Johnny Strange Talks Scaling Seven Summits and Cranking Rap and Metal
Wed, 09 Mar 2011 11:40:39
Apple needs to design a whole ad campaign around Johnny Strange.
By 17-years-old, he became the youngest person to ever scale all seven summits—including Mount Everest, the big daddy of them all—and he does it all while his iPod blares everything from Johnny Cash and Adele to Lamb of God and Tech N9ne. Strange has got the kind of daring spirit that inspires filmmakers and gives kids hope, especially in this day and age where most of his peers are mired in bubbles created by social networking, reality TV, and BBM. Strange continues to push himself and set an example of what we all can do if we put our mind and heart to it in the process.
Johnny Strange spoke to ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author in this exclusive interview about climbing mountains and cranking tunes…
What inspired you to begin climbing? Did you always have the inclination?
When I got the opportunity to climb mountains, I loved it. I simply loved the challenge. To be honest, I really like being the underdog. As a kid, if I got good grades or passed all of my classes, my dad would let me climb mountains with him and my mom. I was 12 during the first mountain I ever climbed. At that point in my life, I wasn't doing that well in school and my fifth grade teacher told me I was never going to amount to anything. I was looked down upon, so I was hungry for respect. After I got to the top of that first mountain [Mount Vinson Massif, Antarctica], I broke a record since I was only 12. Previously, the youngest person was 23. I wanted to climb Everest but my parents wouldn't let me. They wanted me to climb other mountains first.
Is there a certain euphoric sense of accomplishment that comes from climbing?
When you do something like climbing a mountain, it really allows you to know what’s important and to be a real person. Climbing these mountains, I have so much time to think. For me, there's a sense of meditation. I’ll come home from climbing happy and full of thoughts. I’m a pretty spiritual person. Doing extreme sports and doing these things really allows me to have a clear thought process. Living in Los Angeles, you have such a cluttered lifestyle and you get concerned with so many things that are relevant, but they’re not the most important of things.
Does music play a big role in what you do?
Music is a big factor in what I do. To me, everything is mental. People far underestimate the mind. Music draws emotion and depending on the artist. I put on certain songs in order to get into a mindset. For instance, if I'm doing something like downhill skateboarding, I'll play some hardcore rap or metal. When I'm mountain climbing, I need to concentrate. I can't devote all of my energy. When I need to relax and calm down from climbing, I'll listen to some Johnny Cash, Lynyrd Skynyrd or classic rock. If I'm about to surf, I'll listen to Sublime. I listened to my iPod all the time—even on Mount Everest.
Where do you charge it?
Out of a solar charger! It’s like a solar panel. From that I have a chord plugged into my iPod, and I charge it from the sun and I climb mountains with that. At that high of an altitude, the hardware doesn't hold up because there's less pressure so the moving parts come apart and break [Laughs].
What are some of your favorite heavy metal bands?
I listen to some Disturbed sometimes. Usually when I do things like that, I listen to hardcore rap. I have Lamb of God on my playlist. They're one of my favorites, and I probably listen to them the most from that genre.
Do you keep manually changing songs while climbing?
I get a bunch of random music, and I put it on shuffle. I don’t pick songs because I just can’t take out the iPod and hit "play" [Laughs]. I listen to anything that comes on. One time, I accidentally picked the wrong music on our computer. I got my mom's, little and older sisters' [Laughs]. At first I thought it was horrible, but I eventually appreciated it. Some Adele was on there.
Who are some rappers that work well when you're climbing?
Flow-wise, my favorite is Gang Starr. I like 2Pac and The Notorious B.I.G. I like a lot of Eminem's older stuff. Eminem is really good because he paints a picture. Tech N9ne is incredible because he’s a super technical fast rapper and he paints a picture so you can see the story playing out of what he’s saying and to me that’s pretty cool.