Paul Oakenfold’s influence on dance music stretches back over 25 years, and now one of the most prolific legends on the scene presents his own take on some of the tracks that shaped his career. Trance Mission is a collection of 12 all-time classics covered by the man himself, and he’s given us an exclusive insight, in his own words, as to why he chose each track.
Paul Oakenfold’s Track By Track Guide To Trance Misson
1. Theme For Great Cities
Theme for Great Cities was a B-side instrumental record by ’80s pop legends Simple Minds. I used to play this loads at Cream, and people would constantly ask what it was. It was so emotional and powerful so I think it came as a shock to a lot of them when I told them it was an old record originally released in 1981. The melody has reappeared a few times in subsequent dance records–like Raven Maize’s (one of Joey Negro’s aliases) The Real Life , which came out on Ministry Of Sound’s sub label Rulin in 2001. Going way back to 1992, if you’re a complete trainspotter you might notice a cheeky rip-off of the string melody from being used in the Boy’s Own mix of Sunscreem’s timeless classic Perfect Motion.
When I came to make this record I wanted to make an intro record–something I could open my sets with that would have the same emotional impact that the original had all those years ago. A real scene-setter if you like.
2. Café Del Mar
Named after the famous sunset bar in Ibiza, Café Del Mar originally came out in 1993. It was a big global hit from a group called Energy 52. Of all the tracks on the album, this has to be the one title that has been remixed and re-released the most. It was voted #1 in Mixmag’s 2001 ranking of all-time biggest electronic tracks. Then in 2011, BBC Radio 1 listeners voted it the biggest dance record of all time. It was and always will be a trance anthem of massive proportions and when it came to make my cover version, I knew it had to take a tough trance route. This is one record I play no matter what crowd is in front of me and it just goes off.
Another track that I covered as part of the final lineup is the massive single from Quench called Dreams. I used to hammer this track back in the day. It was originally released in 1993 on Infectious Records and I included it on the second Essential Mix I ever recorded for BBC Radio 1 in March 1994.
4. Samuel Barber’s Adagio For Strings
I debated whether to make a cover of this one because there were already two massive covers in circulation–first William Orbit’s take which was released in 1999 and was the first single from his album Pieces in a Modern Style, and then Tiesto’s big club version which came out in 2005. But in the end, every time I took Adagio out of the proposed Trance Mission tracklist it felt incomplete. It was such an important record for me during that period (late ’90s to mid ’00s) and always got such a huge reaction whenever I played it. I’ve always wanted to make and release my own version –ever since we released the Skip Raiders take on it called Another Day which came out on Perfecto in 1999.
For my cover I wanted to make something completely aimed at the US scene–something that would work really well in my sets in the US where I seem to spend the majority of my time touring. I added a vocal to my new version and every time I play this out it literally takes the roof off.
There is so much love out there for this record. Hats off to Samuel Barber. If only he were still around to see what his classical composition was doing to dancefloors worldwide today!
5. Toca Me
Toca Me was a massive record for me in the late ’90s. Its initial Toca’s Miracle guise entered the UK charts at #1. This was a huge record for a lot of DJs and had big crossover impact on radio. It was one of those tracks that you could play in any situation and the place would go off. When the idea came up of doing the Trance Mission covers album, this was the first track I said had to be on the final tracklist.
There have been some great remixes of the original Fragma version (which came out in 1998) over the years, so I knew I had to make something different. I went for a style and direction that many are currently referring to as “new school trance.”
6. Ready Steady Go (Beatman & Ludmilla Remix)
If you’re a fan of film or gaming, chances are you’ll know this record. It’s been used in numerous Hollywood blockbuster movies including The Matrix, The Bourne Identity, Collateral, and Swordfish, as well as several computer games like Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003, Juiced, and DR Ultramix, as well as countless television programs. It’s arguably one of my most successful works to date and yet I’ve never released any new mixes of it. When the idea of the album came up I knew that I wanted this to be on there, and I also knew I wanted to get someone else to create the main mix that I would include in the final tracklist.
It had to be powerful and it had to complement the original track, so I asked my favorite breaks producers Beatman & Ludmilla to give it a makeover. They did a stunning job which I was over the moon with.
7. Not Over Yet
Grace was a side project of mine with Steve Osborne and Dominique Atkins, and Not Over Yet was our biggest record together. The first version was under the name State of Grace and actually featured the vocals of Patti Low. It came out on Perfecto back in 1993.
Dominique re-sang the vocals for the re-release, although we did keep some of Patti’s backing vocals and ad libs that came out as part of the Grace album in 1996. There have been loads of amazing remixes of this track over the years, including the Breeder mix back in 1999 and the more recent Protoculture mix a few years back. When it came to making a new cover of this–one of my own records that I’d spent so much studio time on already–I just wanted to make a pumping trance take on it with really updated modern production and sounds. Something for the Fluoro fans.
Rank 1’s Awakening was a banging trance record I used to play that came out on Dutch label ID&T in 2001. I remember the video for the original, which had a massive illegal warehouse party mixed with Fast & Furious car races. Every time I used to play this record I always imaged a killer breaks version, so when I decided to add this to the final tracklist that’s the direction I took it in, still keeping the original drive and dynamics but with a breakbeat vibe.
This was a huge record by Art Of Trance who were amazing pioneering producers signed to Platipus. This first came out in 1998 with remixes from Cygnus X and then the record went stratospheric when Ferry Corsten and PUSH remixed it little later. This was a Cream Courtyard anthem of massive proportions. I also played it in that Essential Mix I recorded at Lotherton Hall at Gatecrasher’s Festival back in 1999. It was a lot of fun making this new cover version, which I wanted to keep in a pumping really full on trance style.
10. Open Your Eyes
I used to play this record so much. It has such an infectious melody. I opened loads of my sets with it for ages including my 1999 BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix recorded live from Space in Ibiza.
Originally released in 1999 on Superfly, this record from Nalin and Kane was a proper classic. When it came to making the cover, I wanted it to be really melodic and uplifting but with a driving vibe. I found this great male vocal that I added to the breakdown section which really brings out the emotion. I’ve played this out a handful of times now and it seems to provoke one of those blissful hands-in-the-air and eyes-closed moments–which is ironic considering the title.
11. Hold That Sucker Down
Originally released in 1994 on Cheeky Records, Hold That Sucker Down by The OT Quartet (Rollo from Faithless and Rob D) was a massive chart hit worldwide. The riff is one of the most instantly recognizable melody progressions in the history of electronic music. I used to play this relentlessly–not only back in the day when it first came out, but again and again over the years when various decent remixes have emerged. When covering the record I wanted to do something totally different, so I decided to take a deeper spacey techno vibe.
12. Touch Me
I adore this record. The lyrics and vocals are so perfect that when it came to make the cover version I knew two things had to happen. First, we had to try and get Cass to re-sing the vocals (part of the rules of making a cover means you can’t use any audio from the original composition–everything needs to be remade or replayed). Second, I wanted this to be a stripped back, almost chill-out track so that the vocals had loads of room to breathe and take center stage. I love how this turned out and was so excited that Cass got really involved when she came in to re-sing her vocals. It’s a completely fresh, exciting, and emotionally charged take on the original record.
Paul Oakenfold’s Trance Mission album is out now on Perfecto.