DJ Paul Oakenfold holds the distinction of being one of the first electronic superstars. He's been performing and mixing since 1980, and he's not planning on spending his 33rd year in the business chilling out: In addition to his recent work with Madonna and Bruno Mars, he's scheduled to perform at Coachella 2013, and drop his long-awaited vocal collaborations album, Pop Killer.
This weekend, he finds himself in the Southwest, venturing to Scottsdale's Wild Knight. We spoke with Oakenfold about the rise of EDM in America, his projections about the genre's future, and we "fapped" over European soccer for a bit.
Up on the Sun: I have to be a little music geek and be honest with you. I find it a big honor to get to speak with you. You've been creating and producing work since 1980. That makes you a serious EDM veteran.
Paul Oakenfold: [Laughs] Well that's great to hear. Yeah, it's been a long while.
Having started off earlier than most renowned DJs today, could you describe your early career and musical influences?
[As far as] early musical influences growing, up in England, you're listening to all kinds of music. So, there's not really one act or one sound that I'd say [inspired me], but [there's] Radio 1, which is a station that plays all kinds of music in England. That's what the great thing about England is. In America you want to hear [specific things], but you hear rap on one station and rock on another or pop, but in England they play all kinds of music. So you grow up listening to everything; to a lot within one station.
I wish we had stations like that in America, so everyone would be exposed to everything. Speaking of different genres, you've worked extensively within the pop format -- U2 hired you for the Zoo TV Tour in 1993. In the early '90s, EDM wasn't as popular as it is today, at least in America, and you exposed a lot of audiences to that kind of music. Now, you see a lot of younger DJs like Madeon with Lady Gaga and Nero with Madonna. Did experiences like touring with a live band change the way you approached music?
Touring with U2, [I was playing to a different] crowd. Playing electronic music to a rock crowd is and could be a difficult moment, especially for me. I would take familiar rock songs that people loved and take the vocals and do either remixes or mash-ups on those within the set. People knew the songs, but not that particular version, and it worked well for me. It was an experience that shaped me and gave me an interesting task. I learned from it and enjoyed it.
You seem to have your own approach to remixing. You've remixed artists like Snoop Dogg, The Rolling Stones, and many more. Do you ever find it difficult to choose which songs will make the albums since there is only a limited amount of space on each volume that you produce?
Yeah, I mean it's all about quality control. It's not just about putting out anything. I'm going to make sure it's the right thing and that's a big part of it for me.
Have there been tracks where you couldn't make work?
Yeah, I've turned down a lot for those reasons. Really, it's about what you do and not about who you've turned down. It's about who you've collaborated with and why specifically it worked.
I really enjoyed EA Sports' FIFA, and one installment included a song of yours, "Beautiful Goal." I'm a bit of a Chelsea F.C. fan. Are you a football fan?
[Laughs] Yes, I am a big fan of European football.
And you're a die heart fan of...?
Alright, then we see eye to eye on something.
There you go. We get along then.
I'm don't usually listen to local radio. I typically listen to Sirus XM. I listen to your show, Planet Perfecto on Electric Area. You have a lot of range, playing trance, progressive, electro house, and more. You give the people more of your work and others. How do you go about choosing the track lists for each broadcast?
I think it's really the music I just really enjoy. There's not much [to it] or as deep as one may think. If I like the record then I play it. I do think it's important to support new talent and help new music, so that may play a part, but if it's a great track, I'll play it.
There's been such a rapid and huge transition within the electronic scene within America. It's no longer just underground. What's your perspective and outlook for the future of EDM in America?
I think it's wonderful that America has embraced it. I think it's fantastic that it has finally caught up with the rest of the world in terms of electronic music. We're all about sharing that scene. It's always been a global scene. It's not a niche kind of music.
I remember in the UK with a lot of the rap that was coming out of America, people just couldn't relate to it and didn't understand what anyone was talking about, but what's special about electronic music is that it's very global. It great that America has finally caught up.
What do you think the future holds for this genre? Some say EDM will die, I argue differently that it's not even close to being exposed entirely.
There's going to be a whole new [wave], and the next wave will be American. We've got a whole lot of Europeans. It's all European dominated now. I reckon the next wave will [feature] a lot of great American DJs producers and acts. There will be a moment similar to what we had in the UK. All of it, similar to what we had in the UK, with Daft Punk, Prodigy, Underworld. You'll have that moment, and you haven't had it yet. You really haven't had a moment when you've got the big American DJ and great American young producers. That's yet to come, [but] you've got people who are popping up, [like] Porter Robinson. At the moment it's dominated by Europe, and that will hopefully change.
I love seeing new talents, and that the style could catch on everywhere.
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For sure. I love that. I think it's good to say "Who's to say we don't find the next Daft Punk or Armin Van Buuren?" So we want to encourage that.