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Q&A with Steve Aoki

DJ and electronic music creator wants to save rhinos from poaching

All Animals magazine, November/December 2015

  • Photo courtesy of Steve Aoki

The way musician Steve Aoki remembers it, he was rocked by animal welfare issues and hardcore punk music when he was 14. Decades later, both passions still flow in this award-winning disc jockey, producer, singer, record label executive and charity founder, who is famous for sold-out electronic dance music performances in which he might throw himself (or cake) into the light-stick-waving crowd.

The son of the founder of the Benihana restaurant chain, Aoki believes in eating conscientiously and has called for better treatment of animals on farms. He’s also come out against the fur industry.

Aoki, who fans voted America’s Best DJ this year, partnered with Will.i.am, Linkin Park and Star Wars director J.J. Abrams on his latest album and teamed with Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti to put on a free concert in May. Now he’s collaborating with The HSUS and Humane Society International on an ad campaign to save endangered rhinos from poachers who kill them for their horns. In this edited interview with staff writer Tanya Mulford, Aoki talks about protecting rhinos and expressing himself via music.

What made you want to speak out about rhino poaching?

Once you read the statistics on how rhinos have systematically been killed for their horns for years, nearing the point of extinction, you cannot just sit there and turn your head. We as a species have done enough damage to the planet, to the animal kingdom, that it’s imperative for us to take a stand, raise awareness on these issues, do whatever we can to stop poachers.

Was there something you read or saw that drove home the urgency of this for you?

I read it somewhere and did some research, and that’s when a light clicked on in my head. There is no medicinal value WHATSOEVER in rhino horn. It’s supposed to do something for you, but there is no scientific proof of that. There is no reason to kill off rhinos.

What do you think is the best way to get people to stop “buying wild” —purchasing products made from wild animals?

All it takes is awareness. And if we can find it in our hearts to make a difference, I believe we can. But we gotta make a big loud noise for people to really give money and political attention to this problem and end it.

How has music given you a platform to speak out on these issues?

Music is the best conduit to your consciousness. It breathes energy, life and influence by speaking to your emotions with no bias, no judgment. It’s about being connected to something that connects other people. As my music is about expression, I can’t help but express personal feelings on issues that affect me, like poaching rhinos and hunting elephants for their tusks.

Learn more about HSI's Don’t Buy Wild campaign »

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