Interview: Paul Oakenfold’s ‘Trance Mission’ in America Rolls On
By Scott T. Sterling
Legendary British DJ Paul Oakenfold had a thought: to make an all-covers album of ’90s trance anthems. It came to him while he was on a “back to basics” tour in 2013 where he played in small rooms of 500 to 1000 people.
“The idea was to connect to the crowd, get back to my roots and play trance. From that, people started coming up saying, ‘can you play some of the classics?’ I was like no, this isn’t a classics tour, this has nothing to do with old music,” Oakenfold explained during an interview with Radio.com about the inspiration behind his new full-length, Trance Mission, which find him recreating such tracks as “Theme for Great Cities” (Simple Minds) and “Café del Mar” (Energy 52). “From people asking me to play some of these old classics came the idea of taking these classics and redoing them in a 2014 production sound that could fit into a current set, and also to educate the current generation of clubbers who don’t know these songs from 15 years ago.”
In Oakenfold’s long career, his status as one of the original superstar DJs around the turn of the century catapulted him from the electro underground into the music mainstream, working with a long line of A-list artists ranging from Madonna to U2 and producing Hollywood soundtracks big budget films, inlcuding Swordfish.
Oakenfold’s ambitions drove him to push dance music beyond the norms of genre and into new territories throughout the ’00s, even to the point of alienating some of his peers and fans alike.
“When I started my residency in 2009 in Las Vegas, there was no clubs playing electronic music. It was mash-ups and hip-hop,” he recalled. “Strangely enough, I had a lot of slack from my community. They were like, ‘Vegas is old school, it’s where the old acts go.’ I always saw it in a different sense. For me, I felt Vegas was the right spot. So now when I go back to Vegas, to see all the billboards and to see every club doing it, I think it’s a positive thing. Why shouldn’t America have a home for electronic music? It’s similar to what we’ve had in Europe for years with Ibiza.”
While Oakenfold is spinning around the world this summer in support of Trance Mission (with a stop at this year’s Burning Man gathering in Nevada on August 27), his next studio album, Pop Killer, is already finished and in the can, just waiting for the right release date to reveal to the world. In the tradition of his previous albums, the producer collaborates with an impressive roster of artists, including Miguel, ZZ Ward and LP.
“Look, I’d love to collaborate with Eminem,” he said when asked about bucket list studio partners. “I think taking Eminem out of his genre and bringing him into the electronic world would be really interesting for me and for him to see if we could come up with a track that would work really well. (Dr.) Dre‘s the same. I’ve been a big fan of his for many years. I’d like to work with Run DMC from back in the day and put a real pumping track together at 130 BPMs and throw those guys on it.”
In the exclusive video interview above, watch Oakenfold talk about which of the current crop of dance music stars he finds most impressive, some of his favorite cities to play in America that you might not expect and more.