Feature:
Paul Oakenfold

It's got to be a loose fit...

Platforms had returned to earth and people were beginning to live with the height god had given them. Mirror Balls were taking their last turn as punk was turning all two tone. All this and the one DJ who would later turn the world eclectic was learning his craft in the small clubs that scattered the West End of London.

Ask yourself the question..."What would the World be like today had we not experienced the touch of Paul Oakenfold?"

It's true that Lennon & McCartney would still have crossed Abbey Road, Presley would still have eaten his way through the gross national product of Argentina in 1977 and Margaret Thatcher would still have been a woman. But without the Oakenfold touch we still may've been dancing along to the tunes of Mr. Stock, Aitkin and Waterman (scrub the latter!). U2 would not have reinvented the seventies and Bez might not have discovered his talent for walking forwards slightly and then returning in a backwards motion. But seriously British dance culture, albeit the World, or Ibiza at least, might not have taken the route it has.

All this and time that has crossed 2 centuries and Paul Oakenfold has not until now recorded an album that has adopted his own name. Certainly he had recorded probably the greatest album not to, that in the guise of Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches, but his was only a production credit, alongside that of partner in crime, Steve Osbourne. Just how different it might have been had he not been discovered hosting 'Baleric' club nights in London is one question we will never know the answer to, but the 'Mad' may not have been put into 'Manchester' and baggy may have come to mean something different entirely (the fact it already does should be overlooked at this point!).

Returning to the very beginning, or at least one where Paul's growing reputation in his adopted profession as DJ, had led to him to climb another rung on the ladder. He became A&R man at the UK based Champion Records and was soon shaping not just his small corner of the music industry, but the world no less, in signing a Fresh Prince by the name of Will Smith. Salt 'n' Pepa followed and from Champion Paul then moved to the offices of Profile and Def Jam.

His priorities then reverted to his first love and concentrations were funneled into his career as DJ. The Spanish island of Ibiza was never to be the same again as Paul was among the first DJs to craft what was to become the epicentre of European summer youth culture. This time, the late eighties and early nineties were to see Paul bring his 'Balearic' sounds across the channel and fuel a crossover of acts that attracted rock bands like the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays among others to adopt the Oakenfold/Osbourne partnership in lending a little magic to their burgeoning sounds.

This skill of engineer, re-mixer and producer was to see artists like U2, turn from being the archetypal unwashed rock band, to one that would adopt the spinning balls, platform heels and glitter of a former era, but this time round doing it with style and panache. He was called in to work on a remix of the already hit single 'Even Better Than The Real Thing', a version that was released it's own right, achieving even higher chart status than the groups original. It was around this time that determined to control his own destiny, Paul launched his own record label, Perfecto, but soon became not just a platform to bring the sounds of Oakenfold to the greater public, but also one that would encourage talents such as the European DJ talents of Timo Maas and Hernan Cattaneo.

When it comes to teaching your 'Grandmother to suck eggs', Paul has also got this down to a tee, re-mixing the work of groups like Arrested Development, Snoop Doggy Dogg and even the queen of reinvention, Madonna. All this and being able to lay claim to the fact that you are 'probably the greatest DJ in the World' (now surely there's got to be a sponsorship in that one!), brings us to the summer of 2002 and June the 18th when Paul will unleash the first record that will adopt his own name on the cover and reveal a vision all his own.

It is with the hindsight of his previous work that will lend a clue to what you will experience here. From the Baleric sounds that he brought this side of the channel, to the rock oriented strings of today's music multimillionaires among so many others, influences far and wide have been pillaged in creating 'Bunkka', a dance album that will truly epitomise the term 'crossover'. It is by his own admission that Oakenfold is no singer, and so contributing talents from the likes of Asher D of So Solid Crew, rub shoulders with Emiliana Torrini and the not so familiar, for a dance album at least, likes of Perry Farrell from Jane's Addiction's and Grant Lee Phillips of LA's Grant Lee Buffalo.

It is perhaps this that makes this album a such a difficult one to get your head round. With music coming from so far and wide, producing an album that will work from track to track has to be considered an almost impossible task and this is perhaps where Mr. Oakenfold may have bitten off more than he can chew. I have no hesitation in comparing this with so much of his previous work, as the work of a genius, sounds that seem to defy the boundaries of what was at first considered possible. However as a full length product, might seem a little less than precise and almost untidy in its presentation. This is something that 'Bunkka' may need to work on before I and maybe others can learn to accept, but certainly from the man who brought us the 'Madchester Rave On EP', through U2 with a twist to all the Perfecto releases that grace so many a budding DJ's deck, Paul Oakenfold may just have brought us the first original compilation of music from a thousand artists imaginations.

Nick James

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