I had the pleasure of speaking with iconic DJ, producer and Perfecto Records founder Paul Oakenfold about his journey and the story behind the latest commemorative release from his label: 25 Years of Perfecto.
[ORSVP] As an A&R man, producer and DJ, you have an ear for music. You signed DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince along with Salt-n-Pepa to Champion Records back in the 80’s. You represented Run DMC and The Beastie Boys across the pond shortly thereafter. You’ve made hits, launched careers and released monumental tracks over your past thirty years in the music industry. It might be tough to verbalize, but what can you say that speaks to a track having that “it” factor, where you hear it and you just feel that it’s something you have to work into your set or bring to your label?
[Paul Oakenfold] That’s a good question. What I’m looking for – both as a producer and an A&R man is a killer hook, big melody, amazing lyrics and vocalist – an overall arrangement that not only flows but has the ability to reach out to you on an emotional level.
The irony of Perfecto’s remix of U2’s Even Better Than The Real Thing charting higher than the actual Even Better Than The Real Thing in 1992 isn’t lost on me. How did it feel when that happened? Bono must have liked what he heard, because he invited you to open for them the following year. You’ve had a pretty illustrious career with many definitive moments, but would you say the success of that track and what came of it was when you felt you’d “made it” as an artist in your own right?
I was already having a lot of success at the time this record came about, but there’s no doubt that this release, along with several other remixes I did during that period – all played a role in taking things to the next level.
25 Years of Perfecto is a genre, mood and decade-spanning compilation of tracks that came out on March 20th. I read in the press release there was heated debate among you and the Perfecto team about which tracks to include – what’s a track or two you argued in favor of, that ultimately didn’t make the cut? Here’s your chance to stick it to them.
(laughs) Well it was annoying we couldn’t have Izit “Stories”, as that was the first release we ever put out on Perfecto – but there we’re some licensing issues which prevented us from using that. Other ones we really wanted to include because of the story they told or the period in Perfecto’s history they represented included Jazzy M’s “Jazzin The Way You Know”. There were several Dope Smugglers and Grace tracks and of course there were numerous BT releases… It’s just a sad fact that when you are restricted by an 80 minute long audio CD – sacrifices had to be made. But I still think even with Izit not on there – we made the right choices and Perfecto fans new and old should be happy with it.
Now that you’ve finished the unfathomable task of narrowing down the extensive Perfecto back catalogue to 34 tracks, I’m going to take it a step further: if you had to pick just ONE of those 34 tracks to entice people to check out 25 Years, which would it be and why?
Wow – now that’s an impossible task. It was hard enough getting 25 years of music down to 34 tracks and now you want me to get 25 years of releases into just one record? You’ve got to at least allow me to pick six.
I’ll allow it.
PPK “ResuRection”, Grace “Not Over Yet” (Perfecto Mix), “Southern Sun”, “Bullet in The Gun” (Saturday Mix), BT “Loving You More” and Jan Johnston “Flesh” (Tiesto Mix). And to answer why? I would say they are the main signature Perfecto titles that get referenced.
Speaking of, the Tiesto remix of Jan Johnston’s Flesh is nasty in all the best ways. At almost 14 years old, it’s a trance classic with a timeless sound – I’d hear it at a show today and love it just as much as the 18-year-olds hearing it for the first time. How’d that remix come about?
As a massive fan of Tij’s I knew he was the man to make something special with this song – so we asked and he said yes – it really was that simple.
Speaking of timeless classics, I’m not ashamed to admit I discovered you when I heard Starry Eyed Surprise back in 2002. I still listen to it. That’s a statement, not a question, I just wanted you to know…
Well that’s good to know. Because I make pretty varied styles of music and it’s interesting hearing which tracks of mine people were first into.
On the subject of Miami – you were just here for WMC and played Story recently. Besides 25 Years, Perfecto’s Miami 2015 compilation is out now too. The synths and vocals on the preview track Got To Let It Go from Paige & Damian Anthony sound like a modern tribute to Miami in the 80’s. How would you describe the Miami sound and the rest of the album?
The album is a collection of current music on Perfecto that fits the Miami vibe. It’s a blend of stuff you’d hear at a Perfecto Pool Party there in the afternoon all the way through to what you’d hear later that night at a club show. It’s our label’s take on the Miami 2015 sound.
What’s on the horizon for you now that both WMC and the releases are behind you?
Well I’m really heavily into the press and promo for the 25 Years of Perfecto album and celebrations and I’m at the opening stages of the US leg of P25 touring. And then we’re also working on the video for my new single “Lonely Ones”, which is a big Summer record out on Armada next month. I’m also working on a documentary for Perfecto which we’re going to start shooting in London in May.
Very exciting! We’re looking forward to the documentary and everything else that’s in the works. Thanks Paul!
From house and its sub-genres to trance and big room electro, there’s something for every electronic music lover on this genre, mood and era-spanning compilation of Perfecto hits. It’s available now and be sure to catch Paul at one of his upcoming shows to hear tracks from 25 Years and see him do what he does best.