This month, 53-year-old Paul Oakenfold plans to be the first DJ to "party at the top of the world" and play Mount Everest. Tomorrow, March 16, he plays Denver.
Everest won't be the world-renowned DJ's first extreme trip. Over his thirty-year career, he's played everywhere from an Alaskan barn to the Antarctic Circle.
But when asked about his previous mountaineering experience, he responds with a long burst of laughter. "None! Talk about choose the hardest thing to do to start with."
He has spent a year planning with the national and local governments in Nepal, and assembled a team of capable mountaineers and a crew of audio engineers.
"This window of opportunity will not come again, and I know that," Oaklenfold says. "And if I don't take it, it will be something I personally regret."
After performing in Singapore, Oakenfold will make his way to Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal, to play a local New Year celebration.
"I want to share our music with their music, and I'm going to teach some kids to deejay," Oakenfold says. These shows will not only introduce locals to electronic music, but the entire trek will raise money for three charities — two in London and one in Kathmandu.
From there, he and his team will head for the Everest base camp, playing three villages en route and then the base camp itself, at more than 18,000 feet above sea level.
"We don't even know if the equipment is going to work at 18,000 feet, because no one's ever done it," says Oakenfold. After his journey, the artist will donate his equipment in Nepal to a DJ school that is opening soon.
To prepare, Oakenfold first hit the gym, strengthening his core with pilates. As his strength and stamina increased, he ramped up his cardio workouts. He has also traveled to Vermont, Whistler and Park City to hike at elevations higher than those of his Southern California home. While his physical prowess has developed, Oakenfold has been working on breathing techniques, eating right, cutting back on caffeine and recovering from workouts.
While the DJ is excited about Everest, when asked about his upcoming North American stops, including a stint at Miami Music Week, he says, "I'm actually dreading it.... I wish I could go [to Everest] today."
Staying up at night playing sets has taken a toll on Oakenfold, who has been waking up before sunrise to prepare for his trek. "I'm ready," he says. "I'm mentally and physically ready. I'd like to get going!"
Still, he spoke enthusiastically about his Denver date at Beta, where he'll be performing. "Listen, I'm coming Thursday [March 16] to play one of the best clubs in America," he says. "It's a great club. It really is. It's a wonderful sound system, a great booth. I'm sure if you speak to any of my colleagues, they'll say as I do, that it's one of the best clubs in America."
Oakenfold describes Denver's electronic-music scene as cutting-edge. "There's not a great deal of cities that really allow you to express yourself musically." He describes it as open-minded: "You know that. I don't need to tell you that. Look at it in terms of weed."
But before he spins at Beta, he has other plans: "I touch down, I check in, I put my boots on and see if I can get in a two-hour hike."
Oakenfold plays Beta Nightclub on Thursday, March 16, at 9 p.m. Tickets are $20 and available on Beta's website.
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