Steve Aoki talks about his favourite straight-edge hardcore tracks.
“My 12on12 celebrates the music that made me who I am today. Through hardcore, I discovered a true sense of community and the power of DIY, Doing It Yourself; by any means necessary.” - Steve Aoki
We caught up with Steve Aoki to get a deeper dive into the tracks he chose for ‘Year Zero’, a super limited vinyl release in collaboration with Richard Orlinski, which celebrates his love for straight-edge hardcore. Let’s find out more about why he chose that genre and why he loves those tracks so much.
‘Start Today’ by Gorilla Biscuits
“I chose ‘Gorilla Biscuits’, ‘Start Today’ because it's the most seminal band for me when I got into the straight-edge hardcore scene. It was on the first mixtape that I ever received that introduced me into the straight-edge hardcore world.
Straight-edge hardcore at the time when I was a teenager was a big deal. It was the most important thing going on. It was my lifestyle choice. The friends I chose, the food I ate, the activities I did were all based in the straight-edge hardcore space. And Gorilla Biscuits was like the most important band. They weren't around when I was around, so I kind of looked up to them, because they weren't around.
That ‘Start Today’ album was so important. I actually got a ‘Gorilla Biscuits’ tattoo, the very first tattoo is a logo of ‘Gorilla Biscuits’. My mom always thought it was a mole on my back, she was like, ‘what's that on your back?’ and I’m like ‘oh no mum, you didn’t see anything!’.”
‘In Defense Of Reality’ by Shelter
“Wow, what a great song! I mean, there’s ‘Youth Of Today’, there’s ‘Shelter’, there’s ‘Ray Cappo‘ in both and the guitarist, I forget his name, but he’s in both. I listened to that album so much. ‘In defense of reality’ was also on their first mixtape and it's just one of those songs, I just have so many memories of singing along to it.
And once again, this is one of the bands I never saw. You know, there's so many bands I grew up watching, being a Southern California straight-edge hardcore kid, but Shelter was before my time. So you always looked up to the bands that you could never watch, kind of in the same way as ‘Gorilla Biscuits’. it brings me back to that era of time, the hardcore era, that brought me into music really.”
‘Pinned Up’ by Avail
“Now we're moving forward into bands that I actually did watch growing up. I was a bit older than 15,16 years old. I was 17, 18, 19, 20, that era, like those four years I was watching Avail. I just remember following the band around, like just being a total fanboy. Every show I was there watching them play, singing along to all their lyrics. I just loved them so much and had all their albums.”
‘Running Like Thieves’ by Bold.
“It's another one, part of the bands that I never got to see. They’re East Coast. East Coast hardcore kind of reigns supreme. I mean also I’m West Coast, so I loved the East Coast, I always loved the opposite. They're part of that same crew, the ‘Revelation Records’ crew of bands that just defined straight-edge hardcore.
I played out that 7” like crazy, oh my god! It’s crazy because I don't think they had much music, but they had such a lasting impact with just a few songs.”
‘Firestorm’ by Earth Crisis
“They were around right when I started. I think their first single, that ‘Firestorm’ single came out in 1992. I got it in ‘93. But God, they were like a really gnarly straight-edge hardcore band. The lyrics were so militant and so like, just so gnarly. But like, you just want to go crazy with it. I could sing all the lyrics and just stomp around and sing along.
Actually, I remember going to an Earth Crisis show and there was like 30 people there, and I was one of them. That was kind of cool. Most of the shows I went to actually were like 20 to 50 people. But yeah, I love that 7” so much.”
‘New Noise’ by Refused
“We're gonna fast forward with this one. I think ‘New Noise’ came out… it was on ‘The Shape Of Punk To Come’ that's probably around ‘96, it could be around 1995 maybe … around that era in the mid-nineties.
They were from Sweden, so I actually never got to see them perform. The crazy thing is they were supposed to perform in my living room in Santa Barbara, in Goleta; when I used to do shows at ‘The Pickle Patch’. I had a place called ‘The Pickle Patch’, it was a living room and we had 400 bands play in our different evolutions of what the Pickle Patch was, in different houses that we were able to make a space for bands to play.
I was looking forward to that show and they actually, like, broke up on that tour. So I was really sad. But ‘New Noise’ is one of the greatest songs. ‘The Shape of Punk To Come’, the album that it came off of, is one of the greatest albums of all time. Top 10 greatest albums of all time is that album for sure.
I actually got to remix ‘New Noise’, so I’ve done the official remix, the Steve Aoki and Bloody Beetroots remix of New Noise. Which is epic for me, for my own legacy of music; to be associated and attached to that song officially. I remember, in the late 2000’s after my song with The Bloody Beetroots,‘Warp’, came out we dropped that remix. It was just along the same lines of mashing this hardcore energy, and stage diving, and crowd surfing and punk rock energy with electronic music. And it turned into electro craziness that was happening in the late 2000’s and that remix was part of that.”
