My conversation with Paul Oakenfold at his home in Hollywood Hills, California, begins like most with a proper Englishman — with an offer for tea.
“I learned to make a proper cup of tea while I was running around in India," he says. "You make the tea and let it steep, but the key is when you add the milk, and you don’t add milk until the end.”
Tea time in the Santa Monica Mountains is in full stride when Wade Hampton enters the room and takes a seat at the table. With paparazzi concerns, Hampton is eyeing a man walking just beyond the backyard fence.
“Just trekkers, they’re okay,” Oakenfold assures.
Oakenfold introduces Hampton as a “pioneer of the Dallas scene.” Hampton is a Dallas native and resident, DJ, music producer and filmmaker. He’s in Los Angeles on business and will open as DJ WishFM for Oakenfold in Dallas on Saturday, Nov. 25, at Canton Hall. He also helped create The Starck Club
, a documentary that chronicles the Dallas shrine. Another documentary on more recent rave culture is in production.
Saturday’s show is part of Oakenfold’s Generations World Tour, a collection of shows in which he bridges dance music’s origins and today. The Perfecto label boss will play vinyl and digital on two turntables and two Denon SC5000 players. Oakenfold laughs at the memory of an airline that requested he check his vinyl records.
“You don’t understand," he replied. "I cannot check these records. If these are lost, they absolutely cannot be replaced.” A manager from the airline recognized the DJ, and onboard the records went.
Dance music legends typically are historians and are quick to acknowledge the scene’s roots. Oakenfold praises Dallas’ club culture.
“I don’t think a lot of people worldwide know about Dallas and its history," he says. "People typically think of New York, Detroit for techno and Chicago with house music, but not a lot of people touch on the scene in Dallas and the big stars that were there. It was a big scene, particularly with Starck Club.”
Oakenfold is savvy to Starck Club’s legendary run from March 12, 1984, to July 11, 1989. Owen Wilson and Rob Lowe were there, and performances by Grace Jones, Annie Lennox, Book of Love and New Order are fabled. Blake Woodall, its owner, built the club on inspiration from an early ’80s trip to Ibiza. Parisian celebrity designer Philippe Starck created the club’s interior and described it as a “temple of future people in 3,000 years.”
It took Woodall and Starck four years to build that temple. And MDMA was legal for the club’s first 15 months, which might have spurred the feel.
Starck Club had long, flowing curtains and huge, elegant bathrooms — you can imagine what happened inside.
Oakenfold will summon Starck moments Saturday at Canton Hall while commencing a new era of lore in Dallas. While many stars in today’s scene are producers first, it wasn’t always that way.
Oakenfold is an intuitive DJ and remixer first — producer and label boss second. Born and raised in London, Oakenfold credits BBC Radio 1 for his rounded musical taste. Every Saturday, the radio station broadcasts a two-hour Essential Mix, the godfather of podcasts from before podcasts were invented. Oakenfold’s “1994 Goa Mix” and “1999 Live from Joni's, Havana, Cuba” Essential Mix sets are electronic music scripture.
“Oakey,” as he’s affectionally known, is on a shortlist of greatest DJs of all time. His control of arrangement, selection and key is astute — that with keen storytelling in the set makes for a brilliant night out. Perhaps Oakenfold will dust off Starck anthems: Section 25's “Looking From a Hilltop,” Book of Love's "Boy" or Uptown's “I'm Losing You,” pressed by Oak Lawn Records.
“When I was a resident at Cream in Liverpool in the late ’90s, I would play all dance music genres, drum and bass from Goldie included. It’s how you play a track, when you play it, how you get into it and how [you] get out of it that are the key moments of a set,” Oakenfold adds.
Oakenfold will arrive in Dallas in prime form after his 17,000-foot hike to Mount Everest Base Camp in April. His effort raised money for kids in Nepal. In preparation for the climb, the DJ-mountaineer didn’t drink for six months — fierce discipline, considering he owns Perfectomundo Tequila.
What happened at Starck Club is told in the documentary. Paul Oakenfold and DJ WishFM will shape one of the better electronic music shows in Dallas this year; what happens there is up to the dance floor.