Superstar DJ Paul Oakenfold Teaches the Celeb-Filled World of Music Production at Hollywood 'DJ Camp'

by Jeremy Blacklow 10:46 PM PDT, September 28, 2015
Photo: Getty Images

Electronic dance music (EDM) is hotter than ever these days and Hollywood is lining up to be part of the action.

Hardly a weekend goes by when we don’t see another big-name celebrity behind the decks – whether at the hottest nightclubs in L.A., New York, Vegas or Miami … or on the big or small screen. Paris Hilton, Joe Jonas, Nick Cannon, Connor Cruise, Orange Is the New Black’s Ruby Rose and Ansel Elgort are just a few of the celebs who have established successful DJ careers in addition to the talents they’re best known for.

Zac Efron and Emily Ratajkowski starred in the film We Are Your Friends; The CW picked up a pilot called The Drop (which is being executive produced by Steve Angello; formerly of Swedish House Mafia); a show loosely based on Calvin Harris’ life written by Irvine Welsh (Trainspotting) is reportedly in the works at HBO; and Simon Cowell is planning a DJ competition show that’s set to debut sometime in 2016.

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But it’s not all just a matter of “pushing PLAY.” DJing is a true art form, and for most folks, it’s a mystery how to get started.

Since there is no clear path to EDM success, superstar DJ/producer Paul Oakenfold teamed up with Paul Reder of the Electronic Music Academy to create Hollywood “DJ Camp” at The Los Angeles Recording School for anyone interested in beginning a career in the field, or, taking an existing career to the next level. ETonline caught up with Oakenfold to get the lowdown.

ETonline: Tell me about some of the big celebrities that you’ve worked with in the industry.

Paul Oakenfold: All of the artists that I’ve worked with have an incredible work ethic. And Madonna has the best work ethic of them all. I’ve learned a lot from being around her. Also U2 and folks like that. They all have that similar drive and that belief in themselves. They’re early birds … they’re up working when everyone else is sleeping. They’re simply all great at what they do.

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ETonline: What was it like working with Madonna?

Oakenfold: When I was in the studio with Madonna, we would work 12-hour days. If you want to work with the best, then that’s what you have to do. I’ve been very lucky with Madonna – I’ve remixed her stuff. She signed me to her label, Maverick, with Guy Oseary. I’ve produced her and toured with her -- I was the opening act on three of her tours. So for me, I was pretty much a part of being on the road with Madonna and being around her and learning from her. Madonna has a very unique style and comes up constantly with these great songs.

ETonline: Who else has made an impression on you?

Oakenfold: I’ve worked with everyone from Ice Cube to Snoop Dogg … right across to working with pop stars like Justin Timberlake. Why those artists came to me is because they wanted my sound. I had Ice Cube on my first album, “Bunker,” and then I did a remix for Snoop Dogg. I’ve worked with Grandmaster Flash and Pharrell. It’s a different work process and there’s a different take with how you produce [hip-hop]. For example, when I collaborated with Nelly Furtado, the idea for the song structure came from myself, but the lyrics and the ideas behind the songs came from her. I signed Will Smith when he was still The Fresh Prince making music with DJ Jazzy Jeff. 

ETonline: Was there a turning point for you in your career?

Oakenfold: When I remixed U2’s “Even Better Than the Real Thing,” that was a big moment and turning point for me. One of my remixes became “the big remix” for them and then I went on tour and was living on the road with them for six months. I’ve scored films as well that have really helped make my name. Doing the music for Swordfish [the 2001 hacker thriller starring Halle Berry] is what brought me to Hollywood.

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ETonline: Is it tough leading a celebrity-saturated life on the road?

Oakenfold: In eight days I’ve been in five cities! I go to China on Tuesday to do six shows in six cities -- and they’re really getting into electronic music over there! I never thought electronic music would get as popular in America as it has. When I first came to Vegas in 2009 for my residency – we were they only people playing electronic music at that time. Now you look at Vegas and it’s everywhere… it drives the whole town! And it’s good to see that America now has a hub for electronic music in Vegas, like Europe has with Ibiza.

ETonline: What’s your advice to a celebrity who wants to learn how to DJ?

Oakenfold: I would give the same advice to anyone, celebrity or not. Produce your own music, keep in original, and be real. You need to earn the respect of your fans for your original work in music, and not rely on your celebrity in other mediums. The same would apply for actors who sing, dance, or even play sports.

ETonline: Do you think being famous hinders or helps a DJ in terms of their credibility?

Oakenfold: Again, let their music skill speak for [itself]. If they are producing good tracks and are resonating with their fans, or even gaining new fans, then that’s great. If they are already in the music industry, and taking their producing skills to the electronic medium, then that would make a lot of sense. I think anybody that is going to be taken seriously in this industry needs to produce their own original music.