Monday, June 18, 2007


Paul Oakenfold was one of the first DJs to bring club music to UK, after hearing it in Ibiza in the '80s. It is commonly acknowledged that no one is better than Paul at driving bass lines. His classics include Gatecrasher, Ibiza, Havana, and Shanghai. We caught up with him during the Delhi leg of his India tour, co-sponsored by Royal Challenge, a flagship brand from the United Spirits' portfolio.

To contemporize the brand, and appeal to a younger audience, RC is associating itself with international music artistes and events. The latest is the Oakenfold show. "Royal Challenge is a leader brand and has remained a favorite with consumers over decades. It has always been associated with premier events and this association is in sync with the same", says Alok Gupta, Executive VP-Marketing, United Spirits.

How did you kickstart your career?

When I started deejaying, there was no money in this profession, and we did it for the love of playing music. My career started at 16, playing jazz and soul in Covent Garden with Trevor Fung. By the early 'eighties, I shifted base to New York. At that time, hip-hop was the freshest street sound around. In 1985, I spent the summer in Ibiza, and it transformed my life. Dancing to the oddest mix of music I had ever heard, my urge to import this experience - and the Balearic sound - back to England became too great to resist. Prior to my Ibiza trip, I had been spearheading a jazz and soul night at The Project in Streatham. On my return, I convinced the owner to let me host an after-hours 'Ibiza reunion' party. The night was a success and there has been no looking back since!

On the production front, I established my record label, Perfecto. Today it boasts artists as diverse as Arthur Baker, Harry 'Choo Choo' Romero, and Timo Maas on its rota, and has gone places by refusing to pander to only one style of dance music. Alongside building the Perfecto brand, I released remix CDs, amongst them my New York set for Global Underground - still the series' biggest seller to date.

On the club front, I undertook a two-year residence at Liverpool's Cream. Leaving home was a difficult decision for me, but I risked my UK and European profile, not to mention turning down the certainty of serious cash, to shift base to the US. 2001 has seen me score the John Travolta-starrer Swordfish, remix the theme to Tim Burton's Planet Of The Apes, DJ on Moby's Arena:One U.S. tour, and make a triumphal return to my home shores.
Do you tour often?

I'm touring every other month. I have a singular approach than what by and large goes on. I'm interested in playing all over America, so I've been in Pittsburgh on a Monday night and San Diego on a Tuesday and Dallas on a Wednesday. I'll go to those places and play smaller venues. It's nice to be invited over to India and play in Delhi and Mumbai.

You went to the US when the country was waking up to the underground culture. Have you seen a difference since then?

Yes, and it's strange. I wandered into Virgin Megastore sometime back, and I couldn't believe the amount of dance compilations compared to when I started. It's remarkable. And clearly trance seems to be the flavor of the season. There are so many trance albums now. I think my CDs are different, because it's not the same old bunch of new tunes.

Do you worry about trance, as a genre, burning out?

Yes! But I've always moved on anyhow. I'm not playing that definitive trance sound that you heard on Tranceport. That sound is over for me. That was a classic sound that exploded in the UK at that time. It then became pop. I'm playing darker music now. Not so many riffs although popular trance now is big riff-y sounds. Mine is more progressive, more underground, and darker.

How's your label doing?

Its doing great! We've got some good signings, some good records.
A number of American DJs rue they can't get a break in the UK. Why is this so and what could they do about it?
To a certain extent I think these guys are right. The old-school DJs have been embraced...people like Danny Tenaglia, David Morales, Frankie Knuckles. Its up to the promoters in the UK, really. My advice to the deejays is to get in the studio and concentrate on tunes. Because if those tunes are being played in England then promoters will bring them over. There are some great American DJs who don't get a break although they deserve it. The dance scene is about sharing, and the pie is big enough for everyone.

Do you ever worry about burnout?

Not really! I try to achieve a balance. If I start to feel that I'm losing interest then I wouldn't do it! I've not reached my peak yet. In fact, I'm enjoying it more now than ever!

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