This week we talk with Bruce Lee Superfan Steve Aoki. Steve is a Grammy nominated Electro house musician, DJ and record producer. Steve’s unique musical life is the subject of a new Netflix documentary called “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead."
Steve has been a die-hard Bruce Lee devotee since he was a kid. When he was taking karate classes, and he emulated all of Bruce Lee’s moves and became obsessed with watching every Bruce Lee movie repeatedly on VHS. Aoki looked up to Bruce Lee as an Asian man who “made it” when there weren’t any strong Asian role models. Having a strong, kick-ass Asian man like Bruce Lee as a role model helped Aoki build confidence even though he experienced racism growing up in Newport Beach. As a teen, Aoki and his friends studied Bruce’s interviews and read the Tao of Jeet Kune Do together. This practice became the basis for his lifelong love for Bruce Lee’s philosophy.
The Bruce Lee quote that Aoki always uses is “Be like water” and he adds “...by any means necessary.” He also uses: “Sometimes a goal is just something to aim at.” He applies these philosophies in his life by being fluid in his journey towards his goals and following his own creative path. "To live like Bruce Lee, is to be fluid like water and make your own journey."
Aoki on Bruce Lee’s influence: “Talking about the human side of things, there are a few people that have really changed the world by their words…Bruce Lee is one of them. There are only a few people that can really talk to people in a way that really touches you to the soul. And you know how genuine and authentic and human it is. It’s not about the martial art really, the martial art is an extension of his philosophy and the human side of everything. So when you get there, then you’re a devout fan for life, you’re changed forever.”
Bruce Lee’s philosophy also informs Steve Aoki’s creative process and how he thinks about making music--putting his whole heart into his work. “Music isn’t just something that you listen to, and especially at shows, you’re experiencing all your senses.”
Photo of Steve Aoki by @caesarsebastian
#AAHA (Awesome Asians and Hapas)
Steve Aoki does this week’s #AAHA’s shout-out to his friend Mike Shinoda from Linkin Park. Shinoda is a Japanese American musician, rapper, singer, songwriter, record producer, graphic designer, manager, and film composer. He co-founded Linkin Park in 1996 and Machine Shop Recordings in 2004, and his artwork has been featured in the Japanese American National Museum. Keep on being awesome Mike!
Even though Steve Aoki can claim his whole life as one big #BruceLeeMoment, he shares a specific #BruceLeeMoment: “Game of Death was an incredible film. It’s like a video game but he was fighting all these different characters. And the fight he did with Kareem Abdul Jabbar, I stood in front of the framed poster of him fighting Kareem Abdul Jabbar, it’s just so epic, him in his yellow jumpsuit and Kareem being 90 ft tall. I just remember that moment right now, it just popped in my head, it always pops in my head. He’s just a badass, what can I say? But like what I was saying throughout this whole podcast, all the different ways that I’ve been able to survive and thrive and build these many successes, and really think about my life, it’s always from a Bruce Lee quote. Whether it’s “Be like water,” or “The journey is more important than the destination.” You have to be able to speak to people where you’re not excluding them too. That’s what he did, he spoke to everybody. It wasn’t like he was a human rights leader, but he was in the way in that he didn’t exclude anyone…and that’s one thing that really made me love this guy so much.” Thank you Steve Aoki for sharing how Bruce Lee has shaped your life and career. We support you and think you’re awesome!