Diversity Is Always In Oakenfold's Mix
Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.England's Paul Oakenfold wears several hats in the dance/electronic music landscape. He is a label owner (Perfecto Records), a recording artist for Madonna's Maverick imprint ("Bunkka"), a film composer ("Swordfish") and an in-demand producer/remixer.
Oakenfold's producer/remixer résumé includes such names as Madonna, Happy Mondays, U2, Justin Timberlake, New Order, Massive Attack, Jennifer Lopez, M People and Elvis Presley. In the lucrative compilation market, he helmed and mixed such titles as "Tranceport" (1998) and "Perfecto Presents Another World" (2000).
He is also one of the world's most popular and successful DJs, touring the globe more than once -- in the '90s, he toured with U2, among other groups. Earlier this year, he manned the turntables at a party at the Great Wall in China. In August, he completed a six-month trek of Europe and North America.
"I've been very lucky," Oakenfold says with a laugh. "I never thought I'd see the world for a box of records."
In the early '90s, you were one of the first club DJs to tour internationally. How have things changed?
When I started out, it wasn't the norm for international DJs to play in places like Singapore and Vietnam. You may not think Singapore has a thriving club scene, but it does. Chile has a great dance scene, too.
Does it surprise you that dance music is so popular around the world?
It still surprises me how big some of the shows are. In Chile, for example, I played to 7,000 people. In America or Europe you would expect big parties like this, but not in Chile. But the crowds are also huge in New Zealand, Peru and Colombia -- even in Warsaw.
In the mid-'90s, the DJ-as-rock-star phenomena took hold. You were one of the jocks in the spotlight. Are DJs still rock stars?
You still see the hype of the DJ. There is pressure that comes with the job. As a DJ you're expected to give people the best time of their lives every time you play. I don't complain about that though, because I always try my best. It helps that I enjoy what I do. I've never seen this as a job or a chore. It's more like a hobby -- and I know it won't last forever.
Are you working on a follow-up to "Bunkka"?
I've been writing songs for the past several months. I hope to record it by the end of the year and have it out next year. But if the songs aren't there, we won't record. Because I'm not a singer, it's harder for me when it comes to writing songs.
What elements are lacking in the world of dance music?
For dance music to flourish in America, acts need more radio play. That's what happened around the world. For the scene to develop, it needs faces and characters and songs. That's one reason why hip-hop is as popular as it is.
Is hip-hop becoming the dominant musical force in the U.K., like in the U.S.?
Absolutely. There is a major shift in U.K. music, and hip-hop is dominating. Lyrically, young British kids can't really relate to Eminem or 50 Cent, but they're connecting with the music. And in [dance Mecca] Ibiza [Spain] this summer, there were hip-hop parties for the first time; the crowds were going crazy.
Might this be reflected on your next album?
"Bunkka" was a very melodic record. It represented my growth in the industry. I've actually worked with many hip-hop artists. That may continue on my next album, but I don't really know who I want to work with on it. I have already recorded with Pharrell Williams [the Neptunes/N.E.R.D.] and Billy Corgan [Smashing Pumpkins/Zwan]. What I'm really looking for, though, is new talent. Ultimately, I will push the boat on the next record. I have to grow as an artist.
You wear several hats-label owner, artist, producer, remixer and DJ. How does the Internet play into that diversity?
"Bunkka" was on the Internet six weeks before it was released. The Internet is good for certain things, like bringing awareness to the club scene. With downloading, I like what Apple is doing with its iTunes Music Store. I don't think it's fair when people take things for free. It affects everyone, from the guy in the mail room at the record label to workers in the pressing plants to musicians in the studio.
You recently remixed Elvis Presley's "Rubberneckin'." How did that come about?
The label came to me. I must admit, I'd never heard of the song. So, I listened to it and saw it as a big challenge. I wondered if I could do an out-and-out pop mix for the world. I figured I could keep the integrity of the original track, while giving it a current feel -- something that could work in clubs and on the radio. While it was a big challenge, I believe it could be a big pop record.
Excerpted from the Sept. 27, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com Premium Services section.
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