The GI DJ from the DMZ
Felix Geoff Mena's journey from serving as a tennis pro in a small city called Surprise to serving as a DJ and member of the U.S. Army near one of the most heavily armed borders in the world has involved a few unconventional career twists along the way.
When he's not fulfilling his military duties, he also produces and uploads a weekly one-hour podcast called "From the DMZ" that features electronic dance music, trance, progressive house, a "Throwback Song of the Week" from the '80s or '90s and a "Chill Out Song of the Week," as well as his self-produced songs.
The cover photos for past episodes of his show, which include scantily clad women, a bass guitar, a gun, bullets, the American flag, a tennis racket and balls, and the Seoul Metropolitan Subway, stand as markers of his eclectic past.
Mena is open and candid about his occupations before arriving in Korea, one of which happens to have been an eight-year stint in the adult film industry. There was also a stretch of time when he paid his bills as a tennis pro in Surprise, Ariz., a gig he kept until the following letter from a "concerned parent and Surprise resident" reached his employer:
"My friend and I were talking to the tennis pro, Geoff Mena, about lessons, tournaments, etc., for our families. Once we returned home, we decided to Google his name to check his teaching credentials. It was at this time that we discovered that he also is involved in the adult entertainment industry. As a former Marine, I am certainly not a prude, but, after some discussion, Mr. Mena's other career made us wary of him teaching our wives, daughters and their teenage friends."
Three days later, the city of Surprise fired Mena from his position of tennis program coordinator. The termination came as a surprise to Mena, who had told his bosses about his experience in the adult entertainment industry before he was even hired. In addition to acting in adult films, he'd hosted two uncensored Internet radio shows, "Recipes for Sex with Chef Jeff" and "What's Cooking with Chef Jeff." He'd also designed websites and produced multimedia content for the adult entertainment industry.
Feeling no love from the tennis world despite his 12 years in the sport, Mena returned to the world of adult entertainment. He went out with a bang, producing and starring in one more big-budget adult online movie. But when the production wrapped, he hit rock bottom - literally. While drinking beer with a friend at Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery, he says he felt "stagnant, unchallenged, lifeless. I knew I needed a radical change."
One month shy of his 40th birthday, Mena sold all of his belongings and joined the Army. He wanted to reconnect with his values - hard work, passion and motivation - and get "tangible proof" of his integrity, the same integrity challenged by that former Marine in the aforementioned letter.
After completing basic training, Mena was assigned to Fort Lewis, Wash., and then deployed to Camp Buehring in Kuwait. In May 2013, he reported to Camp Casey in Dongducheon, Gyeonggi Province.
While a 44-year-old recent recruit might be able to call himself "an old man in a young man's game," as Mena does, the same doesn't hold true for his other profession as an electronic music DJ. "Paul Oakenfold is 50. David Guetta is 46. I think what's important is the energy that a DJ brings. That's what's beautiful about electronic music and its fans; it transcends all conventional stereotypes."
Mena's interest in electronic music dates back to his teenage years in the '80s. He hit the Los Angeles club scene, where DJs spun New Order, Yaz, Pet Shop Boys, Bronski Beat, Kraftwerk and Depeche Mode. Outside of the clubs, he also hit up backyard house parties where DJs were experimenting with a new genre: house music. "It captured my imagination," says Mena.
In 2003, music again became a big part of Mena's life. While he and a business partner were each going through difficult divorces, recording music together (and drinking beer) was their therapy. Mena contributed the electronic elements - samples, drum and rhythm tracks, scratching - and bass guitar and his business partner supplied the lead guitar. As their collection of tracks grew, their stress-relieving hobby grew into a business: royalty-free music for films and adult entertainment. In the same year, the duo made the 11-track "Rock Demo" and Mena made a solo album called "Electro Demo."
When Mena joined the Army in 2008, his life became "regimented, regulated and scheduled," and music continued to be a creative outlet for him. While stationed in Washington, he got his first DJ gig at a strip club, cutting songs down to three minutes for lap dances. He later went on to DJ at a fetish club and for private parties. After his tour of duty in Kuwait, he invested in a home recording studio and full DJ setup.
Since moving to Dongducheon, he has launched "From the DMZ," DJed Halloween and New Year's Eve parties at the Golden Gate Club and released a music video for "New Beat," an electronic dance music single he describes as "the embodiment of the positive energy and enthusiasm that I want to share with the world." Mena plans to complete a full album this year.
"I also never lose sight of the fact that my primary reason for being here is to do my part to protect and defend South Korea," he says.
One of Mena's goals before he finishes his tour of duty in Korea in May 2015 is to put on a free, 12-hour, non-stop EDM concert celebrating the Korea-U.S. partnership. "EDM brings people together like no other music can," he says. "EDM is positive and uplifting, just like I want the story of my journey to be."
And where will his concert be held? "Perhaps somewhere near the DMZ."
Until then, keep up with the latest on DJ Felix G on his weekly (when he's not in the field with the Army) podcast "From the DMZ."
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