Longevity in any career 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 the dance music sphere is UK producer/DJ Paul Oakenfold. His career has spanned nearly four decades. He helped pave the way for acid house in the UK in the 1980s and 1990s. He became one of the first international superstar DJs in the 90s as well. Additionally, he helped pave the way for dance music in the US at the advent of the 21st century.
Did you know, though, that Oakenfold’s fingerprints extend well beyond the dance music world? Prior to becoming a superstar DJ, Paul was an A&R head championing hip-hop and R&B in the UK. He signed luminary acts like Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince and Salt-N-Pepa to label deals in the UK. Turns out Oakenfold is just as good at A&R as he is at producing hits.
We got the chance to talk to the legendary English DJ ahead of the anticipated 2021 release of his upcoming artist album Shine On. Paul told us all about his history in the R&B world, what fans can expect from his new album, what he’s been up to in quarantine and his thoughts on the industry.
Hey Paul, thanks for chatting with us. Obviously, this has been a year like no other, tell us what you’ve been up to in 2020?
“I’ve finished my album, that’ll be a big move for me. Really working hard in the studio to finish it, so I’ve done that. And then, I started work on another project, I’ve been writing music for a TV show, it’s a documentary actually, it’s based on biohacking. So, I’ve been busy in the studio, writing a lot of music.”
Let’s get right into it, you’re working on your new album Shine On. There’s already been two singles, one with Eve, one with Luis Fonsi. Tell us what’s going to be so different and unique about this album?
“This album is very much, it’s all based like my last two, it’s mainly downtempo, it’s very cinematic. I’ve been working with various different composers and orchestras. So, it’s a very interesting record. It still sheds light on some familiar names and some new names. It’s similar to my last artist albums, where I’ve got people from different genres. Eve is on the single, from the rap world, and the last single, Lusi Fonsi, he’s certainly not the obvious dance act. So I’ve kind of been, and always have been into all kinds of music. So I’ve kind of been touching on various different singers and artists and I enjoy the collaborations.”
Why have you decided to seek out more pop and hip-hop leaning artists?
“Well, since way back, I’ve been working in that space. Like when I was working in the UK for Champion Records. I signed Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince [Will Smith], I signed Salt-N-Pepa, I’ve been running Def Jam in the UK, Profile Records which is Run-DMC, I’ve been in and out of that space for years, and love that sound. That being said, I always like it when I can collaborate with and feature those kinds of artists. My last album, I had Pharrell Williams. So, I’m a big fan of Eve’s, I’ve known here for a while, and we did a collaboration.”
One thing that a lot of fans probably didn’t know, myself included, is that you’ve actually had just as much of an influence on hip-hop over the years that you’ve had on electronic music. Tell us about some of your A&R and label experience in hip-hop?
“I was working in 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’s always been a love of mine to find new talent, sign it, and release it. I enjoy that.”
Your long and illustrious career has spanned more than three decades now, what keeps you going and what inspires you at this stage of 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.”
Being unable to perform or tour at all this year, what do you miss the most about live shows.
“I miss the crowds, it’s just something special that you have with the audience; the joy and the love. I’m not a real fan of streaming, I like the interaction with the crowd, so for me, that’s always been important. I really do miss that.”
Any plans to maybe expand touring when it’s safe to do so next year?
“Yeah, I can’t wait to get back and start touring. For me, it’ll be good to get back on the road, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Tell us a little bit about the man behind the music, how have you managed to achieve work/life balance and stay so grounded throughout the years?
“I think with work, whatever job you do, if you really enjoy it, I don’t even necessarily see it like work, it’s just a way of life for me. Like you said I’ve been doing this for over three decades, and for me, it’s just wonderful that through music I can travel the world and meet people. I enjoy all that.”
Have you picked up any hobbies during quarantine or have any binge watch recommendations?
“I’ve gone through different stages, I think like a lot of people. I enjoyed the pause on life when it first came around, because I was working so hard. And then I started to catch up on a lot of things. Watched a lot of TV, spent time in my house looking at what I could do to improve the house, some gardening. Now I’m just rearing to go, I’ve kind of had enough like a lot of people, I want to get out and get going.”
What’s your take on the state of dance music and music in general.
“It’s weird because that’s just what it is, dance music, and no one’s been able to go out to clubs and dance. There’s still so much music I’m getting sent and listening to, but at the end of the day, these records, I want to play them out in clubs. So, we’ll see.”
Any words for the fans?
“I miss everyone, I miss going out and going to clubs. I hope that we can all get back to some kind of normal sooner rather than later. Thank you guys, appreciate your support on the record.”
Check out the latest from Paul Oakenfold x Eve x Baby E, “What’s Your Love Like,” out now Perfecto. Stay tuned for Shine On due out in 2021. Also make sure to check out Paul’s awesome home live stream for Sunburn Festival.