ATL Nightlife interview with Paul Oakenfold
ATL Nightlife: Before the "Lady Gagas" and "Ke$has" dominated the music billboards, you had introduced dance music to the masses with your widely popular remixes of U2 and Madonna, how do you explain the sudden reemergence of the dance music phenomenon?
Oakenfold: I think it is really good; electronic music is becoming more and more popular in the US. It is dominating the top charts with Black Eyed Peas [The Time], Lady Gaga, and also that new Usher song [DJ Got Us Falling In Love], which is completely electronic. So I think it’s a good time for everyone, the underground scene is flourishing. There are a lot of good new young producers and DJs. There is also our residency in Las Vegas (Rain Nightclub), which I’m renewing for a third year. There are five world-renowned DJs who hold residencies in Las Vegas; it’s definitely moving forward.
ATL Nightlife: You started Perfecto Records in 1993, a place where new artists could develop their careers. Please tell us more about it.
Oakenfold: It is a place where we focus on electronic music, and not the charts. We are interested in looking for and creating the next big producer, DJ, singer, or songwriter. Then we work with them to get them developed, and give them room to grow as an artist.
ATL Nightlife: How would you describe your sound in the beginning and where it is now?
Oakenfold: My sound still very melodic. Styles change but overall it has not changed much. Whether it’s trance, house, or techno, as long as it is melodic I will play it.
ATL Nightlife: You’ve played at numerous conferences and festivals over the years, which event do you look forward to the most each year?
Oakenfold: To be honest with you, every show is as important as any other. I mean, there are festivals that you go to that have tons of great DJs, so you get to see them, and hang out with them – that’s always something I look forward to. But, I am not a person who puts one show over another. Everything that you are doing is important, not just one thing.
ATL Nightlife: Before becoming a major force in the music industry, you became a certified chef, you also served as an A&R consultant for Profile Records and Def Jam, where you signed artists including Salt N’ Pepa, DJ Jazzy Jeff and Will Smith. Can you elaborate more on that part of your life?
Oakenfold: The great thing about the music industry is that you can learn a lot wearing different hats. I was just very lucky that I got the opportunity to work in a studio. I got to listen [to a wide range of music genres] and learn.
Before I got into the music industry, I studied to be a chef (at the Westminster Technical culinary institute). For me one of the great things about working in an industry such as this one, is you meet all different kinds of people from a range of unique backgrounds.
ATL Nightlife: What’s it like to be on tour with a rising start like Chuckie?
Oakenfold: Chuckie is great -- he is relentless about DJing and producing. I mean it’s non-stop -- he is on his mobile, he is on his laptop, always listening to music. He has great energy and he loves what he’s doing. He’s very inspiring.
ATL Nightlife: Talk about the new age of marketing and the rise of Social Media, with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other networks becoming so important to marketing an artist’s brand.
Oakenfold: Well I have my reservations; I don’t want to put my life out there. I don’t necessarily want people to know that I ate eggs for breakfast. But, some people do. There is nothing right or wrong with social media, it is about what you want to share with people, it is your own personal opinion. Overall it’s incredibly important to embrace social media. It is also very important in terms of electronic music to be out there and active – it’s just about how much you want to do.
The other day you posted “Kenny Motherfucking Powers – Get Ready”. Are you a big Eastbound and Down fan?
Yes, and that is why I posted it! Because people in the know, knows KP. He is not commercially known, he is an underground TV program, and it has a sense of humor that some people get, and some people are offended by it. So all the KP fans knew exactly what I was talking about, and the other people were like, “what does he mean?”
So, posting like that means, “Hey, we are in the know.” If you know it and you like it, then you are just getting ready to watch it.
What kind of things do you like to do on your down time?
Oakenfold: I do a lot of music scoring for films. I am working on music for the next Harold and Kumar film. But I do very different things.
ATL Nightlife: You’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with artists such as Ryan Tedder (OneRepublic), Pharrell, Brittany Murphy, among others on recent albums. I would imagine that some of your die-hard fans would look to something like that and feel that you’re are not the same Paul Oakenfold that they grew up listening to in the 90s. How do you feel about that?
Oakenfold: Well every artist has to develop and grow, I am certainly not going to sit there and do the same thing I’ve been doing for twenty years -- no one does. You come across change -- new technologies, new ideas, you are a creative individual so you want to try new things. Therefore I am not interested in people saying, “Hey, you are not doing what you did twenty years ago!” Well, of course not!
ATL Nightlife: On that note, you recently posted a new 2011 G0A Mix, which is based off a mix that you did on BBC Radio 1 back in the 90s, can you tell us more about it?
Oakenfold: Absolutely. Since the mix was done in 1994, it has been bootlegged, the quality is bad, it was made for radio -- it has jingles all over it, and it was never released commercially. Over the last ten years, a few record companies wanted to release it and I said no. It was actually voted the best Essential Mix ever by Radio 1 listeners. Over time I noticed a whole new generation of people who were trying to get it. So finally, I felt that if we were going to do it then I was going to do it right. So I decided that I was going to completely re-master it, re-arrange it, freshen it up, and I was also going to make exclusive tracks for it.
ATL Nightlife: Lets talk about the industry evolving towards digital. First it was vinyl, then CDs, and now MP3s. DJs don’t have to carry around crates of records or booklets of CDs anymore, they can now just pop in a thumb drive into a CDJ with their entire music library already on there. How do you feel about this shift?
Oakenfold: Well I like the idea of it. But, for me personally, I like to be in the moment with the crowd. I like to be able slip through my CDs, and quickly pull a CD out. Maybe I will go in the route of using MP3s at some point, but at the moment I like carrying my CDs, I like the feel of it.
ATL Nightlife: You are a very busy artist, with tours, producing, and your residency at Rain in Las Vegas. How do you stay balanced?
Oakenfold: Well I haven’t toured on my own for nearly 4 years. DJing has been a priority for a long time, because I really enjoy it, and I have a residency in Las Vegas – I am there two or three Saturdays a month. I also do shows all over Europe. But proper touring, 6 nights a week, I haven’t done in four years, so I am really enjoying it right now.
ATL Nightlife: Talk about the Facelift Tour, with artists like Chuckie and Nervo, who have a very different style from you. How did the three come together?
Oakenfold: Well the idea was to give people a bit more than a DJ turn-up. It’s about the show, and the massive production that comes with it and the chance to see three very different DJs playing three very different styles.
ATL Nightlife: How does it feel to be coming back to Atlanta?
Oakenfold: I love Atlanta -- Atlanta is a big deal for me and a city I really enjoy playing in. So, I’m really looking forward to it.
ATL Nightlife: What kind of advice would you give to local producers and DJ looking to break into the industry?
Oakenfold: I think it is really important to focus on what you do, and not what others do. Believe in yourself, work really hard, and your time will come. When an opportunity comes, whatever it is, take it. Do not be scared, change is good. If you really believe in what you are doing, your time will come.
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ATL Nightlife (http://www.atlnightlife.com) is a multimedia marketing company based out of Atlanta, GA that works with many of the top venues in Atlanta. ATL Nightlife’s coverage extends to encompass all of Atlanta nightlife from nightclubs to fashion shows to MMA events. ATL Nightlife’s goal is to provide top-tier coverage of events while maintaining a high level of production quality.