An Extended Set with Carl Cox... the encore
by Jordan E. Lanier
Photos by Jordan E. Lanier
At this point in the interview, Garry Barnes knocks on the door. After the introductions, it becomes obvious that he is bringing Carl bad news. It seem Mythos' management had planned to put Carl in the DJ booth. Arrangements had been made six months in advance for the Global tour. Carl wanted to be placed where the audience could easily see him. He feels he is more effective this way. It had been prefaced that he was not to be in any of the DJ booths at the clubs where he was booked. All of the logistics that should have been thought of before the event had been overlooked. There was still a stage to prepare, cables to find, etc. All the while, however, Carl remains positive and jokingly tells me how he hopes the chicken wire doesn't show. [part 1 of the interview is here]
Lunar: We were talking about your sound...how would you describe it?
Carl Cox: My sound is really always funky, it's always pumpin', and there is always energy in the sound. You know there is an element of passion in it as well and spirit. It kind of goes out to the crowd and basically comes back to me when I'm playing something good or creating something unique. And I suppose that is the Carl Cox sound.
Lunar: How vital do you feel evolving as a DJ is to success? Is it a challenge to maintain your style or the sound you are going for through these changes?
Carl Cox: Yes! Years ago, with DJs it was kind of like whatever. No one cared, you know? Apart from the ones that made it, the ones that made it were only on radio. There was never a performance from a DJ. And to get to this point where we are as big as some of the major artists, based on what we can do and in the sense of what we have created: club culture is actually a phenomenon. With that, we've still got to want to understand it, because the old school network says that the DJ is only playing other peoples records. Now, it is wrong. DJs are playing in clubs. DJs are making their own music. DJs have got their own record labels. You know? DJs are a well-known phenomenon and are able to turn the whole scene on its head within another sound of music or drum of music, which send sets of all different types of artists. So its become a much more important role from just being a DJ. It is being an ambassador to what you're supporting. With that, what we are doing really is going out there and showing them exactly what we are about and what we can achieve, and what we can do and relay that into a club situation or festival situation and then benefit that into films, advertisements, or to the next film score. For me, it has become a much bigger picture. So with that, no one can deny that you have to have a certain amount of knowledge, skill, and, also, passion. You really need to at least have some sort of talent to keep your head above water with what we are trying to do.
Lunar: Have you ever felt pressured to play a certain kind of set?
Carl Cox: No, no. They totally leave me alone. It is kind of like "You're the professional, entertain them" and that is fine at the end of the day. You never tell a DJ how to dim the lights or never tell a doorman what type of people to piss off or whom he should let in. For me, if the crowd is a bit housier, than I play more house. If it is a crowd that can handle the harder techno, then I take it there. If you want breakbeat or something a bit spiritual, then I've got records for that, lovely. It is all about feeling the crowd and how you can respect the crowd by what they have come to hear, in the sense that if it is a house crowd there is no way I'm going to smash the doors down for two hours by playing techno thinking I'm brilliant, because actually you are not. I'm there primarily to entertain people.
Lunar: As a "Superstar DJ," do you ever feel as if the Carl Cox juggernaut has gotten too big? Do you feel you have been able to stay in touch with what is important to you or your roots?
Carl Cox: I mean, the title "Superstar DJ" doesn't fit really well with me at all. I don't feel like that whatsoever. [pause] If I were, I wouldn't be in this room in this hotel, AT ALL. (laughing) I'd be in a penthouse suite with twenty people drinking Cristal Champagne, you know?
Lunar: Yeah, I guess it wouldn't be the Budweiser out of the can that you've got now, huh?
Carl Cox: No! Your right, we wouldn't be sitting here drinking Budweiser and watching Titus. [laughs] That title has been given because U2 can get 60,000 people at a concert and DJs can get 60,000 at a concert. So, I think it is just a title that has been given based on what people can see. I have played to a million people, but I don't play the guitar. It doesn't make me a superstar, it is just a lot a people and they're there and come to focus their attention on one's self. So, people sort of look beyond the situation of the reasons why we are put in that position. It is because we have earned the right, or I've earned the right, to be or have the opportunity to express myself by what I can achieve. So, when people do meet me, it has nothing to do with, the rings or the Ferrari or anything else like that. I mean, yes, I have nice cars and a lovely house, thank you very much, but I have worked very hard for all of that. With that, I feel more of a working DJ, than a Superstar DJ.
Lunar: Outstanding! It definitely seems like you have worked hard over the eight years I've been listening to you. [Laughing] My mom knows who you are, lets just put it that way.
Carl Cox: [laughing] Oh my god!
Lunar: What defines or makes a great party for you. As far as the event, what do you like to walk in to where you are playing and see?
