Paul Oakenfold is Playing Richmond. Here is my FanBoy Interview!

by | May 23, 2024 | ELECTRONIC & EXPERIMENTAL, MUSIC, NIGHTLIFE

Paul Oakenfold‘s career spans over 30 years, during which he has elevated and shaped electronic music, including being listed as the #1 DJ in the world multiple times. I came to know Oakenfold through BBC Radio 1 and the popular Global Underground series. The first DJs (and really the only ones) I had pictures of on my walls were Oakenfold and Sasha, using the Global Underground CDs of Oakenfold Live in New York GU:007 and Sasha Ibiza GU:13. I proudly clipped their pictures out and put them on my wall. I lived for these sets; they were a constant in my CD player and car (okay, I’m dating myself here). These were my heroes; they were traveling the world, bringing people together, and creating journeys of sound. You have to understand this was completely new; electronic music was not at festivals as much and was not the mainstream force it is today. I was transfixed by electronic music and DJ culture, and it would come to shape my world in many ways.

So you can imagine the fanboy in me from the 2000s’ excitement when we reached out and secured the interview with Oakenfold for the upcoming set at Ember Music Hall. I was about to call Oakenfold at his home in LA. This blows my mind, and it all starts to come back – Global Underground, Live in Sydney, Creamfields, Live from God’s Kitchen, freaking 1998’s Transports, man, yeah, crazy influential to me. Like this is foundational in so many ways to what we know as live electronic music. His name is the first really big name that I remember actually breaking through into the mainstream, and people actually remembering a DJ’s name. This is a part of electronic music history, which starts really in Europe and moves into America, forever changing how many experience music and growing over time into a complete global phenomenon.

Starting as a DJ in the late ’70s, Oakenfold’s journey took him to New York City in 1984, where he worked with Champion Records, signing acts like DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, and as a promoter and British agent for the Beastie Boys and Run-D.M.C. His trip to Ibiza in 1987 introduced him to new sounds, which he brought back to the UK, becoming its ambassador of trance/Goa/house. BBC Radio 1 opened many to the growing underground electronic DJ music scene through Pete Tong’s Global traveling series live on the air. Oakenfold played many of the biggest clubs in all the BBC Radio One tours, as well as holding down residencies at clubs like Ministry of Sound, Gods Kitchen, and many spots at the growing and culture-changing Ibiza scene. He also was the first DJ to play MainStage at Glastonbury Festival, paving the way for many future “dance music” centric festivals.

Oakey’s legendary residency at Cream in Liverpool in the ’90s solidified his status as a master of his craft and marked the beginning of his global acclaim. In 1988, he founded Perfecto Records, playing a key role in the birth of trance music with hits like “Not Over Yet” and “Bullet In The Gun.” Oakenfold’s influence extends beyond music into film, where he has produced and toured with stars like U2 and Madonna and composed scores for Hollywood blockbusters.

Paul Oakenfold is a sovereign of DJ culture, influencing generations of producers and DJs, including myself. He’s often credited with helping to bring dance music into the mainstream. He continues to tour and produce music, remaining an influential figure in the industry.

Paul Oakenfold Interview by John Reinhold_RVA Magazine 2024-5
Hello Paul!

John Reinhold aka DJ Reinhold: Okay, checking the device here. Test. Test. Looks good. Okay. (clears throat) Interview with Paul Oakenfold. That’s a wild thing for me to say. Okay, calling LA!

Paul Oakenfold: Hello, Beverly Hills Police Station. Can I help you? (laughs)

JR: (laughs) Hello, Paul. How are you?

PO: Yeah, I’m good. Thanks. You’re very punctual.

JR: Oh yes…

PO: Nine o’clock. I’m impressed.

JR: (laughs) Thank you. Thank you. I do try. I was like, well, if I’m going to call LA and I’m going to talk to Paul Oakenfold, then let me be on time at least.

PO: Yeah, there you go. How are you doing anyway?

JR: I’m good, how are you?

PO: Yep. Hanging in. Just starting the day. So all good.

JR: All good. Yeah. How is it in LA today? Is it a nice day? Have you been out yet or are you just looking at it?

PO:  No, no, no, no. How can I put this? Well, first of all, the weather’s bad.

