Steve Aoki and Paris Hilton tell us about new collab ‘Lighter’ – and cake-throwing

17 mins read
Paris Hilton on the set of 'Lighter'. Credit_ Kevin Ostajewski

Steve Aoki and Paris Hilton have joined forces for new collaboration ‘Lighter’. Check it out below along with our interview with the two artists.

Back in July, the duo took the stage during Aoki’s headlining set at Tomorrowland 2023 in Belgium to debut the unreleased track, the latest single to be released from his upcoming eighth LP ‘HIROQUEST: Double Helix’. ‘Lighter’ features an infectious beat with Hilton’s smooth voice singing the anthemic chorus: “I feel lighter without you / I feel lighter without you / take a sip and then you fade / up, up and away / I’m not coming down soon / I feel lighter without you.” 

The producer told us how the creation of ‘Lighter’ has been a “momentous occasion for both of us” with the track being a “Culmination of our shared experiences and creative energies.”

“This is definitely a bucket list thing,” Aoki told NME. “After being friends for so long, we finally have a song together! I’m glad to happen around this one too, it perfectly came together.”

Hilton added: “It was definitely meant to be in this moment, with this song and everything. After so many years of friendship, so many memories, so many fun nights, we now have our song that we could play when we’re out.”

NME caught up with the duo to chat about their decades long friendship, creating the track, avoiding burnout, what the future holds, and Aoki’s cake-throwing antics.

Hi Steve and Paris. You guys have been friends for over two decades. Why did it now feel like the right time to collaborate on a track?

Aoki: “Anytime I work with any artists, friends, whatever it might be, it has to be the right song. When I heard ‘Lighter’, I immediately visualised Paris on the song. It was perfect. Part of my job as a producer is knowing who would fit well when I have a song, so with this one, I was hoping that Paris would love it.”

Hilton: “I immediately loved it right away. I was so excited because our friendship spans over two decades and I am such a huge fan of his music. Every time I’d see him play at a festival or anywhere, I’d be like, ‘Bro, we have to do something together’. So when he called me with the song that Emily Warren (Dua Lipa, Charli XCX) wrote, I was blown away.

“I’m a huge fan of Warren’s as well. She’s so brilliant. We went right into the studio and recorded it. It has been so much fun to create this piece of magic together.”

What can you tell us about working on the song with Warren in the studio?

A: “She’s one of the best songwriters out there. Emily came to my show in Miami, and I was fangirling over her. What she writes is incredible. She’s just magical. The day after the show, she wrote ‘Lighter’. She said ‘I wrote this song for you because I was so inspired by that show’. I was glad there was some kinetic energy there to create something special.

“Prior to the show, Paris and I hung out at [viral internet star] Lele Pon’s wedding and told each other ‘Yo, we got to do a song’, so it all kind of all lined up. I already had the seed planted in my head. We always want to make music together. Currently, Paris is in ‘music mode’ so I thought ‘OK, I have it!’ This is totally in the pocket for Paris.”‘

H: “Just being in the studio with her was so inspiring. It was so much fun to collaborate with each other. She just has such an amazing vibe. I really respect her and love her a lot.”

‘Lighter was described as a “testament to the power of relationships and growth” and a “Perfect representation of all the epic times we’ve had” by Hilton. What can you tell us about the lyrical inspiration?

H: “I loved the lyrics. There are so many different meanings it can take on. Like, “I feel lighter without you” can be about a break-up signifying ‘I’m just so much lighter, without this baggage from this person’ or feeling lighter as in letting go of something that you’ve held on to for too long.

“Even with me, I’ve been on this whole self-discovery journey along with things like my new memoir and my documentary, and I feel so much lighter in so many ways. The lyrics really spoke to me, and then of course, the beat is so sick, because everything that Steve makes is epic.”

A: “Paris said it perfectly. The lyrics do have a dynamic element of being different things for different people.”

What was it like to debut the track live at Tomorrowland 2023? 

H: “I was so emotional looking out into the crowd and seeing so many people and everybody just dancing and jumping and raging. It was really a special moment for me to be up there with Steve who has been one of my friends for so many years and just to be performing this incredible new song was so special.”

A: “It was epic! Those are the moments where you’re like, ‘God I just want to press save forever’. The feelings you have are so fucking high, everything’s going off in your head and it’s super visual. It’s a full sensory overload. Then seeing like the playback of the crowd and what it was, you’re just left like ‘Oh my God, that just happened’ It’s crazy.”

