Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Korea Herald: Regina Walton's Expat Interviews - 'Kid Millionaire' spins in Seoul

[Regina Walton's Expat Interviews] 'Kid Millionaire' spins in Seoul

There is much buzz surrounding Steve Aoki, aka, Kid Millionaire, his companies, and his celebrity lifestyle. Was I going to meet someone who is caught up in the glitz of it all -- or was I going to meet someone who is successful in his own right, but is also a nice person to talk to?

He turned out to be a nice guy.

I spoke to Aoki just a couple of hours before he was scheduled to DJ at Gayagum Hall at the Sheraton Grande Hotel in Walkerhill. He had flown in from Osaka, Japan where he had a DJ gig the evening before.

"I feel like I'm in the Grateful Dead. I just never stop touring. Like, last year I flew over 300 flights. This year it's ... five or six days of the week I'm flying," Aoki said. It showed. He was clearly exhausted when we spoke. At that point in the short interview, I had the feeling that he was a genuinely nice guy.

I suggested interviewing him the next day if he was going to stay in Seoul. It was a gamble, but I had done my research and knew his next appearance was not until May 16th in Bangkok. He took me up on my offer. He seemed to appreciate the gesture because I got a message the next day asking me if I had time to interview him.

"I've been so excited to come to Korea ... almost more than any city. I don't know why. Honestly, I don't know what it is but I was so excited to come here. I think it was because I never thought I'd come here. But then I get these messages on MySpace from kids in Korea who are super excited. I didn't think anyone here knew who I was," he said.

Apparently, that is definitely not true. I was just excited as was the young Korean crowd. He started his set with tracks from his debut CD, "Pillowface and His Airplane Chronicles" and zigzagged through high-intensity pop, hip-hop and rock.

The next day when we resumed the interview, my first question was his impression of the crowd in Seoul. "They were raging," Aoki said with no hesitation. When I pressed him more, he explained how excited he was to see the crowd having so much fun dancing. He went on to say that "the crowd, especially the girls, had so much energy."

Aoki is a music lover and began throwing parties where he would DJ and host bands when he was a student at the University of California at Santa Barbara. He realized he was on to something and has made his love of music his career.

When asked about both the love and the hate he gets from people, Aoki said he lets the criticism roll off his back. I told him that a young man pulled me aside and told me that Aoki was not a "real" DJ.

Aoki summed it up nicely when he said "you can't please everyone. There are things I like and things I hate too. Why would someone who doesn't think I'm a real DJ pay 55,000 won to come and see me?"

He added, "I only care if criticism is coming from someone close to me like family or friends."

We then moved on to the adoration and love he gets from his fans. Again, Aoki summed it up nicely: "It's easy to accept love. The music is the way I connect to the crowd. The music drives the feeling. Even if it's just for a few seconds, I feel a connection with the crowd every show I do."

I also had a chance to ask him about his multifaceted company, Dim Mak, which means "death touch." Dim Mak has a record company which has signed hot bands like The Bloody Beetroots and over 50 other music acts. Dim Mak is also a management company that manages the appearances for DJs including Aoki, the legendary DJ Jazzy Jeff, other celebrity DJs like Joel Madden and special appearances for his sister, Devon Aoki, who is a model and actress.

Dim Mak also has a clothing line -- the Dim Mak Collection. When asked where he gets his energy from to keep up such a hectic touring schedule and being a CEO, Aoki explained, "I'm always working even when I'm on vacation. I like being able to have a Blackberry and be plugged in wherever I go.

"I just stress out when I'm away." He also emphasized that he does not do it alone. "I surround myself with people that I trust. I want people who are loyal and who are committed to the Dim Mak brand."

He went on to explain that "you can learn new skills," but emphasized he gets most of his employees from interns that he has gotten to know and trusts.

In addition to coming to Seoul to DJ, Aoki does have other things going. He only had a day to spend in Seoul and he said he would like to spend time "eating Korean barbeque and checking out stores."

However, he said he also wanted to find a store to sell his line of clothing. He describes the Dim Mak Collection as a line that "people buy because they want to be part of Dim Mak."

He added that he's already designing the 2009 line and that his sister, Devon, has been working on pieces for the collection too. I'll let you in on a secret. He did manage to find a suitable store here in Seoul, for more information on that go to the website.

To find out more about Steve Aoki, go to and to find out more about Dim Mak go to

Regina can be reached through her blog at - Ed.

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