Steve Aoki has traveled a long road from starting a record label in his apartment to becoming one of electro house music’s biggest names, and is one the busiest and hardest-working artists on the EDM scene today. And as we all know, he lives a crazy life and is known for his audience-interactive antics, which include cake-throwing, spraying crowds with champagne and jumping off stage with fans in between mixes.
A new documentary on Netflix, “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead,” released in August earlier this year, reveals a lesser known facts of the entertainer: the story behind his self-made success. The Netflix documentary was directed by Justin Krook, who was allowed to film most of Steve’s day-to-day life. “It was an eye opener, a therapy session. I decided I was going to bare nude and tell a personal journey.” reveals Aoki. He says he finds the film “hard to watch” because he’s rarely let the public see what’s going on behind closed doors. The documentary offers darker assessments of his background, including the racism Aoki endured as a child in California.
In the documentary, his wife model Tiernan Cowling sums him up when he is out of sight – his frenetic career is an attempt to prove himself to his father. She said he is unable to handle down time and is trying to match the intensity of his father, Hiroaki “Rocky” Aoki. The elder Aoki – a wrestler and powerboat racer originally from Japan – pulled in American diners with his restaurants’ theatrical knife-wielding chefs, a possible foreshadowing of his son’s showmanship.
Despite Rocky Aoki’s fortune, Steve Aoki did not see it as he grew up with his mother after his parents’ divorce. Aoki revealed that one of his proudest moments was when he was able to buy a car – a Prius – with cash from shows. “That was pretty epic for me,” he said. “It felt like stripper money, 20s and 10s. And I just dropped it on the table.” Aoki strayed from his father’s path early on. He majored in women’s studies and sociology and became a vegan, choices incomprehensible to the alpha-male Rocky.
Aoki recalled an isolated childhood as a rare Asian American in overwhelmingly white Newport Beach in Orange County. “It’s a culture that unfortunately breeds ignorance from the whole basis that there is no representation of people of colour. When you’re underrepresented, you’re misrepresented – that’s something I said in college,” he said.
Aoki also reveals he has no plans to slow down, keenly aware that music can be an unstable career. “At any point in time, this could be over,” he says. “I’m always in this position where I really stop and think – if I wasn’t here, would I want to be here? And the answer is always yes. I spent my whole life trying to get here and now I’m here.
It is nice to see another side of an admirable DJ. From seeing Steve Aoki at Dance concerts, this documentary shows a side of Steve Aoki that is just like everyone one of us. From moving to California to creating one of the most innovative record label, the documentary showed the good and bad times of Steve Aoki. His personality is unforgettable and he is just an energy that is positive and uplifting. This documentary will keep you hungry for more of his music.