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Grammy winner, new Austinite Paul Oakenfold promises crowd-pleasing set for AG Rugby opener

By Omar L. Gallaga
Special to the American-Statesman
DJ Paul Oakenfold says that Austin became his favorite city after years of touring. He bought a ranch near the city in December 2018 and started renovating it about a year later.

At the time of this interview, DJ Paul Oakenfold has just gotten off a plane for a show in Tampa, Florida. But he’s only a week away from coming back to his new, adopted home city of Austin, and the excitement in his thick, gregariously friendly British brogue is obvious.

“Austin, it just kinda crept on ya!” he says with a laugh by phone. “I don’t even see it as a city. It’s a town; it’s beautiful, the food, the style, the look, the people, it just became more and more a favorite of mine."

The Grammy-winning producer and DJ will be a big attraction on Saturday when he performs a set after Austin’s first Major League Rugby game of the season. The home team, AG Rugby, will play the Utah Warriors at Circuit of the Americas, after which Oakenfold will take the stage for some post-rugby entertainment.

We talked to Oakenfold about making the move here, and what newbies to rugby can expect at the show.

American-Statesman: What made you decide to move to Austin?

Paul Oakenfold: I’ll tell you, I’ve been touring America for many years, and over time Austin just became my favorite city. I’ve got great friends there and a few years ago one of them said to me, “Would you ever consider living here?” And I was like, “You know, when the time is right, I’ll make that move.” In December 2018, I found this wonderful small ranch and I pulled the trigger. Then just as I was about to start to do it up, our friend COVID kicked in and the rest is history. (A year later) I started getting down there to fix it up and that’s what I’ve been doing.

Are you a lifelong fan of rugby?

I’m a fan of international rugby. In England, it’s not a major sport, as you may be aware, soccer is. But I’m really happy it’s coming to America, I think when you do see the game up live, it’s really exciting. I got asked to get involved and I thought they wanted me to play. You don’t want to get hit by one of those guys, let me tell you that. I want to support Austin, I want to support the city, and apart from rugby, you’ve got soccer coming here too, Austin FC.

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We’ve been hearing a lot about Austin FC but not much about rugby.

It’s not going to be easy. Anything new is not easy to launch. But there’s a great team behind the event and I think people are going to have a wonderful experience because they’re going to see something they’ve never seen. I’m so glad to a part of it.

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How is a show like this one different for you than one in a club or a festival setting?

If you’re playing a nightclub, you’re playing directly to the crowd that came to see you and you can play a lot more underground, a lot more cutting edge. This event is open air, it’s obviously in a stadium, so my approach in terms of music will be different. I’ll play more, let me say, commercial songs that people will know, but in dance form. So I’ll play my mix of Red Hot Chili Peppers, or my mix of U2 or a Rihanna songs, songs that people who are not into dance music will know.

Electronic music is becoming a bigger part of the scene locally, like in recent years at the Austin City Limits Music Festival.

And how wonderful is that? I haven’t played Austin City Limits, but that’s wonderful that electronic music is being embraced in a really big way. So let’s try and find an Austin electronic band like the Chemical Brothers or Underworld of Daft Punk. Let’s try and find a young Austin DJ that we can support and blow up, why not?

Anything else you can tell us about rugby in Austin?

It’s a big deal. I think people are going to come away from it on Saturday going, “You know, that was a really enjoyable evening.” And also understanding the sport. I mean, I don’t think a lot of people know or understand the rules, and it will take a little bit of time. But like soccer, you know, you get it over the line and I think people are going to be fans of it.

AG Rugby vs. Utah Warriors

When: 7 p.m., Saturday

Where: Bold Stadium, Circuit of the Americas

Tickets and information: agrugby.com