Paul Oakenfold on Trance: "It's Definitely Having a Resurgence in America"
Amid the manic hype of the so-called "EDM explosion," it is reassuring that DJs like Paul Oakenfold are still around.
As one of the founding fathers of trance, Oakenfold has proven to be a dance innovator for over 20 years, influencing the masses' conception of electronic music and contributing to the popular acceptance of the DJ as a legitimate artist.
In the run-up to Winter Music Conference and Miami Music Week, we here at Crossfade were lucky enough to speak with Oakenfold about his Miami visit, career highlights, and his Trance Mission.
Crossfade: What are Paul Oakenfold and Perfecto Records' big plans for WMC and MMW?
Paul Oakenfold: We're doing a modern-day twist on some classic trance's tracks at Space. When it comes to my set, I've been focusing on reintroducing some of the classic tracks to the current generation, those who are not familiar with trance. And instead of playing the old versions, I've reworked them into a 2014 production sound. These are not remixes. These are covers. We are doing everything from scratch.
Space is one of the best clubs not just in Miami, but in America. We're doing a big powerful night, which we do every year in here. It gives us a chance to showcase new and up and coming talent from the electronic world. Alongside myself is ATB, who is his own right is a tremendous talent. The whole idea of the night is for people to hear new music from various different genres.
Any new talent we should be keeping our eye on?
There's loads. For example, there's this DJ, Danny Howard. He's from Blackpool in England. He's one of the brightest stars when it comes to DJing. He's got his own show on Radio 1 and a show on Sirius in America. And he's gonna be performing at our event in Miami. He's definitely someone to watch out for.
So do you think we're experiencing a second wave of trance?
Yes, it's definitely having a resurgence in America. Miami is a great city to see it happening. The Winter Music Conference you have over here is great for this. It's been there for many, many years. It's an important event on the calendar, it's the first event on the calendar. There's a lot of DJs who attend it. A lot of DJs who do their own parties, showcasing all their new music and the talent that's affiliated with it. It's going strong. I mean, it's probably the longest lasting music conference out there.
EDM in general seems to be bigger than ever at the moment in the States. Do you agree that America has been slower to catch on to trance?
I think because EDM in America has been very commercial, and America was introduced to it at a commercial level rather than the underground. I think now Americans are starting to dig a little deeper into the underground music.
See also: WMC and MMW 2014: A 282-Party Guide
Are you happy with the tag, "Godfather of Trance"?
No, not at all. I wouldn't call myself that. I wouldn't wanna be that really. I mean Sven Vath, if anyone, could take that title. For me, it's all about playing new music.
I want to take you back a bit. When you were in Ibiza in the late '80s, was there a particular moment when you realized that something special was happening there? Have there been any similar moments in your career?
I think so. There was that moment at the club Amnesia. It was just a small underground scene where there was a DJ playing music that you really enjoyed; it was just one of those moments when it was obvious that there was a scene starting. It had a freedom that you didn't get in clubs in England back then. When I went back to the UK, we shared it with many people.
I learned a lot from it when I came to Las Vegas many years later, when there was no real scene there. I was able to get together with a few like-minded people and create something that went on to be a hub for the foundation of electronic music in America. Ibiza played an important part, as that's where I got the knowledge of how to do it.
After starting that residency at the Palms about four years ago, we started to see 5,000 people every Saturday. That felt like a key moment to me. That really felt to me like we had laid a foundation for electronic music here.
You produced the Happy Mondays' Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches in 1990. It was still a rare thing back then for someone associated with dance music to produce a record for an indie band.
That was very interesting. It wasn't the typical process that you go through as a producer. It was more a situation where the band allowed you to be a lot more involved. It would start with me going through my record collection and finding samples and rhythms that the drummer could work from and interpret into his flavor. Then we'd incorporate the guitar riffs from here, and build things that way. Sean [Ryder] would come in at a later date, he'd get offered the instrumental, and then he'd put a lyric to it.
Would you work with an indie band again?
If it was the right one. If there was a moment when I thought it was right, then yeah, sure.
Are there any other collaborations that stick out?
Producing Madonna and opening for U2 on the Zoo TV tour are two. I've had the chance to remix several of both Madonna and U2's songs.
Hunter S. Thompson was an interesting one on my first album. I contacted him through a mutual friend. The generation that I was from was very interested in his work. I thought it would be an opportunity to share his stuff with a generation that was not as familiar with it. He was very receptive, and from there we went on to do what we did.
I'd like to work with Eminem. I think it would be a really interesting collaboration. It would be great to put him on a rhythm that's a lot faster than he's used to.
How's the rest of the year looking?
Well, we're going to record the Miami show live. Aside from that I'm focused on finishing up the Trance Mission record. Redoing these tracks and presenting them to the current generation of America who's not familiar with them. But I'm looking forward to coming to Miami first, you should come along.
Crossfade's Top Blogs
Paul Oakenfold Presents Perfecto. With ATB, Cash Cash, Myon & Shane 54, Dzeko & Torres, Paris Blohm, Tom Swoon, Henrix, and Danny Howard. Wednesday, March 26. Space, 34 NE 11th St., Miami. The show starts at 10 p.m. and tickets cost $20 to $40 plus fees via wantickets.com. Ages 21 and up. Call 305-375-0001 or visit clubspace.com.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.