The California-based Aoki – DJ, record company exec, owner of his own fashion line and remixer to the stars – has come straight from Heathrow to CrossFit Perpetua to accept our’s challenge of an AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) workout competition. “Nonstop, for the last two months,” is the 38-year-old’s response when we ask him how busy he’s been recently. Conscious of his packed schedule, and gratified that his first UK port of call is a box in Vauxhall, we get right in with some questions while instructor Stuart Diplock prepares the workout space.
We never knew what “busy” meant until we met you. How do you stay afloat?
Part of my personality is to want to take on a lot. If something new and exciting inspires me, I make time for it no matter how busy my schedule already is. Everything just boils down to organisation. It’s usually dependent on you as an individual, but sometimes doing stuff with other people helps. Fitness is one of the parts of life that I see as a community thing.
Is that why you’re into CrossFit?
Exactly. I love the motivation of everyone in one place struggling towards the same goals.
What else motivates you to include exercise in your busy schedule?
Money. No, seriously! I created this thing called #AokiBootCamp, and the basic premise is to set challenges as a group, with monetary bets to back them up.
How does that work?
The money is a penalty rather than a reward. It’s usually about $100 per failure, so if I challenge you to work out every day for a week and you miss two days you pay $200. I’ll take a bet from anyone, whether someone wants to challenge themselves or get me to do it – usually, we end up doing it together.
Who gets the cash if the challenger doesn’t follow through?
It all goes to charity – that way it’s not me trying to take money, it’s about them not wanting to bail because they know it will cost them.
Sounds like an effective way to get people to stick to their commitments.
Absolutely, and I’m serious about it too. I have a book with all the bets written down and if you don’t pay in 24 hours, the penalty doubles.
What are the hardest bets you’ve taken on?
Stamina ones based on working out for a set period of time – whether that’s in one go, or consecutive days – are the toughest. I’ve paid out $15,000 in bets over a couple of months because I made the same bet with 17 different people so every time I failed to do it, I paid out $1,700.
It puts our gym membership fees in perspective. Now, we’ve seen your live shows, where you jump up and down nonstop for two hours – surely you don’t need to go to the gym too…
I am moving like crazy for the entirety of my shows, but that’s no replacement for a proper workout. Hell, in places like China and Central America they haven’t even banned smoking indoors yet… It’s like being in a spin class while everyone around you is smoking cigarettes.
Sounds pretty claustrophobic…
Yeah, I was playing in China once and I had to stop the music and say into the microphone, “You guys all smoke way too much. You’re gonna kill yourselves early and now you’re giving me black lung too. This is ridiculous!” They all just laughed at me. Fucking hell, man. I just thought, “Not sure if I’ll be playing in Shanghai again anytime soon”.
With the travelling and shows, your sleep patterns must be destroyed. How do you minimise the damage?
I rely on catnaps to top up energy levels, which basically means getting what I can, when I can.
Are you good at falling asleep quickly?
Absolutely. Anywhere from noisy buses to pumping nightclubs.
We want that skill – what’s the secret?
Meditation. Before I even knew how to do it properly I used to use the basic technique of focusing on one thing to put my brain in a relaxed state. Then I started studying transcendental meditation, which is all about using chanting and mantra to do that more effectively. Basically, you focus on a specific sound or noise that has no real-world meaning.
You just make a word up?
Exactly. It’s just a neutral noise you can repeat over and over that doesn’t have any connotations for you. I don’t know, for example, “WO-HA”.
And you just…
Aoki starts repeating “WO-HA” over and over while staring at the ground.
I think about the letters and about the noise they make and very soon I don’t think of anything, which is harder than you might… think. Saying, “Just relax, think of nothing” to a stressed person is the same as telling a depressed one to cheer up. Meditation is a tool that allows you to genuinely think of nothing – that’s why it’s so amazing. I try to do it for 20 minutes every morning and night, especially when I’m travelling.
That’s such a valuable skill, especially when you consider how important sleep is to our overall health.
Yeah, and it’s extra important for me because I’m into this idea of living long enough until we reach a point of singularity where we can combine our bodies with robotics and other technology. Then we can presumably live indefinitely.
Yeah, I don’t want to die.
You’ve also already paid to have your body stored cryonically, right?
That’s the insurance policy. Once you’re dead you’re either going in the ground to become worm food or getting cremated. Generally, we only have these two options, but why not go for a third one?
So be frozen like in Demolition Man?
I’ll be dead at that point anyway, so I would rather my body be kept in the condition it was in when I died than just have it destroyed. I have no idea if I would ever come back, but I’ll be dead so why wouldn’t I want to gamble on that? The other options are known entities – worms or ashes. This third, more hopeful, option is a win/win.
Unless there’s a power cut at the facility…
Even then, I’d already be dead at that point so it wouldn’t actually matter to me. It sucks for the poor person who’s got to clear all that up. Me? Not so much!
Diplock, the trainer, gives us a nod and we head over for our WOD. After a quick warm-up squat session we go head-to-head for ten minutes. Whoever can do the most rounds of five press-ups, ten kettlebell swings, 16 lunges and a 250m row is the winner. With a bit of healthy trash talking on the way, we emerge the victor, but only by half a round. It’s seriously impressive stuff from Aoki. The man doesn’t even know what day it is, let alone the time right now.
Thanks for that, dude, and the best of luck in your endeavour to live forever.
Thanks, man. But don’t get me wrong: just being alive in the first place is the most remarkable thing ever. I just want to be the one who gets to opt out! I don’t like the idea of an invisible stopwatch over all of us ticking down until that last day. I would rather someone told me, “You have five days left” so I could figure out what I want to experience during that time. Imagine if you just ended up spending those final days at your house, watching TV and then “boom” all of a sudden you’re checking out. That would suck.
“Can’t Go Home Like This” by Steve Aoki and Felix Jaehn featuring Adam Lambert is out now via Relentless. Aoki plays Creamfields 2016 on Sunday 28th August
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Max was the head of digital content for Men's Fitness which worked alongside Coach between 2015 and 2019.