On the record:
Time Out Chicago: Are you an American DJ now?
Paul Oakenfold: I’ve lived in Los Angeles for three years. I consider this my home; America is my home, without a doubt. I’m very comfortable here. I love the lifestyle, I love how Americans are positive. We as English, we’re negative people. If you do well in America, they pat you on the back and say “Well done.” If you do well in England, they’ll fucking slag you off. They just wanna pull you down. I don’t know why we do that. We’re a great little country. But America for me is my home and I mainly deejay in America. I don’t travel near as much. So yeah, I consider this my home.
TOC: How long did it take to make your new album, A Lively Mind?
PO: Two and a half years. The last album had loads of names on it; I lost my balance a bit. I recorded with Nelly Furtado before she was a star. This album has only got three stars on it: Brittany [Murphy], Pharrel [Williams] and [Grandmaster] Flash. All the other singers are unknown. I spent a year going to bars and clubs trying to find great singers. I found this band called the Bad Apples, an electronic rock band, that were great and did a track with them. And I found a guy called Spitfire outside a Starbuck’s in Malibu playing his guitar, and was like, “Your voice is fucking great! Have you got any CDs?” He gave me a CD, and I got him in to audition for me.
TOC: The new album is a bit stronger than your last, Bunkka.
PO: Well it’s a bit more uptempo. That was a conscious decision. [Bunkka] told different stories. This album has a lot more continuity. The last album sold more than a million copies worldwide, so I’m like, Do I change it or keep to a winning formula? “Starry-Eyed Surprise” was top ten in 30 countries. So I thought, What do I do? I felt that I wanted to make a record that was more dance-floor–friendly because in all honesty, that’s where I come from.
TOC: How did you find out that Brittany Murphy could sing?
PO: From a mutual friend. I said, “Why don’t we try it and see how it sounds?” We got her in the studio and I was like, “Wow, this girl can sing.” If she wants to make a record and have me do some production on it, I will. I’ll help her out; she’s a friend.
TOC: You’ve worked in many different aspects of the music business.
PO: I never see any boundaries or borders in music. I’ve never understood why people say they only do dance, or hip-hop or rock. Why? I worked in hip-hop. I’ve remixed more rock records than dance records. I signed Fresh Prince. I signed Salt-n-Pepa, I worked with Run-D.M.C., I’ve run Def Jam. I just see it as music.
TOC: Will you play more house at your Chicago gig?
PO: No. The most surprising thing about Chicago and Detroit is that you would think because their roots are in house and techno that they’d want that. The youth don’t want that. They don’t give a fuck about that. They want to go and have a great time and they want energy. The older crowd want the house, the youth don’t.—John Dugan
Paul Oakenfold plays at Wet Monday 10.