Bunkking up the charts

Paul Oakenfold is a well travelled man. In the past week the famous DJ, producer and now artist in his own right, has returned from America and been to Ibiza and back, all the while happily balancing the many strands of his career.

Paul Oakenfold is a well travelled man. In the past week the famous DJ, producer and now artist in his own right, has returned from America and been to Ibiza and back, all the while happily balancing the many strands of his career.

Oakenfold is probably the world's most successful DJ, easily eclipsing even Fatboy Slim in the superstar DJ stakes.

He's played the soundtrack for pumped up clubbers the world over, in places as far flung as Peru, Singapore, Cuba, Vietnam, Colombia, Thailand and the Philippines and has taken time to convert the American massive to the cause of house and trance.

"I'm doing very well over there, I've been selling lots of records," he says in his east London drawl, sounding distinctly tired.

"They weren't up to the same standards as us when it comes to dance music so I've spent some time there. I enjoy travelling so I don't mind going all over."

But there's much more to 38-year-old Paul Oakenfold than a man who makes lots of money playing other people's records.

In a career that spans two decades he's become a renowned producer and remixer, having played around with material by the likes of Madonna, Happy Mondays and U2. He also wrote the theme tune for Big Brother.

Now he's put that talent to use on an album of his own, the recently released Bunkka.

But those expecting a trance and house album might want to look elsewhere, for Oakenfold has come up with a collection of tracks that are much more interesting than that.

Influenced by all the musical genres he's been involved with throughout his career - hip-hop, rock, pop and, of course, dance - he hooked up with some of his favourite vocalists to produce an album of songs for the clubbing generation.

"I've done more than just make and play house music so this album is more representative of me than other things I've done," he explains.

"I chose to do loads of collaborations because I can't sing and I wanted to make an album based on songs. I wanted to move away from the DJ mix records for a bit as I wanted a new challenge."

And so the album includes the vocals of Nelly Furtado, Ice Cube, Tricky, Shifty Shellshock from rap metal band Crazy Town, So Solid Crew's currently incarcerated Asher D and a host of new singers.

But perhaps the most unusual collaboration is with cult novelist and journalist Hunter S Thompson.

"I've always been a fan of his and so have many clubbers," explains Oakenfold. "So it was a very self-indulgent collaboration. I think he enjoyed recording it - well, he likes the track anyway."

Now Oakenfold's first album as an artist is here, it has made people wonder why he hasn't done it before. But Oakenfold, a surprisingly unassuming man who's just enjoying his job, says he let it happen naturally.

"I've never felt the need to rush into making an album. I was happy doing mix albums, producing other people and remixing but then I just thought I'd try it out myself. I got bored of doing the DJ mix albums."

Born in London's Mile End, Oakenfold got his first taste of DJing when, at 16, he filled in for a DJ friend. He was hooked and carried on his new hobby when he moved to New York in the late 70s.

There he DJed while supplementing his income with work as a chef. Music was his passion and he became excited by a new sound called hip-hop that was making its first impressions on the music scene.

On his return to Britain, he started work as an A&R man and was responsible for bringing us Salt 'N' Pepa and Will Smith (as part of rap duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince).

He later went to Def Jam records and looked after the likes of LL Cool J, Run DMC and the Beastie Boys but in the late 80s decided to focus on his DJing. As a result, Oakenfold became one of a handful of DJs who introduced dance music to Britain.

"When I was over in the US I got really into dance music so when I came back I started playing it here. Those early days were quiet, there wasn't much going on here really. It all kicked off with the scene in Ibiza."

He started playing in Ibiza after friends told him about the underground dance scene there.

At the time it was an island frequented by hippies and celebrities but the burgeoning club scene which Oakenfold became part of turned the island into one of the most popular holiday destinations for young people.

"It's a lot more commercial now but the island seems to cope," he says. "The locals don't mind it because they make so much money. They seem to be happy."

Oakenfold then brought Ibiza to London, starting Balearic nights that were the beginnings of the early 90s acid house phenomenon.

After securing his reputation as a DJ, he went into producing, famously twiddling the knobs for the Happy Mondays' smash hit album Pills 'N' Thrills And Bellyaches with long-time co-producer Steve Osborne.

"My memories of that are blurred," he laughs. "No, it was great working with them. People would always presume they weren't that talented but you couldn't have an album that sold so many records if they weren't."

With Osborne he founded Perfecto Records and his work with that label has turned him into one of the world's top producers and remixers.

And now he's moving into the glamorous world of Hollywood by scoring films. He's already created the score for John Travolta's Swordfish and has recently done tracks for the new Austin Powers movie and Mel Gibson's forthcoming Signs.

He's a contented man, but the one thing he doesn't like about his job is fame. He's uncomfortable being interviewed and won't be touring the album as a live show as he much prefers being in a DJ booth, "hanging out with the clubbers".

For that reason he doesn't watch Big Brother, despite his involvement. "If it's on I'll watch it but no I don't follow it. I don't really like prying into people's lives."

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