Some days are better than others. It is not every day you get to interview an artist, much less one you have idolized for almost 20 years. Fresh Music Freaks had the pleasure of sitting down with Paul Oakenfold at Imagine Music Festival’s 5 year anniversary, discussing everything from his monumental back to back set with Carl Cox at Stonehenge, his recent tour, and the progression of the electronic dance music scene.
FMF: I’m sitting here with Perfecto himself, Mr. Paul Oakenfold. Thank you so much for inviting us today. Trance fans are excited for your set this evening. You’ve seen the scene grow, from underground raves to larger festivals, and were one of the first DJs to really embrace the North American audience. Where do you see the electronic dance music scene moving over the next decade, and do you feel the current audience will stay connected with the style of music… or do you feel that shows of a more underground nature will become more prevalent?
Paul Oakenfold: Exactly that. You’re absolutely right. What happens is you come into the scene and backstage because that’s still the commercial EDM, and then you end up going underground, finding what you need to, because that’s the more the commercial side. There you are going to take part of the Trance (music) side, House, whatever. It’s usually how it works. And it has to be introducing into the same sort of commercial side of dance music. So you’ve answered your own question, well-done ladies. You’ve thought that through.
FMF: With the subgenres of Trance, along with Techno and House all becoming a little bit more popular at mainstream EDM festivals, Psy-Trance has been having a large moment recently gaining more popularity. Do you feel that Trance is having its biggest moment yet since its inception, especially in the United States?
Paul Oakenfold: Yeah, definitely in the US. I mean, very much so as beatniks. It was never the leading sound in the US, certainly, in Europe it was, to a certain extent. But yes, Psy is becoming more and more popular.
FMF: How did you feel about kind of discovering electronic music, and more so Trance in Ibiza, and then starting you label just from doing that?
Paul Oakenfold: Ibiza plays an important part in the electronic community, it’s there every year, the clubs are now changing, it’s certainly going, and moving towards the more Las Vegas kind of club.
FMF: It’s a bit commercialized, I just got back.
Paul Oakenfold: Yes, commercialized, then you’ve been there and seen it.
FMF: I wish I could have visited Ibiza back in those days.
Paul Oakenfold: Yeah. You know, it’s changed a lot now, but change is with us every day, and you don’t have to necessarily like change, but you’ve got to embrace it. And Ibiza needed to move with the times, and now it has and with that comes a lot of new things. And Ibiza is more commercial now than it’s ever been. So, of course, they want to make the money. And a lot of the clubs are all about just the money.
FMF: You’ve played some of the most incredible venues in your career. You’ve played the Great Wall, Mount Everest, and most recently, and probably the most notable event ever, Stonehenge, as the very first music artist to ever be invited to do that. I know you did a silent disco to respect the area, and you’re from the UK, so it’s very important to you. How did it feel taking those breathtaking videos, and what did that incredible moment feel like in your hometown to play alongside Carl Cox and to be the first person to be asked to do such an amazing event?
Paul Oakenfold: First of all I was on the English Heritage who asked me to do this. And the whole idea of that show and a few others that we’re going to do is to shed light on our culture, on British culture and how important it is. Stonehenge is one of the wonders of the world. We have to look after these places, we have nearly 500 locations, from palaces to castles to iconic landmarks that need taking care of. And English heritage needs the support and help. Because I speak to a global audience and a young audience, they ask me to perform. I recorded an album to Sunset, which is not about electronic music, it’s just about music in general. And then I asked a friend of mine to play back to back with me after because Carl (I’ve known him for 30 years)… I thought It would be a good idea to step back and recognize Carl’s achievements and how great a DJ he is, and how it would be great for both of us to play back to back after I’ve finished my sunset set. And that’s kind of how it came into being.
FMF: So exciting. When is the album going to be released?
Paul Oakenfold: It’ll be ready for Christmas.
FMF: Great! And are you doing a video release with it as well?
Paul Oakenfold: I think an event has been well documented. There will be photos that people haven’t seen. We’re going to want to release it as a stream obviously, or you can buy the package and buy it as a CD. I mean CDs still sell really well… maybe not necessarily here, but around the world. So we’ll release it in all formats.
FMF: That’s wonderful. What is your next bucket list venue that you’d love to play? Since you’ve been to so many different ones now.
Paul Oakenfold: That’s a good question. I haven’t really thought that through. I mean there are some wonderful places around the world. I’m very lucky that I get asked to do them. I didn’t say, “Let’s go and play the Great Wall of China,” I got asked to do it. Mount Everest was for children’s’ charities, so I agreed to do that. So let’s see, you know? I mean let’s see how far we can take electronic music, and we’re all a part of a community, and it’s nice to help and share and give. So that’s what I enjoy doing.
FMF: Your Ultra Perfecto ASOT set at Ultra this year had many Trance fans fall in love with you, and reminded the die-hard fans like us really of your capabilities as a producer and DJ. Your tour this summer has been a phenomenal success. What are you most excited to bring to fans tonight at the Atlanta Motor Speedway for Imagine’s biggest year yet?
Paul Oakenfold: Is it the biggest year yet, yeah? Wow, that’s wonderful. Congratulations. I’m going to play, I was going to play, what am I going to play, ladies…
FMF: Whatever you want!
Paul Oakenfold: Help me out here. Maybe I’ll play some Psy, I’ll play some new Psy-Trance, I’ll play some big songs that are current. And I’ll play some of my remixes of classic tracks. I think I’ve done some big remixes, and it’s a big commercial crowd, and I’m sure they’re going to want to hear some familiar tracks, but different mixes. So that’s it, we’ve decided now. I’ve got to follow through now, I’ve got to.
FMF: Well we’re very excited, we followed you for literally about 20 years. And so, in the Midwest, we have a name for you. We call you “Uncle Okie,” everybody’s favorite trance uncle. How does it feel to be everybody’s Trance uncle, and would you like to say anything to your fans at home and abroad?
Paul Oakenfold: Well, first of all, that’s a very interesting name. I’m everyone’s Uncle!
FMF: First time you’ve heard that your everyone’s favorite Uncle?
Paul Oakenfold: First time I’ve heard it! So thank you, thank you so much for that. Look, I’m very unfortunate, I really enjoy what I do, and I believe I can touch people and make them feel good. And I’ve now been coming to America for a long time. And I live in America now, it’s my home. I’m an American now, I’ve got a dual passport. So… it’s good to be your Uncle. I’m officially your Uncle. I signed up, so! (laughs).
FMF: You signed up and you didn’t even know!
FMF: Paul, you’ve given the greatest Trance Dj’s like Paul Van Dyk, Markus Schultz, and Armin a platform to bring Trance to the world. Thank you so much for everything that you’ve done in your career, and we Fresh Music Freaks really appreciate you.
Paul Oakenfold: Thank you so much. Cheers.
For more information on Paul, as well as upcoming tour dates click here.