Exclusive: Steve Aoki Sits Down With Men’s Health Backstage

At Ultra Music Festival, he let us in on his favourite cake, and how he unwinds.


Nadim Nyker |

Dash Berlin is performing to thousands at Cape Town’s Ostrich Farm. Music pumps through the air but Steve Aoki is quiet. Aoki’s tour manager lets me into his luxury tent behind the stage, where he sits on a white leather couch with an array of unopened bottles in front of him. It’s 9pm and he’s up on the Ultra Music Festival stage next.

I take a seat next to him and when formalities are out the way I find myself part of the calm before the storm. So how do you prepare for a show like this, I say. He laughs, “First I gotta be awake, it’s hard right now. Jet lag is tough, man, jet lag is tough.

“No matter how much I travel, sometimes jet lag gets the best of me: I’ve got to get mentally awake and sometimes it’s hard to get there. Also, with anything big it’s the calm before the storm, I don’t want to be going too hard before my show,” he says.

 

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At 42, Aoki is no stranger to the game, with over 80 singles released, nine Top 10 hits and two songs at number one on the Billboard Charts, he admits, he could do it in his sleep. “I’ve been doing this a lot so I can pretty much go on stage in any state of mind at this point,” he adds.

But that’s never stopped him from giving his all, no matter where he is on the planet, and it’s the reason behind his stillness. It’s this, coupled with meditation and vocal cord warm-ups which gets him ready to perform, he says. “With my show I’m going to be giving one hundred percent, so I’m generally very very calm, so I’ll give 100 percent of my energy tonight.”

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Aoki has toured South Africa twice before, his last being with Dutch DJ Nicky Romero in 2013. But while he loves the local crowds, he also thrives on getting out. “It was an incredible crowd but also, I just love being in the country and I love being in Cape Town, Jo’burg and Durban.

 

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#aokijump #1030. The Cape Town Jump. South Africa Feb 2020

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“I did a shark dive before, that was in 2011. I really want to get out as much as I can. We went to the [Kirstenbosch] Botanical Gardens today, we also visited the township Langa.” With Aoki also enjoying a South African game drive, saying he wants to see as much as he can when given the opportunity.

The stage is a high intensity environment, which gives a whole new meaning to unwinding after work. And when some take a shower to calm down, Aoki hits the gym.  “I follow my mind, follow my body and meditate if I have to,” says the American musician. “After a big show, I sleep, I listen to my body and my brain: I can sleep anywhere, I can nap anywhere.

Sometimes, [after a show] I’m running on adrenalin and I’ll go straight to a workout.

“It just depends; sometimes I’m running on adrenalin and I’ll go straight to a workout. Because a show fills up my adrenalin levels so much that I’m just riding pretty hard and I want to keep the momentum going.”

As his lean physique shows in many shirtless stage performances, Aoki is fit. His secret is 80% nutrition and 20% working out, he says. “I try to keep fit as much as possible. I have a gym in my house and workout in my home. I try and hit the hotel gyms when I can, but eating is also, I’d say more important than my workouts.

“For me, my nutrition is 80% and then 20% is the workout. I do a little bit of cardio on stage but the food intake is a big part of it.”

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Speaking of nutrition, the artist is big on cake and Aoki has a world-renowned reputation for interactive performances, where he throws cake in the face of willing concertgoers. In the past, Aoki has said it’s his tool of expression, and an exchange with passionate fans who want the cake the most.

 

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My favorite shows I’ve done in South Africa! 🙏❤🇿🇦

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One thing’s for sure, it gets the crowd going – with signboards which read ‘cake me’ spread across the crowd. “My favourite cake is strawberry shortcake. Japanese: a Japanese baker baking strawberry shortcake. That would be my number one favourite kind of cake,” he says.

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Just before I leave, I ask a question we at MH ask all our role models: who is your role model?  “My close friends and family,” he says. “But definitely out of that, Bruce Lee has always been a role model. Growing up, he’s the only Asian face that over exceeded as a phenomenal human being and not just influenced Asians in the community, but like the world at large. So, Bruce Lee has been a very big role model for me.”

Check out some of Aoki’s Ultra SA performance below:

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