JR: (laughs)

PO: But you see, the conspiracy—or the truth—is that because we have a lack of rain, a lot of people are saying it’s the politicians in Sacramento. There’s even been mini marches against it. They’re putting chemicals in the air to make it rain more. Obviously, we need the rains, right? But the chemicals they put in the air are really bad to make it rain. And they’ve been found out. You should look it up. (laughs) It’s pretty fascinating what they’re saying they’re doing.

JR: Wow. (I looked this up; it’s called cloud seeding, and yes, it’s real.)

PO: People are lobbying against it. So, my point is, I’m looking at the weather—it’s really bad and we’re going to get rains all weekend.

JR: Well, at least you’re in a nice spot. How long have you been there?

PO: Yeah. I mean, I’ve been here 23 years. Right.

JR: Wow. Yeah.

PO: It only rains in January, and now we’re in April, so something’s going on. (laughs) Welcome to California, man.

JR: So you’ve been there for 23 years. Yeah. And did you move out there for work on movies?

PO: Yeah. I moved out here because, well, I had no plans to move here. I came here to score a movie called Swordfish. And then I started getting offers for all these other films. I mean, Los Angeles has been wonderful to me. I met some great people; it’s been a rollercoaster of a ride. Yeah. Now, where are you?

JR: I’m in Richmond, Virginia.

PO: Richmond, Virginia. That’s where Pharrell’s from.

JR: Close enough. We [RVA Magazine] have interviewed Pharrell as well.  

PO: Yeah, I did a track with him for my second artist album.

JR: Yeah, I think I remember that one with N.E.R.D. Yeah, he does Something in the Water out here—a big festival on Virginia Beach’s OceanFront. Yeah. It’s a pretty big one. He brings in artists from all over, you know, and then of course, N.E.R.D., his band, plays it. It’s pretty cool. So yeah, living here in Richmond for many years. And I’m very excited that you’re playing here in May. Will that be your first time playing in Richmond, Virginia?

PO: Second.

JR: Second. Ooh, tell me more. Second time.

PO: I had such a good show last time, and a big thank you to everyone who came out and supported that. I wanted to come back. I really enjoyed it. So when they asked if I’d like to come back, I was like, hell yeah.

JR: So where did you play here? Do you remember when and where and all that?

PO: It was a while back. The venue’s name escapes me, but the crowd was really good, and that’s obviously why I decided I would like to come back. They like dance music now. And you mentioned N.E.R.D., N.E.R.D., whatever you wanna call them. I took one of their songs many, many, many years ago and did a remix for it and put it in a movie.

JR: Yes, with N.E.R.D.

PO: Yep, so that kind of led me to doing a solo with Pharrell jumping on my album. So I suppose I’ve had an alliance of sorts.

JR: Yeah, it seems we have that VA connection ourselves. Now, I’ve been DJing since about 2000-2001 or so. And I’m very familiar with your sets and mixes. So, you know, I definitely know Paul Oakenfold.

PO: Thank you…

JR: Yes, I put up a thing saying I was interviewing you, so I could gather some questions and things like that. So I said, “People, I’m interviewing Paul Oakenfold,” and my 20-year-old self would not believe this is actually happening right now. So, thank you. Enough of that, don’t want to fanboy out too much here, but…

PO: Appreciate it very much.

Paul Oakenfold Interview by John Reinhold_RVA Magazine 2024
Photo of John Reinhold at 20 years old by R. Anthony Harris

JR: Yes, I had the Global Underground: The New York pinned up on my wall. And I had Sasha as well on there. So, of course, my parents come into my room and be like, “Who are all these guys you have up here?” I’m like, “They’re DJs.”

PO: (laughs) Amazing.

Paul Oakenfold Interview by John Reinhold_RVA Magazine 2024
The poster John had on his wall back in high school.

JR: Which is what I’m gonna be! A friend of mine gave me a CD back when people actually liked giving friends CDs and stuff and he gave me one that said Oakenfold on it. It was a blue one. And it said, “OAKENFOLD LIVE IN SYDNEY.”

PO: Oh, okay. Yes, yes…

JR: Part one, and part two. And that stayed in my car for a very long time. And it is still to this day, one of my favorite of all sets. So, I’d be remiss not to bring up that gig in particular.

PO: That, let’s see, yeah, was that at Home?

JR: So, it was listed as live in Sydney.

PO: At Home Nightclub!

JR: I think so.

PO: Yes, yes. It was for Radio 1 Live.

JR: Yep. That’s right.

PO: Yeah. Oh, you got it on a CD?

JR: I did.

