He's one of the highest-grossing touring electronica DJs. He's the head of his own label, Dim Mak, through which he's discovered bands such as Bloc Party and the Gossip. He's the son of the founder of Benihana, Rocky Aoki. But above all else, Steve Aoki is a hometown boy, having been born in Miami.
The electro-house DJ, who recently released a three-song EP titled "It's the End of the World As We Know It," will play the Ultra Music Festival in March. He spoke to us during a phone interview.
You're known for a crazy, lively show — spraying champagne and crowd-surfing. But what are you like?
When I'm doing my show, I'm the performer. When I'm off, I'm someone kind of completely different. I'm not spraying champagne while I'm walking through the hallway. … Like, when I'm onstage, I'm expressing myself in a way that I could never do if I wasn't on the stage. … I love doing it, that's why I do it so much. It's my passion.
How do you prepare for that shift onstage?
It really starts in the studio. …. I have to be 100 percent behind these records that I'm producing, otherwise it's not really worth it to me. … When you play these tours, you're looking for that connection. When you find that connection, you feel accomplished.
Where do you go to hang out when you come home?
I love Sushi Doraku, my brother's restaurant in Brickell. I love going all over the place — the ocean, whenever I get a chance, hanging out with the sharks. I always play at Mansion when I play clubs. Sandwicherie, I love that spot. There's a place called Thrive, a 90-percent vegan spot.
Tell me about your new EP.
It's kind of more of an emotional record than I've usually done. … It's called "It's the End of the World As We Know It," a play on all the conspiracy theories. … I love being serious, but at the same time, I like poking fun at myself.
Advice on how to survive Ultra?
Take lots of water with you, because it will be hot. Stay hydrated. Don't die.
Thoughts on Asians in music and Korean artist PSY's popularity?
If you don't represent yourself, you will get misrepresented, to claim your voice and to speak out. … When you look at PSY, without the music, you see an Asian face represented in a popular light, in popular culture. He's now in the books of popular culture in the history of 2012, in this era. Everyone in the world knows who he is, and it's not a negative light, like he killed someone. … He wrote a song that became a phenomenon. … It's not a white face, a black face. It's an Asian face. It's the first time in history it's ever happened.
What are your thoughts of electronica now going mainstream?
The way I see it, this kind of music is not necessary becoming Top 40. You see it all over television and radio, but you don't even know it is. It's become pop-ified. As a songwriter and producer, I write all kinds of music, and I write for other artists, as well, so you want your music to be on the radio, if that's the right place for it. But dance music is not for the radio. Dance music is for alternative means of distribution, like the Internet, YouTube and SoundCloud. That's where it really thrives. … The underground is just getting bigger.