Over the last year, Paul Oakenfold has kept busy playing a steady stream of live shows like Rock In Rio, the Wheel House Festival, and Burning Man. But he’s still managed to find time in the studio — he produced two songs on Cher’s new album Woman’s World as well as work on his new album Pop Killer, which features contributions from Miguel, Azealia Banks and ZZ Ward. Rolling Stone spoke to Oakenfold last month at W Hotel and burn DJ Lab in Bangkok, Thailand, where he talked about the direction of dance music, the state of Pop Killer, and the new crop of DJs he loves.
With the continual fluctuation of what’s popular in music and people’s fascination with EDM being so tremendous, there have been moments when the face of pop music looked like it was about to change drastically. Do you think that has changed the face of what people think of electronic dance music now?
For sure. It’s that ripple effect from America to the rest of the world. Some people are not happy with it in my community. I’m happy about it. I don’t think music, whatever genre it is, is there for individuals. It’s there to be shared. And because America finally woke up and started to dance . . . there’s nothing wrong with that. In all forms of music you get good music and bad music. What I noticed as a foreigner – an Englishman living in America – was your culture was urban, was hip-hop. With the new generation it is not urban, it is not hip-hop. It is, for a better word, electronic or EDM, whatever you want to call it. I think it is here to stay. Because the roots are now so deep, and the kids are for the internet and they don’t know the hip-hop. They don’t know that sound that was going on with Eminem and Dre and Snoop and Tupac. It’s a different environment for them and I think it’s gonna have a lot of legs.
What are you working on right now?
I’m trying to finish my record. It’s been difficult, because I’ve tried to step out of the comfort box and focus on songs. And I’m not a great songwriter. I was like why do I want to do this record, what’s it about? What’s the story I want to tell? That’s the goal, to make something that stands out. In terms of technology it’s very difficult because everyone’s got access to the same sounds, so that makes it very difficult to do so you have to really dig deep to try and find those moments. What’s really changed for all of us is that house music is pop music now. So I think the record is going to sit a lot more comfortably on radio if they embrace it.
Have a lot of hip-hop artists hit you up for even beats or anything?
Well my first time I did a collaboration with Ice Cube but that was hip-hop with rock guitars. My last collaboration I did was with Grandmaster Flash which was an amazing moment for myself because I was like wow this is Grandmaster Flash, and Pharell and I had just done a track with Azelia Banks.
Are there any new DJs or producers that are really catching your eye?
I love what Avicci’s doing because he’s pushing the envelope. There’s this guy out in the UK called Danny Howard, he’s the young voice he’s got something to say.
What do you think young DJs should focus on in 2013?
I think it’s important to give back. I think it’s important to realize that things have changed and embrace the future.
Additional reporting by T. Cole Rachel