Paul Oakenfold Interview by John Reinhold_RVA Magazine 2024
That time Paul Oakenfold played Stonehenge with Carl Cox

PO: Wow. I wonder where you got that, because, I mean, not that it bothers me. I mean, it’s great that it got shared. But that wasn’t released; that was a live show I’d done for the BBC. I became a DJ for the BBC, and they asked me every month to record, wherever I was in the world, to record the set and then they would play it.  I went to Cuba, Havana, and Shanghai, China, and that was Sydney, Australia. Wow. Man, you got me thinking now.

JR: Oh, I got all kinds of questions about this (laughs).

PO: That was a good one. Sydney, Australia. I’ve got to go back and listen to that.

JR: Oh, it’s such a good one. I mean, you know, some of the things off the top of my head, of course, the Mox Epoque track “I Feel My,” and of course Art of Trance’s “Madagascar.”

PO: “Madagascar,” yep, a big one.

JR: Two of the real classic ones for me that, you know, I went and tried to find those records. I did find “Madagascar.” I did not find the Mox Epoxy. But those, you know, that set to me was very, very unique. And going back and listening to it today, it is still so good and just, it still holds really well. Now here’s something I remember from it, and I’ve always wanted to kind of ask this. So in the set live from Radio 1, you can hear air horns like all the time.

PO: I mean, air horns back in the day, they were a big part of clubs, so, you know, if someone likes the tune, you get the air horn. (laughs).

JR: Wow, really…

PO: So that’s really what it was.

JR: Did it connect to soccer as well? Kind of like that?

PO: I suppose so, yeah, it did.

JR: Were you ever a big soccer fan coming from England?

PO: I’m a massive football fan.

JR: Who is your team?

PO: I’ve traveled all over the world to watch my soccer team, Chelsea. Yeah. I have been there and everywhere, so you name it. And to support England, I’ve DJ’ed at World Cups, Champion Leagues.

JR: Have you ever just kind of sat back and think “Good lord, where have I been and what have I done?”

PO: No, not really. (laughs) I just kind of live in the moment and look to the future.

JR: Ok, so last thing on the older venues and sets. Now, what are some of the big venues that I know from Radio 1 and Global One. You got Ministry of Sound, God’s Kitchen, and… Yep. CreamFields, is Cream Fields a venue?

PO: CreamFields is a festival. Okay. Cream was a club, and they tagged on ‘fields’ because it became a festival. So yeah.

JR: So, what was the Ministry of Sound and God’s Kitchen? Was there much of a difference?

PO: The Ministry of Sound was the real venue built around sound. So here’s the big difference. Most nightclubs are built and then they add the sound. Well, the Ministry of Sound was done the other way around. They took the sound system and designed the room because it was just a space, and designed the room around the sound. So they put the sound system where they wanted it to be, and then they would put certain walls where they needed them to be, to make sure that it was a cocoon of sound.

JR: So am I correct in saying this, but one of the first really built for dance music?

PO: Yeah. Love Ministry of Sound.

JR: That’s great. And where were your residencies at that time?

PO: Well, I was the resident opener at Ministry of Sound. Oh. Along with Justin Bergman. I was a resident of Cream in Liverpool.. And I was the resident of Spectrum in London and Home in London. So I actually had five residencies over my career in London.

JR: Yeah, so many familiar names to me. You had mentioned Swordfish. How did you jump over to working on movies?

PO: I was asked by Warner Brothers; the script was written about technology. I don’t know if you’ve seen the film.

JR: Oh yes. It’s all about hacking.

PO: The script lends itself to electronic music, so they needed an electronic composer. And at that time, I presume, from what they told me, because I’d never scored a movie before, and it was a $90 million film. I was very concerned and worried that I’d probably mess it up (laughs) because I didn’t really know what I was doing.

So when they asked me, I was like, really? And then I was like, okay, I have to do this. I have to because this is an opportunity that can change my life. And in your life, you’re probably going to get two or three major opportunities that will come your way. Whatever you do, I believe this doesn’t matter whether it’s in music, there could be an opportunity that you should grab. Because if you don’t, you may live in regret, even if it doesn’t work, you can still go back to what you were doing, but at least you tried it.

So I was like, okay, I’m going to do this, but I’m going to think it through logically. I’ve never scored a movie. I need to do a lot of research. I need to work with people who have scored movies. I need to listen, learn and get my act together!

