producer and remixer -- projects that gave him a repertoire of his own tracks to play at shows.
Finally in January 2012, Aoki released "Wonderland," his first full album of original compositions, collaborating with a host of notable artists (including Rivers Cuomo of Weezer, Kid Cudi and Lil Jon). The tracks certainly had electronic elements, but they were more pop-oriented and structured than the club tracks Aoki had been creating.
"Neon Future" should be out next spring and will feature even more star power in its collaborations, with guest appearances from will.i.am, Linkin Park and Snoop Dogg, among others. Aoki said "Neon Future" will be more club oriented than "Wonderland."
"It's a diverse album. It's like proper electro records, proper club bangers, to some dubstep-sounding records, slower down-tempo records," Aoki said. "'Wonderland' was absolutely … more about the music, more about the song, less about the club. Then I did remixes for every song. This one, you could really play these songs in the clubs. At the same time, these are also designed just for listening pleasure."