Bob Lefsetz wrote a great post about hanging out with Paul Oakenfold at his home in LA. I am not a huge Paul Oakenfold fan, but I do like him and absolutely acknowledge the great contribution he has made to electronic music and beyond.
If you are not sure if you have heard Paul Oakenfold…you have if you have seen The Bourne Identity. I recommend you take a deeper look.
It’s right above the Hollywood Bowl. Literally. Put a couch in the backyard and enjoy a summer’s worth of entertainment. That’s what Paul’s neighbors do. They knock on his front door. Now he knows what they want.
That’s what spinning records’ll do for you. Buy you a piece of real estate in the Hollywood Hills that makes jaws drop. That’s the American Dream. Even though Paul is English. Played in a band so crappy his mother insisted he become a chef to have something to fall back upon before he began the journey that made him a household name.
Oh, you don’t know who Paul Oakenfold is?
I didn’t either until eight or ten years ago, Vince told a story in Aspen…
I think this was right after 9/11. There was some restriction on flying. So they sent a private jet to France to pick Paul up for a gig in the U.S. Time was tight, it was the only way to make it happen.
Now my dad was a skeptic. Tell him a tale and he’d constantly be searching for the “real story”. And people exaggerate and lie, and I’m my dad’s son, so it’s hard for me to take fantastical stories at face value. So I was loath to believe this tale, but it turned out to be true.
This was my first introduction to the world of electronica, of raves. Now I’m not saying I was unaware of their existence, I just had no idea how much money was involved, the passion of the audience.
And that’s why I journeyed out to a precipice in Hollywood last night. For a chance to meet Paul Oakenfold. Oh, ostensibly a group of us were going to debate the future of the music business, but that usually ends up a circle jerk, whereas there’s no denying the history, the success, the accomplishments of someone like Mr. Oakenfold.
Not that he had an attitude. Anything but. Get so many of these stars on their own turf and they’re normal.
Paul now tours in a bus. Usually three, by time he’s done, for the crew, etc. But he’s not partying late anymore, he gets up early, he’s got stuff to accomplish. Nine? Ten? Really?
Paul gets up at noon. Unlike the road dogs, who arise at two or three.
And when he’s not on the road he’s signing acts to his label, like the deejay from Greece. And there’s that speed rapper who was on “Ellen”…
And we’re standing in his backyard, pondering his domain, from the Hollywood Bowl beneath us to the Capitol Tower and the edifices of downtown over to the right. L.A.’s all about the real estate. And the cars. There was a Porsche in the driveway, but they replicate those on the assembly line every day. They don’t make property like this on a promontory more than once.
And Paul starts asking me about me and as I’m waxing rhapsodic a lightbulb goes on over his head, can I come inside, he’s got something to show me.
It’s a letter from Hunter S. Thompson. To Paul’s attorney. Over a deal. For the track “Nixon’s Spirit”.
And it’s better than anything Hunter wrote since “Fear and Loathing”. He carves this attorney to shreds, pulling out every metaphor and expletive in the book. It’s a work of art. It doesn’t belong in Oakenfold’s house, but the Smithsonian.
And Paul tells me the tale. Of recording Hunter’s vocal in the Chateau Marmont. Of Hunter getting so wasted on absinthe that he was slurring his words and of the entrance of Sean Penn in the middle of the night.
Now that’s Hollywood. That’s the entertainment business. That’s one thing that Wall Street’s money can’t buy.
And eventually we all gather around the dining room table.
There was the guy from Vevo, who said they’re about to go into longform programming.
There was the guy from Shazam, talking about making deals with Old Navy, the company gets a cut when it turns customers on and they make a purchase.
And there were women from RIM and Smirnoff. They do their endorsement deals.
But the best info emanated from Marc Geiger. He said that WME has got more bands breaking than ever before. And when they do, it’s often worldwide. He first noticed it with Gnarls Barkley. “Crazy” went to number one in umpteen territories. You no longer have to wait for a record company to release your record in France, the Internet knows no boundaries, you can break everywhere.
As for money…
There’s a lot of it around. He told a story about Trent Reznor scoring the cash for a heart transplant from his fans overnight. That’s the power of music, even if the gentleman with the hole in his heart ultimately died.
And Geiger said when they build the music platform, not only will discovery be codified, enabled, there’s gonna be a surge of cash coming our way.
He referenced the BlackBerries and iPhones in the room. It took ten years to get to here. Same deal in music. We’ve been living through chaos, but when we’ve got one platform, Spotify, a competitor, that is the Google of music, all kinds of things will be built on top, there will be Facebook integration, we’ll be living in a land of luxury.
In other words, he was optimistic.
And then we went downstairs to Paul’s studio.
This is where it now happens. At home.
Although Paul does go to the big rooms to mix, to use the SSL.
But it was what was nailed to the wall that caught my eye. An invitation to…meet with the Queen?
Yup, Paul had spread British culture worldwide, the Empire wanted to pay him back.
Not that the royal who shook his hand and spoke to him ultimately had any idea who he was.
But that’s the power of music. It opens any door.
But they only unlock if you’re not trying to break them down, if you’re about the music as opposed to the trappings. Put the music first and the world becomes your oyster.
If you stick with it, if you try really hard, if you follow your muse instead of the chart.
Come on. Tell someone in the seventies that you can make the bucks of a rock star by spinning records and they’d laugh!
But now those gigs where they spin records are more vital and more profitable than those with bands. Because there’s an energy, an honesty, a purity that the audience is drawn to.
Paul invited us back during the season.
Not to see the Dodgers, but the L.A. Phil and Diana Ross and Hall & Oates and the rest of the varied acts that play the venerated shell.