So I did all that and more. I studied and studied and studied, because I didn’t want to let anyone down. I didn’t want to get kicked off the film. And I did it and the movie was number one and the soundtrack was released and sold over a quarter of a million CDs. And that opened the door for me. And that door has never closed, you know, from working on The Matrix, Tom Cruise’s Collateral, The Bourne Identity, doing other scoring and whatever. So that’s why I’m still here, I suppose in LA.

JR: Yeah, I know some musicians, like Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails does a lot of scoring.

PO: Amazing, huh? Yeah.

JR: I know that he had said that they’re asking when he was gonna go back on tour, and he was like, I don’t know, I’m pretty comfortable scoring these movies, (laughs).

PO: Yeah. And he’s, you know, he is top of the game. I mean for that sound, you know, and I suppose electronic in some respects, very, very electronic.

JR: Yes, absolutely.

PO: I mean, those guys, you know, next level.

JR: Absolutely. So onto touring and big acts, on that topic one question that was presented to me by someone online had a question about how working with U2 came about and going on tour with them?

PO: That came about through Island Records and the band themselves, they were looking to get remixes done, and then they approached me, and then I started to work on remixes, and then the remixes became more popular than the originals, and so much so that they were bigger in the charts. So out of that came the situation, they asked if you would come on tour with us and be the opening act?

And I was like, really? I was like, wow. You know? So I did. And it was amazing. And I learned a lot from them. I mean, at the time, certainly one of the biggest rock bands out there in the world touring, playing in front of 60, 70, 80,000 people a night. And wow. Was a big deal for me.

JR: Now you, if I remember correctly, you were a pretty big fan of U2.

PO: Well, I wasn’t a real fan of U2 until they came out with “Where the Streets Have No Name” and “With or Without You.” That’s kind of when I got into U2.

JR: Gotcha.

PO: So I wasn’t, but then I became a, well big fan. Like many, when I saw them live. I mean, they’re just at a different level live.

JR: Yeah. I remember an interview with you many years ago where you had talked about “Where the Streets Have No Name” is like what you’re playing at midnight New Year’s Eve.

PO: (laughs) Well, you know what New Year’s Eve? I play New Year’s Day.

JR: Oh yes, yes, that’s right.

PO: Yeah. I always play that. I have a special mix that I’ve done that no one has. So it never gets old because you only hear it (laughs) yep, once every year.

JR: So now that electronic music has become such a large part of society and festivals have grown, you know, what do you think of all that? You know, what do you think of the direction of electronic music and the growth of it?

PO: Well, I mean, it’s a global sound now. It’s something that we’re all listening to wherever we are in the world. So it’s on television, it’s in movies, it’s in commercials. I mean, the music’s really popular around the world. To be part of the global scene for me is wonderful. I mean, I’ve been doing it a long time, so I’m happy people still like what I do.

JR: What do you think of AI in it and all that?

PO: I mean, AI is interesting. I think if it’s, if it’s used in the right way, then yeah. And what is the right way? I don’t know at the moment, but I’m not averse to using AI.

JR: So when you’re not listening to electronic music or tracks and all that, what do you, what do you listen to for fun?

PO:  Listen to a lot of movie scores. I just did a bootleg mix of Oppenheimer.

JR: Oh nice.

PO: Playing the theme music from Oppenheimer. I think it’s amazing. So I just took the theme music and reworked it into a dance track. It’s like a bootleg mix that I play in my sets. So I’m always listening to the score. I listen to chill-out music. You know, I listened to a lot of things. I’ve been listening to country music for the last four or five years.

JR: Oh, wow. Really…

PO: Yeah. I didn’t like the old school sound of what country was, but I’ve learned to really enjoy and, and be a fan of it. So yeah. I mean, I’m open to all new kinds of music when it comes my way.

JR: Yeah. Now I know. You’d like to hike, right? That’s, that’s been one of your things.

PO: Yep.

JR: Yeah. Does that kind of keep you grounded when you’re traveling to different places and you can kind of connect to the area, I guess?

PO: Yeah, for sure. Absolutely.

JR: And I know you’re a big foodie as well, so what’s your top stops and what’s your favorite style of food?

PO: Well, that’s a great question because I’m a massive foodie and I do source a lot of good restaurants, and I do experience them and I do share them with people. I’m lucky that I get to travel the world with my job, and I like food because I am a chef, so I try to tie in spots if there’s a great restaurant or friends to go with I want to go and experience it.

