Imagine what this dance music life would be like without the daring ditties crafted up by legendary UK turntable mastermind, Mr. Paul Oakenfold? Quite frankly, things just wouldn’t be the same.
A globally renowned DJ, remixer and producer who brought the house music heat in Britain during the late ’80s, Mr. Oakenfold has certainly paved the way for pretty much every single DJ out there who has dared to follow him. After hosting a series of explosive club nights that introduced thousands of Brits to a new, rocked out kind of house music, the icon helped push the new dance crossover into the mainstream overseas charts by cooking up a buffet of hit productions by Happy Mondays (and many, many others), and forming one of the most successful dance labels of the 1990s, Perfecto Records.
Born in London in 1963, Oakenfold began his DJ career at the age of 16, linking up with bestie Trevor Fung to play soul and rare grooves at dark, dingy basement bars in his hometown. The DJ also got to experience NYC life during his teenage years, working for Arista Records and reveling in the disco scene that was brought forth by Larry Levan‘s genre-spanning sets at the infamous Paradise Garage. By the time he returned to England in his early-’20s, he began werk as a club promoter and British agent for the Beastie Boys and Run-D.M.C. He also continued DJ’ing, eventually ending up at the Project, one of the first venues for house music in England. With Fung and another friend named Ian St. Paul by his music side, Oakenfold was then introduced to the exploding club scene on the vacation island of Ibiza and was deeply influenced by the tropical mixes of house, soul, Italian disco, and alternative music which was later dubbed the Balearic style.
Once Oakenfold began to use the Balearic style at several of his club nights, he teamed up with another music bud, Steve Osborne, to create a new dance convert called Happy Mondays, and the dazzling duo watched their first single, “(W.F.L.) Wrote for Luck,” win Dance Record of the Year by NME. Their first full-length set, Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches, further catapulted them to success, and soon, major labels were literally lining up to have Oakenfold and Osborne remix their biggest pop stars, including U2, Simply Red, New Order, the Cure, M People, Arrested Development, and even Mr. Snoop Doggy Dogg.
By the mid-’90s, dance music had reached all sorts of mainstream heights, and Oakenfold stormed to the front of a new wave of globetrotting DJs; he toured with U2 and supported live gigs by INXS, Boy George, and several others. Even on the UK’s expanding club circuit, he inaugurated the London super club Ministry of Sound early in the 1990s and became a resident at Britain’s other superclub, Liverpool’s Cream. It should also be noted that Oakenfold preferred the resident gigs instead of taking big money for independent gigs because he just enjoyed the UK scene that much. Really, it’s all about that music love and Mr. Paul has certainly proved he’s got it for everyone.
In the early-’00s, Oakenfold expanded his US popularity, crafting up the soundtrack for the John Travolta/Halle Berry film, Swordfish, as well as a slew of his own Perfecto Presents…sets. (The Club, anyone?) Soon, Vegas came calling which lead to him him producing the title cut to Madonna’s second greatest hits collection, Celebration. Now, that’s some career, isn’t it?
Now, any DJ knows that we could absolutely get lost in Oakenfold’s destructive catalog for days, but there will always be one song that heads straight to the top of the Oakenfold set list-“Faster Kill Pussycat,” a roaring, scratching track that co-stars the dearly departed, Brittany Murphy. While it was released over a decade ago, “Pussycat” still hold the the pinnacle of what DJ Oakenfold is all about-creating classic grooves that take you on a timeless ride well into the night. And that’s the best Paul part of it all.