After decades in the biz, Paul Oakenfold is still putting in work 

Bearfoot Bistro hosts legendary DJ at late-night fundraiser

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ERIC BERGER / COURTESY OF THE BEARFOOT BISTRO - DEEP CUTS Paul Oakenfold, right, returns to Bearfoot Bistro Feb. 12 to spin some tunes at a fundraising event in support of the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation.
  • Photo by Eric Berger / Courtesy of The Bearfoot Bistro
  • DEEP CUTS Paul Oakenfold, right, returns to Bearfoot Bistro Feb. 12 to spin some tunes at a fundraising event in support of the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation.

It's easy to tell legendary DJ and record producer Paul Oakenfold doesn't particularly love being interviewed.

And why should he? Suffice it to say he would probably much rather get back to being one of the most prolific artists in electronic music history.

His conversational skills, at least when talking to the millionth reporter of his decades-spanning career, doesn't quite hit a Marshawn Lynch-level of apathy. Polite indifference would be more accurate. And for a man who has pretty much seen and done all there is to see and do in the industry over the last 25-plus years, that's perfectly understandable.

For the iconic trance and house DJ, it's always been about the work, first and foremost. It's why he has a discography so extensive it would make the great James Brown blush. It's why he's spun at a laundry list of dance music's most revered stages. It's why he has worked with the who's who of the music world, including Madonna and Cher. It's why he's out of breath after sprinting from his L.A. studio to answer my call in a rare down moment in between recording sessions.

Now, at the tender age of 51, the question that bears asking is what's left for Oakenfold to accomplish? He founded his own record label long before it became the hip thing to do for big-name DJs. He's already logged enough flight time touring the globe to rival a commercial airliner. By and large, his legacy is firmly entrenched, and no output in the twilight of his career will have much impact on that.

But, like all tireless workaholics, Oakenfold's still got lots left in the tank, and he's hoping to use that fuel to give back to a scene he helped define.

"It's nice where I am at this moment to give back, support the community and share," Oakenfold says.

To that end, he's played a hand in launching the careers of dozens of electronica artists through his Perfecto Records label, founded in 1989, and he regularly features up-and-coming artists on his tracks, exposing them to legions of Oakenfold fans they wouldn't otherwise have access to. When I speak to him he's also in talks with the Los Angeles Film and Recording School to begin offering a DJ course.

When you've been at it as long as Oakenfold has, it's all about striking an equilibrium.

"The key to the longevity is finding a balance," he says. "Sometimes you take some time off, and other times you're on the road, it's just a balance, really. That's the key to making it work."

It was on the road in Ibiza where Oakenfold first met Bearfoot Bistro founder and notorious bon vivant André St. Jacques. The two have since become friends, bonding over their shared love of all things epicurean, and it's the major reason why Oakenfold will return to the restaurant on Thursday, Feb. 12 to play a Whistler Blackcomb Foundation fundraiser, a far cry from the stadiums and 25,000-square-foot nightclubs he usually does.

"It's is the smallest room I've ever played in," he laughs, promising the soundtrack will veer more towards mellow house than "the big, obvious tunes" he gravitated towards on, say, Madonna's globetrotting Confessions tour.

"I absolutely love it," he says of Bearfoot's intimate setting. "I very rarely play anywhere small, so to come and do something for charity, raise money for a good cause and spend time with friends in a good restaurant with great food is wonderful."

Ah, yes. The food. Besides his friendship with St. Jacques, this is the real reason Oakenfold makes time in his busy schedule year after year to come back to the mountains of Whistler.

"First of all, it's a great restaurant," he says. "I think it's wonderful that Whistler's got such a great restaurant with good food and a wonderful vibe."

So now that we've established Oakenfold's taste in the gastronomic is equally as refined as his taste in the musical, I ask him how he chooses a song to remix — he's done hundreds over the years, putting his spin on tracks by the likes of everyone from Snoop Dogg to U2— that will fit his palate.

"How do you know you like something? I dunno how I know I like something — I just like it," he muses. "How do I know I like chocolate? I taste it and I like it. How do I know I like a record? I listen to it and I like it."

That characteristically Oakenfeldian response gets at the heart of the London native's process: He has little interest in pontificating on how his music is created because it only gets in the way of creating more music.

After all, why waste time talking about how the sausage gets made when there are plenty more bratwursts to serve up to the hungry masses?

Paul Oakenfold: 25 Years of Perfecto Records runs at the Bearfoot Bistro from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. Tickets are $50, available at www.bearfootbistro.com/events.

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