Paul Oakenfold Calls Himself "an Underground Guy Who Made It Overground"
Your headphones are drenched in sweat, lower back locked in the shape of an old office chair, and the crushed aluminum of too much guzzled taurine litters the space around your feet. Your heart pounds like a bass drum. It's 3 a.m., and the pulsating blood vessels in your eyeballs are red. You have an unblinking liquid crystal stare, and adrenal jitters betray the 19-hour studio session your body has endured. Plus, you stink. But the anthem to mayhem you've composed is beyond amazing; it's Earth-shattering. So you've burnt several CD copies of it for Paul Oakenfold, upended a bottle of Cool Water cologne over your greasy head, changed shirts, and clamped a pair of limo tint shades over your eyes before racing to the Hard Rock to hand it to the man who broke house music in the U.K. and took the uncompromising sound of trance around the world.
Oakenfold's career began in the late '70s playing funk records in a London barroom. In 1987, he took a birthday vacation to Ibiza, stayed out dancing like a maniac all night, and brought the Balearic island sound back to England like a souvenir. He invited over Spanish DJs and threw illegal after-hours parties of orgiastic excess. In time, Oakenfold locked down official club residencies that took him mainstream and led to worldwide tours with the likes of Madonna and U2 at venues like the Great Wall of China. In 1988, he formed Perfecto Records and has continually used the label not only as a vehicle to propel his own career but to launch new ones as well.
"I'm an underground guy who made it overground," he tells New Times. "With Perfecto Records, the key to what we're doing is to stay true to our roots in the underground. We're always looking for new talent. Anyone who has tracks they want me to hear, bring them to the club and hand them to me. Seriously. I once signed a Russian record like that called PPK, and it went on to sell 300,000 copies."
Oakenfold is fresh off a European tour and successive gigs in Dubai, L.A., and Canada but says of South Florida: "I've been going there for many years. It's always been a focal point for electronic music in America, with a great crowd."
The sounds of South Florida have influenced him too. Specifically, music by a couple of West Palm Beach locals with worldwide hits on TK Records. "Jimmie Bo Horne, what's that song he had, 'Spank'? I loved that song back in the day. Gwen McCrae too."
Beyond playing live and releasing new music, Oakenfold maintains a strong presence on the airwaves.
"It's important to have radio support and always will be," he says. "And the American market is important to the industry. A lot of eyes are always on it."
What's the most important station to get heard on in the U.S.? "A lot of the electronic music lives on the Sirius channels," Oakenfold says. And which is the most important satellite show to get heard on? "Mine."
So between the point where you write the world's next "Harlem Shake" and hand it to Oakenfold at the club, make sure to get your business right. "Once you write a song, you register the publishing; then you get money after it's been played." So there you have it: Make the best track you can, copyright it properly, and get it to Oakenfold at Gryphon. One day, when someone asks how much it costs to book you, you can say what he says: "Too much. That's a question for my agent."
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