Paul Oakenfold: "I still fight to get a seat on the subway or the bus"
What can be said about Paul Oakenfold that hasn't been revealed in hundreds of prior interviews? When tasked with speaking to a pioneer, it's hard to avoid the obvious questions: What keeps you producing music? Why do you still DJ? What is your favorite song?
When we spoke with Oakenfold, he was on his eleventh interview of the day at his Los Angeles office. Still, he had plenty to say. He's got a new album coming out on June 20, Trance Mission, and it comprises entirely tributes to classic dance tracks. He's touring the country to support it, and he'll play Beta on Sunday. We talked to him about that, his struggles to find a seat on public transit and plenty more.
Oakenfold's resume speaks for itself. He has toured as direct support for Madonna. He has produced music for television and films. He has even opened for U2. Why does he continue to do it? He puts it quite simply: "because I love what I do."
In a parallel universe, Paul Oakenfold is an executive chef at a restaurant. That was his chosen career coming out of grade school, anyway. He pursued the exhausting lifestyle of split shifts and food prep before finally realizing that, as a man transitioning from his late teens to early his twenties, he wanted some more free time. And he was learning that a life at a stove wasn't for him. So he replaced the burners with CDJs, and now smiles as he walks into work every day. That's not to say he doesn't feel the same struggles of life that we all deal with.
"We all have family. We all have relationships. We all have friends. Essentially, I am no different than you, or anyone else," he says. "I just happen to be lucky enough to love what I do for a living."
Fans and media tend to idolize these jet-setting artists, imagining some different life for them than we have for ourselves. "I still fight to get a seat on the subway or the bus," he says, "as a matter of fact, just last week I was in London doing just that."
Oakenfold says he feels he has more in common with passionate people in other industries than some of his peers in the DJ world. "If you walk into work with a smile on your face, then we are not different in any way," he says.
He feels that he was put on this earth to make music, and that's what he is doing. It's that simple. "What's the point of looking at my life rather than enjoying it and looking to the future and being in the moment? I don't see any point in overthinking it."
Towards the end of the conversation, we got around to talking about the album. Trance Mission is an album entirely comprised of old dance songs that have been reworked with modern production. But the selections are sometimes unexpected. Why Simple Minds? Why would you take a rock band from the '80s and take one of their original compositions and make a tribute for a trance album?"
"The 'Theme for Great Cities' was a b-side, and I came across it in 1988 when I was branching out in my deejaying to play different music to play in my sets," he says. "I came across the Wooden Tops, and then someone turned me onto this b-side of an '80s rock band. It was melodic, and it really stuck with me. I thought that if you could take that melody and get rid of the instrumentation...but of course at that time it didn't happen. When I came up with this idea of doing cover versions, I could take that line and make my own track with it. It now works. It's something I've always wanted to do and now I have the opportunity."
So Paul Oakenfold waited nearly twenty years for the right moment to make a song. That's a level of dedication worth admiring in anyone, in any profession.
Paul Oakenfold plays May 25 at Beta.
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