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Steve Aoki
Photograph: Shutterstock/Chelsea Lauren/REX

How a chance encounter with Björk started Steve Aoki’s journey to Ultra Music Festival

Written by
Kat Bein
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Steve Aoki, the mustachioed master of L.A.-based label and lifestyle brand Dim Mak, is a notorious figure in EDM. He was one of the first producer-DJs to cross over into the mainstream, thanks to high-energy compositions and onstage antics (cake throwing, anyone?). But as recently as 2004, he was standing in the audience like the rest of us, sharing a cheap hotel room and saving his cash for the shows and magic of Ultra. 

Magic came not onstage but in the form of a woman strolling down Ocean Drive, wearing a “huge flowing dress, massive headphones and humongous glasses.” The stranger turned out to be Björk. “She was so majestic,” recalls Aoki. After mustering up the courage to speak to her, the two exchanged phone numbers and kept in touch. No collaborations resulted from their chance meeting but the unexpected interaction resonated with Aoki, who experienced part of what draws millions of people to Ultra every year: the opportunity to see some of the biggest names in music. In 2010, he went from being a face in the crowd to a performer, playing his first show at Ultra. 

His 2017 headlining set boasts tons of surprise guests, and while he can neither confirm nor deny anything on record before the show, we have a feeling that “Just Hold On” collaborator Louis Tomlinson will make an appearance. And Aoki might just drop a new track while he’s at it. “[Ultra] is the perfect ground for experimentation, to play all your new music and get the best feedback you can from a crowd,” says Aoki. “[The fans] know the music. You feel it at the clubs; you see that in their faces.”

Aoki will also perform at his Dim Mak label showcase—a label that launched the careers of MSTRKRFT, Zedd and the Chainsmokers. “Electronic music has just as much ability to reach as many people as any other genre,” he adds. “It’s an incredible time.”

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