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Paul Oakenfold Celebrates His Legacy While Looking Ahead

At this point in this 30-plus year career, calling Paul Oakenfold “legendary” feels like an understatement.

Yes, he’s sold over 5 million albums, earned three Grammy nominations, topped the DJ Mag 100 list on multiple occasions, and pushed the boundaries of DJing – quite literally – by giving performances on the Great Wall of China, Mt. Everest, from the rainforest in Ushuaia, Argentina, and at Stonehenge. 

Fueling these achievements, the Guinness World Records’ recognized trance DJ has had a prolific career, including as an artist, producer, a remixer, film scorer, and a label manager for his long-standing imprint Perfecto Records.

This has led to collaborations with artists ranging from Madonna to the Happy Mondays, and remixes across multiple genres. Considering EDM in the present, he helped move performances away from the DJ-in-a-booth format to more of a visual spectacle.

Despite over three decades in, Oakenfold shows no signs of stopping. He dropped his fourth album, Shine On, back in January, is opening for New Order and the Pet Shop Boys’ Unity Tour, and plans to celebrate both the 30th anniversary of Perfecto and 20th anniversary of his debut album, Bunkka.

Fernweh Editions Fern & Petals Candle

Paul Oakenfold Live Photo

With these achievements behind him while still looking forward, Oakenfold released a memoir on August 22 titled Ready Steady Go

We spoke with him about these upcoming projects and his record-setting, multi-decade-spanning career:

Your label Perfecto Records turns 30 this year. Why did you originally start your label, and how have you selected artists over the years?

Yes, the label turns 30, and to mark the success of Perfecto being one of the longest-lasting dance independent labels, we are creating a documentary to highlight the success of the label and artists.

We select the artists from our various contacts from around the world and sign artists that we believe in. The label was originally started because there was no home for dance music at the time. 

What are your plans going forward for your label?

We plan to build the Planet Perfecto radio brand that is in 74 countries and has a listenership of 15 million weekly listeners. We want to continue to sign more international artists and support the global dance community

How does it feel to be in the industry for as long as you have, and what have you learned from all these years?

It feels wonderful to be a part of a community of people who love dance music. I’ve learned so much and decided to share it in my new autobiography Ready Steady Go: My Unstoppable Journey In Dance.

Your debut album Bunkka turns 20 this year. Do you have any plans to celebrate its release?

We do have plans to re-release some of the classic hits from the album and freshen them up. 

Both from Bunkka to your latest release Shine On, you collaborate with a number of artists: How do you seek out artists to collaborate with?

On my three artists albums, I have collaborated with many people. I’m always looking for a balance of established singers and new artists that I’m fond of. That’s the starting point and then I reach out to see if there’s interest.

You’re also touring with New Order and the Pet Shop Boys later this year. What should listeners expect during your set?

I thought long and hard about what I’m going to play. As I open the show and play between both bands, I have two sets.

I’m looking at the demographic and the history of both bands, and I think for the first time, I’m going to play songs that we’re all familiar with from the ‘80s and ‘90s, along with some remixes and edits that I’ve been working on. I’m really excited about the tour. 

On the subject of New Order, you remixed “World (Price of Love)” off their 1993 album Republic. What has been your approach for remixing other artists’ songs over the years?

When I get asked to remix songs, I keep to the integrity of the artist but make sure the rhythm works for the dance floor.

Along with these releases, your biography Ready Steady Go is going to be released soon, as well as an animated film at some point. What made you decide to write a biography at this point in your career?

The biography has just come out and the reaction has been very positive. It’s a bio based on motivation to succeed and not just a regular kiss and tell.

That’s the reason that I felt it was important to share. In terms of the animated film, it tells the story of the struggle of a young boy in school who had dyslexia and how music became a way out.

Both the autobiography and the short film are similar to my latest album, Shine On, which took a long time to put together and ultimately release.

Fernweh Editions Candles

I share my story through music, biographies, and even mixed reality animation because I hope the way music has motivated me to not just overcome but succeed can help inspire others to do the same. 

As far as the film is concerned, what should viewers expect? What do you have planned for music or a soundtrack?

The Perfecto documentary we have been working on tells the history of the label and its influence in the dance community. The animated short is also very exciting because it will not be a solely 2D visual or musical experience.

We will be using new technologies to create a mixed reality experience. Fans will get to see realistic animations of my childhood home, school, and even some of those first pubs I played in during my early days of DJing with a musical experience that will really tell the story of that time.

Writer

Ivan Yaskey is a Philly-born EDM and synthpop enthusiast and interviewer who recently relocated to beautiful Boston, MA.