In an electronic music sphere dominated by hugely famous DJs in their 20s, it’s refreshing to hear some old-school wisdom from a true veteran of the genre. UK DJ Paul Oakenfold is widely considered as one of the most influential and important figures of trance music.
Between an absurd touring schedule for close to 20 years and a slew of commercially successful records, he’s earned the right to choose his own path. That path has recently taken him on a mission to recreate the vibes and melodic structures of classic trance tracks with a tour called Trance Mission. We had a chance to chat with Oakenfold about the tour, his upcoming album Pop Killer, and the state of electronic music. Oakenfold performs at Ruby Skye on October 26.
In the recent Billboard article discussing your new tour and album, you mentioned a desire to take trance “deeper.” What does that mean to you?
More clubs. Stripped down, no big production, just myself, music, and the crowd. I want to educate people about a new, melodic style and also play a few of the old classics from 10 to 15 years ago. We’re working on a project to freshen them up with today’s production [techniques].
As dance music has gotten more traditional, many North Americans have been the stereotypical uneducated crowd.
That’s exactly why we’re doing it. It’s very difficult to get out of a certain sound here. If you try it, you get these negative reactions because they don’t know what it is. It’s understandable, that’s the idea behind the project—it’s more education this time around than entertainment.
What are characteristics of those older songs that people might not be familiar with?
Well, I’m not going to be playing older sounds. It’s very current, it’s new, it’s just stuff you haven’t heard before. The classic tracks that I’m going to take, I’m not remixing them, I’m doing a whole new production. I’m basically covering. Even the lead line that you may know from one of these old tracks will be replayed. Technology has moved on in a tremendous way.
In the past couple of years we’ve seen house and trance come together a lot, do you think that as people become familiar with more traditionally underground genres of dance music we’ll see trance artists collaborating with other subgenres?
I hope so! Good question, who knows. I mean collaborations come out of just hanging out backstage and friendships develop.
You’ve been DJing for decades and you’ve seen dance music go from being purely underground to constantly dominating the Billboard Top 10. How does that affect touring? How do you approach a tour differently now?
You always approach a tour in terms of music a different way. On the upcoming tour there will be very minimal production. There’s no big show, like usually. The idea is to strip it down. It’s new music and in small venues.
How does the crowd react differently to that kind of show versus a big festival?
I think they feel more connected. They realize you’re going to go on much more of a journey and you’re going to touch on non–commercial music.
So you have this new album Pop Killer coming out in 2014—it seems like there are a few unorthodox choices for collaborations.
Pop Killer is exactly the same as my last two albums, which were great songs with great singers. What’s changed is that house music is pop music now. I think the album will be received more as a pop record. It’s not a trance record and my last two aren’t either.
What kind of genres do you see emerging out of these new combinations in the next few years?
That’s the wonderful thing about electronic music, there’s always something new coming along. Let’s see what happens. Who would have thought trap or big room would have been huge? There’s always something new coming.
Going back to the other end of the timeline, when you started DJing funk what began to attract you to trance and dance music?
First and foremost the feeling I got. I’d have to say that was the starting point and it just evolved from there.