This ‘Lively Mind’ keeps on spinning

Ben Plassard

DJ Paul Oakenfold brings his dance beats to Kent this Saturday. PHOTO COURTESY OF BRANDIS DEZON

Credit: Steve Schirra

nsidered to be one of the most important and influential disc jockeys in the world, but hot dance grooves and remixes are not the only thing he is known for serving up.

Oakenfold can also mix it up in the kitchen as a fully qualified chef, having graduated from culinary school in his early 20s. He began to DJ locally in London’s West End around the same time and abandoned the kitchen for the stage, much to the delight of millions of dance music fans worldwide.

Oakenfold will showcase his world-class DJ skills this Saturday at BarCode, formerly known as Screwy Louie’s. He promises to cook up a blistering set of electronic music for the Kent crowd in his only Northeast Ohio appearance on his current tour.

“I am promoting my new album, so there will be a lot of new stuff,” Oakenfold said of the BarCode show. “I also will be doing remixes, and I am looking forward to a fun show.”

Oakenfold seems to have a hand in all types of genres, including film. He has scored movies such as Swordfish and has remixed songs for everyone from U2 to Justin Timberlake.

He just finished touring as Madonna’s supporting act on her latest world tour and is currently playing shows in support of his second album A Lively Mind.

Several of his songs have been featured in commercials, including the hit “Starry Eyed Surprise,” which can be heard in a Coca-Cola commercial.

It has been four years since Oakenfold released his debut album, Bunkka, which featured guest spots from Ice Cube, Nelly Furtado and Hunter S. Thompson, among others.

On A Lively Mind, Oakenfold uses the same formula to make what he calls “an up-tempo, dance-floor friendly record, with a very similar vibe to the last record.”

Oakenfold also enlists an impressive roster of guest artists, most notably actress Brittany Murphy and hip-hop legend Grandmaster Flash.

On the album’s first single “Faster Kill Pussycat,” Oakenfold uses Murphy, better known for movies like 8 Mile and Clueless, as his lead vocal, with surprisingly good results.

“I wanted someone who has never sung before,” Oakenfold said. “Our paths crossed through a mutual friend and it turned out to be a great song.”

Oakenfold also gets to work with Flash, whom he calls one of his biggest influences.

“It was an honor for me to actually work with him and it was a wonderful experience,” Oakenfold said. “I just liked talking to him and just hearing his stories.”

The four-year gap between albums is due to Oakenfold’s being tough on himself and his music. He said he is a critic of his own music and he goes back and revisits different songs during the recording process. He gets sidetracked with films or remixes, and said it usually takes him a while before he is comfortable with a song.

Oakenfold’s musical roots come from hip-hop and he said he was fascinated by the likes of Flash and Afrika Bambaataa.

As a young DJ, he began working for Champion, an English record label where he signed Will Smith as part of the band DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. This led to jobs at other labels, such as Def Jam, and would eventually lead Oakenfold to start his own Perfecto label and re-enter the world of DJing.

Oakenfold made his name in London by playing clubs and is often credited with changing the entire dance culture of London. He also played a big role in developing the Manchester scene and became a mainstay on the Balearic island of Ibiza, known as a clubbing and partying paradise.

The dance culture thrives in Europe, and Oakenfold thinks America has caught on.

“The American dance scene is huge, for sure,” he said. “Two thousand people showed up for a Monday night show in Birmingham, Alabama and I just played for 9,000 in San Francisco. There are not that many acts coming out of America as it is dominated by hip-hop, but the dance scene itself is there.”

Oakenfold has never been to the Akron-Kent area and never even heard of Ohio until his cousin gave him an Ohio Players record years ago. But he is no stranger to the United States: He enjoys touring and has lived in Los Angeles for several years scouting for new acts.

“The U2 manager told me the way to do well in America is to be on the road,” Oakenfold said. “I like it here. I like what it stands for.”

Contact ALL reporter Ben Plassard at [email protected].

Paul Oakenfold

Where? BarCode

When? Saturday at 9 p.m.

How much? $15