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Original publisher: Record Mirror
July 14, 1990
MEET THE MAN BEHIND THE MIX
There is one name at the moment which appears on as many hit records as Pete Waterman and Norman Cook put together. PAUL OAKENFOLD currently has the most trusted ears in the business and he has been putting them to good use as a producer for The Happy Mondays and as boss of his own label. Tim Jeffery mixes with the man. Pictures: Tessa Hallman & Vikki Jackman
JACK of all trades . . . and master of them all. Paul Oakenfold's name is everywhere at the moment. Whether it's as a remixer of countless dance records, as producer for The Happy Mondays, as an artist on his own projects like Electra and Movement 98, or as one of the country's top DJs, Paul is the most wanted man in pop.
All this and he's launched his own label too – PerfectO, with Gary Clail's 'Beef' as the first release. Saatchi & Saatchi couldn't have done a better promotion job. And yet outside the music biz and club circles, hardly anyone knows what he actually looks like.
"Yeah and I'd rather keep it that way," laughs Paul. "'Cos I'm an ugly bastard!"
Paul is reluctant to be interviewed or photographed, but we managed to persuade him to break his silence and allow Record Mirror to invade his closely guarded privacy.
"I'm in the press too much," moans Paul. "It's not being big headed, it's just that all the mixes I've done for record companies are coming out at the same time, and people are now going 'Another Paul Oakenfold remix – go on holiday' and things like that. I try to stay out of the limelight as much as possible. I want Gary Clail interviewed, and Carol Thompson from Movement 98, not me."
The trouble is, everyone does want to talk to Paul – record companies especially – because he can turn a good, or even just plain average, tune into a floorfilling blockbuster.
There's no question that Paul's magic touch on 'Wrote For Luck', 'Hallelujah' and 'Step On' helped to make Happy Mondays rock dance sensations and now record companies are queueing up with large wads of dosh to get Paul to do the same to any of their acts who may be having trouble reaching the charts.
And it's not just indie bands either. Tears For Fears, INXS, The Cure and The Clash are all due for the Oakenfold treatment in the coming weeks. Even big name bands are after that all important dance remix.
It's Paul's experience as a DJ that is primarily responsible for the enviable position he finds himself in today. He began in South London in the early Eighties and went on to become one of the country's most hard-working DJs. Nowadays he jets across the globe, DJ-ing in Dallas one night, Ibiza the next and then on to Copenhagen. But Paul has also notched up long hours in the studio.
"I spent a few years learning in the studio before my remixing work," Paul explains. "I didn't just come from nowhere. For instance, Wild Nation was a project I was working on a couple of years ago with some singers and musicians. I'd always thought that rock was old fashioned and needed a change, so we aimed to mix rock with dance music."
Wild Nation was formed two years ago by Paul and a handful of other musicians including Suzuki, a Japanese rock guitarist who's a bit of a megastar in his own country, and Boy George.
Mixing elements of rock with heavy beats at a time when it was considered sacreligious to do so, they produced an album of material that they touted round the major record companies, all of whom expressed interest but none of whom had the courage to take a chance on a new sound that didn't fit neatly into any category.
"Wild Nation was too ahead of its time," muses Paul. "None of the record companies knew what to do with it, it was that different. But I knew this sound would happen eventually so when I was offered 'Wrote For Luck' to remix I thought 'Right, this is it. I'm going to do it here'. They might have hated it and I wouldn't be here."
With a sound not dissimilar to the indie dance revolution of the last year – some of it produced by Paul himself – many A&R scouts must be kicking themselves for the lost opportunity, and so too the producers of the last Bond film who'd chosen a Wild Nation track as the theme to 'Licence To Kill', but pulled out after learning that Boy George was involved, no doubt fearing that the Bond image could be tarnished by George's past involvement with drugs. So will the Wild Nation project ever see the light of day?
"Probably not, because all the other members are doing other things now, but I like that," answers Paul. "It's good to have stuff you've made that no-one else has heard because it becomes very personal. Music is a personal thing. Whether you want to express it and share it is up to you."
Everyone wants to know what Paul's ideas and thoughts are because he has a good ear for tomorrow's music and whatever Paul does has a habit of starting a bandwagon.
"I dread it when people always ask me what's going to happen next, like I've got some crystal ball or something. Like with the Movement 98 record everyone is making out that I'm on some mission to slow down music. I'm not, it's just personal taste. I like playing all kinds of music, not just house and not just slower stuff either.
"I don't know what's going to happen next. I know where I'm going. I know that if the next big thing is Seventies disco I won't be there. I don't like going back, I'm always looking forward. Some things you try don't work, some do but I'm not into reviving old things."
Many record companies will be greatly disappointed to learn that Paul is giving up remixing . . . Well, for a few months anyway.
"I've got one or two remixes still to do but then I want to get on with PerfectO and developing the acts. The main plan is to have a good time – that is important. If I'm not enjoying it I won't do it. I'm not out to sign another Snap. I'm after today's leftfield music which will be tomorrow's mainstream."
But Paul does have one big job before he can really knuckle down with PerfectO – the Happy Mondays' album.
"We're going to LA to record it," he reveals enthusiastically, obviously relishing getting back together with Manchester's finest. "Happy Mondays are great because they're real; they're you and me. The way they are out on the street is the same as onstage or on 'Top Of The Pops'. They don't even change their clothes."
Wont there be too many . . . er, distractions in LA for the band.
"Yeah," he answers before grinning, "but there'll probably be a few distractions for me too!"
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