Playing Miami in the springtime is nothing new for DJ Laidback Luke. "I've been to Winter Music Conference every year since 2001," he tells New Times. "It helped me as an up-and-comer handing out demos and mixtapes. I remember in 2005, I played a hotel lobby, and only three people came in."
It didn't take long for Luke to go from performing for a couple of drunk stragglers waiting for a cab to becoming an annual staple playing in front of thousands at Ultra.
Before he was Laidback, though, he was Lucas Cornelis van Scheppingen, raised in the Netherlands by what he calls "hobby musician" parents.
"My mom used to sing. She'd throw parties at our home and create her own show. I was the 4-year-old kid in the background playing my plastic guitar."
After learning to play real guitars and pianos as a teenager, Luke would often get frustrated that he wasn't as good at music as his brother and the rest of the family. That all changed when he turned 15. "I learned I could make music with a computer." He began remixing well-known dance hits and producing his own songs. He also kept his ears open for new talents in electronic music and introduced larger audiences to acts such as Afrojack and Avicii.
Though many people in his position of finding fortune and fame in the EDM scene have fallen to the traps of hedonism, Laidback Luke lives up to his moniker. "I live a fit life. I'm a family guy," he says, as the voices of his children playing can be heard in the background.
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As part of his fit lifestyle, Luke is an avid martial arts practitioner and is set to compete in the Kung Fu Championships in Hong Kong days before Ultra. Though Luke is hopeful he'll fly to Miami with some medals, he is more confident about his DJ skills. "Put me in front of 30,000 people while DJing; I won't be nervous. If I'm in a gym with 30 people and asked to do a kung fu form, I will get nervous. I love martial arts. It keeps me grounded, focused, and disciplined."
He declines to describe what his set at Ultra will be like — he believes spontaneity is what distinguishes him from the pack — but he does know where he'll be staying.
"I bought a property in North Beach. It's secluded and still close to South Beach. I like being away from the chaos but still being near enough to visit."
Saturday, March 25, at Ultra Music Festival at Bayfront Park, 301 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-358-7550; Tickets cost $299 to $1,249 via ultramusicfestival.com.