Loved by millions and loathedby thousands, Paul Oakenfold is the world's most successful club DJ. It's right there in The Guinness Book Of World Records. You may not recognize the baby-faced Brit if you bump into him, but he's the one to blame for the acid house craze and the ensuing plague of smiley faces.
Oakey also had a hand in popularizing the Balearic beat of Ibiza and engineering the unlikely Madchester dance-floor assault of rave rogues the Happy Mondays and Stone Roses. And the trance takeover? Yep, he was there, too.
Although he's best known in North America as a remixer to the stars -- he enhanced the dance-floor profile of U2, Madonna, the Rolling Stones and Snoop Dogg, among others -- his most significant achievement is not who he's brought into clubs but what he's taken outside.
His Glastonbury debut in 89 didn't seem like much of a breakthrough to Oakenfold amid the shouts of "Piss off!" But his DJ set, wedged uncomfortably between Van Morrison and Peter Gabriel, nevertheless paved the way for more integrated festivals like Area:One.
"I really didn't enjoy that at all," groans Oakenfold over the phone from Washington. "It was the first attempt at having someone spin records between rock acts at Glastonbury. The whole time there were people running through the DJ booth carrying drum kits. My records were jumping all over the place. It was a disaster.
"What I learned is that it's not always such a good idea to be first. Timing is a very important aspect of being successful."
Disastrous as it was, Oakenfold's outdoor stage appearances made him the obvious choice for U2 when they decided to have a DJ open on their Zooropa tour of 93.
Once again he would face hundreds of thousands of people who came to see someone else, but Oakenfold enjoys few things more than the rush of winning over an audience.
He turned the trick on a nightly basis by hustling to town early to find the hot local records and add them to his consciously crowd-pleasing set. It's that sort of resourcefulness and determination that have made him the global star he is today.
"The first night in Holland, it was an open stage and the rain started pouring down on me. Suddenly my records slid off the stage and spilled out all over the grass below. I had to jump down and pick 'em all up, then climb back up the scaffolding onto the stage to finish my set.
"Afterwards, I went back to my room, pulled all the records out of the wet sleeves and laid 'em on my bed. A couple of minutes later, in walk U2 to find me on my knees desperately trying to blow-dry my records with a hair dryer. They just fell over with laughter."
Oakenfold got the last laugh, however, when his remix of U2's Even Better Than The Real Thing proved to be just that, far outselling the original version.
Now he's realized that as lucrative as track-tweaking may be, it's not going to get him any closer to his goal of cracking America. He's now focusing on film soundtracks. And while John Travolta's Swordfish hasn't turned out to be the box-office smash he'd hoped -- admittedly Oakenfold's "update" of the Soul Sonic Force electro classic Planet Rock didn't help -- Tim Burton's Planet Of The Apes remake may be just the ticket.
"Danny Elfman's doing the score for Planet Of The Apes, and I'm doing the end titles and the single. Initially, I was thinking of sampling some of the old Planet Of The Apes music, but it's doubtful whether people of this generation would recognize it.
"Instead, I just took pieces from what Danny created. I took Tim Burton aside and said, "This is gonna be dark and dangerous, so you probably won't get any radio play out of it,' but he was keen on my ideas.
"Of course, I've been wrong about the charts before. The tracks I dislike the most are usually the biggest hits."
If you want to wind up Oakenfold, just mention the sorry state of the British dance charts and stand back while he goes off. Yet he's one of the key players making underground dance music a highly profitable commodity for mainstream consumption, so it's odd to hear Oakenfold bemoan the destructive effects of rampant commercialism.
"They take a cheesy sample, drop it onto the same drum loop every other dance record uses, add a little piano line, and the track becomes popular," he wonders aloud, choosing his words carefully. "It's very demoralizing from the perspective of someone trying to make exciting, cutting-edge, original music. Someone like Geri Halliwell, who I wouldn't say is the best singer in the world, does a cover of the Weather Girls song It's Raining Men -- which has been covered 50 times before -- and it goes to number one on the pop charts. It's astonishing. If you tried that in America, people would just laugh at you.
"What I've learned from working on soundtracks is that you need to have real talent to make it in America. That's why so few British acts are breaking at the moment. They just can't hold their own by moving in the direction they are now."