Paul Oakenfold Interview.

The Innovator: Paul Oakenfold

Paul Oakenfold is one of the most popular DJs in the world. He helped to popularize house music in Britain during the 1980s. Oakenfold also helped to increase the popularity of rap in England by working as an agent for the Beastie Boys. As his career continued, Oakenfold moved on from house to the style that has made him famous, epic, uplifting trance. He founded one of the of the most successful dance record labels in the world (Perfecto), and Oakey has one of the biggest followings of any DJ. Oakenfold took some time out of a busy schedule to discuss photography, playing the Great Wall of China in the rain and falling off of a stage in New Zealand.

What do you feel is the current state of dance music in America?
I think that there are some really great things going on but that we need more artists to make the scene bigger. It’s important that we continue to introduce new talent that can bring something fresh to the next generation.

How do European and American audiences differ?
Actually, Americans seem to be slightly more enthusiastic.

You first played Ibiza in 1987. How has the scene there changed?
It’s become quite a bit more commercial since then. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just that more people are going there to listen to the music.

You worked as the Beastie Boys British agent. Was it hard to turn kids in the U.K. on to hip-hop?
Not at the time because they were looking for something completely different in their music and the Beastie Boys brought that to the table.

What made you want to start playing trance?
I loved the melodic feel of the music and the impact that it had on people was tremendous.

Where do you feel your place is in dance music history?
For me, it hasn’t really been about where I stand in the industry or how I’ll be remembered. I feel fortunate to be doing what I love for a living.

What was your experience like in high school?
I’m dyslexic, so it was tough sometimes! There were certainly a lot of things that I loved about school despite that.

You started mixing at 16. Do you remember your first gig?

I was DJing in a bar and I was really nervous. They kept serving me lemonade because I wasn’t old enough to have alcohol.

You played the Great Wall in 2003, what was that experience like?
It was one of the best and most memorable gigs that I have ever done. The Great Wall is a historic place and it was an amazing feeling to be there playing music. It started pouring rain in the middle of the show, which is considered good luck in China.

I saw you open for Moby two years ago, and you seem to have a great connection with the fans. What is the key to putting on a great live show?
There’s just a vibe to each and every show and I do my best to read it and form a chemistry with the audience.

What’s been your craziest gig?
I don’t know if it was my craziest gig, but falling off the stage at a gig I did in New Zealand was not exactly what I had planned going in to the evening!

When did you first realize you had made it?
When I was touring with U2. Playing in front of crowds that size was such a rush.

Describe yourself in three words.
Honest, dangerous and fun.

Do you have a favorite DJ?
Sandra Collins and Hernan Cattaneo, who have both done CDs on my label.

What new projects are you working on?

I just finished working on some music for the film “Collateral” and I’m in the process of doing the music for a few video games. I’m also in the process of putting together my next artist album so it’s been quite busy lately.

You have done tons of remixes. Do you have a favorite?
My favorite is the remix of Massive Attack’s song, “Unfinished Symphony”.

Do you have a certain technique for creating a remix?
Keeping the integrity of the song is what’s most important to me. If there’s something that I can add to improve it and it works well, then I’ll do that.

Are there any artists you want to remix?
I’d like to remix a Dr. Dre track and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.

What are your hobbies outside of DJing?
I enjoy cooking and photography.

What advice would you give to aspiring DJs?
To work hard and be original. Also, if you’ve been at it for a while, writing your own music is what will bring you to the next level.

Paul Oakenfold’s latest release is “Creamfields,” out now on Thrive/Perfecto.

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