"This record is a lot more melodic than the last record, still incorporating cutting-edge rhythms, but not so down-tempo," says Oakenfold of his latest effort, a project four years in the making. "It's taken me a long time to do. It always does. I always start off really quick and then I tend to leave the record - I don't go into the studio traditionally like other artists and spend three or four months on a record. I'll spend a month on it, then stop and go score a movie, and then come back to it. And I travel, so it's naturally going to take me longer."
Once we land in San Salvador, we're whisked off by the promoters of the gig, set for that evening at the Amphitheatre Feria Internacional. It's Oakenfold's first time in El Salvador, and he wastes no time quizzing our hosts on how to best make his visit worthwhile. "What is the local drink?" he asks. "What is the local food?" Pilsener beer and pupusas (handmade tortillas stuffed with everything from cheese to pork rinds to chicken), we're told.
We check into the Real InterContinental Hotel around nine a.m. and go straight to bed. For the most part, it will be the only sleep we get over the next three days. We wake up at four p.m. and hit the hotel bar for piña coladas and a game of pool. The drinks are excellent, and we ponder a second round, but Oakenfold holds off due to the high fat content in the coconut cream. Though he lives a hard lifestyle, he does his best to stay fit.
Later, when Oakenfold arrives at the venue for a sound check, the sound engineer is nowhere to be found. Scrambling occurs around a frenzy of cell phone calls, and the engineer is eventually tracked down at a nearby restaurant. It turns out he has secured the wrong mixer (a Pioneer instead of a Rane) and, as a result, nothing is working properly. Oakenfold is visibly convinced the sound engineer is out of his league - a notion that is confirmed after it takes the guy an hour and a half of fumbling with the wire before he gets it right.
If you've ever wondered what it's like to be a rock star on the road, here's a glimpse: The promoter pays for everything - hotels, food, alcohol, work visas, and whatever else one might need. The rock star doesn't spend a cent. With this in mind, we hit a local joint called Típicos Margoth for pupusas and beer. We feast like vultures on the local specialties and never see a bill. Afterward, Oakenfold wanders over to a next-door gallery housing work from El Salvador's most famous painter, Fernando Llort. He purchases five crosses, which he happens to collect (though he's not überreligious, some parts of his home look like a church sanctuary). With that, we're whisked back to the gig, where Guatemalan rum and Russian vodka await.
After an hour or so of imbibing, Oakenfold goes on around 11:15 p.m. - early, by his standards. For the next two hours, he masterfully toys with the Salvadorans in attendance like an audio puppet master, slowly building the beats per minute (BPM) - used to calculate the timing of a song - from a methodic space trip at the beginning to a frantic blitzkrieg by show's end. Every time Oakenfold seamlessly marries two songs together, there is a collective shriek from the audience that rises in volume along with the crescendo of the music. The whole thing is like one long tantric manipulation of sound. The buzz of the show makes sleep nearly impossible, so afterward, we head off to a VIP after-party at a nearby restaurant. More rum. More food. It's nearly five a.m. before we arrive back at the hotel.
Back in São Paulo, I suggest Oakenfold try the local poison, cachaça (a sugar-cane-based rum), made into a caipirinha with the addition of limes and sugar. “I’m drinked out,” he tells me between yawns. He opts instead for a maracujá juice, a South American fruit (known as passion fruit in English) believed to have sedative qualities. It seems Oakenfold needs his rest.