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[whitespace] Paul Oakenfold Paul Oakenfold manipulates moods as well as records.

Cream of Beat

DJ Paul Oakenfold reinvented Ibiza. Can he reinvent Santa Clara?

By Gina Arnold

A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO on a gray day in Falkirk, Scotland, my friends and I wanted to see Honest, the movie starring the British girl group All Saints. Unfortunately, it was so bad that the Falkirk cinema had pulled it off the screen before the end of the first week. We had the choice of going home to tea (my first choice) or seeing Kevin and Perry Go Large, a teen comedy about rave music based on two characters from a British TV comedy show. We opted for the latter. It was currently the number one film in Britain, and upon viewing it, I could understand why.

Kevin and Perry are two sullen teenage boys and best friends. They are, like suburban teenage boys everywhere, incredibly horny, incredibly pimply, and incredibly speechless; plus, they really hate their parents. The only thing that distinguishes them from similarly sociologically placed American teenage boys is that, instead of wishing to be the lead guitarist in a heavy metal rock band like their American spiritual twins Wayne and Garth, they wish they were club DJs. They convince his parents to take them to Ibiza for a holiday, in order to party 'til they drop at that Mediterranean island's famous rave clubs and lose their virginity. Various hijinks ensue, mostly to do with their interactions with the villainous Eyeball Paul, the island's hottest and most obnoxious DJ, and in the end all comes out right.

Kevin and Perry is hilarious, but more importantly, it's instructive. What I learned from it is that in every country but America, house and techno music has gone from being the soundtrack at cool, underground haunts to the music beloved of the suburbs. I also learned that Ibiza, far from being the hippy-trippy glamorous club resort it seems from afar, is vulgar, crass and lowbrow--the Branford Missouri of electronica. Judging by the movie, Ibiza doesn't cater to the Liam Gallaghers of the world, but to people like Kevin and Perry.

Ibiza is also the stomping ground of Paul Oakenfold, who practically invented the island as Rave Central back in 1987. Legend has it that Oakenfold went to Ibiza (the smallest of the three Spanish Balearic Islands) with three pals that summer to hear a Spanish DJ named Alfredo. Oakenfold dropped some E and was instantly transformed into the helm of British music subculture, a DJ supreme whose ability to turn crowds on and off and up and over the top was second to none. Indeed, according to one dedicated site on the Internet, after Oakenfold returned from Ibiza and began spinning one night a week at the London club Heaven, "British popular culture underwent its greatest upheaval since the kids tore out their cinema seats watching Bill Haley's Rock Around the Clock."

From this distance, that claim seems like something of an exaggeration, but it is true that, back in the day (1988), club and house music and clubs like Amnesia and Cream on Ibiza, Heaven in London and Tunnel in New York were massively influential to popular music in general. The sound did not remain the same. Before Ibiza, the four-piece guy band was de rigueur; afterwards, bands and acts like Massive Attack, Portishead, Garbage, Tricky and Dido contributed cool, trippy, sonic blends of samples and songs and instruments for a sound that is very much new millennium.

It is true, also, that older bands like U2 and Radiohead have been swayed by the sound of house music. Even without Oakenfold's help, their post-'80s work no longer sounds like that of a mere guitar-bass-drum, but is more orchestral, more beat-happy, more textured and more now.

So Paul Oakenfold has definitely made his mark, and is still making it, it seems: 13 years after swallowing that first tab of E, he has a new label Perfecto and a new LP Bust a Groove due out Feb. 26. Meanwhile, he tours the world as special guest to various raves, and to each darkened club he enters he leaves a faint afterglow of Ibiza in 1987, a glistening track-of-cool like that of a dayglo snail. It's a long way from the corner of Homestead Road and Lawrence Expressway to the sunny sands of San Antonio (the main port in Ibiza). That trail must be becoming fainter and fainter but it's not quite gone yet.

Paul Oakenfold spins Friday (Feb 22) at 10pm at Backbeat, 777 Lawrence Expwy, Santa Clara. Tickets are $35. (408.241.0177 or Ticketweb)

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From the February 21-27, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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