Steve Aoki builds a universe on 'HiROQUEST 2: Double Helix.' He also plans to go to the moon

LOS ANGELES (AP) — For the EDM DJ Steve Aoki, the next frontier is the final one.

Last year, it was announced he was on the manifest for the dearMoon Project, the first planned civilian mission to the moon. A trip to outer space makes a lot of sense for the forward-thinking creator, who's releasing “HiROQUEST 2: Double Helix” on Friday.

The first installment of the conceptual series, 2022’s pop-punk-infused “HiROQUEST: Genesis,” introduced the protagonist Hiro, tasked with collecting magical rings to save the world. On “HiROQUEST 2: Double Helix,” his story continues, and a new antagonist is introduced. The project has a collectible card component, and Aoki is writing a graphic novel — slated for release early next year — to tie the albums' narratives together.

Beyond the lore, of course, are the songs. Sonically, “HiROQUEST 2: Double Helix” is a detour from the first release.

“I’m inspired by the world around me, and the world around me has changed quite a lot. ‘HiROQUEST 1’ was made during the pandemic, so I was going and picking up my guitar,” he says, “listening to more punk and hardcore.”

The new release, on the other hand, is inspired by his life on the road: It’s an eclectic ride that finds cohesion in unrelenting energy, one that's “far more dance, far more electronic, far more club banger,” Aoki says.

It also includes more Latin rhythms, with features from the boy band CNCO, Mexican singers Danna Paola and Ángela Aguilar and Argentine singers Tini and La Joaqui. Each featured artist (including Paris Hilton, on a breathy dance single) is connected to a character in the concept record’s plot.

“Latin culture is now, endemically and fundamentally part of my musical trajectory. It is always going to be a part of every album and project that I do,” he says, adding that “70-80%” of the artists that come through his studio in Las Vegas are Latin artists.

There are also a few reimaginations of nostalgic classics, with Aoki working with Akon to update “Locked Up,” or adding a hard drop to MGMT's “Kids.” The latter is how Aoki closes his live sets now, “kicked up, like, 40 BPMs,” he says.

Those are the results of studio experimentations, thinking across different genres, cultures and languages. As Aoki sees it, an artist “has to innovate, because music and culture is unforgiving and it will leave you in the dust,” he says. “We're all expendable."

As for his journey into space, he's undergone many physical and medical examinations but hasn't yet begin the “pretty intensive” astronaut training protocol. A date has yet to be set for the launch, but he'll be prepared.

“In my schedule, I'm doing 203 shows a year. I was willing to drop a ton of shows to do that, plus a seven-day voyage,” he says.

In the meantime, Aoki says he knows how the “HiROQUEST” saga will end, but he's not telling more. It's about the journey, after all.