After making his name by discovering the likes of Will Smith, promoting the Beastie Boys and producing the Happy Mondays, he went on to become one of the most successful DJs on Earth. Having just finished his tour with Madonna, he’s heading Down Under…
Hi Paul, what have you been up to?
I was just in the studio, working on a British gangster film calledThe Heavy.
You seem to do a lot of film scores now?
Well I have my residency in Las Vegas, but other than that my main job is film. I’ve always been a fan of film. I mean I love DJing, of course I do, but it gets to a point where opportunities come up. I wanted to move away from music in some respects and move into film. That’s where I see my career further down the line when I give up DJing. More scoring and producing films.
Do you still love DJing as much then?
Yeah of course. Otherwise I wouldn’t have started the residency and wanted to make a new album. I’ve just been fortunate enough to be asked to score film and really enjoyed it. I’m not going to be doing DJing forever and with film they’re really getting into electronic music so it’s good for me.
You gotta come to Vegas, it’s the craziest town in the world. Vegas is the new Ibiza. There’s more nightclubs, there’s 24-hour partying, every day.
You’re coming to Oz in a few weeks? Will you travel around much?
I’ve been a few times and seen all the sights. I’ve done the backpacking years ago, I’ll mainly just see friends, check out the changes and hang out.
Is it true you used to pretend to be a music journalist?
Haha yeah. I had a false ID made up. I was NME and my buddy was Melody Maker. It worked, I got in all the clubs for nothing.
Meet any big names?
Yeah, Bob Marley! We didn’t have a clue what to ask him. I was like 18, sitting there with my friend who was 21. We didn’t plan it, we got into the club and then by pure luck Bob Marley was there. We got introduced to him, we were sitting there like panicking you know. Next thing we asked a couple of questions just to kind of cover ourselves and that’s as far as it went. The funniest thing was that when he got up, my friend, who’s like 6ft and with size 10 shoes, tripped Bob Marley up by accident. He literally fell over, I’ve never been so embarrassed. I really thought we were going to get caught and get kicked out, but then they gave us drinks on the house and we moved on and got absolutely shit-faced and never went back.
You then worked as an A&R man for Champion Records. Was that cool?
For sure, I enjoyed it. I signed Will Smith, I signed Salt-n-Pepa.
How’s Will doing these days, still keep in touch?
Haha, Will Smith’s the biggest film star in America, probably the world. Ha, he’d probably be like, “who the fuck are you?”. Nah, he’s remembered me, I’ve seen him now and then, but I have to remind him who I am!
Q Magazine once named you as one of the top 50 acts to see before you die. Who would make your list?
I paid them! I was on tour with Madonna and I thought how great she was every night. To be great is a tall order. Bear in mind when your DJing, when you’re bored of songs you stop playing them. When you’re a band or an individual artist, people still want the hits every single night. I know how hard it is for me to lay my songs every night and I’m getting bored of them, so these acts who’ve been doing it for 20 years longer than me, keep doing it with that much enthusiasm, I just think it’s amazing.
Jay-Z was quite a controversial Glastonbury headliner last year. Was it similar for you, being the first DJ to play the main stage back in 1995?
No, because at the time I was with Happy Mondays and Stone Roses, but it was probably the techs, the old rock and rollers, who were like, “who the fuck is this guy, he’s only playing music?”. Suddenly you’d hear drums in the background through one of your songs, or “one, two, one, two, mike check,” and you’d be like “what the fuck”. They just didn’t get it.