Big-time British producer and trance DJ Paul Oakenfold is no stranger to triumph. The iconic artist began making waves in the electronic scene in the late 80s and his influence subsequently stretched to make a mark on the small Spanish island of Ibiza (You may have heard of it). Since then his tracks, whether they be international hits or modern classics have all left a huge impression on the scene, entrenching his position as one of the worlds most influential DJ’s.
The artist not only boasts a colossal back catalogue of hits but he also owns a wildly successful record label. Perfecto Records has gone from strength to strength in its 25 years, and signed some of the worlds biggest electronic artists including Carl Cox, Paul Van Dyke, Tiesto, David Guetta and Infected Mushroom to name just a few.
Oakenfold is notoriously bad at interviews, in fact in an interview with Vice in 2013 he told the man questioning him that he “hated them.” The man is hard to tease information from, a sad fact giving his influence and history in dance music. He is someone that in many ways holds the keys to the kingdom for young artists looking to break in the industry.
Paul Oakenfold at Sunburn Festival India 2015. Photo: Facebook.
It’s not that he doesn’t want to give back, quite the contrary in fact. As one of four mentors of the DJ Camp at LA Recordings he is set to teach eager young minds many of the ropes needed to make it in the industry. He might not know how to become the next Hardwell, but he does know a thing or two about giving producers the best chance at getting a career in music.
Through his involvement in the explosion of acid house and indie dance, as well as his pioneering UK house and trance tracks, Paul Oakenfold has made a massive contribution to the electronic music landscape. All this experience has given him the skills to succeed in the modern music business whether you rate him or not. We sat down to absorb some of that wisdom.
Once Paul Oakenfold's roadie and opener, Carl Cox would go on to become internationally recognised as one of the godfathers of house music. Photo: Supplied.
When charting 25 years of anything it so easy to look at the differences between then and now but are there elements of electronic music that really hasn't changed - ideas and concepts that are universal in your opinion? I think the music still excites people and they still live and breathe it. We’re pushing the scene forward in different ways today from social media to the genres that are springing up. But it’s important to continue looking forward and we retain a strong creativity within our scene.
Does the same go for the music business as a whole? No. The business has become all about money and sadly creativity has gone out the window. It’s very, very difficult now to make a living.
How has technology and the Internet changed the way you create, brand and sell music today. Speed immediately springs to mind for me. The speed at which things can be made is almost unsettling? It’s way to easy now for anyone to put out any music. Its a catch 22 as that means there is way more bad music but also a real talented kid can become big with one record
What do think the role of a label is today. So many artists seem to be releasing music under their own banners, even before they have released anything sometimes - is there still value in working with a team? There is always value when working with a team. It’s very tough out there. The role is to nurture and find new talented artists.
Perfecto has brought many names to the table including the likes of Timo Maas, Plump DJs, Arthur Baker, Tiësto, Astrix and David Guetta to name just a few. What is it like seeing these artists grow from where you sit? It is great to see that. That was the whole idea of signing them. I signed Carl Cox when he was a soundman at my club The Project. I had him open for me and signed his biggest record. A proud moment for our label.
What factors do you think you need to consider as an artist breaking into the scene. Is there some Perfecto tried and tested wisdom they should be factoring into their 'plan'? I think the modern day DJ and producer has to understand many things. For this reason I’ve just started a DJ Camp at the LA Recording School. We bring in talented people from the industry to speak to the students, give them advice and really show them what they need to succeed in the electronic music industry. It is a great opportunity for me to give back to the electronic music community and take the time to teach and mentor students who have an interest in an industry that I’ve so proudly been a part of all these years. For me, the chance to make a difference in the careers of budding new artists is something I’ve always wanted to do, and providing this education is truly a dream for me.
And this is what he teaches them.
Paul Oakenfold’s secrets to success
1. The Art of the Mix (DJ'ing 101)
2. In-studio Production (Breaking it down)
3. Publishing, Marketing
4. Social Media
6. Agents and Management
No longer is musical talent alone a prerequisite for success. In fact being a good businessman is a major part of being able to sell the services you provide as an entertainer. In this way Paul says that learning to be a DJ is about more than just the music, it’s the business behind the music which encompasses:
1. The history of DJing and the scene we live in today
2. Understanding the basic principles of dance music and song structure
3. Understanding DJ equipment, signal flow and terminology
4. How to operate 2 CDJ’s or 2 turntables in conjunction with a DJ mixer
5. Understanding pitch and speed
6. The secret art of beat mixing
7. Utilising the art of EQ
8. Using in built FX units
9. How to create a recorded DJ mix demo
10. How to effectively Promote, Brand and Network to achieve a public profile and ultimately gigs
Of course these are the basics and are aimed at people with little or no experience behind the decks. But as tune ups are en vogue right now you can also hit up Mike Henderson aka ENDO who has helped tweak the skills of the biggest names in the business.
The Electronic Music Academy “DJ Camp” heads to the Ivar Theatre at The Los Angeles Recording School, May 28 to June 1, 2015. For more information head over to the website.