TuneAttic: find music, know music
TuneAttic: find music, know music
TuneAttic: find music, know music
TuneAttic: find music, know music
TuneAttic: find music, know music
TuneAttic: find music, know music
Paul Oakenfold

Paul Oakenfold is a pioneering trance DJ and producer from the UK.  From the earliest days of the club scene Oakenfold helped pioneer and shape the entire trance genre and during the 1990’s.  In the nougties he successfully reinvented himself as an electro-pop act whilst at the same time maintaining his club DJ role.

Paul Oakenfold  scales of success
Paul Oakenfold timeline
'Bullet In The Gun'
(Perfecto 1999)
'Perfecto Fluoro'
(Warner Music UK Ltd. 1996)
Glastonbury 1995

Early Years: 1990 to 2001

Paul Oakenfold started out as a soul DJ during the late 1970’s playing in a wine bar in Covent Garden in London.  But his music career proper started in America during the 1980’s where he was exposed to the emerging hip hop scene.  He started workin A&R for Champion Records where he was credited with signing pop hip hop acts such as DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, and Salt-n-Pepa. 

The pivotal moment in Oakenfold’s career though came with a trip to the Spanish Island of Ibiza in 1987 to celebrate his birthday along with the likes of Nicky Holloway and Danny Rampling.  Immersed in the Balearic sound and club culture of Ibiza Oakenfold and his companions returned to the UK determined to bring their Ibiza experience to London and in doing laid the foundations of the UK club scene.  Rampling set up the first Balearic rave club Shoom in Southwark in London while Oakenfold helped start the legendary acid house club Spectrum, held first at The Sanctuary and then later at the larger venue Heaven in Charing Cross, London. 

By 1988, with the acid house movement in full swing Oakenfold set up Perfecto Records which would become one of the most influential dance music imprints of the 1990’s.  He also started releasing his first tracks as part of the group Electra with, among others, his friend and long term production partner Steve Osborne.  Electra’s first release ‘Jibaro’(FFRR 1988) was pure piano driven Balearic pop, but the B-Side track ‘The Future’ shows the first glimpse of the trance sound that Oakenfold would make his own.  A Spanish guitar line is underpinned by a hypnotic acid bass line and sweeping oriental-esque arpeggios. 

Oakenfold’s big break came a year later, again with Osborne.  The pair worked with another pioneering UK DJ and producer Andrew Weatherall to remix two tracks for madcap indie band The Happy Mondays.  The two tracks ("Rave On" and "Hallelujah") were released on the Madchester Rave On EP (Factory 1989) and were the vanguard of the fusion of indie guitar music and acid house and rave that was emerging out of 1988’s ‘Summer of Love’ and beyond.   The Happy Mondays were so impressed with the results (and the accompanying commercial success) that Oakenfold and Osborne were brought back into produce the Mondays’ next album ‘Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches’ (Factory 1990) which went straight to the top of the UK album charts. Oakenfold and Osborne won the 1991 Brit Award for Best Producer for their efforts.  

The pair continued to remix under the alias Perfecto, including the 1992 remix of U2’s ‘Even Better Than The Real Thing’ (Island 1992) which charted higher than the original version and saw Oakenfold invited to tour with U2 on their Zoo TV world tour.  Osborne and Oakenfold eventually embarked on their own project Grace featuring various singers but mainly Dominique Atkins.  The Grace project combined Oakenfold trance sound with a commercial edge and poppy vocals.  The balance was well enough struck for Grace to appeal both to the charts and to dance floors and their debut single ‘Not Over Yet’ (Perfecto 1993) remains one of the definitive vocal trance tracks.

