Paul Oakenfold is, and has been, one of the top three DJs in the world. He’s remained at a level of “superstar DJ” status for at least the last ten years, and his star continues to rise.
EDM: Good afternoon Paul.
We will start off in the late 70’s; at age 21 you repeatedly snuck into studio 54. Was that for real?
Paul: Yeah, at the time growing up and going to new York city for me was a dream come true, I wasn’t 21, actually I was a couple of years younger. So to get into studio 54 I got fake ID cards and lied about my age, that is how we actually got into the club, because we were too young.
EDM: While you were in New York you were influenced by house music pioneer Larry Levan who is famous for his revolutionary sets at the paradise garage. How and where did he direct your music style and passion for producing all together?
Paul: Once I was there and started to get into the scene there was a club called the paradise garage and Larry Levent was the DJ, which was probably my first experience of a truly great DJ at work. It was very inspiring for me and a lot of other DJs. In the real early days he played a big part in my development as a DJ.
EDM: Did you stay friends with him over the years?
Paul: Yeah, I stayed friends with him and I was fortunate enough as a record company name to have his last remix before he unfortunately passed away.
EDM: Moving into the 80s you were an A&R for champion Records in the UK. Is it true that you sign DJ Jazzy Jeff the Fresh Prince as well as Salt and Peppa’?
Paul: Yeah, I signed Jeff and Will (Smith), they had a song called Girls ain’t nothing but trouble which I actually mixed as well.
EDM: How did that all come about?
Paul: I was working in the capacity of an A&R so I was scouting and always looking for new talent. Those guys came out of Philly and Salt and Peppa’ came out of New York Through some friends I had there. They would send me music on a regular basis, that’s how I came across them. I also then went onto run profile records. I was looking after Run DMC I ran Deff Jam looked after Public enemy and the Beastie boys. In my early years I was really influenced and into Hip hop in a really big way. I still like it but don’t play it as much.
EDM: What era of production were they putting out at that time?
Paul: Well, Run DMC came out with their biggest album walk this way. Public enemy the Beastie boys and LL Cool J had their biggest records at the time.
EDM: Moving into 1985 you really revolutionized the English Balearic House Scene when you brought back the new soul from Ibiza. Can you elavorate in the process and how you evolved and pushed forward that entire balearic and Ibiza scene in Europe?
Paul: It’s been very well documented. They even had a whole paragraph in my auto biography about what we did and what went on. To make a long story short it was my birthday and I invited a few friends who were young DJs. We went to a couple of clubs, we understood the concepts and the spirits of what the island is all about. In terms of music, they played all kinds in one venue, rather than at the time if you went to any club in England they would just be playing one kind of sound. That was the biggest part of the change. Coming back I was DJ ing at a club and completely within one night I started dropping Marvin Gay, Cindy Lauper , Billy Idol, Run DMC, and the best house tracks. Some people thought it was a bunch of rubbish. It was all originals.
EDM: That’s not something that you would have expected to hear at a club today, Right?
Paul: You would go from the cure to LL Cool J and the Tempos and try to get the mixes right, so it was extremely fresh at the time. And I think people wanted the change. I was purely driven by the excitement and energy that I took from Ibiza and I wanted to do something similar, and that is what it was all about.
EDM: And that is what Dj-ing is all about, it’s giving variety, so if you have 20 people in one room what 20 different tracks they are going to want to hear.
Paul: For sure.
EDM: Is that why you evolved to where you are now? Because of your programming and track selection? And what people want to hear? That is what creates a DJ Right?
EDM: What advice you have for inspiring DJs as far as track selection and making the dance floor really move?
Paul: I don’t think there is just one element. You have to be original; you have to understand the studio side, it’s really important. You have to know how to work a crowd. Your arrangements your structure and your choice of music, it is really important staying ahead of the curve and working really hard at it.
EDM: The later 80s led you to your pioneering adventure into the druggie up tempo acid house sound, whatever happened to the acid house? How far did you get into that scene?
Paul: My friend at the time Ian and my self opened a night club called Spectrum on Monday nights that could hold 2000 people. A lot of people said it was ridiculous, you won’t fill a club with 2000 people, but we weren’t out to fill 2000 people, we were out just to brake even and have a good time, because the sound that was coming out of Chicago.. .. At the time because I was an A&R, I was always trying to source new music. I had been to Chicago, I had seen what was going on, I had seen the underground roots of house music in Detroit so I new that there was this wave of really interesting music out of Europe from Belgium we had new beat and it was just the right time right place from the sound of Detroit from the sound of Chicago and the new beat from Belgium formed this sound which became acid house and we would pioneer it at the club. So on a Monday night we would be playing acid house and on Thursday night we would play Balearic beats, so it was two different concepts. The crowd was pretty much the same, the crowd that went on Thursday went on Monday but Monday blew up because there were a lot of people that were into soulful house music that weren’t into the Balearic sounds of hip hop, rock and reggae all mixed up. So we ended having a full club. Within 12 weeks we went from 300 to 2000, so it was a very popular sound for a certain time in my career.
EDM: So would you say that the difference of acid house and Balearic house could be described in relation to the difference between the Prodigy and the Orb?
Paul: The difference was in musical terms, one was faster, one was pretty slow, one was musical, one was under produced; acid house was very under produced. The sounds of Balearic were very well produced; quite minimal Acid house was in terms what was actually on the record, so it had its differences.
