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British DJ spreading the tao of trance 

Paul Oakenfold, The Club, March 12, 1998

It's the weekend in Liverpool, England, and somehow or another you and your mates have managed to bum your way into Cream -- definitely the best club in world on Saturday nights, when megasuperstar DJ Paul Oakenfold mans the turntables. At 3 a.m. you're packed tightly into the club, your legs feel like they might give out on you, you're sweaty and thirsty and totally exhausted -- but you keep dancing. The music just won't let you go. It is like nothing else you've ever experienced.

"Once you've got 'em, you can take them anywhere you want," says Oakenfold, the premier Pied Piper of the British club scene. "In order to get them, I start out with a key record -- BT's ‘Flaming June,' for example. Something that let's them know it's me up there, and no one else."

The key lies within the first four tracks of his set. "After that, if you've done your job properly, they're yours for the whole journey, right up to the end," says Oakenfold. "And that has got to be the best part, the climax, because the people should always leave on a high."

Oakenfold says education and entertainment are a big part of his approach to mixing. "Obviously, there are other elements: preparation, technical know-how and the music, of course. If the music's shit, you're nowhere."

He identifies education and entertainment as the yin and the yang of being a DJ. If there is too much education, he says, the crowd might be listening to all new records, but they're probably bored because they don't hear anything familiar. Like club audiences around the world, the Cream crowds want to know the songs when they're on the dance floor. "There's nothing better than hearing a record that you love," he says. "But if you only play tunes they know, they'll get bored with that, too."

Rather than play tunes that clubbers can constantly hear on the radio, Oakenfold feels the DJ has to know where the audience is coming from. He also has to take them places they've never been. "If you can achieve that balance," he says, "then, nine times out of 10, you're guaranteed a good night."

Oakenfold feels the time has finally come to enlighten the American masses. He thinks Americans don't really understand the concept of the DJ. "All the business about ‘electronica,' which is really just trance -- what I play -- repackaged, has made a start. I think they're ready now for someone to open their minds to new kinds of club experiences."

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