Paul Oakenfold Branches Out

(Feature excerpted from the magazine for Fans of Paul Oakenfold's trance compilations might be surprised to hear the DJ collaborate with Ice Cube on a raunchy rap track. And they certa

Fans of Paul Oakenfold's trance compilations might be surprised to hear the DJ collaborate with Ice Cube on a raunchy rap track. And they certainly wouldn't expect to hear a spoken-word monologue about Richard Nixon and the death of the American dream, performed by author Hunter S. Thompson, over Oakenfold's spacey instrumentation.

But Oakenfold -- widely acclaimed for such dance compilations as "Perfecto Presents Another World," "Tranceport," and "Voyage Into Trance," as well as his remix work for artists including New Order, U2, and Madonna -- moves in a different direction with his new Maverick album, "Bunkka." He describes this project as "song-based" and "melodic," but also "cutting edge."

Oakenfold got the album's name from "the bunker" -- a room in Peter Gabriel's Real World Studio in England where he began work on the set two years ago. Despite his extensive history, Oakenfold is viewing the June 18 release as his debut as a recording artist.

"Bunkka" is a diverse set, encompassing everything from rock to hip-hop, ambient electronica to ethereal pop. Each song features a different vocalist and a unique feel -- but the process of collaboration typically followed a specific route.

"It'd always start with me giving them the music," he explains. After he gave each vocalist backing tracks, Oakenfold would describe the emotional tone he was looking for, and the singer would come back with lyrics. "Then I'd rewrite the music around the vocal."

Oakenfold sought out some lesser-known singers, such as Australia's Carla Werner and Iceland's Emiliana Torrini. "I didn't want a record full of big names, because I didn't want to sell the record off their names," Oakenfold says -- although several high-profile artists do appear: Nelly Furtado, Perry Farrell (Jane's Addiction, Porno For Pyros), and Grant Lee Phillips, to name a few.

When he was working with established performers, Oakenfold says, "I wanted to take them out of their contexts." So he put Furtado in a "darker, more dangerous" place than her usual fare on "The Harder They Come" (also featuring Tricky), and the always exploring Farrell ends up with a breakbeat electronic number called "Time of Your Life."

There's plenty of material on "Bunkka" that's suited to a dancefloor, but Oakenfold is clear about how he defines the project: "There will be people who'll expect a banging dance record. This isn't a dance compilation, it's an artist record. Those dance mixes will be on the 12-inch singles." Most remixes, he adds, will be done by other people.

While he acknowledges that this set is a departure from his past work, Oakenfold says it should still appeal to many of the same listeners: "I see this as a dance record, but it's not a club record. I think people underestimate clubbers -- they're more intelligent than people give them credit for. They don't just listen to club music at home."

Modern rock station WHFS Washington, D.C. -- which is spinning the album's opening song, "Ready Steady Go" -- helped Oakenfold kick off his current tour; he closed the main stage at the station's multi-act HFStival over Memorial Day weekend, marking the beginning of a DJ trek that continues through July. This fall, he'll hit the road again, this time with a live band and two vocalists, performing songs from "Bunkka" in clubs and small concert venues.

Excerpted from the June 8, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the members section.

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