Interview: Paul Oakenfold Talks Azealia Banks, DJ Top 100 List And Miguel, Cee-Lo Collabs


/ July 31, 2013

Paul Oakenfold is the OG producer-DJ you’d never see coming. The Englishman is a youthful 40-something (wink wink), with both the wit and wherewithal to steal your pretty young girlfriend right off your arm if you weren’t looking. Oakenfold’s label, Planet Perfecto, has been thriving for three decades, and he’s just released a compilation, “Planet Perfecto Volume Three: Vegas To Ibiza,” which he says is meant to show through music, “what Vegas is to America, Ibiza is to Europe.” As Paul readies himself for new collabs with elite artists such as Cee-Lo Green, Miguel and Eve, he finds time to serve up the latest edition of his backstory (from back in the day with Island Def Jam to touring Brazil this summer), along with some Tequila Sunrise cocktails.

VIBE: Tell us about your big collaboration with Azealia Banks, “Venus.” What’s it like to work with Ms. Banks?
Paul Oakenfold: That came about through her manager at the time, David Holmes. I was a friend of hers and liked what she was doing. David worked it out where we would get into the studios, and Red Bull was really good to give me the studio. They have a big complex over here in LA, so we worked on it and it’s come out really well.

Are there any other big female or male hip-hop/pop artists that you’re looking to work with right now?
Yeah, I’ve recorded with Miguel. I’ve done a track with Cee Lo [Green], which will be on the record. Have you ever come across George Watsky? He’s a white guy who can rap faster than Busta Rhymes. You should go on YouTube and check him out; I did a track with him. That’s mainly it in the urban world. I also spit out a track with Eve.

How did the Eve collab come about?
I was a fan of hers really. I wanted to touch on something that was from the period when I was really into hip-hop and she was really cutting edge at the time. So, I reached out to her and we’ve done a track, which has turned out really well. It’s kind of real offbeat, as well.

Tell us about your Island/Def Jam days. People might not know that you helped the Beastie Boys…
Also LL Cool J. I was the head of A&R for Profile Records in Europe, which is the label of Run DMC, and then I was also working as an independent promoter for Def Jam taking care of LL, Beasties, Public Enemy.

Can you share a wild memory?
Yeah, we put on a party for LL Cool J and the Beastie Boys, and we did really interesting thing to hype it all up; we gave all the English journalists tickets for the show and the show was in a small club that held only like 100 people. We also gave some tickets out to fans and deliberately gave different color tickets to the journalists so that they couldn’t get in. We didn’t tell them about [the tickets], and since they couldn’t get in they wrote about and hyped it up. They didn’t realize they weren’t going to get in the first place, so we ended up working this scam that worked so well. Both LL Cool J and The Beastie Boys got an amazing amount of press, and it was funny, because some of the press guys were saying they were in and we knew they weren’t. It’s a typical English thing to do actually.

You also have your new “Planet Perfecto Volume Three: Vegas To Ibiza.”
That’s more of a compilation based on what’s been going on. One sound is Ibiza, one sound is kind of Vegas. As you know, electronic music in America is becoming really popular, it’s only really commercial electronic music, but in Europe it’s much more of an underground sound. So the idea of the CD is to give you a taste of both.

So Vegas is commercial and Ibiza is underground?
Yeah. What Vegas is to America, Ibiza is to Europe, so it just made more sense.

In a way, is Ibiza just as commercial? Kaskade tweeted about that topic recently because Paris Hilton just got an Ibiza DJ residency.
I don’t know about the Paris Hilton situation, but there was always going to be more and more Americans going to Ibiza, and more DJs playing there. It’s just a natural progression really. But there are definitely two different sounds. The beat on that island is techno, technically trance, but in Vegas the biggest sound is more mainstream, commercial house.

You’re a candidate for a top spot on DJ Mag’s Top 100. Does that mean anything to you?
It does in a sense that when you’ve won you get that kind of support. It’s become quite a tough competition now, because it means a lot to everyone now. Before it seemed to be a lot more relaxed.

Can you describe the ‘Paul Oakenfold’ sound in three word at this moment?
Melodic uplifting music.

You actually have a degree from Columbia University’s Bartending School of Mixology. What is your favorite drink to make and why?
I really like Patron, so a Tequila Sunrise. It’s refreshing and you get a nice buzz.

Where will you be drinking Tequila Sunrise cocktails this summer?
I’m heading back to Europe to play a bunch of festivals, play various tracks from the album. Then I head to Rio in Brazil to play ‘Rockin’ Rio,’ back to America to play Burning Man, and straight to down Brazil to play ‘Rockin’ Rio’ festival. So, a lot of support for the record.

Do you have a thing for Brazil? Is it the place, the women, perhaps the wax?
I’ll let you know after the tour.