By 1994 Oakenfold’s sound had moved on substantially from his earlier Balearic sound, with the sound of Goa trance that he’d experienced in Goa beach parties becoming the dominant influence in his sound.  This darker, trancier and eastern sound was to shape his sound for the rest of the decade but in 1994 was almost unknown in the UK.  That year he recorded 2 BBC Radio 1 Essential mixes, the second of which became known as ‘The Goa Mix’ and is rightly recognized as one of the foundation stones of the trance genre.  Fusing dark Goa trance with orchestral pieces the mix was a tour de force that both broke new ground for trance and firmly put Oakenfold on the map.  The following year he became the first DJ to play on the main stage at Glastonbury and in 1996 released the mix compilation ‘Perfecto Fluoro’ (Warner Music UK Ltd. 1996) which was loosely based around his Radio 1 ‘Goa Mix’ (the actual Goa Mix was finally released in late 2010 as ‘The Goa Mix 2011’).

By the late nineties the superclub and superstar DJ era was in full swing and Oakenfold was by now arguably the world’s biggest DJ, as illustrated by being voted top place in the DJ Magazine Top 100 DJs in both 1998 and 1999. In 1998 he became a weekly resident DJ at the seminal Liverpool club Cream, then held at the venue Nation.  Oakenfold’s ‘Courtyard’ sets became part of trance folklore.  In 1999 he released the album ‘Resident. Two Years Of Oakenfold At Cream’ (Virgin 1999).  On finishing his Cream residency he became resident at new London superclub ‘Home’ though that residency too came to an end in 2001 when the club was closed down by the local council for drug related issues.

In 1999 Oakenfold released the anthemic vocal trance 'Bullet In the Gun' (Perfecto 1999) under the alias Planet Perfecto which proved to be his most successful release to date. He began to tour extensively in 1999 and 2000 including in America where a highlight was the 80,000 strong Cyberfest 2000 in Fresno, California.

In 2000 Oakenfold released the mix compilation 'Perfecto Presents Another World' (Sire Records Company 2000) which echoed the Goa Mix and ‘Perfecto Fluoro’ with tracks interspersed with classical music, opera vocals and movie dialogue. The album proved to be a commerical success.

'Southern Sun'
(Perfecto 2002)
'A Lively Mind'
(Perfecto 2006)
Creamfields 2004

Later Years: 2002 to present

In 2002 Oakenfold released his first original artist album ‘Bunkka’ (Perfecto 2002). The album showcased a wide range of styles, including Oakenfold’s original hip-hop influences but was clearly aimed at the commercial mainstream and succeeded in selling over a million copies, making it his most successful album to date.  The album featured numerous guest vocalists including Nelly Furtado and Ice Cube and spawned successful singles such as ‘Starry Eyed Surprise’ (Perfecto 2002) and ‘Ready, Steady, Go’ (Perfecto 2002) which was used on the soundtrack of the Bourne Identity.

In 2006 Oakenfold issued his second original artist album ‘A Lively Mind’ (Perfecto 2006).  While he had continued to pursue a more club focused sound with his mix compilations, ‘A Lively Mind’ saw Oakenfold return to the more commercial and more pop sound of ‘Bunkka’ as seen on the single ‘Faster Kill Pussycat’ (Perfecto 2006) featuring Brittany Murphy on vocals.   ‘A Lively Mind’ received 2 Grammy nominations.

In 2008 Oakenfold went on tour with Madonna on the Confessions Tour and worked on a number of film scores for TV and film including Californication and Speed Racer (he had recorded the score for Swordfish in 2001).

In 2010 Oakenfold gave up sole control of Perfecto Records and entered into a joint-venture agreement with Armin van Buuren’s Armada Music group.
Oakenfold is due to release his third original artist album ‘Pop Killer’ in mid-2011.

Paul Oakenfold is arguably the single most important figure in the emergence of trance music as a genre.  His genre defining mixes, DJ sets, productions and remixes provided the building blocks for an entire genre.  Oakenfold was at his peak during the mid to late nineties but reinvented himself in the noughties as a commercial electro-pop act.

Paul Oakenfold originally intended to become a professional chef and is a fan of Chelsea football club.