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BPM Magazine, October 2000

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Original publisher: BPM Magazine

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at Burning Man

BPM Magazine

paul oakenfold
sets the record straight


…if I do a bad gig and the reviews are bad, well -  that’s fine.

Paul Oakenfold
sets the record straight
by David Ireland

It’s 11:30PM and the sound of bass emanates from the portal of Las Vegas’ mega club C2K. Tonight is Oakenfold and expectations are high as Las Vegas has become one of the premier clubbing destinations stateside. Clubbing is serious business the city of sin and the casino-based club scene is after the biggest talent money can buy. Tonight’s line surges with eager clubbers pushing their way in merely to catch a glimpse of trance DJ turned rock star, Paul Oakenfold.
    Legions of strippers guidos, raver types, tourists and ‘sheep’ have congregated. Not necessarily because they know the music, but simply because they know the name. Oakenfold is everywhere. His first major domestic release, Tranceport, is still flying off shelves and the press’ coverage is seemingly ubiquitous. Like it or not, Oakey’s here and he’s ready to take the sound of trance to the masses.
    However, the masses must be patient tonight as sir trance-a-lot has been detained two hours because of a flight delay. The crowd, showing signs of anxiety due to his tardiness, swells in anticipation of the first tune. He takes the decks, give’s the crowd a once over and begins his assault. They love every minute of the onslaught as he drops the tunes in his crowd pleasing signature style. Driving, melodic and sometimes even pretentious, there is no doubt that Paul’s programming is very often perfect.
    As with anyone at the top of their game, Oakenfold is the target of harsh criticism. His mixing skills have been scoffed at, his tracks likened to cheesewhiz and his politics compared to that of a Mafioso. Simply put, if the “Guiness Book of World Records” ranks you as the highest paid DJ ever, you’re going to take some sh*t. And now at the height of trance’s popularity, the British press has grown tired of it. Constantly inundated with water downed slop, the sound of trance is currently chasing its own tail in a race to reinvent itself. Meanwhile many British super jocks led by the likes of Oakenfold, Sasha and John Digweed have focused their attention on American soil. A scene that is less judgmental and willing to eat-up everything English. 
    Oakey isn’t the least bit phased about the bashing of late, merely a bit perplexed. The subject of recent ‘trance’ bashing is briefly forgotten on this wickedly hot afternoon at the Hard Rock Hotel. After all, he’s just been paid an estimated $27,000 to play a two-and-half hour set the night before (and there is no mistake on that extra zero). The amount seems staggering, but is by no means the average paycheck for Mr. Oakenfold. The Las Vegas club wars have become intense, biding up the price of the superstar DJ to the absurd. It was also rumored that Sasha and Digweed were in the neighborhood of $40,000 for their recent gig at the same venue.
    Summer is an especially lucrative time for Oakey, as well as stressful one. He has taken a break from his weekly residency at Pacha in Ibiza for a mini tour of the U.S. with dates in select cities including New York, Anchorage, Las Vegas and Denver. But this is just a warm-up as Oakenfold will embark on a grueling fall tour to promote the new mix album.
    “It’s going to be a two CD journey,” says Oakenfold. “The reason it’s taken so long for me to release this mix was due to signing to a new label. A lot of things had to get worked out and that really pushed things back.”
    Recently signed to Sire and patiently waiting out a recent merger with London Records, Paul has been a good sport about the delay. Perfecto Presents Another World will finally hit stores October 3rd promising to be the “journey” fans have been waiting for.
    The term has become somewhat of a cliché with every DJ on the planet claiming to “take you on one” but when Oakenfold says journey, he means it.
    “There’s movie scores, dialog, classic tracks that have been remixed and never commercially available, there’s new material as well as some down tempo,” says Oakenfold.
    “This takes a long time to compile especially when you are trying to license obscure works and various film scores. It’s not Tranceport, where I chose some of my biggest tunes at the time.”
    This new mix seems fitting as Oakenfold has been met with such varied opinion in the U.S. over the last year or so. From high praise in publications such as the New York Times to scathing attacks in the U.S. dance press, Oakenfold is showing up on the radar in a big way. Granted he’s been nabbed saying some pretty scandalous things, but his momentum has been unaffected. The San Francisco based XLR8R magazine is the most notorious for the mud slinging, running a feature article bashing him as well as a reoccurring column entitled “Oakey Watch.”
    “I don’t think anyone’s above bad press,” he says plainly. “Magazines can write whatever they want really. I’m no different than anyone else. And if I do a bad gig and the reviews are bad, well -  that’s fine. However, when it’s a personal attack there is just no need for it, and that’s what it was, a personal attack aimed at me. Any artist in the world would want to do well in America and there isn’t anything wrong with that. There are many artists globally that have wanted to do well here and all I am is one of them. So I’m lucky that I’ve been invited to America and I come as much as I can. And I look forward to it. I even came over to live in New York briefly at the beginning of my career.”
    You can only imagine a wide-eyed young Oakenfold coming to NYC to hone his knowledge of dance music.