Carl Cox: I like promoters that can make theme parties. Straight away, it is fun. And with that they can be "Centrinians," it can be "Pimps-n-Hoes." It could be anything, as long as there is a theme. I think people are already excited and happy because you are taking people out of context and you put them in a situation where they have to make an effort. You know? If you do a party where everyone is dressed in Machino and Chanel, they are the hardest party to do because, first and foremost, they aren't there for the music. They are there for themselvesto look good and be attractive to other people, and the music is secondary to that. I'll go into a club, and I won't even dress up. I'll probably go how I am [black jeans and t-shirt] 'cause I know I'm gonna sweat, and I know I'm gonna dance and enjoy myself. I'm not there to look good for anyone apart from feeling good about myself. That is important at the end of the day. My perfect party would be a theme party where people make the effort to decorate the club or wherever. It's important that people feel they're coming to something special.
Lunar: I know that the Global tour has consisted of mostly club dates so far, but what do you prefer the larger outdoor events or smaller parties?
Carl Cox: The thing with this tour is because of Area:One tour being such a big event, and I wasn't in clubs, so this is like Carl Cox in clubs. And the thing with clubs, I'm at home in clubs, apart from tonight because I have no idea what is going on or what's going to happen tonight. [laughs] I'm sure it will be absolutely fine, but the chicken wire might give it away. [Heavy laughter] I don't know if I'll need my techno edition of "Rawhide". It might be quite interesting.
This is the first time I've ever been to Charlotte, so I don't know if this is the ultimate cow town, or if they've ever seen a black techno DJ before. I'm sure it's going to be interesting. [laughs again] This is what it's like for me. I step into a room and take things at face value and turn negatives into positives. Garry just came in and was like, "Oh, my God," and I was like, "Don't worry, it will be fine." The question, I don't know if I answered the question, I have no idea! [Still laughing]
Lunar: You did. How does the emerging U.S. club scene compare with Europe? What do you feel we can do better?
Carl Cox: There's not much more you can do, really, unless you have a radio station, which is really like a focal point of the scene. For everyone to understand that if a DJ's playing there and it's a 2000 capacity club 3000 or 4000 are going to come from surrounding cities, just to support it. Otherwise, your going to have the club for 2000 and who's going to come but well-informed people and the rest of the people won't go because they don't understand it. But this is the thing, which is difficult in the U.S.to actually get people out for the scene itself because every scene is in every city and every city is very far away. So what would be nice is if there was one focal point or radio station, which can be the voice of the nation.
Say, like, Creamfields, for instance, I'm going to be doing a party in Houston, TX, and there's going to be 50,000 people. Well, in England that would go out to everyone. Everyone would know about it, and everyone that was into it would go. Then you've got a country's core clubbers or core people that are into the music would be theresupport it and have a happy 50,000 people. In America, you could do it in any city because you've got ballparks that seat 80,000, but you know that's understood at the end of the day. That can happen with the scene, but you need something that's going to bring it all together and tie it up. I've always been, with what I'm doing now, the only thing that happens. To get 40,000 people you still have to have a hip-hop act, an old school act, or disco act or something, like Paul Oakenfold, for instance. And that will get you 35,000 people possibly if it's done in such a way, but that's just in one city. It's very difficult to get everyone together, that is what I have found.
Lunar: So you feel the radio in Europe has helped in large part to unify everything?
Carl Cox: Without a doubt. Because you say one thing about going to a party, which you think everyone should go to and then they all go because it only happens once a year in such a way that people would support that. In the U.S., I think Area:One was great because it managed to pull out a lot of people to see Moby and Outkast or whatever, and then to see me, Paul Oakenfold, and the Orb and everything else; it was great. Again, that's just one part of the scene that could actually be more elaborated on if that situation was allowed to happen.
Lunar: [Regarding] Area:One, as compared to the venue tonight, is it different for you picking up on the audience vibe with a big differentiation in crowd size?
Carl Cox: It is different! It is different with the two things. Because already with Area:One there was a master plan of what they would like people to be exposed to. In a nightclub, if you live in the area and you've been to the club before, it's going to be a little more special because you've got a talented DJ coming in, but it's still the same people behind the bar; toilets are still flooded. [Laughs] That's what you have. There's nothing much more that you can do about it. Meanwhile, my agenda would be different in a sense. I would push the elements of the club beyond its expectations, and I have done it; especially, when I was in Cleveland. My God! They weren't expecting me to do what I did with the crowd; they had never seen it before. Most of the crowd was standing, not standing, but they were dancing and cheering for me when I was on the mic. They were screaming and shouting, and security was standing around going, "My God! What is going on here?" And it's great to see that.
Lunar: Your artist album coming out in October, does it compare with Phuture 2000 at all or what was your focus with it?
Carl Cox: Yes, Phuture 2000 really was the end of a legacy of music that I've been into or I've created. It wasn't supposed to set the world on fire. It's just something that I wanted to finish as the millennium came. With that, the elements of the trend of the music on [it] was to do old school, was to do funk, was to do elements of drum and bass. Anything else I could think of. [It was very diversified] But a lot of people couldn't handle it. [laughs]
Lunar: I thought it was outstanding.
