One EDM artist who has broken the mold here in Korea is certainly DJ Felix G, aka Felix G. Mena, an American Servicemember assigned to United States Forces Korea and serving his country while defending the Republic of Korea. He is rather a jack-of-many musical trades, and has an established record of success in adult video production, live dee-jaying, Internet video and music production, and now can add the international profession of arms, also known as soldiering. He hails from Southern California, and puts the Coachella Valley as some of his stomping grounds back in the day. And ‘back in the day’ is not just a casual remark, because Felix G is not a young sprout just comin’ on the scene. He has cut his teeth and probably chipped a few along the way as well, having joined the U.S. Army in order to kickstart his life, add purpose, and fully engage the motivation throttle. Now he pushes his EDM gospel from his base of assignment, and his music broadcast “From the DMZ” on Mixcloud http://www.mixcloud.com/felixg has pumped out 20 episodes of house, trance, and progressive music for his fan base, along with two live shows in a local club in Dongducheonso far since August 2013, with more in the works. Upcoming gigs are a summer concert at Phoenix Ski Resort, and a possible EDM concert in downtown Uijeongbu. Being an Army Non-Commissioned officer has tremendous responsibilities, such as the welfare and training of a whole host of other soldiers, and Staff Sergeant Mena is up to the challenge and responsibility. So how in the world does this guy manage to produce his own music, do a weekly podcast, maintain a blog on firearms, maintain a photography website, produce local Korea-inspired videos, maintain all the obligatory social media, arrange for, produce and pull off his own live local shows in clubs off-base, do interviews for online magazines, and still maintain the readiness to kick ass on the nasty horde of north Korean military just a few miles away? Let’s get into the head of DJ Felix G and learn what makes this guy tick.
ER: Felix,thanks for your time and attention. We really appreciate you giving us this interview.
ER: This is your first time ever in Korea, and you came here on assignment with the U.S. Army. What did you expect to find here for an EDM scene? Did you have any expectations, or no expectations?
Felix G: I actually sold all of my DJ gear soon after I received my orders to Korea. I had already made up my mind that I was going to be in Korea for 2 years and it just didn’t make sense to put all of my gear in storage for all that time, given that I would probably want to get outfitted with all the newest gear once I returned to the States. I had no idea what the EDM scene would be like, and while the scene is quite established in Seoul, I quickly took note of a noticeable absence of EDM at the clubs near Camp Casey. I got the feeling that these clubs, catering to US Military, had no clue about the popularity of EDM. Some of these clubs up here in Dongducheon had enormous dance floors and the DJ and lighting set-ups rivaled even some big clubs in the States. It all just seemed to be wasted on the “Juicy Girl / Hip-Hop” scene that is “The Ville”. I had a gut feeling that if I could just get the word out, I could throw a big EDM party at one of these clubs and that’s just what I did. Sure enough, it was a HUGE success. The owners of the club were particularly happy with the numbers I was able to bring in.
ER: Why did you decide to pursue EDM on a military assignment to one of the still most dangerous and hostile borders in the entire world? Is it your ambition to become successful in EDM, or are you bored and just want to stay busy with an off-duty hobby that you enjoy?
Felix G: It’s always been my nature to stay busy and be productive, and while my military duties keep me quite busy, there’s always free time, that free time can be used constructively (such as producing a podcast) or it can be wasted. Once I got settled in here in Korea, and got an idea of what my schedule was like, I decided to launch an EDM podcast. I really missed being on the air, having previously enjoyed a 4-year stint in mainstream and Internet radio, I thought that producing “From the DMZ” would offer a unique perspective, given that EDM music generally promotes happiness, bliss, peace, love, good feelings and all that, and yet, here I was staring down the barrel of the North Korean People’s Army.Surely I would love to be successful, but over the years I have redefined what success is. If we’re talking monetary success, I have a long way to go to achieve that through ‘DJ Felix G’ endeavors, but as far as feeling a sense of accomplishment, I am satisfied that I’ve achieved success as a DJ and music producer in that I’ve sold my music and I’ve DJ’d as a headliner in front of some sizeable audiences. That being said, a big bag of money would be nice.
