Paul Oakenfold

With his ‘Shine On’ album released earlier this year, superstar DJ and producer Paul Oakenfold talks us through his formative influences


“I was born in Mile End, and then we moved to Highbury. My dad was a musician and had a skiffle band, and my mum was a chef so there was always hot food, music and love in the air. That inspired me to go into both of those industries and, initially, I studied to be a chef in French cuisine. My Love of music, though, was led by my father.

“When I got older, I wondered why I knew the lyrics to Elvis or Beatles songs, and then I realised it was because of him. What was wonderful was that years later, after my father had passed away, I was asked [in 2003] to remix a song by Elvis Presley and I went for my father’s favourite, ‘Rubberneckin’’, and they allowed me to dedicate it to him on the sleeve. That was a big moment in my life.”


“School was tough for me as I was diagnosed as dyslexic and the teachers didn’t really know what dyslexia was back then. I really suffered. I was shy and embarrassed, and I didn’t want to be the person they asked to stand up in class to read a paragraph of a book. The light at the end of the tunnel that shone brightly was music.

“However, once I left school, I worked ridiculously hard in kitchens – 10am to 11pm, four days a week – and had one day at college then Sunday and Monday off. I never had a Friday or a Saturday night out, like all my friends. After a few years I reached a point of, ‘Is this what life’s all about? There must be more to it’. I said to my mum, ‘I’ve got to try music’. I played keyboards and guitar – not too well, to be honest – but I was just gonna go for it.

“My parents were encouraging but my dad said, ‘What are you going to do?’. I wanted to be in a band, but no one was around for that, so I went to work in A&R [at Champion Records], and I got into DJing. Music opened the door to my life. I’ve seen a lot of the world since from over a box of records.”


“A love of travel came at an early age from my grandad. He worked for an agency, organising trips through Spain. Although our family really couldn’t afford it, we’d get to go to out there, and that was the beginning of me wanting to see the world.

“I’ve been able to do this for 40 years as my job. I’ve learned about and experienced other countries, histories and cultures first-hand. My favourite places are Tokyo, Buenos Aires and Shanghai – you’ll note these are all cities. I’ve been on thousands of beaches all over the world, and I’ve seen sunsets like no other, but I’m not the kind of guy who wants to sit on a beach.

“Cities bring a lot to the table – they’re exciting, cutting-edge, dangerous. But I’ve also played at the Great Wall Of China, in a 1,000 year-old rainforest, at Ushuaia in Argentina – which is 600 miles from Antarctica, at Mount Everest base camp, in Area 51… those are the places I look forward to going to as they’re much more of an achievement. We raise money for charities with some events and it pushes me to do new things. Two weeks on a beach in the Maldives doesn’t interest me.”


“I’ve spent 25 years falling back in love with food. Because of travel, I was trying all these cuisines, and I realised that I had a real passion for it. In my early days, working so hard as a chef took a toll on me. I resented it. I didn’t want to cook, I didn’t want to go to any restaurants. But the older I became, I started to really enjoy going to restaurants all around the world, trying the cuisine and then attempting to cook it.

“I post a lot of dishes on social media. I share the knowledge – ‘If you’re in Paris, go here. If you’re in Maidstone and you want the best fish and chips, go here’ [laughs, as he’s currently in Maidstone seeing his mum]. These days, if I have a night off I won’t be in a nightclub. I’ll be in a restaurant having dinner.”


“In the last few years I’ve lost my father and a few members of my family, and a lot of challenges came out of that. I now have children and different kinds of responsibilities. My actions will become a legacy to them, and I want to set the right example so I spend a lot of time thinking about that.

“I sit down and explain to my son moments that mean a lot to me. I want him to understand what to do in life and how to do it. For example, when I was a kid my father said, ‘You’ve gotta save for a rainy day,’ and I didn’t know what that meant. Does it mean that it rains? No, it means that one day in your life something may come upon you that you need money for. You might be sick, or need it to help someone. That rainy day appeared for everyone a few years ago. Like many, I didn’t work for 17 months, but I still had to support and pay for my children’s education, my ex’s costs, my mortgage. I covered it with my savings.

“I also thought about wrapping up this stage of my career and sharing my story with both my family and the public. If a working-class dyslexic kid can grow up writing music for films and games, travelling the world and living in Hollywood, then why not share my experiences? It’s about you, the reader out there, not me. You can do it, you don’t have to be held back. It’s a story of positivity and that’s why I wrote a book. If 1,000 people buy it and it helps one person I’ll be happy.”

‘Shine On’ is out on Perfecto. ‘Ready Steady Go: My Unstoppable Journey In Dance’ is also out, published by Wellbeck

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