Carl Cox: You know, I made an album and that was it. I made an album that was personal to myself and I just want to... I had the opportunity to release that and I was ready for it. But meanwhile, my new album is all about straight up dance floor. It is about where I am at right now with my music. It is right where people can understand where Carl Cox is right now. I'm working and collaborating with people like Neneh Cherry, Erick Morillo, Kevin Saunderson, Fat Boy Slim [Norman Cook], and Roni Size. You know, these are all people that in their own right have been very successful. All I have done is taken elements of my music and then placed it with elements of their music and then put them together as a force to be reckoned with by the meeting of two minds.
And with that I'm going to go, "O.K., even though you have been really popular with "Praise You," there is no way you are going to have any of that sound in my music." The way he [FBS] edits and cuts his music, is fantastic. That is what I want to put on the dance floor. And so far it has been outstanding. So, it actually goes beyond both of the albums that I have made. It is by far the best that I have done and I am very happy that it has come out in the way that it has. But it is really luck. I want to leave a legacy of what I created.
Lunar: Global was released on ffrr (Full Frequency Range Recording Records). How did that come about?
Carl Cox: What they have done... it is quite cheeky actually. It is Warner Brothers per se. It is an ffrr and Essential release. So what they have done really, by my album being more or less the flagship, is to push other stuff on Essential and ffrr as well. ffrr is dance and Warner Brother is Bugs Bunny, Time Warner, and AOL. It doesn't have the same kudos with dance culture, you know? So they put that in place. I have known Michael Cohen for a few years. He had the opportunity to support me in what I wanted to do for my next step. It was a conversation that we had and he wanted me to step to the plate on what I actually wanted, ant that is to be exposed in the proper way and come out with high exposure for what I have created. That needs to supported by a company that actually has the money to do it. They were the right people at the time. The relationship was suitable and it has worked out really well.
Lunar: In the Global liner notes, you talked about the U.S. club experience and how you have witnessed some staggering changes. What were they? What sets us apart?
Carl Cox: I think what the idea of this album is really to show people that there is another side to what the burgeoning scene was in the U.S. There was a time when the burgeoning scene was all about U.K DJs coming to the U.S. and trying to conquer the U.S. with trance and progressive music, which I didn't agree with. As far as I'm concerned, the burgeoning scene is all about exposing yourself to music that creates the scene. So, there was already hype about the American scene when there was no burgeoning scene to be had by that token because the scene was already creating itself. So there was a lot of sound that did nothing for the scene because they didn't expose anybody to certain artists that were actually creating and making the scene what it is. Whether I play in Japan or Singapore or Holland or Germany or France, all the music that I am exposed to is all music that creates the scene. That wasn't happening in the U.S. It was kind of like progressive or not, or trance or not. Everything else was relatively underground. But I'm kind of like, "No it isn't!" It is as big as trance and progressive.
So now, my staggering changes and now seeing people actually listening to what I'm saying, and actually get into tech-house, techno, and house music, which is a part of the scene which made the rave scene or the club scene in the first place. So, for me, I've now seen people that are actually getting into that, and that opens the door for people like Trevor Rockcliffe to come through, Dave Angel to come through, Mr. C to come through. It is pretty nasty. There are just so many different artists that actually play music that actually helps create the scene: Michelle Payne, Steve Ratcliffe from Holland. They are all very good DJs and fantastic producers. This is going to be the thing that will keep the scene going longer without the hype of the burgeoning scene and what people's perceptions of the scene is in the U.S. It goes beyond the expectations of a certain sound in which people feel that is the scene.
Lunar: How do you feel about the current state of dance music? Where do you think it is headed? Do you feel it is at its high point?
Carl Cox: I think it is still growing and elaborating and evolving really. I think people are still not exposed to it. People are still talking about it in terms of what they have heard or what they would like to hear. Some people talk about Derrick Carter with a passion or Green Velvet. These are people that are still enjoying these moments by what they have seen from these people.
Lunar: You said the tour has been really tough so far. Is there anything that you are looking forward to as it wraps up?
Carl Cox: God, even when I get at home I don't stop. I've got an Intec party at Fabric and the next day I have a launch party at Turn Mills, which I haven't played in ten years either, so people are looking really forward to that. I actually get home after the conference on a Wednesday I think. Then I have four days off to sleep and watch Star Trek. [laughing]
Lunar: Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Carl Cox: I will definitely still be DJing, I think as long as my body lasts. Just not as hard as I have been. Also, I am really looking forward to producing other bands and artists with what I have established and created now. With ten years to develop that sound, people will be coming to me to help other artists get through. That is what I have always done, something that I have felt compelled to do and have a passion to see other people come through. With that I, at the moment anyway, I've been working really hard at creating the Carl Cox sound so it is a place where people feel they can produce what they like in the sense of who they are and what they want to be represented by while making their music.
First, I would like to thank everyone at Formula PR for procuring the time with Carl. His touring schedule was hectic at best. I would also like to thank Garry Barnes: it is blatantly obvious why you are legendary. Without your technological know-how, Mythos would have been plagued with sound problems.
Most importantly, I would like to thank Carl for his time and patience. He had been doing multiple interviews most days of the Global tour and was exhausted. He gave me far more time than Formula had given me permission for. It was an amazing hour of questions and answers that will never be forgotten.
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