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What Steve Aoki Can’t Live Without

Photo: Brian Ziff

If you’re like us, you’ve probably wondered what famous people add to their carts. Not the JAR brooch and Louis XV chair, but the hand sanitizer and the electric toothbrush. We asked DJ, producer, and designer Steve Aoki who is currently partnering with All Nippon Airways airlines on a podcast and other projects about the book, eye mask, and protein bars he can’t live without.

I can fall asleep anywhere — it doesn’t even matter what position — but it has to be dark. Having an eye mask that’s very cushioned and comfortable is really important. I can’t stand when the mask touches your eyes; I can’t sleep if it does. I need it to bulge out so my eyes are left alone. When I don’t have this mask with me — if I leave it on a plane or in a hotel room — I lose my mind. I have probably 15 or 20 of them. I always carry two with me because I just need to have one, and I like knowing that I have a spare just in case. I also always have a big, fluffy down pillow with me — those are my favorite — because if I’m putting it against a wall, it makes it so easy to sleep. I’m also a pillow cuddler, so those are more comfortable to cuddle with. If I’m on a plane, once I put my eye mask and headphones on, and press my head against a pillow, I’m out.

You can’t stop reading this book once you pick it up. It is by far the most interesting take on how we came into existence and got to where we are today. It’s fascinating how we were originally just a species hanging out in these little tribes, and then we all connected and just proliferated across the globe. Like, why did we advance the way that we did? It’s also interesting to think about what will happen to us in the future. I’ve skimmed through the book a few times since I first read it, and it’s definitely one I love to share with other people. I always recommend it; it’s probably my number one reading recommendation.

The thing about Quest is that the names of the bars sound like they’d be high in calories and bad for you, but they’re good for you. And they taste great too; I like the chocolate-chip cookie dough flavor the most. If you just need that fiber in you, a Quest bar will do the job. It’ll also satisfy cravings. I’m an impulse eater. Instead of eating a cookie or Twinkies, I like to have something I can easily grab that’s not awful for me. I love sweets, so these kind of let me have sweets that are more protein rich and less carb-y. I usually take five or six with me when I travel.

I generally travel with three computers — they’re all the same Macbook Pro, but I like to compartmentalize my work. I have my studio computer, which has all my sessions and samples. That computer is only for production. I have a DJ computer too. I download tons and tons of music there, like the stuff that I play in my sets. I don’t even put my email on my DJ computer; that goes on my third computer, which also has my whole fashion business on it. Everything — creative, planning, strategy, and marketing — is on the third computer. It’s also for watching Netflix. I need all three when I’m traveling, because I’m always working. I’m very creatively involved in all these projects, so without my say on this stuff, it just sits. It’ll collect dust if I don’t get to it. I also might literally wake up on the plane with an idea, like a melody or something that I heard in a dream, and I’ll make sure to just get it down. I’ll hum it out. I probably just have thousands of memos of me just humming into the phone. And if it’s more complicated, and I’ll need harmonies, I’ll get out my computer and figure it out. I have a little mini keyboard piano to help, too.

Jet lag is crazy. It can ruin your whole day, but this has been helping me. You take it right before you fly, after your first meal on the flight, and then after you land. I actually brought it to my sleep doctor; he checked it over and gave me the okay to use it. It gives you all the vitamins you need to keep your body on track. I’m always flying across the pond, whether to Europe to Asia. I’ll be there for like ten days, I’ll catch up with my circadian rhythm or whatever, and then I’ll fly back and I’m fucked. It messes me up again. Then I do it again two weeks later. This is my whole year basically. I thought that I could beat jet lag naturally just because I fly so much, but I can’t. I don’t think anyone can. I used to think I could hop on a plane, do a show, and get right back on a plane without any sleep. For a long time, I didn’t think sleep was that important — I mean, I have a tattoo on my neck that says “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” — but obviously, it’s really important, especially if you need to get through jet lag. I sleep now, but this stuff gives me that extra boost I need to get through the next day so I’m not yawning through the whole day and I’m not dying to take a nap by 3 p.m., or pounding espresso shots just to get through it. It’s really good stuff.

The air on planes is super-dry. There’s no humidity and you’re breathing in recycled air. I can deal with it, but I’m always on the mic. In my shows, I go hard; I’m very physical with my sets, and I’m always on the mic hyping the crowd up. I don’t want my vocal chords to dry up, so having the HumidiFlyer is probably the easiest way to moisten my vocal cords while I’m sleeping or if I’m just really dry. I used to sing in a band — actually, I used to scream in a band, a scream-o band — and it totally ruined my vocal cords. I got vocal-cord surgery, which was crazy. After that, I had to make major changes with everything. I had to do vocal warm-ups before my shows. I took on meditation. I did a major reset in my life. This was also when I learned that sleep and taking care of my body were very important. That’s when wearing this mask came into the picture. When I wear it, I land and my throat isn’t as bad as it would be without it. I definitely look crazy because I have a big pillow, my eye mask on, my headphones on, and this mask on. I travel with truly no fucks given. Certain things are more about self-care than how I look.

If it wasn’t already clear — I fly a lot. It’s been more than 12 years since I’ve had a year where I haven’t done 250 shows. Even when I had surgery on my shoulder, I ended up doing 210. I am always touring. That means I’m on more than 300 flights every year. I have books I bring on flights, and I do watch movies, but a lot of times, I’m catching up on work or producing music. I put on my SVN headphones and just get to it. When I made these, I was really thinking about doing work on a plane and how well they would travel. They’re noise-canceling and the sound is great, so when I’m producing, I can completely concentrate. Plus, they light up, so they’re aesthetically really cool. I probably travel to Japan the most because I have a lot of business there outside of DJ-ing. I play there once a year, but a lot of the time I’m going there for meetings and pleasure. I published a book there. I started my fashion company, Dim Mak, there. I have a café there. I always fly All Nippon Airways. It’s the best. They get comfort. They also get Japanese hospitality. They just took the entire Japanese vibe and put it on an airline — if you’ve gone to Japan, you’ll understand the vibe I’m talking about. They have the most caring staff I’ve ever met on a plane, and when you fly as much as me, you definitely take note of that stuff. I treat the plane like my office (and sometimes my bedroom), so I try to find airlines and seats that aren’t too cramped. That’s why I really like All Nippon Airways’ new 777 suite. There’s just so much space and it’s easy to stretch out and get things done.

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

What Steve Aoki Can’t Live Without