‘Undertow’ by Function
“Function was a band I saw a billion times in Orange County. They’re an Orange County hardcore band. So that’s a different kind of band, unlike ‘Shelter’, ‘Youth Of Today’, ‘Gorilla Biscuits’ or bands like that. Or like the East Coast bands that I saw every now and again, like ‘Earth Crisis’ or ‘Avail’ .. ‘Avail’ is definitely part of a different world of hardcore, but ‘Function’ were the local straight-edge hardcore band that we’d go see all the time.
They’re from Huntington beach and I’m from Newport beach. Newport beach in comparison to Huntington beach was always kind of not as cool, because we didn’t have all the big bands coming from our area. It was always HP hardcore bands, they’re the ones that blew up in our scene. So they were one of the bigger ones at the time.”
‘Break Down The Walls’ by Youth Of Today
“Now we get to ‘Youth Of Today’, which I've talked about already. It's Ray Cappo’s band, before ‘Shelter’ and it’s like one of the definitive straight-edge hardcore bands of all time. Put your exes on your hands and you just mosh, and you sing along, break down the walls. It's just self-affirming, straight-edge hardcore, just absolutely definitive.”
‘Blanket’ by Unbroken
“Unbroken is one of the bands I used to see all the time. They were from San Diego.They were much darker than most straight-edge hardcore bands. They wouldn't even call themselves straight-edge hardcore, I think they stopped wearing their exes. I think they did at one point, and then they just were hardcore. Like straight-edge hardcore bands were very PMA, positive mental attitude, and then ‘Unbroken’ were just dark hardcore. They were kind of like evil hardcore. You know, there's something about that kind of darkness that's really cool about them and I love going to see them play, I mean, they're just unbelievable as a live band, such a fan of them. ‘Life. Love. Regret.’ is one of the greatest hardcore albums of all time.”
‘Sperm Donor’ by Rifoki
“Rifoki is my band I did with Bob Rifo from The Bloody Beatroots and we did that in 2009, same time that we did ‘Warp’. We got a rehearsal studio and we made five songs with Congorock.I sang, I played some guitar as well, wrote some of the guitar, Bob Rifo played guitar, we got an Italian drummer; we did this all in Italy, and Congorock played bass. We wanted to harken back to our hardcore days because Bob Rifo was also in a bunch of bands before. I just went right back to my hardcore days of being in a hardcore band, before I was DJing I was in bands. So Rifoki is actually Steve Aoki, Bob Rifo … Rifoki.”
‘Left Hand’ by Envy
“Envy is one of the greatest bands of all time. I'm just gonna put that out there. They're from Japan. You need to hear about them.
My first Japanese tours were because they actually said ‘We like you, we're gonna bring you on tour’. Without them, I would've never toured Japan. This is 1999, ‘This Mission Kills’ was my band, we toured with ‘Envy’. We actually ended up releasing ‘All The Footprints’ on Dim Mak in America. One of the most beautiful, heartbreaking, heart-wrenching albums, screaming hardcore but with such melody and such despair and emotion. when you see them live, you just literally wan to melt into tears because it's just like screaming, crying all the time.
They're just one of the greatest bands. They're a bit outside of the hardcore world I'm talking about for the most part throughout this 12on12, but they absolutely belong on this one for me because of my journey in hardcore that has evolved me to be where I am.”
‘One Question’ by The Fire Next Time
“I was gonna pick ‘This Machine Kills’, which is my main band I had when I was in college. We actually signed an album to Ebullition, which was a big deal for us. We didn't sign, there's no signing, but we released an album on Ebullition. But I also had other bands and one of the other bands was ‘The Fire Next Time’. I played guitar, I sang, we did a few shows, we did an album. It was great to be in a band with my friends at that time.
It was more of an emo hardcore band and it doesn't get much love, because when people go back to my heardcore roots they think of Esperanza, because that was another band I was in; and ‘This Machine Kills. But ‘The Fire Next Time’ gets not that much love, so I'm happy to give love to one of my smaller bands that I was part of. I did an album with them, it’s on Dim Mak actually; and we put out a CD. I don't know if it’s even available on digital, but it is available here on 12on12.”
That's it. That's my journey in hardcore, you get a glimpse and that's just scratching the surface of the hardcore that has little pieces of my DNA and my soul, my spirit, my energy, culminating to what you see right now. There you go.”
‘Year Zero’ is a must have compilation for any true hardcore fan, Steve Aoki fan or vinyl collector. Make sure you grab a copy and add it to your collection below.