Unless, in recent times, you’ve chosen to live the life of a recluse squatting in a tin of Spam then the chances are you would’ve heard the name Paul Oakenfold. This being the Paul Oakenfold who is a qualified chef; the Paul Oakenfold that, as an A&R man, procured the signatures of Will Smith and Salt & Pepper; the Paul Oakenfold whose girlfriend was once forced to chuck water over several customers from the pub below them because they’d started to urinate against their house; the Paul Oakenfold who recently put dibs on the Ministerial position for Entertainment; the Paul Oakenfold that once appeared alongside a breakdancing crew on Kid’s-TV-gold, Blue Peter. Yeh, that Paul Oakenfold.
The Ubiquitous and Multifarious Paul Oakenfold (that’s his official title now, I’m told) – DJ, producer, record label boss and general Godlike figure to trillions of dance followers – is so well known even your dear old Nana would confess, “he’s that fella that did that Big Brother jingle”. However, despite knowing the name, you and your Nana may not know much about the man himself. So, for your benefit, here is a brief Match of the Day highlights-type recap:
He was London-born in 1963; his first attempt at DJing was as a teenager in a Covent Garden wine bar; his production career began in ‘88 when he worked alongside Steve Osborne under the moniker, Electra; he had the privilege to tour with U2 in the 90s; he has remixed heavyweights like New Order, The Cure, Massive Attack and the Stone Roses; he has remixed paperweights like M People and Simply Red; he is, according to Q Magazine, one of the ’50 bands to see before you die’; he was awarded NME’s ‘Dance Record of the Year’ for his production on the Happy Mondays’ single Wrote for Luck; he was resident DJ at Liverpool’s Cream until 1999, before taking up the Director of Music position at Leicester Square’s Home (which subsequently failed not long after he ended his contract); he was the first DJ to perform at the Great Wall of China; he was the first DJ to completely sell out the Hollywood Bowl; he is the only DJ to have his own display at Hard Rock Café’s Rock and Roll museum; he put music to action for the James Bond game Goldeneye: Rogue Agent; he penned the soundtracks for Planet of the Apes, Swordfish and Collateral (with three more on the way in 2006); and, his new album, Lively Mind, contains a bounty of collaborative goodies including actress Brittany Murphy, king nerd Pharrell Williams and the flashiest of grand masters, Grandmaster Flash.
It is, therefore, fair to say that this Paul Oakenwossit is quite a busy fella. Getting him to answer a few questions isn’t as simple as swanning up with a dandy grin and harping, “Alright Paul, giv us a interview, wouldya?!”
Getting a proper interview with Mr O requires great powers of persuasion and more contacts than Specsavers. Unfortunately, 020.com has neither, but what we are able to bring you is a slightly stale and less-than-filling email Q&A that took place just before the release of his new album. Apologies for the delay, just imagine this is May and the weather is a little less clement.
020: Hello Moto (reason for this embarrassingly lame gag coming up later)
Paul: Are you sure you’re talking to the right Paul?
020: Dokey Oakey…Where are you right now?
Paul:You’ve got a lot of nicknames for me, don’t you? I’m on my way out to Europe for some shows I’m doing to support the album.
020: How was that recent tour of China, then?
Paul: It was very good. I always enjoy my time in China and the club scene there is really holding it’s own. I’ve been playing a lot of new material recently and I was very excited to have the clubbers from this region get their ears on it and give me some feedback.
020: You’ve toured extensively through China over the last decade, any particular reason why it gets so much Oakenfold?
Paul: I feel that touring in China is a must for several reasons. First, it’s a very exciting country and the youth culture there is very in tune with what’s going on in the scene and I consider them a very valuable audience. Also, I’m quite fascinated with China and the history there. I’ve played on the Great Wall there and that was an inspirational experience for me. So, I do enjoy both working there and spending some down time.
020: Your next single is released over here on May 29th, tell us a little bit about it…
Paul: The first single is called “Faster Kill Pussycat” and it features Brittany Murphy, who laid down a fantastic vocal for the track. I’m very pleased with the way that it turned out and the response has been great. We’ve had a handful of really strong remixes done and those seem to have gone over well at the clubs.
020: Are you concerned that, despite it being a thumping summer anthem, some people might immediately think to themselves, “errr…Deep Dish Flashdance”…or are you just sticking to an undoubtedly winning formula?
Paul: I went with the sound that I did because I feel that it’s a strong, cutting-edge bassline that worked tremendously with Brittany’s vocal. Most of the time when you ‘re going for a big anthem people are going to say, “it sounds like this song or it sounds like that song” and the bottom line is that this track has a uniqueness all it’s own, as does “Flashdance” and numerous other big tracks that may have something similar to them musically.
020: And the title had nothing to do with the Russ Meyer movie Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!?
Paul: It didn’t actually. Someone brought this to my attention shortly after we gave the track a title and it was new information to me. As I said earlier, so often you see ideas or songs or in this case, titles, getting slandered because they remind someone of something else, or another song or another film had a similar title. Each has it’s own identity. It is said that there are only seven basic plotlines to a story so if you think about that one, there’s bound to be some similarity in the world of entertainment.
020: This is your 18th album but it still took three years to produce. Why was this? And secondly, will you Save The Last Trance For Me?
Paul: Well, in that three year period I was also working on numerous other projects. I worked on a couple of films, I released a few mix albums so I had a lot going on, on top of developing the album and making songs that worked. I don’t believe in putting something out because it’s been a while or because people are expecting you to. I put it out when it feels right and it took several years and a lot of hard work for me to get to feel that way.
020: A quick question about commercials. Over the last few years you’ve been linked to Coca Cola, Toyota, (Hello) Motorola and Saab – do you make it a rule to only support products that have more vowels in their name than yours?
Paul: No, it’s just turned out that way. I’ve been fortunate to have my music placed in a handful of successful commercials but the vowels are just a coincidence.
020: Do you drive a Saab or a Toyota?
Paul: Not currently
020: Now for the ‘obligatory football-related questions’. You are a Chelsea fan, are you not?
020: How often do you go to the games?
Paul: Whenever possible. I try to go to at least one a year. It’s a lot tougher to attend when you live abroad. I watch every game on the satellite at home so I keep up with it very well. I now use Tivo like mad! Whenever I’m on the road I just Tivo the games and watch them as soon as I return home.
020: Are ALL DJs Chelsea fans? It seems each one I talk to is a supporter of the Blues…
Paul: If they’re not, they should be.
020: So, England’s chances in the World Cup?
Paul: They have all the tools, they just need to execute and play their game and I believe that they will do extremely well.[You were so close when you said ‘tools’, Paul]
020: Should there be a DJ World Cup? And would the final always be between England and Holland?
Paul: That could get ugly… Probably a lot of red cards thrown at that one. I’m sorry but I need to head off to catch a flight. I may have missed it for this interview…
And that, as they say, is where the line went dead.
If you’re curious about those questions that Mr Oakenfold conveniently failed to answer, then here are a few juicy examples:
- Are you a true Cockney? If so, give us some rhyming slang then.
- What’s the best Oakenfold tune to do the gardening to?…..to help you get your freak on?…..to accompany a blood-red sunset?
- What are your views on illegal, peer-to-peer file sharing?
So there you have it. The concise Paul Oakenfold. Is he the Paul Oakenfold that can tell the odd, interesting story even if they sound slightly scripted and PR-produced? Is he the Paul Oakenfold that is probably better at mixing than producing ground-breaking original music of his own? Is he the Paul Oakenfold that seems choked for a sense of humour? Or is he the Paul Oakenfold that is just desperately late for a flight? I’ll leave that one with you.