    “One of the main reasons I lived in New York (ten years ago) was because New York was the heart of dance music. I was a courier, that’s what I did to get by. I think in all fairness it [house music] came from America. But if you look at the trend, you can go all the way back to the Beatles. All they did was take American Rock and Roll and give it a twist and that’s all the Europeans have done [with electronic music] really.”
    From the personal attacks to the recent negative press on the trance scene, Oakenfold has taken it all in stride. He manages to keep a good perspective of the culture and those that comprise it.
    “I don’t think trance is the ‘be all, end all’ of dance music,” he states. “I think it’s just a part of it [dance music], and people shouldn’t take it too seriously. The problem is that people are taking it too seriously. You can’t enjoy it that way. We should all feel lucky that we are a part of it and that it has become such a hugely popular scene globally. It’s unfair when people just constantly slag one scene off, there’s just no need for it.”
    America is much more forgiving than England as the culture here has yet to cannibalize itself with commercialism. According to Oakenfold, the scene only has three of four more years to go before it slams into the mainstream reaching the levels of the U.K. and Europe.
    “I think it’s the next generation of clubbers that will change things [in the U.S.],” he states. “I travel all over America and I see the clubs getting busier and the people more into it. Dance music has been popular in the U.K. for 10 years, but only in the last five have the people really wanted it mainstream. That’s why you have 24-hour dance radio, dance records in the pop charts and the whole dance culture. It’s become so big because the clubbers want it.”
    As the U.S. edges toward the mainstream, it’s very apparent that the powers that be are not on our side. Just as the government in England resisted dance culture with bills zeroing in on “Music with repetitive beats,” the same thing has happened here. With 20/20 airing features such as “Stop the Rave” and many cities instituting anti-rave ordinances, it’s obvious that electronic music is strongly tied with the drug culture in the mainstream media. Oakenfold, like many other DJs, believes that it’s not the drugs but the music that has propelled electronic culture to the forefront.
    “It’s unfair when the media tries to blame dance music for the drug problems. The drug problem is society’s problem. People in England do drugs whether they go to dance clubs or not they actually quite popular in bars right now.”
    Oakenfold is big on pushing the music in a positive way. First for obvious reasons, this is how he makes a living. But more importantly because he is passionate about it.
    Seemingly one of the best ways to reach out to the world is through the internet, as many of his compatriots have done. And as the MP3 controversy lurks in the background, many DJs and label bosses are taking notice. Not only does Oakenfold have to worry about people pirating his DJ sets and trading them on Napster but his label’s (Perfecto) content as well.
    “I think it’s unfair that an artist’s full length record can be downloaded for free. But what can you do? For me it’s okay because I’m not that well known. But if I were a major record label or artist, I would be upset. You have to embrace technology and move along with it, I’m all for that. If I can cut out the middleman and sell directly to the consumer then I think it’s better for the artist and the record company. So yeah, we are going to sell stuff directly through the net. But the only problem with that is it wouldn’t go into the pop charts. Because globally all eyes watch the pop charts [essentially the equivalent of the Billboard top 100].”
    So maybe it’s more than celebrity that has kept Mr. Oakenfold in the perpetual limelight after all. With a keen sense of the industry and a well established brand, there is no disputing his heavyweight title. From the praise to the scorn, he has sold more records in the U.S. than most DJs put together and his second assault is due out on London Records/Sire on October 3, 2000. The media will most likely rip on it, and the fans will most likely buy a whole lot off it - pumping after all. With a keen sense of the industry and a well established brand, there is no disputing his heavyweight title. From the praise to the scorn, he has sold more records in the U.S. than most DJs put together and his second assault is due out on London Records/Sire on October 3, 2000. The media will most likely rip on it, and the fans will most likely buy a whole lot off it – pumping up sales to record levels. Many of his fellow countrymen have become icons amongst American clubbers and DJs alike. The sound of Eurotrance is a certified hit setting up the transition between underground and mainstream. As for Paul Oakenfold, one can only imagine just how far he will be able to take the sound of trance in America. One thing is for sure, the world will be watching his every move.

Paul Oakenfold
Perfecto presents Another World – Sire
Once again Oakey delivers a mix of epic proportions with all the fluffy moments you know and love. Disk 1 opens up with the haunting track “The Host of Seraphim” from the ambient genius of Dead Can Dance. He then steps it up with some hard hitting obscure stuff graduating to the bigger tunes like Planet Perfecto’s “Bullet in a gun” (Rabbit in the Moon Remix). Vangelis, famous for his moody cinematic work, even makes a couple of appearances with two classics from the “Bladerunner” soundtrack. Disk 2 creates more of a comedown vibe with bits of Opera and a big supply of musical moments sprinkled with subtle, driving beats. Some of the other artists featured include: Timo Maas, LSG, Max Graham, Blackwatch, Jan Johnston amongst other trance superstars. The grand finale being the unbelievable [you might start crying] DJ Tiesto mix of Deleriums “The Silence 2000” which Paul has been hammering in recent sets. For the fans that have been waiting so patiently, this one was well worth it. (00-Neg)