For the past 30-plus years, Paul Oakenfold has remained in the vanguard of the global electronic music community. With more than 110 million streams collectively, over 5 million albums sold worldwide, three GRAMMY nominations and more awards and accolades than you can count, Oakenfold is one of the industry’s most revered and most successful artists—ever. Hailed as the “Godfather of electronic music,” he’s been voted the world’s best DJ twice by DJ Mag , named the most influential DJ of all time by the London Evening Standard and recognized as the world’s most successful DJ by Guinness World Records. His hands-on involvement in the foundational establishment, international popularization and ongoing evolution of modern dance music spans nearly four decades.
Of course, Oakenfold is never one to rest on past laurels. For every chart he’s topped, for every world record he’s shattered, he is always looking ahead to what is next in the wider pop music canon. Today, his creative legacy lives on as he continues to push the envelope via game-changing performances and projects. Already, he’s performed at exotic locales, like the Great Wall of China in 2003, and from within a 1000-year-old rainforest in Ushuaia, Argentina, the latter of which is recognized as the southernmost city in the world; iconic venues, including the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, where he sold out two dates, in 2003 and again in 2007, and played in front of 30,000 people; and world-class festivals like Coachella and Glastonbury, where he became the first DJ to play the mainstage at both events.
Expanding his international creative footprint, Oakenfold has launched several global, first-of-a-kind performances that take his high-energy sets into the world’s most awe-inspiring locations. In April 2017, he and a crew set out on a 10-day hike to reach the top of the base camp of Mount Everest, which is recognized as Earth's highest mountain above sea level, standing at a staggering 17,600 feet above ground. There, he performed a once-in-a-lifetime DJ set, which is today recognized as the “highest party on Earth” and solidifies Oakenfold as the first DJ to perform atop the sacred mountain.
Following the rare performance, Oakenfold released Mount Everest: The Base Camp Mix (February 2018, New State Music), a full-length album mix that captures his Mount Everest set in full. In addition to the album, he will soon release Soundtrek Everest , a brand-new documentary chronicling Oakenfold’s momentous Mount Everest expedition, a journey two years in the making, that also recognizes the local Nepalese music scene and culture.
Furthermore, Oakenfold helped raise money via his Everest trip for four charities—including Himalayan Trust and Supporting Nepal's Children, both of which assist survivors of the 2015 earthquake that devastated Nepal—as well as a number of UK groups, including Youth Music and the Mayor's New Music Fund.
“The most exciting part about this project is that it pushes me creatively,” Oakenfold says in the Soundtrek Everest trailer. “At this stage in my life, it’s important for me to have a challenge, to be pushed physically and mentally.” The same goes for all of his unique musical journeys, which Oakenfold plans to expand in the near future.
In September 2018, he became the first-ever artist to perform at Stonehenge, one of the world's most famous landmarks and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Sparking the awe and admiration of fans around the world and global media outlets alike, the groundbreaking gig is now recognized as one of the most iconic moments in all of dance music history. As well, Oakenfold recently celebrated the legendary occasion via his newly released Sunset at Stonehenge mix album (February 2019, New State Music), which captures the historic DJ set. Oakenfold’s Stonehenge set also doubled as a charity effort: he donated proceeds generated from Sunset at Stonehenge , as well as “ Stonehenge ,” a brand-new Oakenfold original inspired by and named after the beloved monument that’s featured on the album, to English Heritage, the charity that manages Stonehenge and more than 400 historic sites across England.
Most recently, Oakenfold performed at the opening ceremony of the 2019 Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, in March 2019. In addition to the performance, he also remixed the Games’ official theme song, “Right Where I'm Supposed To Be” from world-renowned pop stars Ryan Tedder, Avril Lavigne, and Luis Fonsi, alongside international artists Hussain Al Jassmi, Assala Nasri and Tamer Hosny.
A prolific recording artist, Oakenfold’s lauded discography—three full-length studio albums, multiple live and compilation albums, countless singles, remixes and rave classics, and more than 20 DJ mix albums—is as expansive as it is diverse. He counts two GRAMMY nominations for his solo work—twice nominated for Best Electronic/Dance Album for Creamfields in 2005 and again in 2007 for A Lively Mind —and a third nomination, for Best Dance Recording in 2010, for his production work on Madonna’s international hit “Celebration.”
Beyond his solo work, Oakenfold has written for, produced for and remixed virtually every superstar artist of the past four decades. His extensive list of collaborators includes everyone from Cher and The Happy Mondays to U2 and Madonna; famously, the latter two artists handpicked Oakenfold to deliver his world-famous DJ sets on their respective tours in lieu of an opening band. As a remixer, Oakenfold counts more than 100 groundbreaking remixes for over 100 artists, including U2, Madonna, Michael Jackson, The Rolling Stones, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Moby, Massive Attack, The Cure, New Order and Elvis Presley, among many others.
Oakenfold is currently working on his newest project, Shine On. As his fourth full-length artist album, Shine On sees the master producer/artist expanding into new sounds and will feature cross-genre collaborations with today’s leading pop luminaries, including Luis Fonsi, CeeLo Green and more.
