Paul Oakenfold has a near impeccable sense of timing and taste. As a producer, DJ, remixer and head of Perfecto Records, he's been the driving force behind the creation of various musical genres. What follows is quite some cv by anybody's standards.
The symbolic birth of acid house took place at his birthday party in Ibiza. A couple of years later Paul transmitted beats and rock into the form that came to be known as indie dance. Working with The Happy Mondays, he produced the most notorious English band since The Sex Pistols. He then remixed arguably the best tune by the biggest live act in the world, U2 and then went around the world with them as their DJ on the Zoo TV tour. And in between all this he has promoted his sound, trance, on a global scale and penetrated the charts with a slew of innovative tunes on his label Perfecto.
Ask Paul how he has managed to achieve all this and he just shrugs and smiles "I don't go looking for these things," he says, "I just seem to fall into them."
Born in Mile End within the sound of Bow Bells, which makes him a true cockney, Paul grew up in South London. At college he studied cookery and worked behind a bar in Convent Garden before coming a chef in a relic of the old empire, The Army And Navy Club. Keen to work in the music industry but finding himself locked behind closed doors he took off to New York. Musically the city was reeling to sounds being spun by Larry Levan at the legendary Paradise Garage. Paul went as often as possible to check out the music, making a few useful contacts along the way. These proved invaluable when back in London he got himself a job A&R-ing at Champion Records.
After signing Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince (Will Smith) and Salt & Pepper to the label, Paul took up remixing. He thought a Bewithched TV sample in Fresh Prince's debut single needed rearranging - so he did it himself. "It ended up being a top 10 record, "Paul says laughing, "and I started getting asked to do all these remixes. So I kind of fell into it by accident." Switching labels, Paul bolstered Def Jam and Profile with his Knowledge of Hip-Hop gleaned from his time in New York. It wasn't enough though and he was getting a bit restless. His best friends had been hanging out in Ibiza since the early '80's and had vibes Paul about the place. For the next few years Paul went there for his holidays...
As each summer passed the scene in Ibiza grew a little wilder and for his birthday in '87 Paul hired a villa on the island and invited out a few mates Fledging club promoters and DJs including Steve Walsh, Danny Rampling, Nick Holloway, Johhny Walker and DMC's Tony Prince all came over. When the sun rose a few hours later a new musical era was born.
Once back in London Paul and Trevor revitalised their 'Project' Club, the Ramplings began 'Shoom' and Nicky Holloway started 'The Trip'. Smiley's People were on the rampage in baggy trousers and as acid house kicked in Paul moved uptown with his legendary 'Future' and 'Spectrum' nights at Heaven. While 'Spectrum' was the full blast (acid) house experience, 'Future' concentrated on more the indie side of things. "We had The Happy Mondays, The Stone Roses and The Orb all in there. The KLF did their first gig at Spectrum; Adamski and MC Kinky performed there...It was a scene which echoed around the world for the next decade.
By now Paul was one of the best known and respected DJs in the UK. His talent certainly wasn't lost on Shaun Ryder and Bez of the Happy Mondays who used to come to down from Manchester to Spectrum. When the band needed a remix of their 'Wrote For Luck' single Paul was the natural choice. The result defined and kick-started the genre of "indie dance". The band was so knocked out they asked for Paul and his sometimes collaborator, Steve Osborne, to produce their album 'Pills, Thrills and Bellyaches'. "Production is a really intense thing'" says Paul. "It's three months in a studio six days a week dealing with a band, which does my head in. But the Mondays album did really well and after it I was in a position to choose really carefully. I ended up doing a pop album which was Deacon Blue. It sold a million records and I got nominated for a Brit and a Grammy for it!"
At this point, in the belief that less is more, he did a limited number of gigs and remixes. It's a practice he still adheres to and it has paid of handsomely. Some of the classic tunes of the last 10 years have been remixed by Paul; The Shamen's 'Move Any Mountain', Massive Attack's 'Unfinished Sympathy' , u2's 'Even Better Than The Real Thing' and the Smashing Pumpkin's 'Adore' among others.
"The thing about remixing," says Paul, " is you have to be careful otherwise you end up giving all your best ideas away. "It was a logical move then when Paul started his label, Perfecto, since it freed him up to make and produce his own music and artists. The label got with a bang with Perfecto All Stars and Grace selling huge quantities of records.
Paul has gotton himself into the perfect position. H e can be in the studio one week producing a tune and be playing the result to 100,000 people a couple of day later, and then release it on his own records label and promote it through the www.perfecto-FC.com website. In terms of the DJ-ing itself he's done it all from headlining the Glastonbury main stage to playing at technically spooky venues in Bombay and China.
He's promoted his sound trance, slowly yet surely via well planned tours of America and Elsewhere, a two-year residency at Cream, and by doing some excellent Essential Mixes for Radio 1. He is now a kind of DJ ambassador for Radio 1, his enviable brief is to play the best music to be broadcast from some of the most exotic locations in the world.
Pefecto records, with it's naughty little brother offshoot label 48k, have know signed to Mushroom Records Group world-wide and are preparing to release the first set of records including the Dope Smugglaz and a set of Planet Perfecto massive tracks. The launch of his website resulted in another entry in the Guinness Book of Records.
As for the future..."You know it's weird," he says, "but I never set out to be a DJ. Producing and running a record company don't necessarily mean more to me but I don't want to be an old man DJ-ing. It will be a brave step to give it up but I will at some point."