Paul Oakenfold talks about his upcoming artist album, hip hop and R&B affect, and quarantine actions [Interview]
Longevity in any professional field is hard to come by, especially in the music industry. Bands, genres, trends … all of these things can have a short shelf life. The definition of longevity in dance music is the British producer / DJ Paul Oakenfold. His career has lasted almost four decades. In the 1980s and 1990s he helped pave the way for acid house in the UK. He also became one of the first international superstar DJs in the 90s. In addition, he paved the way for dance music in the USA at the beginning of the 21st century.
Did you know, however, that Oakenfold's fingerprints go well beyond the world of dance music? Prior to becoming a superstar DJ, Paul was the UK's A&R head of hip hop and R&B. He signed stars like Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince and Salt-N-Pepa to mark deals in the UK. It turns out that Oakenfold is just as good at A&R as it is at producing hits.
We had the opportunity to speak to the legendary English DJ ahead of the expected release of his upcoming artist album Shine On in 2021. Paul told us all about his history in the R&B world, what fans can expect from his new album, what he did in quarantine and his thoughts on the industry.
Hey Paul, thanks for talking to us. Obviously this was a year like no other. Tell us what you did in 2020.
"I've finished my album, it's going to be a big step for me. I work really hard in the studio to finish it, so I did that. And then I started working on another project. I have music for wrote a TV show. It's actually a documentary based on biohacking. So I was busy in the studio and wrote a lot of music. "
Let's get started right away, you're working on your new album Shine On. There have already been two singles, one with Eve and one with Luis Fonsi. Tell us what will be so different and unique about this album?
"This album is a lot, it's all based on my last two, it's mostly downtempo, it's very cinematic. I've worked with different composers and orchestras. So it's a very interesting recording. It still sheds light on some well-known ones and some new names. It is similar to my last artist albums where I have people from different genres. Eve is on the single from the rap world and the last single, Lusi Fonsi, is certainly not the obvious dance act. So I got myself Always interested in all kinds of music. So I've approached different singers and artists and I enjoy working together. "
Why did you decide to look for more pop and hip hop artists?
"Well, I've always worked in this field. For example when I was working for Champion Records in the UK. I signed Jazzy Jeff and the fresh Prince [Will Smith], I signed Salt-N-Pepa, I've run Def Jam in the UK, Profile Records, Run-DMC, I've been in and out of that field for years and I love that sound, but I always enjoy working with and introducing artists like that. My last album had I am Pharrell Williams. Well, I'm a huge Eve fan, I've known my way around here for a while and we worked together. "
One thing a lot of fans probably didn't know, including me, is that you have had just as much influence on hip hop over the years as you have on electronic music. Tell us about your A&R and label experience in hip hop?
“I worked for A&R for many years, for Profile Records in the UK, for Champion Records in the UK. I still do A&R for my own label, Perfecto Records. It has always been my love to find, sign, and release new talent. I enjoy that."
Her long and illustrious career has lasted more than three decades. What keeps you going and what inspires you at this stage in your career?
“I really enjoy playing music, I enjoy writing music, I love finding new talent. It's more than a job, music, for me it's just my first love and probably always will be. "
What do you miss most about live shows if you can't perform or tour at all this year?
"I miss the crowd, it's just something special that you have with the audience. The joy and love. I'm not a real fan of streaming. I like interacting with the crowd. It was always important to me. Missing that I really. "
Are there any plans to expand touring if it is safe to do so in the next year?
"Yeah, I can't wait to come back and go on tour. It's good for me to get back on the road so I'm looking forward to it."
Tell us a little about the man behind the music. How did you manage to achieve work-life balance and stay so grounded over the years?
"I think at work, whatever job you do, if you really enjoy it, I don't necessarily see it as work, it's just a way of life for me. As you said, I've been doing this for over three decades and for It's just wonderful for me that I can travel the world through music and meet people. I enjoy everything. "
Did you pick up on any hobbies during the quarantine or do you have recommendations for binge watch activities?
"I went through different phases, I think like many people. I enjoyed the break in life when it first came because I worked so hard. And then I started catching up on a lot of things. I watched a lot of TV, Spent time in my house looking at what I can do to improve the house, doing some gardening. Now I'm just on my way, I've had enough like many other people, I want to get out and go. "
How do you see the state of dance music and music in general?
"It's weird because it's just that, dance music, and no one could go to clubs and dance. There is still so much music that is broadcast and listened to to me, but at the end of the day I want to play these records in clubs. So we'll see. "
Any words for the fans?
“I miss everyone, I miss going out and going to clubs. I hope we can all get back to some kind of normal sooner rather than later. Thank you, thank you for your support on the record. "
Check out the latest from Paul Oakenfold x Eve x Baby E, "How's Your Love", Now at Perfecto. Look forward to Shine On, which will be released in 2021. Also check out Paul's amazing live stream for the Sunburn Festival.