Having already conquered the dance and pop music space, Oakenfold set his sights on Hollywood. Following a relocation from London to Los Angeles in 2002, he began to work on film scores for major blockbuster movies. Of note, he produced the original soundtrack for Swordfish (2001), which won him a BMI Film Music Award in 2002, as well as the music score production for the 2007 Japanese CGI anime film Vexille . He’s also contributed music to scores and cues for breakout films like The Bourne Identity (2002), The Matrix Reloaded (2003), Shrek 2 (2004), Collateral (2004), The Heavy (2010) and others. Additionally, he’s produced and contributed music to major TV series, including Big Brother, Showtime’s Californication and Transformers Cybertron , as well as video game franchises like Frequency.
On the touring front, Oakenfold continues to push the limits of club and festival culture far beyond dance floor norms, launching live performance concepts that have forever changed the face of electronic music. He single-handedly pioneered the DJ residency formula that has dominated the Las Vegas club market and the larger North American clubbing circuit with his Paul Oakenfold Presents: Perfecto Las Vegas series. Originally launched in 2008 at Rain Nightclub at the Palms Casino Resort, the weekly Perfecto Las Vegas shows were fully produced spectacles featuring live theatrical performers, cutting-edge visuals and special effects. Today, the residency concept is credited with transforming the Las Vegas “dance scene from Top 40 pop to electronic rhythms and superstar DJs” ( Las Vegas Sun ) and forging “the template that would ultimately give way to megastar DJs making six figures and gracing billboards along the Vegas Strip” ( LA Weekly ). Elsewhere, the residency spawned Oakenfold’s 2009 Perfecto: Vegas mix album, which held the #1 spot on the US iTunes dance chart for several weeks and became the highest-selling DJ compilation in American history at the time of its release, with over half a million sales.
As the owner of his independent imprint, Perfecto Records, and its various sub-labels, Oakenfold has shaped the dance music industry on a global scale via the label’s forward-thinking artists and releases. Founded in 1989, Perfecto has been integral in the birth of trance music and the overall development of electronic music as an international movement. Perfecto, today distributed by Black Hole Recordings, has released influential albums and singles from dance music’s biggest artists, including Carl Cox, BT and Sandra Collins. Perfecto celebrated its 25-year anniversary in 2015 with the release of 25 Years of Perfecto Records, a compilation album, mixed by Oakenfold himself, that traces the label’s history and sonic evolution. And now, Oakenfold celebrates 30 impactful years of Perfecto, with upcoming plans for special projects currently in the works. With more than 10 million record sales to date, Perfecto looks ahead to the next 30 years of its history as it leads the future of dance music via a class of fresh, young talents and exciting new releases.
Oakenfold’s long-winding journey through music is the stuff of modern-day dance music lore. The birth of Perfecto and the overarching rise of Oakenfold’s skyrocketing career is inextricably linked with two life-changing trips dating back to the ‘80s. After years of making a name for himself as a local tastemaker DJ in his native London, where he’d spin late-'70s funk and soul in a Covent Garden wine bar, he packed his bags and jetted to New York City. He’d soon make his mark on the US music industry as an up-and-coming A&R man with hungry ears and a finger on the pulse. As part of the London-based indie label Champion Records, he famously signed DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, aka Will Smith, and Salt-N-Pepa, in addition to becoming a promoter and British agent for the Beastie Boys and Run-DMC.
The second trip, a seminal moment in Oakenfold’s then-nascent career, came in 1987, when he, alongside a group of close friends and future DJ and creative associates, visited Ibiza for a weeklong birthday vacation. There, he discovered the Balearic sounds and hedonistic nightlife that are characteristic of the White Isle. He’d then take the music and spirit of Ibiza back to the UK, where he became one of the nation’s earliest electronic music ambassadors and established some of the country’s first and most legendary parties and residencies, including Spectrum at Heaven and Future. His work during the early days of UK rave music and culture, with acid house in particular, in the late ‘80s were “instrumental in raising the profile of dance music and DJs” ( Resident Advisor ) on a national scale. He celebrated that golden age of early dance and rave music via Summer of Love (July 2018, New State Music), a three-part compilation mix album commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Second Summer Of Love phenomenon, the latter of which Oakenfold spearheaded and soundtracked during the late-‘80s in the UK. In addition to holding residencies at Ibiza megaclubs Amnesia and Pacha, he became the first resident at global clubbing institution Ministry of Sound in London and served as an in-demand resident DJ at UK superclub Cream in Liverpool; the latter residency inspired Oakenfold’s 2004 GRAMMY-nominated DJ mix album Creamfields , named after Cream’s annual offshoot festival.
During every major development in the history of electronic music, Paul Oakenfold has played a pivotal role, from the initial spark on dance floors the world over to the mainstage festival spectacles of today. A boundary-pushing multi-hyphenate—DJ, producer, recording artist, remixer, label head and film soundtrack and score producer—Oakenfold is the forefather of modern dance music culture and its most prominent figure. His creative touch is omnipresent, his influence on the sound and scene is ever-lasting and his global impact on the industry is immeasurable.
—John Ochoa, July 2019
(Photo credit: Scott Ramsay)