After traveling for upwards of four months at a time, getting acclimated to life at home can often take several weeks. Thursday, July 12th marked approximately six weeks since I had last been on the road, which is a rare occurrence as Global Music Director for W Hotels Worldwide.
That morning was as normal as any other at home. I woke up, indulged in my usual cup of coffee and tuned my speakers to some mellow beats. Before I could settle into my desk chair to read some news online, the phone rang. On the other end was the driver who had come to transport me to Newark Liberty International Airport. I was beckoned to the other side of the world by a DJ performance at Club Cubic in Macau and the second annual W Hotels & burn studios DJ Lab at the W Retreat & Spa Bali.
Several hours later, after I had passed through the usual security screenings and boarding procedures without incident, I calmly took my seat on the Boeing 777 jet (Seat 1-A on this trip, my usual request) for the flight to Hong Kong. The minute I settled into the chair for the 16-hour flight, I let out a reassuring sigh and a gentle smile came over my face. "Home at last... me and the chair."
Moments later, I felt a sharp jolt as the pilot steered the nose of the jet onto the runway. The engines roared soon after and I was thrust back into my seat. Before I knew it, the wheels were up and I thought to myself (as I often do), "Here we go again."
Upon arrival in Hong Kong, I met with ten of my closest local friends for a traditional hot pot dinner. The hot pot dinner is a family-style meal that takes place around a single giant cauldron filled with meat and vegetables. Everyone shares the food, which creates a communal feeling for everyone involved. Among those in attendance was Rob Garza of Thievery Corporation, with whom I would have the pleasure of spending the rest of my trip in Asia.
The next day, I embarked on a quick TurboJet ferry ride from Hong Kong to Macau. Due to its modern atmosphere and abundance of casinos, Macau can be considered the Las Vegas of Asia. Although I am not generally a Las Vegas kind of guy, it was still interesting to see China's version including the varied mix of Chinese tourists and Westerners.
Later that night, exhausted from jetlag, I had to muster up the energy for a two-hour DJ set in front of over 1,000 people at Club Cubic. Because of the way I DJ, playing in Asia is always interesting for me. Most people at the clubs enjoy dancing to hard music, since it's easy to understand how to react. Hard, driven beats allow people to jump around, scream, and party without having to feel the music on a deeper level.
My style is a bit sexier. I like to warm up the audience with some slow, syncopated beats before gradually transitioning to the hard stuff. It took about 30-45 minutes to set the mood in the club, but once everyone in the room felt the energy build and tempo increase, there was no stopping anyone on the dance floor.
The next day, I headed back to Hong Kong for a quick rest and some mental preparation before an intense week in Bali. The quick, four-hour jump from Hong Kong to Bali also brings about a huge social transformation. I always find the difference between the high-energy society in Hong Kong and Macau and the soft and subtle disposition of the Balinese to be a remarkable juxtaposition.
Despite the much calmer atmosphere in Bali, it was show time upon arrival. After the success of last year's inaugural DJ Lab in Ibiza, W Hotels and burn studios decided to bring the program to Bali. Months beforehand, I conducted a talent vetting process, and most of the submissions came through my immense Rolodex of global music industry relationships. From the hundreds of inquiries, I narrowed down the competition to seven DJs from all corners of the world. The participants represented Los Angeles, Berlin, Sao Paulo, London, Istanbul, and Seoul, and each one shared a unique story of how they became a DJ and where they stood in their career.
During each day of the five-day program, Rob Garza (Thievery Corporation), Jason Bentley (KCRW Los Angeles), and I provided talks that covered topics including fashion runway shows, TV commercial production, record production, film scoring, radio programming, musicianship, music management, record label creation, and the positive aspects and pitfalls of the music business. Each day consisted of a six-hour session, two-and-a-half of which were reserved for Paul Nolan, a master sound engineer and invaluable mentor.
During my introductory talks, I discussed the infinite possibilities of the creative mind. I expressed that for an artist, to define oneself is to negate all other possibilities. I also discussed the ego and tried to express that there is always someone bigger in the room than the artist. For me, this is usually the client. By placing the music and the client's needs before personal ego, creativity thrives because it is not about the artist but about the client. As an artist, one can be a vehicle of expression for a client's message.
I then walked the participants through my history of conducting business in this manner for clients in television, film, fashion, recording industry, and hospitality. A sunset DJ session at the pool was scheduled for each evening, as well as a nighttime session at the hotel's club: WooBar.
I cannot imagine a more beautiful place to have conducted the second annual DJ Lab than W Retreat & Spa Bali - Seminyak. I went there to be a mentor, but I learned just as much from the mentees as I offered. With every word of advice, I came to realize that there are times when I do not follow my own beliefs about being an artist and what it means to create great works of art. The DJ Lab has life-changing effects on its participants, many of whom will secure positions with W Hotel locations around the world, but it also has a tremendous personal effect on me, and I cannot think of a better way to have spent the past week.
Late afternoon is the best time to relax on the beach at the W Retreat & Spa Bali. The clouds ward off some of the sunlight, and the flowers provide the perfect backdrop to wind down and relax.
The class for our second annual W Hotels & burn studios DJ Lab was comprised of talent from Berlin, Sao Paulo, London, Istanbul, Seoul, and Los Angeles.
Club Cubic, City of Dreams is a megaclub that hosts 800 to 1,000 guests on an average night. On July 14th, I had the honor of sharing the decks with Rob Garza of Thievery Corporation, a colleague and friend.
Even on a cloudy day, the Hong Kong skyline is a marvel in itself. I always marvel at the height of the International Finance Centre in comparison to the buildings that surround it.
The Balinese people are some of the most peaceful and compassionate cultures with whom I've ever had the pleasure to spend time.
Here, I am joined by Rob Garza (left) of Thievery Corporation and Jason Bentley (center), two of the other mentors from the W Hotels & burn studios DJ Lab. Together, we provided over 60 years of music business experience to the program's participants.
This was the view from the small restaurant tucked way in the middle of the rice fields.
Rob Garza on the decks for W Bali's SPF 2012 music events
The sun sits so high in the sky in Bali. It slowly burns into the water as it gracefully fades into the end of the day.
Once the sun sets in Bali the day starts to fade away like a dream. What's let in its wake are the pastel colors that file the sky.
This 6 foot concrete W monolith stands alone to greet you as you come back from your walk along the beach that it guards.