Paul Oakenfold

The outgoing resident DJ on how his show resembled a Cirque production, what’s next for the local electronic music scene and the best advice he’s ever received

Vegas is the new Ibiza.” How often have we heard that phrase in the electronic dance music world this year? From the wildly successful Electric Daisy Carnival to the DJ-in-residency phenomenon, Las Vegas has stamped itself, at the very least, as the top EDM destination in North America. And at the forefront of the movement was DJ/producer Paul Oakenfold. No, the Brit wasn’t the first superstar DJ to set up shop in Las Vegas, but his residency at the Palms’ Rain nightclub—Perfecto, which launched in 2008—undeniably altered the Las Vegas club scene.

But as the cliché goes, all good things must come to an end. Oakenfold, 48, wrapped up Perfecto on Oct. 8, choosing instead to spread his music to the masses by playing nationally, internationally and, occasionally, on the Strip (such as a New Year’s weekend return engagement at Rain). “I’ve done the residency thing. [Now] I’m looking at just doing great parties in various different places,” he says.

Before he left town, we caught up with Oakenfold once again (he was the Seven Questions subject in our April 28 issue) for an exit interview.

Did you think you’d start this DJ residency craze in Las Vegas and that it would have such a significant impact?

No, certainly not. But I definitely believed in Las Vegas; it had the potential of being what Ibiza is to Europe. [I knew] Vegas could be that to America because you can tend to get away with a lot more in Las Vegas, [which] is built as a city for entertainment. Where else in America can you have a nightclub with artificial snow and fire in the venue and people hanging from the ceilings? It was all about a show, and Vegas seemed the perfect fit. … I think the people of Las Vegas, the residents, the workers I saw were very much into electronic music, and there are a lot of people who come through Vegas on a weekly basis. So it seemed like the perfect destination for me.

How long did you originally think your residency at Rain would last?

My residencies in the past at Ministry of Sound [in London] and Cream [in Liverpool] have always been two years. But we were going so well, and we certainly changed the landscape of Las Vegas, [so] it seemed that it was right to continue for a third year, which I did.

What do you think Las Vegas should do next to keep the EDM scene growing?

The next step is to develop underground nights. At the moment you’ve got all the big DJs, but I’m sure sooner or later you could end up having a Sven Väth on a Monday night or Luciano on a Tuesday night playing to smaller crowds, and that will give it the depth the scene needs. At the moment it tends to be the same names, and there are a lot of them and they’re playing the sound of now, which is primarily house music. Even the trance DJs are primarily playing house and trance. But I’d love to see the scene develop and get a lot stronger, and I’d love to see the likes of Luciano and John Digweed play [here]. A lot of DJs are not [in Vegas] as much as others, [so] doing a night with them would be great.

Perfecto was a very intricate production, almost like a Cirque du Soleil show. How have you been influenced by Cirque?

I’m a big fan of Cirque. I really enjoy what they’re doing at various different levels. I haven’t been to all the Cirque shows; I haven’t been to [Viva] Elvis [or] the Criss Angel show, but the others I really enjoy. … Our show was kind of loosely based on a Cirque show. We had a lot of performers; I think at one time we were up to 40 in a Cirque-esque kind of performance, people hanging from the ceilings [above the] people on the floor. They were everywhere really, on the balconies, so it was very much a circus kind of show, absolutely.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

I’m a qualified French chef. I studied for a few years actually and even cooked with Geno [Bernardo], the chef at Nove, for 70 people, which was pretty exciting. It was nerve-wracking as well.

You were also in a band when you were younger, correct?

Yeah I was in a terrible band. I was in a band in school at 15, and at that time my mum was like, “What do you want to do?” and I said, “Well, I’m in a band!” My mum literally slapped me ’round the head and was like, “Don’t be stupid; you’ve got to get a trade.” I went and got a trade, and it was the best piece of advice I got, because the band was crap. But at the time I thought we were great. So I studied as a chef for four years and did a wine course, and from there I jumped into music.

What’s next for you?

I have a new mix compilation coming out [on Nov. 11] called We Are Planet Perfecto. I’m currently on tour in North America, then I go to South America. Then I have my new artist record called Pop Killer, which is a mainstream Top 40 record coming next year. It’s song-based with cutting-edge beats and great singers and really good songs. … In terms of Vegas, I feel I have a lot of alliances [here], and now I want to play at the best parties at different hotels, different clubs.