Welcome to the life of the world's most acclaimed DJ.From high atop Hotel Unique's Skye Bar in São Paulo, Brazil, all the madness that is the third-largest city in the world lines the horizon. It's a jaw-dropping architectural marriage of concrete and steel that begins as far as one can see to the left and that hasn't yet ended as far as one can see to the right. It's a view that some might say must be seen to be believed, though I've seen it many times before and I still can't believe it. Neither can DJ Paul Oakenfold, whom I've come here to meet for a drink. Walking out past the pool to the glass partition that keeps guests from falling into the Jardins Europa district seven stories below, we pause to absorb the beauty of the vast panorama before us. As the world's most internationally recognized DJ-remixer-producer, Oakenfold has spent the last 15 years or so traversing the globe armed with little more than two turntables and a box of vinyl ammunition. He has performed in places you dream of visiting (the Great Wall of China, Ibiza, Cyprus), and, as an absolute road warrior and savvy traveler (he carries 39 frequent-flier cards with him), Oakenfold once played three continents in four days. Needless to say, the man has been there, seen that. Tonight, however, he won't be seeing much of São Paulo.
Oakenfold is dead tired. It's nine p.m., and he has just arrived via Buenos Aires, where he spun records all night long to a worshipping crowd of 60,000 (set time: three a.m.). If he has slept any, his eyes, and those of tour manager Michael Jackson, don't show any sign of it. The week before that, in El Salvador and Colombia, there wasn't much sleep either. I know this because I didn't catch much shut-eye myself - hitting the road with the most successful DJ in the history of record spinning does one heck of a number on one's sleeping patterns. REWIND ONE WEEK. I meet the 35-year-old Oakenfold in his Los Angeles home (though a British citizen, he relocated three years ago), where he is packing for our red-eye flight to San Salvador. I get a chance to snoop through the gold and platinum records - both his own and the highly successful ones that he has produced or scored (Happy Monday's Pills Thrills & Bellyaches, for instance, or the sound track to The Matrix Reloaded) - that line the walls of his home studio, as well as the kind of personal music memorabilia (BMI Film Music Awards, Grammy nominations) that musicians of his caliber tend to fill their basements with. But it's the ranting letter from the late Hunter S. Thompson to Oakenfold's former lawyer that is the true treasure here, though beyond the greeting that opens the letter, there is absolutely nothing suitable for printing in this magazine.
Suffice it to say, Thompson was adequately ticked off at the lawyer - we'll call her Shirley - over his payment for his participation in a track on Oakenfold's 2002 debut, Bunkka ("Nixon's Spirit"). He let Shirley know about it in no uncertain terms, using just the kind of colorful language that Thompson made a living off of. Oakenfold says Shirley called him in near-tears. "What are you crying about?" he asked her. "You've just gotten a letter from Hunter S. Thompson!" And so it now hangs framed on Oakenfold's office wall.
Oakenfold travels light, with one Tumi suiter (meticulously packed) and a smaller Tumi bag that houses his records and CDs. This is henceforth guarded as if it contains the Holy Grail, which, for a DJ, I guess it does. Without music, there is no show (or career, for that matter). Not to mention that, in addition to his music, the equipment in his home studio is the crown jewel for thieves who prey on electronic artists (it is for this reason that I'm not allowed to disclose the whereabouts of Oakenfold's home). After catching an episode of Joey (yes, Joey), we head off for LAX, where Oakenfold gets chosen for a secondary security screening. Even celebrities aren't immune.