Time has told that Paul Oakenfold is to Electronic Dance Music what Vivian Westwood has been to fashion. Where the prior may turn certain thick-skinned Trance aficionados blue with anger, his vintage legacy, rebuked spirit and undisputable relevance have made for a grand asset to one of England’s most elegantly preserved pioneers. From London’s days of acid-fuelled discovery to the momentous American Renaissance, his time at the top has not only redefined the standards of a genre always open to manipulation, but also proven that some people refuse to be beaten in the face of an impassionate calling. Back to business for the New Year with another embracing concept in augmented club experiences, Paul and I explored a very universal revolution in sound, energy and unrestrained visions.
Some will argue it started in the clustered bars of Covent Garden where Paul first held residence playing funk in the early 70’s, but at the heart of one of Britain’s most prolific Electronic artists and live Dance visionaries lies an intrinsically romantic affliction with the White Isle of Ibiza. As the man who earned his stripes pushing talent towards the realms of Def Jam Records, his rebuked affection to the island has been associated to that golden age of nostalgic wisdom.
Not one to deny that with time the original sanctuary for hedonistic lifestyle choices and blaring Balearic beats has changed dramatically since his first visit in 1987; there is still a distant whisper of magic in the island’s appeal. ‘It is a very different place now to what it was back then, but at the same time there is a certain kind of vibe and magic to the Island that has been present every single time I have ever been there,’ he explained. ‘I’ve always believed that Ibiza has played an incredibly important role in the international EDM scene and every year the line-ups and venues keep proving me right.’
But now boasting a legacy of film soundtracks, Vegas shows and extensive landmark moments across the globe, Paul has proven he has a positive musical movement for every imaginable avenue within the industry. As an original Cream resident and the first man to DJ on the Great Wall of China, his surpassing of the realms of White Isle residencies in a sturdy universal movement is one that very few producers can boast of.
Having made his name amid the ultimate season in global Dance music, there is now a sense that his musical movements make for the ideal soundtrack to every imaginable time of year. His latest joint studio/clubbing venture then, Four Seasons, celebrates his already extensive ear for eclectic clubbing moments all year round. Launching this month with ‘Winter’, Paul will unfold a concept of eclectic Dance music across the globe from the outset of the winter chills right through to Autumns moderated warmth. ‘I wanted to do something that ran the course of the year as I toured internationally, but it needed to be a concept that evolved and never became stagnant, so the year is split into 4 seasons and so the tour and album will follow those changes,’ he explained. ‘The sound I am playing at these shows is a really cutting edge underground style of trance – with elements of Psy, punk breaks, Electronica and house music. It’s about a certain sound and energy, but always maintaining a strong melody.’
Where the world has proven a stage for Paul’s untimely transition from pure bred Trance to eccentric Electronic wizzadry, the stage has become yet another dimension of his career through which his music has taken even more momentous levels. In an industry of endless adaptations and rigorous global developments, Paul has had little trouble keeping himself afloat with the same perseverance as that which established him as a British Dance icon. Replacing the realms of stuffy warehouse raves and gritty underground events with European festivals and prestigious venues, Paul has not shied away from feeding the globes hankering for decisive Electronic music. Swept up amid the American adoration for Electronic Dance Music, his more permanent diversion to a country that had already shown a lot of love for his solid studio output and momentous live show was always going to be sizeable repproach. Taking the reigns at Rain nightclub in Vegas for a regular outing of stage show antics and vivacious Dance music, the golden age of Trance may be over, but the show must go on for his genre.
Paul explained: ‘The party in Vegas never stops, so it made sense that EDM, which is also synonymous with hedonistic all night partying, would come into the picture eventually. My residency at Rain started at a time when a lot of the city turned their nose up at electronic music and it was great seeing not only the popularity of the night grow but also the wider interest through the rest of town. It’s hard to think of a major DJ who doesn’t have a residency in Vegas now.’
But with such universal power comes a responsibility that Paul is yet ditch for commercial entities or rock star values. Amid the fond memories crammed into his lucrative career as a turntable wizard and enigmatic Trance icon, his ability to tread respectfully on the grounds of mainstream musical assets without stirring those rooted to the fraternity of Electronic aficionados will serve the memory of his legacy well for the rest of time. After all, who else could turn the musical debut of tragically lost actress Brittany Murphy into a legitimately prosperous outing for the airwaves and charts alike? But where news of his forthcoming full-length ‘Pop Killers’ is likely to turn heads amid his Trance orientated following, there has been a sense that with each record Oakenfold’s modernization has been subtle yet prompt. He explained: ‘I don’t think my approach to making records has changed in terms of how I organize my time or how I work in the studio or on the road while collaborating, but the type of record I want to make changes with every release.’
But having championed the likes of Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince during his time as an A&R scout in America, there are few who could be more apt for the job of bringing together two once incomparable genres. ‘Pop Killer was all about collaborating with cool Pop names that I respected and adding my twist of tough edgy electronic beats to proceedings, so it was certainly an interesting process,’ Explained Oakenfold. ‘There are a lot of people doing it but I wanted to do it properly and maintain a consistent quality to the idea of these crossover club tracks.’
Over the course of three decades, Paul Oakenfold has not only embodied the consistent energy and enthusiasm of his industry, but built a firm bridge for the realms of Electronic Dance Music to find legitimate and inoffensive grounds for successful yet positive activity across the globe. From the Grammy nominations to the Great Wall of China, right through to his standout moments at the forefront of the British Trance explosion, Oakenfold remains a puzzle yet to be completed and with a bigger picture still emerging from every new year of dexterous activity. ‘None of my achievements are insignificant to me. I’m proud of everything I’ve done or been involved with and each individual project or show or record or whatever – each is an individual piece that makes up my overall career. Take any piece away and the picture is incomplete.’
Now pushing a new generation of undiluted Electronic talent alongside his own modern movements under the guise of Perfecto Records, they certainly don’t make talented professionals of Paul Oakenfold’s caliber anymore. Seamlessly weaving hard business and genuine musical stylings, there is something reassuring about his ongoing presence at the forefront of Electronic Dance Music. But as a solid visionary for the genres ongoing legacy, that acute eye and an accomplished past of landmark releases make for something of a beacon to professional movements. His story has certainly been told many a time, but it is far from over yet.