With a fan base ranging from 18 years old to 50, Paul Oakenfold has been a pioneer in shaping the evolution of EDM (Electronic Dance Music). Considered to be one of the greatest DJs in the world, Oakenfold has provided over 100 remixes for over 100 artists including U2, Moby, Madonna, Britney Spears, Massive Attack, The Cure, New Order, The Rolling Stones and The Stone Roses. But not only is Oakenfold a music legend, he also devotes his time to major charitable initiatives as well. As no good deed goes unnoticed, Oakenfold’s philanthropic achievements are recognized this year as the recipient of this year’s World Hospitality Award at the annual American Group Travel Awards this December. Resident speaks to the legendary Paul Oakenfold about his latest projects and charitable work and also to Hotelplanner.com CEO Tim Hentschel on what it means to win this prestigious award, and the rapid international expansion of the Hotelplanner.com empire.
RM: Tell us about your latest charitable endeavors.
PO: I’ve been working on SoccerAid in conjunction with UNICEF in the UK where we raise awareness through soccer. It’s the biggest fundraising event for UNICEF in Britain where celebrities and soccer players come together. Last year we raised over six million pounds and I wrote the music and DJ’d a performance in front of the guests. One of the experiences was performed at the base camp of Mount Everest which was the highest show on earth. I hiked and climbed which was pretty difficult and we didn’t even know if the music would play at that level. We raised money for two charities out of the UK for children and music, and one local charity that raised funds for schools that were damaged by the earthquakes in Nepal. My demographic is 18 to 50 and when you play in clubs it’s a younger demographic but many of my older fans have grown up listening to my music. I also do a lot of charity work to preserve the English heritage sites where we bring awareness to someof the great sites around the UK to raise money for their preservation. I’ve DJ’d at Stonehenge which is 4,500 years old and one of the wonders of the world and no one has ever been allowed to perform there before. I recorded that performance which was called Sunset at Stonehenge which did very well. We’re looking at doing a few others in different locations.
RM: What does it mean to you to be the recipient of the World Hospitality Award this year?
PO: I’m very supportive of what Tim Hentschel does and I love his work at hotelplanner.com and his charitable initiatives. I am happy to help him bring awareness to the causes that shine brightly for him. I think we are all in a stage in our lives where we are in a position to help support less fortunate people, and that’s what we like to do. It’s important to see his passion and belief in what he does.
RM: What was the most memorable place that you have performed at?
PO: I think it was the Great Wall of China. Recently I also performed at a really strange venue as well near Area 51 in the desert outside of Vegas. I was very curious and it was at a research center about 20 miles outside of the base for 1000 guests that were dressed as aliens. I hope it will be a yearly event. I never felt that electronic music had to only live in nightclubs, you hear it on TV shows, movies, it’s everywhere, so why not go to these wonderful locations and share music.
RM: If you could play in any location in the world, where would it be?
PO: Any location that would shed light on the right causes wherever that may be. If we are raising awareness for climate change or if we’re making money for children in various charities I’ll go there. Put me in a rocket and I’ll go to the moon.
RM: Which artists have been the most inspiring to you?
PO: I think Frankie Knuckles, Larry Levan, and Grandmaster Flash who were all pioneers and strangely enough all from New York. They were a generation before me and I certainly looked up to them. My favorite DJ is Argentinian, Hernan Catteneo out of Buenos Aires who’s been doing it for many years but also a great storyteller.
RM: What projects are you working on now?
PO: I’m finishing up on my new artist album now which will be done in the first quarter next year. I have some wonderful collaborations. My first single will be with Aloe Blacc. I’ve also been working with an orchestra for a TV show on Biohacking which is airing on Showtime. I’m actually traveling to my favorite US city- Austin and I go around 4 times a year, then San Francisco and Miami then it rounds up the year.
CEO of Hotelplanner.com, Tim Hentschel
RM: Tell us about the background of the American Group Travel Awards?
TH: It started in London where we held the Group Travel Awards over the last 40 years put on by Premiere Travel Media and Group Travel Organizer. When I was living in London I got to know the founder and he wanted to launch the awards ceremony in the US. We expanded into Europe and it celebrates the best in group travel.
RM: How do you choose the recipient of the World Hospitality Award?
TH: It’s based on two factors- one is bringing people together for a cause and the other component is their charitable work and influence by being a ‘lead by example’ good person. Paul Oakenfold has been in the music world for 30 years and at the top of it. He has longevity in a competitive industry and also collaborates with a lot of young artists to help the next generation while he exemplifies the values of our industry. Paul will also make the event memorable.
RM: What can we expect this year?
TH: It will have a different vibe as we will be in Miami thanks to you! This was actually your idea when we were speaking about this last year! Our executive team is based in Palm Beach and they went wild for it. This made sense since we used to fly everyone up from Palm Beach to New York in late November early December when everyone preferred to be in South Florida since it’s the best time of the year. Phantom of the Opera is also a sponsor and we kept all of the best of what New York had such as Broadway and celebrities, and brought it to Miami. We are also capitalizing on the excitement of Art Basel Miami and South Beach in the height of the season. We are just going to gain momentum from the base we built over the last five years in New York. We will have Cairo Gold and The Wavies performing this year.
RM: What are some of your new initiatives over the next year?
TH: We just opened an office in Singapore and moved from Hong Kong and we have many new ventures. We just bought a company called venuexplorer.com.sg that brings venues and event planners together and we are also partnering with a Singapore company that specializes in “green” sustainable hospitality called greenview. sg. We just sponsored a Singaporean sports network channel that is like a martial arts version of the UFC called One Championship. What I noticed about living in Singapore is their toxic haze that comes from the burning of the palm tree plantations in Malaysia to produce palm oil. When all of the forests are burned at the same time it is very destructive and causes a lot of carbon and pollution in the air. I am also launching a green meetings initiative too as we are buying forests in Indonesia to offset the carbon footprint from anyone that purchases group travel from us and this will also help this situation.