The music video for ‘Lighter’ took inspiration from iconic ’80s Maxell cassette tape commercials – what was it like filming that?

A: “The outfits were great and the vibe was great. There’s this commercial from back in the day, where a guy is sitting on a couch and the speakers are blasting his face in his hair’s pushed back from the soundwaves. The video was inspired by that era of tape commercials. The directors were incredible in being able to bring that kind of energy and nostalgia back. I had a lot of fun.”

H: “The director’s vision was just so much fun. The sets they built, like the cloud and sitting in the chair recreating that iconic scene, were really amazing. The styling of the video was also incredible. I loved the way it was edited.”

As a multi-hyphenates working in so many different fields, how can you keep a foot in these doors/projects and continue making music without burnout?

A: “Keeping things pretty organised is a big part of it. On the music side of things, I really take charge of that because it needs my A&R, my direction, my time in the studio and the different people I work with. Music is also my main platform, that I spend a lot of my time on. The same goes for my shows.

“You have to have a clear-cut schedule and have incredible time management to be able to  lock everything in so you’re not neglecting anything. The most important thing out of all that is making sure that you care about everything you are working on. There are only so many hours in the day and I want to fill it with things that I only care about.”

H: “I’ve been in this industry for over two decades now. I love what I do and feel so lucky and blessed. I get to do everything within every single different vertical and with my company 11:11 Media as well. I stay inspired by going to different music festivals and having friends send me new tracks that are coming in. I never get burned out for music. It energises me and brings me to life and makes me feel lighter.”

Paris Hilton on the set of ‘Lighter’. Credit_ Kevin Ostajewski

The upcoming album ‘Hiroquest: Double Helix’ is a follow-up to 2022’s ‘Hiroquest: Genesis’. Where did the Idea to “embrace dance culture while intertwining the pulse of contemporary Latin music” come from?

A:”[Dance culture and the pulse of contemporary Latin music] is now a fixture in my musical process. Latin will always be part of every single album I do moving forward. A large part of my fanbase is Spanish-speaking. I have insanely incredible fans all in of Latin America and they’re my most passionate shows for sure. Spain as well. It’s a really big part of my identity when I think about it.”

“I’d say almost 60-70 per of the artists that come in to work with me at the Neon Future Caves studio that I work out of are Latin. I ended up working with a lot of Latin artist through the natural progression of just being so tied within the community and I love it. I didn’t even realise it. I have a full album of Spanish speaking Latin music that’s ready. Eventually those records will find a place in the world, but yeah, it’s just a big part of the Aoki music culture.”

Paris – you are no stranger to music. You DJ and you released your self-titled debut back in 2006 (which Lady Gaga called “one of the greatest records ever”). You are also currently working on your second album. Has your creative process changed over 17 years?

H: “Music has always been such a huge part of my life. I love DJing all around the world and at the biggest music festivals and having my concerts, but singing is something that I just love to do and I’m so proud to be in the studio.

Sia is executive producing my whole upcoming album and it’s been so much fun to collaborate her and with all of my favourite artists and get to put together an iconic pop album.”

A: “I just got to double down on this, Sia is executive producing Paris’ album. That’s crazy. Sia is one of the greatest writers of music and has written some of  the most epic songs ever so to have her and Paris together for this, this is going to be insane.”

Stars are Blind’ has had a resurrection within the past couple of years, (featured in Promising Young Woman, Kim Petras duet, Miley Cyrus‘ New Year’s Eve performance). What was it like to see that song receive love and attention again?

H: ‘Stars Are Blind’ will always be such a huge part of my life. I am proud to see how timeless and iconic it is and how people from every generation are able to love and enjoy it so much. I always say it’s the perfect summer song. It’s heartwarming to see everyone around the world still jamming out to it.”

Paris Hilton. Credit: Kevin Ostajewski
Paris Hilton. Credit: Kevin Ostajewski

Steve, will the cake throwing be your thing forever or is it going to come to an end? 

A: “It’s going to happen. I was thinking about at what point do I retire the cake but I don’t know. I mean, I follow demand so if the crowd wants it.”

H: “They love it! If someone did that to me, I’d be like ‘Oh My God’ but these people are begging for it! Never retire the cake!”

A: “They’re like crying for it and make these massive signs to hold up. How do you say no to that? You know? I’ve caked like 20,000 faces at this point. We have a six-page cake rider, we’ve mastered it.”

‘HiROQUEST: Double Helix’, is set for release on November 17. Pre-order it here.

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