For many young electronic music fans today, the name Paul Oakenfold represents an elite but old-school British DJ who will serve up tasty progressive house beats to fuel their evenings of decadence. After all, new, flashier names such as Calvin Harris and David Guetta have popped up and are now dominating mainstream radio – and mega-club marquees - with their crossover electronic pop-dance hits.
But Oakenfold is so much more than that: He’s the man who mostly made it all possible. In the early ‘80s, he first signed hip-hop legends Salt-n-Pepa and DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince (aka Will Smith). Then, he created the dance-music label Perfecto Records, which is still a giant today in EDM. Not to mention touring with U2 as its official DJ, creating dozens of epic compilation mixes, and several artist albums featuring collaborations that helped launch the careers of many of today’s stars. He even wrote Cher’s latest hit, “Woman’s World,” strangely enough.
Now, Oakenfold heads back to Miami Beach in support of his latest CD compilation mix, “Planet Perfecto 3 – Vegas to Ibiza,” spinning at LIV Nightclub on Saturday night. He talked to Miami.com about what we can expect from his set, his upcoming artist album, and just how he happened to write Cher’s latest hit.
You’re a perennial favorite in Miami. Are you excited to get back here?
Of course. First and foremost, even when I was living in London, Miami was always an important part of electronic music because of the South American community, and you were one of the first to have an electronic-music radio station [the late Party 93.1]. So I’ve always had a wonderful relationship with a lot of people down there, and it’s one of my favorite places to play. So I enjoy it very much, and I’ll be there at LIV, which is one of the best clubs in America – great crowd – and I’m looking forward to it.
Will we hear tracks from your new compilation mix, “Vegas to Ibiza”?
Yes, we’re promoting the new CD on these shows. And what Vegas has become to America in terms of electronic music is what Ibiza has been to Europe for 20 years. It’s the mecca for electronic music. It used to be New York, it went to Miami and had its moments in other cities, but what’s going on in Vegas is out of control. I’ve just come from there Saturday, and there’s every big DJ playing the pool parties, and then there’s every big DJ playing the residencies at night. And everywhere is packed. It’s fantastic to the scene. So we felt it was quite interesting to showcase how popular two sounds have become – when you’re in Ibiza, you’re playing very melodic trance, and the energy’s there and the tempo’s faster and there’s less vocal. But when you’re in Vegas, the music is a bit more commercial, because the crowd has only been listening to electronic music for a few years. There is a drop in tempo, and there is a different sound, and I enjoy playing both. They’re both very melodic, and they both represent what I do. To me, it’s one sound – it just elevates in terms of tempo, and that’s what I’ve tried to showcase on the CD.
And you’re also working on a new artist album, right?
Yeah, the artist album comes next year – I signed with Sony – and it’s called “Pop Killer, and it’s going really well. I’ve been doing some great collaborations and trying to find the next big stars. I really wanted to go and understand how you construct a song. It’s not like the world is waiting for a new Oakenfold album – there’s so much music out there – so I really wanted to spend time finding new great singers and collaborate with them, and I’m enjoying that. It’s taking certainly a lot longer than I thought it would, but you can’t just come up with great songs – it really is an art, and I’m learning that.
Any details on the new collaborations?
For sure – people like ZZ Ward, Wallpaper, Miguel, Azealia Banks, LP, Allen Stone, Ryan Tedder, Cee-Lo, Eve – so there are some really interesting known names and some underground names.
Will we hear any of it at LIV?
Yeah, the new track I’ve done with Azealia Banks [“Venus”] – it’s already gotten leaked to the radio, and it’s kind of blown up.
What inspired you to write for Cher?
Good question. I didn’t, actually. How that came about was, I wrote the song for my album, and I was kind of a bit uncomfortable with it, having a track on my album called “Woman’s World.” It just didn’t fit right on the record. So my publisher said, “I actually love the song, and Cher is looking for new songs,” and I was like, She’d be perfect for it. It’s a real empowerment record, it’s a struggle and a great subject matter for women, and someone like Cher would be a good person to put it out. And they came back and said yes. It was one of those wonderful moments that happen in life, and honestly I’m very lucky.
Will you break it out at LIV?
I have a mix I made for myself, and yeah, I’ve played it at a couple shows, and it’s gone down really well. LIV is a pretty commercial, straightforward room. You can’t move too far away from the radar, and that’s what I’ve found, so will I play it? I don’t know - I’ll be in the moment and just gauge the night.