Originally published for OPEN Magazine
With a career spanning three decades, Grammy nominations, endless collaborations and residences across the world, it’s safe to say Paul Oakenfold is one of the true legends in the electronic music world. He can apparently also be rather tricky to interview (read Thump’s The Worst Interview of All Time with Paul Oakenfold). However, when I caught up with him last week I was rather hopeful. After all, we had a lot to discuss; his new record with Azealia Banks, his US Trance Mission Tour, his third album release and of course, the return to his spiritual home at Cream, Nation, for their 21st Birthday party on Saturday 12th October 2013.
I got ten minutes on the phone to Paul in his LA based Perfecto offices and this is what happened:
OPEN: Hi Paul, it’s Zoë from OPEN Magazine in the UK – you ready to start the interview?
Paul Oakenfold: Yeah, let’s go – let’s do this.
Brilliant. Now you’re about to embark on a US Trance Mission Tour. Trance in the US is a tricky thing to sell, is increasing the popularity of Trance over in America a personal ambition of yours?
No not really (Long pause).
[This was a worrying start]
I wouldn’t look into it too deeply. When I had my residency in Las Vegas I was playing a lot of what is known as ‘the big room sounds’ which I find very melodic and I even showcase that on my new CD. We just came up with an idea that trance in the US, as you said, is not necessarily that popular – I love it but they don’t really have the history of trance and we came up with an idea of sharing that by doing some original productions, 2013/2014 versions, of some of the great songs back in the day and we thought we’d put a tour around it.
Basically, we’re going to do a 2013/2014 fresh production of a record that’s 15 years old. It’s not a remix, it’s a full production – it’s a cover version, that’s what it is.
You did over 200 shows in 2012 and obviously you’re about to embark on this tour – how much does touring impact on your personal life? A big negative effect?
Yeah of course it does. I stopped DJing for a while, I was working on music for films and games and I had my residency in Las Vegas. Three years ago I was going there every Saturday, I wasn’t doing a lot of DJing. But then I wanted to go on the road and I was really enjoying it. I love travelling and seeing the world – I’m very lucky I can do that through music but it does have a negative – you’re not with you’re family, you’re not at home, you don’t see your friends as much as you’d like to but that’s part and parcel of it and I’m still lucky that I can go on tour and enjoy it.
You seem to have quite a positive view – do you follow @DJsComplaining on Twitter?
*Long laugh* [I was very relieved he laughed] I didn’t even know that!
That’s funny – I have to see that. Who put that together? Is that new? You know what we should do? We’ve got to get in touch with DJ magazine and they’ve got to do an award for the biggest DJ moaner. That’s what we’ve got to do, definitely. It would be funny.
It’s such a wonderful job – seeing the world through music, sharing and learning and experiencing, it’s great. Sometimes, when you are tired you do moan – especially us English, that’s what we do, right? But you’ve got to put your feet on the ground and realise how lucky you are and maybe these people don’t. But I think if you keep your feet on the ground and really think it through you will realise how lucky you are.
You’ve recently worked with Azealia Banks on the single ‘Venus’ – how was that?
Yeah, I like Azealia. She’s got a good balance of understanding commercial, young new music and she’s also really edgy – she’s got a lot of attitude that comes with it. I like that. I really enjoy working with her.
Some of the music press are suggesting that Azealia is getting more caught up in twitter beef, being a bit of a gobshite and believing her own hype before her debut album’s even been released – any advice for her?
I haven’t heard or seen that – I don’t know what’s going on!
Did you like the record?
Yeah, it’s really good. [It would have been pretty awkward continuing the interview if I hadn’t]
Your third album has been hotly anticipated. I’ve seen you quoted as saying that House music is pop music now and your new album is mainstream. How do you feel about that?
I’ve produced Madonna, I’ve worked with U2, Justin Timberlake, Azealia Banks – I’ve worked in the mainstream world, I don’t have a problem with it. I’ve focussed on songs, working with great young new talent, not the obvious big names, with cutting edge beats and hopefully people will like that.
Disclosure are on the same label as Lady Gaga and BEP and their record is being played on daytime radio in America. Would you say Disclosure are pop? Of course they’re not but they’re mainstream – well done to Disclosure. They made a great record, people really like it so why not share it and let everyone in on it – it’s a great record.
How do you feel about the fact the term EDM seems to have replaced Dance & House for a term for that genre? It’s a bit Americanised don’t you think?
*Laughs* Well, what does EDM stand for?
Electronic Dance Music.
What do we make?
Electronic Dance Music. [I feel a bit silly at this point]
There you go. Isn’t Techno electronic dance music? I mean, I wouldn’t worry about it. I mean, it’s just another name that America can understand and it’s no big deal. There’s DJ’s screaming and shouting ‘Ooo it’s EDM’ – IT STANDS FOR ELECTRONIC DANCE MUSIC. All music that we do in our genre is electronic. Chill out, it’s not a big deal. Let’s look at the positive sides – let’s look how big the scene has become and we’re all doing well in the scene and there’s a lot of great moments coming out the scene, globally. It’s the biggest it’s ever been, for all of us. Take a step back, breathe, count to ten and enjoy it. It doesn’t matter.
You had residences in the US, Amnesia and Pacha in Ibiza and obviously, Cream in Liverpool. Where has been your favourite place / favourite era to have been playing over the years?
Well, you’ve named ‘em all – apart from Ministry of Sound, which I opened. I’m English, I’m born in London – I have an amazing relationship with Cream in Liverpool and Ministry, both my residencies. Cream was UNBELIEVABLE. I’m so lucky that the weekend I come back to England. I get to play Ministry of Sound on Friday, and Cream Saturday! Ibiza was special as I went there when no one was doing residences, just like with Vegas and went against the grain as an English guy trying to do that. They only had Spanish residences. Those bits of my career where important to me.
Everyone knows – I’ve said it so many times – I have an amazing relationship with Liverpool and the people that have been coming to Cream for many years. I am a very lucky person. I am so looking forward, so many friends there – I used to come up every single weekend for many years – I’m really looking forward to coming back and seeing everyone and you know, I’ll play you a few classics – I know everyone has been asking me and I will. And, you know, as I say once again, I’m very fortunate and lucky and I cannot wait to come back.
You coming? Come say Hi.
I will do. Think my time’s up now – thanks for a great interview.
You too, take care. See you at Cream.
Turns out Paul Oakenfold isn’t a knob head at all, he’s actually pretty sound if you ask him some questions that aren’t just about Cher’s Twitter feed & emojis; you can actually get a decent chat out of him.
Paul Oakenfold ft Azealia Banks Venus from the album Pop Killer is out now
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