DJ Steve Aoki is well-known for throwing cake at the audience during his shows, well-known here meaning that it’s notable enough to warrant a mention within the first two sentences of his Wikipedia page, which I had to look up to see if he’s ever had a hit song that I’d recognize. He wrote a really weird and long-winded opinion piece for The Daily Beast called “To Cake Or Not To Cake,” which is a cool question to ponder if you’re standing in line at a bakery but not so much when you’re talking about a concert. Aoki labels people who don’t like cake getting flung at them as “haters and trolls” and connects them to the internet bullying him. He talks a lot about parody videos and basically says, while it’s okay to make fun of him (satire is free speech, which Aoki insists he’s a “firm believer in”), don’t hurt his feelings. He also expands on what it is a DJ does: “I’m building my own story through the music. I’m figuring out what song to play next, what song to play after that and how the two will blend together.” It’s a whole lot to build up to when he finally addresses the elephant-sized cake in the room: it’s a “tool of expression,” not just cake. And only the people who want to be caked get caked: “The way I pick who gets caked is generally by who shows me the most energy and is screaming for it.” Aoki must have some great aim.
Here’s an excerpt:
For people that don’t know what DJs are actually doing up there, when you’re not mixing into the next song or out of the previous one, there is not a lot to do. Of course twisting knobs (taking out the lows, turning up the highs to create your own musical story is all part of DJing itself) but it’s not absolutely necessary. Even playing with the effects to exaggerate a sound or diminish a particular sound is great but once again it isn’t necessary to do it every single song. Do I fuxx with the EQs and twist knobs? Yes, of course I do, but I might not do it all the time. And I give full respect to DJs that spend time working each track into their own style whether by scratching like hip-hop DJs do (an art form all its own) or adding effects, looping other tracks or samples, or whatever else one DJ might do to help tell their story.
So then what do we as DJs do when we are up there, when you’re not mixing from one song to the next? Everyone is different but for me I add in another element to my set which is my props. Depending on a particular song I’ll do a particular action that is connected to that track. I really look at each song in its own context in terms of how it relates to the crowd. And I have to make a decision during that song whether I’m going to amplify the feeling in that song by either working the EQs/effects, looping a sample, letting the song just play out without added extras, or doing something outside the DJ booth (rafts, cakes, etc).
I still can’t help but ask myself…should I stop caking people? Will that stop the haters from hating? Stop giving the trolls more content to target me with? I even ask myself, are the cakes and the rafts taking away from the art of my culture, DJing? By using these tools instead of standing behind the DJ booth, am I deviating too far away from that culture? Am I embarrassing or insulting it? I’m sure many people feel that I am because things I do are not part of the norm.
I’m going to say this again, I’ve never played a mix CD. So if I’m going to get in front of the DJ booth for an activity, that means that I have to sacrifice time working on the song as it’s being played. It’s a lot of stress to deal with when you have a song that might end if you don’t get back in time. But that is my way of engaging with the crowd. Everyone has their own style and some DJs have mastered the art of using filters and EQs to help connect the audience with a song or a mood. That is their tool. This is mine.
Read the whole thing here and watch one of the DJ’s infamous cake throws below.
OK, that was some great aim.