ER: In what ways are your military duties affecting your EDM activities? Are you supported by your military leadership, do they know about your activities for EDM and support you or give you opportunities on the military base?
Felix G: My Captain and First Sergeant pulled me into the office one day and asked if that was me on the [promotional] fliers, this was just prior to the first big party I DJ’d in Korea. It was heavily promoted, there were fliers all over the base and in the city. You’d have been hard pressed to find someone who hadn’t heard about the upcoming EDM Halloween party. They wanted to know if that was me on the fliers. It’s hard to tell if it’s me because I look totally different in uniform. They wanted to know the details and such but they were cool with it. It didn’t interfere with my duties. I really get the feeling that they weren’t quite sure what to make of it because although there are a few DJ’s that play here on[the military] post, no one had ever really done a big EDM promotion off-post. This was something new. In the end, they supported it.My military duties aren’t a hindrance at all, quite the contrary really. Because of the decades-long partnership the U.S. military has with the Republic of Korea, the fact that I’m a service member adds to the curiosity, it adds interest to my story. I have fallen in love with South Korea and its people, I think that sharing good music is a way to reach out across culture and language barriers and express my feelings for this great country.
ER: What have you set up for yourself and your fans here in Korea, both in the clubs and online content?
Felix G: Obviously, the podcast is one of my main attractions. I’ve been asked to DJ weekly but I really want to reserve my shows for special events. I always like to open my show with a short video which plays great on a big screen; I always hire go-go dancers and give away DJ Felix G merchandise. So that can get kind of pricey. It’s just that I like to put on a show, not just play music, but also entertain! I would really like to make some connections here and really produce a unique show with a multimedia element as well as some professional, choreographed dancers and a cool light show. As far as online content, I have a complete social media network with the usual suspects; Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Blogger. Together with my friend Matt Garver, who is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Digital Cinematography, I produced a music video shot here in Dongducheon. You can find it on my web site www.FelixG.com. I also have a merchandise store with DJ Felix G T-shirts, hats and stickers with my original logo and artwork. Aside from that, I feature my photography at www.FelixGPhoto.com, and I also author a separate blog about guns at www.MyGunDiary.com.
The main challenge at the moment is recording original tracks. That’s where time becomes an issue, not to mention my limited access to musical instruments such as keyboards and synths. I sold my Roland XP60 (it’s an oldie but goodie) and two Korg Kaossilator Pros before I came to Korea, space is limited in my barracks room, so even if I had brought them along, it’s not like I have the space for a proper recording studio. So for the time being, my compositions are all samples with some original elements/sounds created with my Korg iPad apps, iElectribe and iMS-20.
ER: You have a multi-faceted career in both music and video production, which you shared in your interview in another magazine (ref to Groove Magazine, February 2014 issue). And you are maybe a bit older than the crowds and audiences you play to. What is your inner motivation and how do you stay relevant to the younger crowds? Do you choose music that is popular, or music that inspires you for your podcasts?
Felix G: One of the great things about EDM music and DJs is that age is not a factor when it comes to popularity. I always cite Paul Oakenfold, Tiesto and David Guetta as examples of that. When it comes to EDM, I couldn’t really tell you what’s popular. That might sound funny to some, but some of the best EDM tracks are probably tracks most people have never even heard of, that’s just how it goes with EDM. There’s so much good music out there. Sure there are the main stays and well-known names – Calvin Harris, Deadmau5 and so on, but to answer your question, no, I don’t choose music that is popular. I’d much rather share some amazing discoveries that you might not otherwise have heard.
ER: Do you ever give any thought to the balance of business versus pure artistic expression? In other words, how important is it for you to earn money in your music efforts versus the pleasure of performing and keeping your shows going?
Felix G: I don’t give any consideration to business at this moment, other than how much my own production costs are. I’m not worried about financial success with my music / DJ’ing. If success comes, then so be it. I only do it for the love of the music and the enjoyment of sharing it and entertaining an audience. I’m an entertainer by nature, so I’ll keep on doing it as long as there’s an audience.
