paul oakenfold

The DJ, producer and remixer who did more to break house music in Britain during the late '80s than anyone else, Paul Oakenfold hosted crucial club-nights which introduced thousands of Brits to house music during 1987-88, helped push the style into the charts by master-minding hit productions by Happy Mondays and others, and formed one of the most successful dance labels of the 1990s, Perfecto Records. He is, quite simply, the world's most popular DJ. Born in London in 1963, Oakenfold began DJing at the age of 16, and hooked up with a friend named Trevor Fung to play soul and rare-groove at a basement bar in Covent Garden. He spent some time in New York during the late '70s, working for Arista Records and soaking up the disco scene through Larry Levan's genre-spanning sets at the Paradise Garage. Back in England by the early '80s, he worked as a club promoter and British agent for the Beastie Boys and Run-D.M.C. He continued DJing as well, and eventually ended up at the Project in 1985-86, one of the first venues for house music in England. With Fung and another friend named Ian St. Paul, Oakenfold was introduced to the exploding club-scene on the vacation island of Ibiza (near the coast of Spain) during 1987 and imported the crucial mix of house, soul, Italian disco and alternative music later dubbed the Balearic style.

During 1988-89, house music and the Balearic style gestated at several Oakenfold-run club nights (Future at the Sound Shaft, then Spectrum and Land of Oz at Heaven) before emerging above terra firma as a distinctly British entity. Oakenfold and Steve Osborne had been working with new dance converts Happy Mondays, and their production for the 1989 Happy Mondays' single "(W.F.L.) Wrote for Luck" was voted Dance Record of the Year by the NME. The duo's production for the Happy Mondays' break-out full-length Pills 'n' Thrills 'n' Bellyaches placed them squarely in the vaunted territory of other new dance producers like Andrew Weatherall (who achieved similar success with Primal Scream's Screamadelica from the same year). Soon, major labels were lining up to have Oakenfold and Osborne remix their biggest pop stars including U2, Simply Red, New Order, the Cure, Massive Attack, M People, Arrested Development, the Shamen, the Stone Roses and even Snoop Doggy Dogg (some as Perfecto, the combination remix service and RCA-connected record label founded by the pair in 1990). The Oakenfold/Osborne team were nominated by BPI as Best Producers from 1990 to 1993.

By the mid-'90s, dance music had reached the mainstream of British radio and culture, with Paul Oakenfold at the front of a new wave of globe-trotting DJs; he toured with U2 and supported live gigs by INXS, the Orb, Simply Red, Boy George and Primal Scream. On Britain's ever-growing club circuit, he inaugurated the London super-club Ministry of Sound early in the 1990s and became a resident at Britain's other super-club, Liverpool's Cream, instead of taking big money for independent gigs. He also cut down his remix schedule to less than five per year, concentrating instead on the release of half-a-dozen mix albums, including several volumes in the Journeys by DJ series. Oakenfold left Cream in 1999, after which Virgin commemorated the occasion with the release of Resident: Two Years of Oakenfold at Cream.



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