JR: Cool. Absolutely. Is there a style that you particularly like?

PO: I like to eat traditional English food that goes without saying. Yeah. But then, you know, I’m simple in some respects, you know, grab a wok, put some great organic vegetables in that wok, throw some seasoning and some oil in there and, and there you go. That, that would, I love vegetables and, or a bowl of pasta. It doesn’t need to be an elaborate dish.

Paul Oakenfold Interview by John Reinhold_RVA Magazine 2024
Paul Oakenfold with his record collection

JR: I’m a bit of a foodie as well. Totally get that. So I was looking at some stuff on your page and was looking at your records behind you, so like how many records do you think you have? I mean really? (laughs) What’s in your record collection, Paul Oakenfold! (in STEM voice)

PO: Oh wow. (laughs) I don’t know how many records I’ve got, but just, let’s just say a lot. I don’t really count them to be honest with you. Yeah, But I’ve got quite a lot.

JR: I figured. Do you, do you ever still play records? Or, or is that a special situation?

PO: I play them at my home for sure a lot.

JR: Are there any certain tracks that kind of still stand the test of time or classics that you like?

PO: I listen to old music to see if there’s any ideas that could come out of it.

JR: Right on.

PO: So, yeah. I mean, you name it, there ain’t one particular old track, but (laughs), I’m certainly always looking and listening.

JR: I get a bit nostalgic as you can tell. (laughs). So what new artists/producers that you really vibe into?

PO: There’s an artist that I found called Velvet Cash, yeah. That is one of my favorites at the moment. Definitely check him out.

JR: Cool. So, you’re coming here to RVA and playing at Ember Music Hall. How long are you going to be in town?

PO: Yep. Well, I’m there for a day usually. That’s how it works.

JR: Yeah, well if you get a chance to check some things out, you let me know. I think we were recently voted second in the United States as far as murals go. And I know that you sometimes like to check those out.

PO: Murals. Yes. What and where?

JR: Oh, I don’t know, well over 300 murals here in the city.

PO: Really? International artists.

JR: Yeah. You can even just look it up and be like, Richmond, Virginia murals. And there’s some amazing, amazing international artists that have done murals here, as well as many local artists that are equally amazing. So if you get a chance, I know it’s a quick visit, but if you get a chance, you could always sneak out and see a quick one, you know?

PO: Right. So what would you say the foods are there?

JR: I mean, you know what, we’re really known for breweries. We have a great, you know, a couple of years back, the brewery scene really boomed here. And a couple of the breweries opened restaurants. Like for me, Mekong is my “home.” It’s not a brewery per se, but beside The Answer. As far as food is concerned, you know, it’s wide open. I mean, there’s everything, Italian places like Stella’s. Stella’s is a great, great Italian place here. Classic Italian, you know? Also a spot called The Roosevelt, which has gotten lots of love; that’s probably closer to your spot. That’s like a little eatery. So that would be a good one to check out.

PO: Yeah, I’ll check that out then. Thanks.

JR: Well, we’re definitely looking forward to having you here to play, looking forward to it.

PO: Yes, thanks. Oh, and come and say hello if you can.

JR: I mean, you’re Oakenfold, I can’t miss that. Yeah, for sure…

PO: You take care.

JR: Hey, thank you so much, bye Paul.

(hangs up phone. Whoa, that just happened!)

————————-

SHOW INFORMATION

Paul Oakenfold Interview by John Reinhold_RVA Magazine 2024

Paul Oakenfold at Ember Music Hall // May 24th 
Opening support by blklght
Joanna O. X Jesse Split / Oliver Caine / Joey B x Elliott

Doors Open at 7:30PM 

Link: https://embermusichall.com/event/paul-oakenfold/ember-music-hall/

Additional note from John: It’s quite serendipitous that Jesse and Joanna are opening for this show. When I came to RVA to go to VCU, I often looked for records and DJ equipment. This took me to Turnstyle (https://turnstyleonline.com/), where of course I bought quite a few Planet Perfecto vinyl, and like 4-5 pairs of the same headphones over the years (I’m sure Joanna remembers those tanks). Stoked that they will be setting us up for the night. Lots of love for the people that have supported electronic music in this town long before I was here.

John Reinhold

John Reinhold

John Reinhold is currently CXO of Inkwell Ventures Inc. which owns and operates RVA Magazine and GayRVA. Also, he is a deejay with PLF, husband and father to a couple of great kids.




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