ER: What have your live club experiences been like here compared to the U.S.? Can you describe the difference in sound, lighting, dance space, dj booths and platforms, overall size, atmosphere, and clientele? Pros and cons…
Felix G: I’ve only worked two clubs here, so it’s tough to say, but I can tell you that I have had greater creative control over my shows here. Probably because I approached the venues and the owners just kind of trusted me when it came to the specifics of production. Both clubs were more than happy to assist with custom lighting and promotions, they were a pleasure to work with. As far as the big differences, I can tell you that the audiences here are better, people just want to let loose and party, especially near military posts. The Golden Gate Club has a HUGE stage with a custom built DJ booth and an enormous custom-built, star-shaped lighting fixture behind the stage, they also have a big video screen which can be raised or lowered remotely. This worked great for my show because I opened with a video presentation, cued the fog machine at the end of the video, the screen went up and I started my show on stage with go-go dancers on my flanks!
The only con here is Korea is that I’m not wired into the scene, I don’t know a lot of promoters or clubs managers/owners. I would love to do shows at some of the big clubs like Octagon, but I don’t know anyone there, so I’m not sure how I’ll get that done. It’s one of my goals before I leave Korea next year.
ER: Who is your audience, both in the clubs and in your online podcasts, etc.? Who do think is listening to you, or who do you want to listen to you?
Felix G: My target audience is anyone that enjoys the music I play and/or compose. I really hope to play tracks so amazingly good that I will introduce new fans to EDM. I have been getting some fan mail which is great; and as far as my local military audience, I’ve had some soldiers come up to me and tell me that were at one of my shows and how much they enjoyed it. I have enjoyed a small taste of pseudo-celebrity with a few guys and girls coming up to me and showing me pictures they had taken with me at one of my shows. It comes as much as a surprise to them as it does to me when they see me in uniform and it’s like “Hey, you’re that DJ! I took a photo with you!”I think in time, “From the DMZ” will get more and more listens. My promotional efforts are limited due to time and money. But as far as who my listeners and fans are, I think they cover a wide range of ages and locations.
ER: Talk a little about your plans while you remain here in Korea. Will Felix G get down to Seoul and do some club dates?
Felix G: As I previously mentioned, yes, I’d love to perform at a few of the larger clubs in Seoul. I think having that on my DJ resume would go a long way back in the States. I’d really like to just organize my own EDM one man show somewhere up here near the DMZ. I would need the help of a local promoter who has access and the means to take care of the costs, but this would be my ultimate gesture to the wonderful people of South Korea. To come and enjoy a day of EDM with just a regular American soldier, like the countless who have served here in the cause of peace and prosperity for Korea.
ER: Any plans to hook up with other local Expat or Korean talent and share some time working together?
Felix G: I don’t know him by name, but there was a fantastic DJ at Prost in Itaewon. Prost is just a big bar/pub, there’s no dance floor, but the place is packed on the weekends and this DJ was playing fantastic tracks. I gave him my card just as a way of saying hello, I told him I really enjoyed his selections, but as with most DJ’s when you interrupt them while they are working, he barely gave a nod in my direction. Still he was good.
ER: Would Korea be on your list of locales to hit for clubs, concerts, and production when you finish your military obligation and become a civilian once again?
Felix G: I absolutely plan to visit Korea when I become a civilian. My primary goal after my military career is to complete my college education. Thanks to the educational benefits that military service provides, I’m close to completing my Bachelor’s Degree in Organizational Leadership. I plan to continue on and earn a Master’s Degree in American Media and Pop Culture. I have determined to stay on that course until I reach those goals, but after that, the world is wide open to me. I hope to continue with DJ-ing and producing and maybe DJ Felix G will catch on, if not, I hope to land an executive level position in internet entertainment somewhere, perhaps Korea? I truly love it here.
ER: Hey Felix, thanks very much for the time and attention to Elect Row’s interview of you. We, and the readers I’m sure, will enjoy you sharing your perspectives and opinions here. We wish you the best of success here in the ROK and wherever you drop the beat.
From The DMZ – Special Episode “ElectRow Magazine Mix” by Felix G