We went to DJ Camp with Paul Oakenfold
With the surging interest in electronic music over the past few years has come an equally vested interest in how to make and perform it. While music production schools have grown in popularity, dance music legend Paul Oakenfold has recently decided to put his own spin on the educational phenomenon with The DJ Camp.
With the help of Paul Reder, Founder and President of Bass Camp Festival, Oakenfold has created a five-day intensive camp in Los Angeles for aspiring (and experienced) DJs and producers.
“Paul Reder and I started talking about the amount of young, talented producers who are making great music, and the masses of people, young and old, who are taking a keen interest in electronic music,” Oakenfold says. “We both get requests from people all the time asking us to listen to tracks, give advice, or help in general. We knew there was a void in the industry of accurate information from the industry that could guide interested people in the right direction.”
The first DJ Camp was held in May, while the second session took place last weekend at the Los Angeles Film and Recording School in Hollywood, from September 24-28. To facilitate the second camp, Oakenfold and Reder enlisted a panel of experts from across the industry. On the day we attended, for instance, Matt Meyer of AM Only hosted a discussion with students about what agents are looking for. Hakkasan resident DJ Jeff “Retro” Hill spoke on how to give a proper opening set and rules of conduct for being in the DJ booth. Nelly Neben shared her views on what managers are looking for. Pioneer DJ even stopped by to showcase some new products. The day’s most engaging talk, however, was delivered by Michael “Smidi” Smith, a songwriter and producer who recently executive produced Giorgio Moroder’s new album. Like many of the other panelists, Smith stayed after to talk with students well past his allotted time.
The setup of DJ Camp is intimate and personal, and therein lies its greatest draw. Aside from hearing first hand accounts of how the industry works, students are able to network and hang with industry icons. Paul Reder aptly compared it to Rock & Roll fantasy camp for electronic music. “You know those Rock & Roll Fantasy camps?” he says. “Like Sammy Hagar, you can go and play guitar with him? That’s great, cause fans are getting close to their idols and get to have that 1-on-1 experience with them, but Paul said, and we both agreed, let’s take it one step further. Let’s create a curriculum.”
While some of the attendees were students at the Los Recording School, many had traveled across the country to participate. As such, there was a genuine sense of sincerity within the camp. Many students shared stories of their struggle to find success, citing past failures and misinformed decisions. It’s the kind of honest dialogue that draws you in, even as a passive observer. For Oakenfold, it’s at the very heart of what DJ Camp is trying to offer: “We were truly inspired by the impact the first two DJ Camp’s had on the students,” he says. “This was a pivot point for a lot of them to make the leap of faith to pursue their dreams of being a DJ/Producer.”
While the dates for the next session have yet to be announced, Oakenfold and Reder plan to expand the camp outside of Los Angeles: “We want to identify more cities around the US and beyond to host the camp, and grow people’s interest in it, and encourage them to follow their dreams,” Oakenfold says.