EDM: So it was pretty much the popularity of the music, the commercial expansion that depleted the scene?
Paul: No, what kind of started to kill the scene as it is were many things, was money and commerciality. We had a club with 2000 people listening to raw underground records and then suddenly someone says, “Lets open a club”, so you diluted and then you are listening to the music so then why not put melody on it and go to a proper studio and make a proper record. The magic of acid house was that it was meant to be made on an 8 track. It was meant to be raw and rough, it wasn’t meant to be overproduced and polished with songs over it.
EDM: Then the 90’s, when you released the Save from harm a remix by Massive Attacks, a brake through single. Can you tell us more about that era leading up to the 90 concerning you and your production trail?
Paul: I was getting asked to do a lot of remixes, Safe from Harm was one of I think 5 mixes I’ve done for Massive Attacks because I had my feet in both camps from the Balearic scene to the acid house scene. I was being asked to do a lot of production in both worlds, so one minute I was doing a down tempo and the next week it would be a house mix.
EDM: How many mixes do you think you have out in your entire career?
Paul: A few…
EDM: A few dozens?
Paul: Lol…. I can’t remember but probably somewhere around fifteen mixes and two artist albums. I’ve done a bunch of remix stroke, original production DJ albums, but no, it is mostly likely somewhere around fifteen. I have done 150 remixes and produced a bunch of other acts, I haven’t put out DJ mixed compilations, the last one I put out was nominated for a Grammy, and that was cream field.
EDM: Moving into 95 you dropped a bomb and made a land mark when you became the first DJ to ever play the Glastonbury festival opening the way for other DJ’s to play massive festivals and commercial events. How many people do you think were there and heard your style for the first time?
Paul: They said there were about 70,000 people there.
EDM: Where did that lead your career?
Paul: I was asked to work with U2 and started doing some remixes for them. They asked me if I wanted to go on tour with them, as an opening act. And to play massive festival and com ed up touring with them for almost 2 years. My career evolved a lot from there. In Los Angeles now my main job is film. The posters you see here are from some of the films I worked on. I do a lot of scoring; I have a night club in Las Vegas. We do extremely well. It is called Planet perfecto at the palms casino on Saturday night and I am going to spend the summer with Madonna on tour. So I think a lot of it has obviously come from being given that opportunity, because that opportunity took me from being a DJ playing at a club for 2000 people to playing for many thousand and the likes of U2 and Madonna. Madonna said something like “if he can do it then we are not necessarily taking a chance with him, because he proved he can do it” Because it is quite difficult to go on stage because the focus is so strong on you. When you are in a band you are looking at everyone.
EDM: What exactly did you do to land your self in the WNC’s as the world’s best DJ?
Paul: I don’t know, I think that is when I played at the Great Wall of China. We organize the party which took about a year to do and I’ve always have this idea that you can take DJ-ing out of a club. I’ve always wanted to pioneer that tide and always felt that DJs could be a DJ in their own right. So playing at the Great Wall of China was big achievement for me.
EDM: Going back to Vegas and perfecto. What exactly is your role on that? Are you just a resident when you are not on tour at other places or out with Madonna?
Paul: No, it’s my night.
EDM: You plan everything?
Paul: along with Mike Fuller and I have a great, great, team at the palms casino. We came out with a concept based on planet perfecto Las Vegas.
EDM: That’s great. So you’ve been going on this for seven or eight months?
Paul: Yeah, I got a year residency.
EDM: Were will you move from there? Maybe to Orleans?
Paul: No, at the moment things are going good so I might stay there for another year. We are doing well, we had 3850 on Saturday.
EDM: congratulations; moving on forward to 2006, you toured with Madonna as an opening DJ with your career above and beyond what any DJ can expect from buying their first 2 records or whatever they might start on. Where you heading now and what are are the goals that you have set for your self to accomplish next?
Paul: Film… I’m composing film, I am on that road, and I have a bunch of films coming out. Some of them are scored and some of them are cued.
EDM: So about the posters on your studio wall, I see Swordfish. What exactly did you do?
Paul: I scored the whole movie.
EDM: That was a great score. What about planet of the apes?
Paul: I did the entire end scene. Daniel scored it.
EDM: What about the Matrix Reloaded?
Paul: I worked on a big cue for reload, for bond, for apple seed which is a big Japanese anime movie. Shrek 2 I worked with Harney and did a big scene which was a big challenge for me.
EDM: How did you work electronics into a Disney movie?
Paul: With great difficulty, for collateral with Tom Cruise I did the big club scene.
Paul: Well, I did that with Michael Mann. I also did about 5 cues for the pink panther.
EDM: What about the silver plates on your wall? What are the silver platters?
Paul: They’re from my albums.
EDM: What are some websites that we can check out to get more info?
Paul: Pauloakenfold.com, perfecto.com, perfectovegas.com, myspace you know, its all there!
EDM: In 2002 you released your first solo album bunker with over 1 million copies sold to date, since then, how many productions have you released?
EDM: How many of those have you sold?
Paul: My last album did over 600,000. The next one I’m in the studio doing now which will come out soon.
EDM: How has your sound evolved since then?
Paul: My next album is really focused on strong melody songs.
EDM: Like the electro sound?
Paul: No, I don’t believe on following a sound or a trend. It’s melodic; it’s emotional, great vocals and good arrangements.
EDM: Thank you very much for you time Paul.
Paul: Thank you.