Steve Aoki on Cake, Philanthropy, and The Yogen Früz Pinkberry Brain Project
Although Steve Aoki is mainly known for being a world famous DJ and performer, his talents extend far beyond the music industry.
What many may not know is that Aoki is a philanthropist in his own right, creating his own personal charity titled the Aoki Foundation and raising funds for causes near to his heart such as degenerative brain diseases, disaster relief, developmental disabilities, and animal rights. It makes sense then, when you hear he’s teamed up with the Yogen Früz Pinkberry Brain Project, a public street art initiative that raises over $1 million annually for brain health, including Alzheimer’s and dementia, in support of Baycrest Health Sciences research and care programs. This year, Aoki is one of the featured artists who designed a brain for this worthy event, making it the first foray into philanthropy in Canada for him and the Aoki Foundation, which is something he’s incredibly excited about.
We had the opportunity to chat with Aoki about all things related to brain health, philanthropy, and his infamous caking ritual.
FASHION: How did you end up hearing about The Yogen Früz Pinkberry Brain Project and what made you decide to have a partnership with them?
Steve Aoki: They came to us with this great opportunity to design a sculpture of the brain, which would help raise awareness and money for their Foundation which focuses on brain research and treatment for degenerative brain disease. Anytime I can find creative ways to raise awareness for brain health, I try to do it.
Your charity, the Aoki Foundation, also focuses heavily on brain preservation. When you began to create music, did you always have a plan to use your platform for good and create awareness for important causes like this one?
With the success I’ve had in my career, I’ve always felt it’s important to give back and raise awareness for important issues, whether it’s brain health or disaster relief.
Have you ever thought of combining your talent of music and your love for philanthropy into the creation of an album, with proceeds going to charities that you’re passionate about?
On past tours I have donated $1 from each ticket sold to the Aoki Foundation. Most recently, I did this during my KOKLONY US tour in the first half of 2018.
How did you come up with the concept of caking people at shows?
It was actually because of a Toronto artist I had signed to my label, Dim Mak, called Auto Erotique. They had a music video called Turn Up the Volume that featured a super slow motion scene of cakes exploding in people’s faces. I’m always looking to add interesting things to my shows and so I took inspiration from that video. I did it once and people loved it; they went crazy, people started bringing signs to every show.
Do you have any other interesting fundraising events, like your Bowling for Brains event in 2016, happening this year or in the works?
We are working on a few things for this year and early next year. I always do an event in the fall and we’ll be announcing that at the end of the summer. Check out aokifoundation.com and Instagram @aokifoundation for updates.
Aoki’s brain, which he designed himself, along with designs from 50 other artists and personalities will be on display from July 4 to August 31 on the streets of Toronto. They will then be moved to Yorkdale, where they will reside until the end of the year.