Before the sheet cakes and champagne showers, DJ and musician Steve Aoki had long been building his own empire.
His love of music was born during his college days at UC Santa Barbara. He majored in women's studies and sociology, but he also kept himself busy by starting his own record label, Dim Mak.
After igniting the EDM scene about 10 years ago, he's gone on to nab a Grammy nomination, start his own line of eye wear, and reign over his own compound in Ibiza.
But a new Netflix documentary is revealing another side of Steve Aoki, says filmmaker Justin Krook. "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" takes viewers into Aoki's family life, and shows how his famous father's spotlight motivated Aoki to step into his own.
NOTE: Video contains strong language
"I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" debuts Friday on Netflix. Krook joined Take Two's Alex Cohen to tell more about the project.
How Krook linked up with Steve Aoki
"It's kind of a random story, actually. My business partner had directed a documentary called 'Jiro Dreams of Sushi,' which was a documentary about this sushi chef in Japan. We had gotten a call at the office one day from Steve's manager, and he said Steve had seen this film, he really connected with it. I had known of Steve, of his label. I had seen his shows before. I said, 'Steve connected with this movie? What's the deal?' So we flew out to Miami, we had met him, and after talking, he really connected with the father-son story in this sushi documentary. I got to meet his family, and saw this other side of Steve that I don't think anyone knew existed outside of his inner circle. And so when we kind of started delving into that story I said, there's an interesting film here beyond the caking and the rafting and his very capricious kind of nature. There was a really deeper back story to it."
About Rocky Aoki, Steve's father and founder of the Benihana Restaurant chain:
"He was an off-shore boat racer, he set world-records hot air ballooning. He flew a hot air balloon from Japan to San Francisco, which is a totally normal thing to do (laughs). He was a total wild man, and everything he did kind of drove back to his Benihana brand. The balloon would have Benihana written on the side, the off-shore boats would have Benihana written on the side. And Steve's kind of the same way. He has his label, Dim Mak, all these things he does outside of playing shows, he has a full-time videographer that travels around with him. He has a constant social media presence. In a lot of ways, he kind of is his dad."
Did Steve ever get the fatherly-approval he sought his whole life?
"I think his dad, from my conversations with him (Steve) even outside the film, his dad could kind of see it (Steve's success) coming, so I hope Steve has a little bit of closure there, for his own sake. But talking to his whole family, the biggest regret is that he didn't get to see his (success). Because where he is today is much different than where he even was when we started the film. We've been shooting this for three and a half years, and I've kind of watched his star rise further along there. It's kind of a bittersweet story but I hope he found some closure there."
What might the future hold for Steve Aoki?
"Steve's a chameleon. He's reinvented himself so many times. He started as a label A&R guy. He started in hardcore bands, and then he moved to indie rock with Bloc Party and signing The Kills. And then he again reinvented himself into a DJ — almost somewhat miraculously — and then pivoted from this kind of electro-sound he was doing to this more mainstream sound. So there's no chance that Steve won't reinvent himself again whenever the touring, 250 shows a year dries up. Because it eventually, it can't last forever. But he's a very astute businessman, which I don't think a lot of people know, and with that work ethic, there's no stopping him."