One of the first true superstar DJs, Paul Oakenfold has done more to popularize electronic dance music in the United States and in his native Britain than any constituent of the current EDM explosion. Long before Skrillex and Deadmau5 brought styles like dubstep and electro into the mainstream consciousness, Oakenfold played a pioneering role in the establishment of contemporary nightlife.
Oakenfold became a household name in the States with the release of his 1998 mix album, Tranceport -- a greatest-hits compilation of late-'90s trance -- and the relentless gigging that accompanied it. His lengthy career includes highlights too numerous to count, including tours with Madonna and U2, residencies at British superclubs like Ministry of Sound and Cream, and his recent stand in Vegas at Rain.
Over the years, Oakenfold -- affectionately known to millions of club-goers worldwide simply as "Oakey" -- has performed frequently in Colorado, everywhere from Mile High Stadium to Red Rocks. We caught up with the panjandrum just prior to his return to Denver this weekend to get his take on the present electronic-music craze, what he thinks of big DJs getting kicked off the decks and what his fans can expect Saturday night at Beta.
Westword: Tell us about touring with Madonna last year. You've worked with her for years, but, obviously, the tour was a huge deal.
Paul Oakenfold: I've been very lucky with respect to Madonna. I've produced her, remixed her, toured with her...it's my third tour that I've done with her. So it was great to do it. It really is a wonderful show. She's fantastic. So it was a great opportunity for me to go on the road, and I really enjoyed it.
How do you reflect on being one of the key artists to popularize dance music in the U.K. in the late '80s, and then doing it again in the U.S. in the late '90s?
I don't really sit and look backward; I'm more of a person that looks forward. Vegas was a real big focus for me. I really focused on trying to build a regular event I was doing every Saturday and build out a whole electronic community. When I went there and started, there was nothing going on in Vegas. So that was a real important moment in the last few years. I'd say that was a very important moment for me.
Your recent residency, Planet Perfecto, was at Rain in Las Vegas. What was a club night there like?
Oh, it was fantastic. We had nearly 5,000 people there. I did it for three years. It was a long time to be a resident. It was absolutely amazing, and now Vegas has exploded. It's the hub of electronic music in America.
What did you think about Mark Farina getting kicked off the decks at Marquee [in Vegas] over the summer?
I never heard that. Why'd he get kicked off?
People in table service complained he was playing too much house...
...and the management asked him to stop playing.
[Laughs] Really? Why the fuck would they go to the club? They must be stupid people.
How do you feel about the new breed of DJs popularizing styles like dubstep and electro in the U.S. today?
I like it. I like dubstep. I don't like all of it, but I don't like all trance. What I think's great about electronic music: We're always pushing boundaries and moving forward.
As someone who's been deejaying since the '80s, what are a few of your favorite dance tracks of all time?
I mean, there's many...off the top of my head, I think the Prodigy, Chemical Brothers, Underworld...they were key. Key bands with great tracks.
What are some of your favorite productions or remixes that you've worked on?
Massive Attack, U2, Justin Timberlake, Madonna and Michael Jackson.
Can you tell us about your new remix of Bruno Mars and your new track with Matt Goss?
Atlantic [Records] contacted me and asked me if I would consider doing a remix of Bruno Mars, and I'm a big fan of his, so it was an honor to do a remix for him. And with Matt Goss, it's a collaboration. I think Matt Goss is a fantastic singer and a great writer, and we're both from London. So it's a collaboration that I did with him under the name Concrete Sneakers, and we're gonna do some more work together, so I'm excited about that.
What can you tell us about your forthcoming album, Pop Killer?
It's very much the same as my last two artist albums. It's uplifting, melodic -- great songs, and I'm very lucky to collaborate with wonderful singers.
What can your fans expect Saturday night at Beta?
First of all, it's one of the best clubs in America, and second of all, I've got a great relationship with Denver. I've been coming there for many, many years, from playing Mile High Stadium to Red Rocks, so I enjoy and look forward to coming there. I hope the crowd in Denver has a great time, and I'm going to share some new music from my forthcoming album, so hopefully they enjoy it.