Paul Oakenfold is a production maestro, there’s no disputing that. The London born producer has played the biggest festivals around the world and has helped spawn a new generation of electronic music. His gig on Saturday, May 5 at Avalon marks the 30-year anniversary of what’s been called “The Second Summer of Love” and the rise of Acid House.
“People think 1987’s summer trip to Ibiza was crazy but it was nothing like what happened in 1988,” says Oakenfold, the Godfather of dance music.
Prior to ‘88, all the clubs in London were primarily hip-hop dominated until Oakenfold and Danny Rampling arrived from their infamous Ibiza trip. Other key players from this time include Orbital, The Prodigy, Carl Cox, Terry Farley, Pete Tong and Nicky Holloway. Introducing a new style of music to the club world changed the trajectory of dance music for years to come.
Speaking with Mr. Oakenfold this week, I learned about his upbringing, influences, and how he scored a major motion picture.
OC Weekly (Michael Silver): Can you describe the music scene in London growing up?
Paul Oakenfold: For anyone growing up in London and a fan of music, what’s really important is the radio station BBC 1. It broadcasts to Britain with all kinds of music for many years. From The Beatles and The Rolling Stones to Ed Sheeran and Adele. You naturally are exposed to all types of music in England. It’s much different than America where each radio station focuses on one sound.
Which DJ’s were you inspired by when first getting involved in the industry?
That’s a good question because club culture as its known today didn’t exist back then. The DJ sat in the corner at a nightclub, played music. Guys would be at the bar having a beer, gals would be dancing around with their handbag and no one was really paying attention to the DJ. It was very rare to find a DJ back then that produced his own music. Now it’s mandatory.
How did Acid House become the new trend?
It’s hard to believe we’re celebrating 30 years of electronic music. There was nothing like it before, of course there was Kraftwerk, some of those wonderful early bands. It wasn’t until 1988 when people turned towards the DJ and focused on the music he played. 30 years later were doing the exact same thing; only difference now is we have a phone in our hands and taking pictures. This is the culture that swept the world really. You travel as far as Vietnam to the shores of Alaska, and thousands of people turn up. There’s a massive boom in China and India now for this culture.
I read that you signed DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. Tell me how that happened and could you envision Will Smith’s success back then?
I was working at a record company in the United Kingdom called Champion Records. I signed a record by Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince titled ‘Girls Ain’t Nothing But Trouble.’ It became a pop hit! No one knew Fresh Prince would turn into Will Smith and the talent that he is.
One album of yours that’s always stood out to me is the Swordfish Soundtrack Can you talk to me about that project and how you became involved? What was it like scoring a film and remixing the classic Afrika Bambaataa track “Planet Rock?”
That album has a lot to do with why I’ve been living in Los Angeles for 14 years. I never scored a film before. I got offered the opportunity through Warner Brothers and producer Joel Silver. They wanted an edgier sound to a movie that was about hackers.
Isn’t it strange now that we live in that world, based on a movie in 2001? That world now in 2018 in the norm, but that film was really ahead of its time and they wanted a cutting-edge sound that would work with the visual. Long story short I scored it, and that shaped a big part of my career as I went on to work with a bunch of other movies. It led to me living here full time and now I’m an American citizen and Los Angeles is my home.
There was a scene in the movie taking place in a club. I thought, ‘This needs more, this is a special moment.’ After doing some research I wanted to find a classic track that represented my culture that’s never been in a movie before. To get the artist’s permission to redo the track in the flavor and vibe of the movie.
What are your thoughts on major festivals these days like Coachella and EDC? Does it help grow the sound and culture of DJ’s?
Next year will be 30 years since the birth of raves in 1989. Raves were pre-festivals in a field, illegally with twenty to thirty thousand people dancing all night. Now we’re doing the same at EDC, Ultra, and various stages. It was an underground moment where the culture came together and a celebration of music. I still see it that way. I love going to these festivals and playing them. You get to rub shoulders with the crowd and watch these acts that you don’t normally get to see because you’re on the road. It’s much safer now then it ever was (compared) to raves.
You’re hitting the road this week with the Spectrum Tour starting in LA. What can fans look forward to and are you excited to be back on the club circuit?
It’s music from my catalog covering a spectrum of time. I’ll be touching on older tracks that maybe the current generation hasn’t heard, remixing tunes that we’re all familiar with and sharing that with the people.
You can catch Paul Oakenfold spin this weekend at Avalon Hollywood, Sat. May 5th with opening support from Fluencee, Mark Lewis, and Varun. For full info and details, click here.
Michael Silver is a journalist and photographer based in Southern California. He covers music, sports, technology, and streetwear. Tips & pitches: [email protected]