Before the social media explosion, instant gratification from club-goers came in the form of autographs, handshakes, and the words, “great set!” over and over again with their favorites artists. Today, a lot of that still reigns true, but the methods have shifted to the form of anything that involves a cell phone. And, for an artist, although appreciated, it can become mentally and physically straining.
In 1998, Tariq Ahmed drove a taxi. One night, while working, some friends invited him over to their house for a cup of tea. When he arrived, Tariq was immediately mesmerized by the music that was being played on the stereo and asked his friend what it was. Turns out, it was Paul Oakenfold‘s Global Underground 007: New York, a record that was a retrospective look at a set Paul played at Twilo in New York City.
He immediately asked to borrow the CD, and listened to it while driving for the rest of the evening, and well into the morning. At 9 a.m. he arrived at a Tower Records to purchase his own copy and returned the borrowed one back to his friend.
“After I bought the CD I had to see him live,” said a smiling Tariq. “My brother, cousin, and I all went to Sheffield, England’s Gatecrasher to see him for the first time.” What struck Tariq was the crowd’s reaction to Paul’s entrance into the club. “It reminded me of seeing a pop star,” exclaimed Tariq. “It was crazy!” Tariq and his friends wanted to say ‘hello’ to Paul after the show and shake his hand, but so did everyone else. So, not wanting to bother Paul, they left.
Sitting in his car out front of Gatecrasher, the four were listening to a cassette tape of Paul’s Essential Mix at Ibiza’s Space when Tariq mentioned to his cousin how he wished he could’ve said ‘hello.’ “Well,” his cousin said, “he’s right there leaning on the front of your car!” Tariq immediately got out of the car and shook Paul’s hand and congratulated him on a great set. As Paul was about to enter a black taxi parked in front of Tariq, he noticed Paul reaching into his bag to pull out a cigar. Cigars would be somewhat instrumental in what was to come.
Fast forward to late 1999 and Paul’s new residency at Home in Leicester Square. Tariq met up with Paul again, this time armed with a couple of Cuban cigars that he had earned as tips from his new job as a chauffeur. As he and his friends were walking through the line at 11 p.m. to enter, they met Tosh, Paul’s door-picker. A lean, 6’2″ young man wearing a long, white suit, a feather in his hat and blue sunglasses. Tosh’s job was to ask potential patrons questions regarding Paul to keep undesirables out of the club.
When frisked by security at the door, they discovered a couple of cigars on Tariq’s person and Tosh asked if he was a cigar smoker. “No,” Tariq responded. “They’re for Paul if I get a chance.” Tosh immediately responded, “Don’t worry, you’ll get to give them to him!”
After entering and enjoying Paul’s Saturday night residency set, the four were confronted by Tosh and club security right before closing and escorted downstairs. “To be honest, I was nervous,” remembered a laughing Tariq. “I had smoked a couple of joints beforehand, and was paranoid they were going to arrest us!” But, Tosh had other ideas as he moved them through the large assembled crowd surrounding Paul. When he and Paul saw each other, Tariq reached into his pocket, gave Paul the cigars, and left without saying a word.
The following week, the same thing happened. “I mean, what are you going to say to the guy that a thousand people haven’t said to him already,” asked Tariq. So, again, without a word, Tariq gave Paul the cigars and turned to leave. Finally, Paul said, “Hey! I’m not gonna bite ya. What’s your name?” The two finally exchanged pleasantries.
Still bewildered by all the preferential treatment he was receiving from Tosh and Paul every week, Tosh began to escort Tariq and his friends up the music industry’s side entrance and was told they would never have to wait in line again.
Still great friends to this day, Tosh recently revealed to Tariq that Paul had noticed that even with a thousand people waiting to shake his hand and say ‘Thank You,’ Tariq hardly said a word. Instead, it was written all over his face. A tribute to an artist that few can muster.
We’ve all done it. We’ve all met someone, and within a split-second are able to form a bond with them somehow, someway. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes the best relationships are garnered this way.
You see, Paul had developed a soft spot for Tariq, and perhaps gained his friendship with him not wanting or asking anything at all from him. When you’ve already been one of the biggest DJ’s in the world for quite some time, sometimes you need solace from people pulling you in 29 different directions. I believe he found that in Tariq.
Finally, a chat and a drink after his last Home residency performance, Paul sat with Tariq and the two began to get to know one another. Soon after, and with Tariq still working (as he does to this day) as a chauffeur for a local casino, Paul unexpectedly called him and asked for a ride to the airport. “I was a bit surprised,” said Tariq. “I was happy to do it for him, though.” The rides became more frequent for Tariq as Paul would request his services to places such as Buckingham Palace where Paul and other innovator’s of England’s cultural evolution were The Queen and The Duke Of Edinburgh’s dinner guests.
Almost 20 years later, and his now association with Perfecto Records as an Artist and Repertoire representative, Tariq has almost by accident gained a wealth of knowledge of today’s competitive music business. When asked how Perfecto has changed over the years, Tariq was adamant in saying, “The principal of the label has never changed. It’s always been about the discovering, playing and sharing of music that we like through music releases and touring.”
Perfecto has changed with expansion. Like many labels, Perfecto has sub-labels that cater to different genres of dance music. Perfecto Black concentrates its efforts on the darker, deep house and techno material while Perfecto Flouro caters to the PsyTrance genre, Perfecto House signs house music, and the original Perfecto Records maintains the signature Perfecto sound.
Like other labels, Perfecto does have a signature sound, but Tariq stops short of suggesting what a particular song needs for a potential signee to fit the platform’s mold. “I won’t do it,” he proclaimed. “I’ll simply say that it needs a melody change or riff, but I’ll let the artist figure it out without us compromising their individual style.”
Tariq went on to say, “Perfecto is a platform for new and up and coming talent, and it’s my job to nurture and push these artists while sharing the experiences that I’ve gained working with Paul. We want to challenge our artists, but there’s a fine line between experimenting and maintaining your personal style. If you want to succeed, stay true to yourself as your own original artist.”
In the end, this chauffeur and A&R guy has seen the world, met and worked with the world’s most talented dance music artists, and got the job by not asking someone for anything. “I’m very proud and privileged to be a part of Perfecto Records and the brand of Paul Oakenfold,” said an emotional Tariq. “More importantly, I’m proud of the very close friendship Paul and I share, and It’s something I could have never in my wildest dreams envisioned. It certainly never was the plan.”