Carl Cox & Friends in Heaven: Preview to his Six Hour Set
Reported by Nigel Lewis
Submitted 20-04-05 23:47
So here we are in Australia – the scorchin sun hits my face – the beautiful blue sea catches my eye, as does the bronzed beauties sunbathing on the golden sands – another cool beer please… ahhh! Now that would be really nice but our budget at DP HQ couldn’t stretch to send me down under to interview the people’s favourite DJ Carl Cox, so DPressure Events head honcho Nigel Lewis called him one chilly afternoon from London as he prepared for his Carl Cox & friends party in Rotterdam & London, which is sponsored by www.Hollandclubbing.com
So Carl, what’s your plans for your labels, Intec Records & 23rd Century. Do you have anything new for the summer coming up?
I’ve got tonnes of plans… Intec’s into its 5th year now — we’re just releasing a mixed compilation called “Intecnique” which is mixed by Valentino Kanzyani. He’s been putting out records for a long time now and this is exactly where I want our artists to go now. We’ve got new tracks by DJ Vibe, Roger Watson, Sebastian Ledger and Eric Powell, who had that smash “Don’t Deny It”. We also have a track from a Japanese artist called Hiroki Essashika entitled “Kazane” which will get its preview in Miami. It deserves every single DJ to play it because it makes so many people happy.
What about your own album ‘Second Sign’, when’s it due for release?
The album has been picked up by Pias, France and will be released on the 11th April.
So any surprise styles, tracks or cameos on it?
There is, yeah, I’ve actually been working on this for quite a while now and have been working with people like Josh Wink and Kevin Saunderson. Also Norman Cook is on the album with Roni Size and Saffron from Republica. I’ve also got a new vocalist called Hannah Robinson who had a track “Give Me Your Love” and I’ll be using Onallee, who was a front vocalist for Represents with Roni Size.
There’s also a bit of rock, latin and jazz funk, with a group called Light of the World on “Feel Real”.
So which DJs are doing it for you at the moment?
There’s a girl called Clodagh from Ireland. She’s a young DJ which I booked for a few gigs. I feel we need to give the new djs a helping hand to be seen and heard.
Also there’s DJ Luca, DJ Umek and Chris Cowley from Scotland — all very good dj’s within there own right… watch this space!!!!
You’re widely acclaimed for playing techno, although at the same time encompass a wider spectrum of styles. How conscious are you of being typecast for any one particular genre of music?
I am not conscious at all really. People will always try and put you in a box, but I always seem to jump right out of it. I like that idea. I play music, whether it be jazz, drum ‘n’ bass, hard techno, funk or soul. I’m a DJ that’s always played music and people want to hear it.
I love techno, that’s my music that I support — “it’s my future music”. There’s nothing more that I like than hearing music that crosses boundaries and touches people.
But with that, it’s far from playing other styles of music and it keeps me on my toes. You know there’s more to life than one style of music, so I really do enjoy the fact that people think I play only one style and then when they get to hear a six or seven hour set they are quite surprised.
Looking ahead, where do you see Carl Cox in 5 years — always a DJ, or more possibly in films ?
I don’t think I’m going to be in many films to be honest with you, but I would love to write a film score or two in my lifetime. I’m really into movies — I like to see myself not just behind the turntables but behind the artist & record labels, pushing forward the music that I love.
Ibiza and Carl Cox at Space has been a phenomenon in its own right and without doubt one of the most popular and respected parties on the island. Will you be back there this year again?
Space has been phenomenal for me. I have really enjoyed every moment of it.
I’ve got the same guys that were with me last year: Michel De Hey, DJ Vibe, Cristian Varela. This year we’re going to a have a new terrace with a roof at Space so there will be more artists playing. We’re also trying to get Danny Bookham & Giles Peterson to play a little bit more eclectic in the other rooms
Your party at Heaven here in London on April 29th sees you feature another Carl Cox and Friends party. The last ones in Holland received huge global attention and admiration from the press. How were these gigs for you?
They’ve been absolutely amazing really. The thing about the CC&F parties is it’s all about what I’d like to give people musically in the room — whether it’s for 100 people or 10,000. I basically have an idea of the entertainment of what I want people to enjoy at a CC party. Based on that, what I did last year in Holland was a phenomenal success. To have 12,000 people buy tickets to hear me play and to hear what I think are the best DJs and my music, based on what artists appeared live on stage, is quite scary — but exciting at the same time.
For me, it’s the natural progression to do something like this. People expect me to move on a little bit further and to offer something like Carl Cox & Friends. I also did a CC & F in Space last year, Madrid and Holland. I don’t think we’ll get the full on “Carl Cox Live” concept. But what I can do is a Carl Cox live elements party based on all the people I’ve worked with and get them down to perform these tracks live.
So in complete contrast what was the smallest gig you played in the last year?
I suppose the smallest would have been for 600 in the Rex club in Paris.
You’ve been one of most successful djs of all time, seeing the scene develop from virtually nothing. How does it feel when you turn up to 10,000 capacity gigs now today? Do you still get at all nervous?
Well, it’s still nerve racking and if I wasn’t still nervous there’d be something wrong with me. You know it’s hard to explain until you actually see it for yourself what it’s like. I’ve been fortunate enough to play to 1.8million people, so when you play to 50,000, 40 or 10,000 I’m like “okay, I can handle this”. It’s something that you grow into. Kind of like Schumacher when he’s on the grid and he’s like “this is where I want to be and I hope no one’s passing me”, but he’ll always get someone who wants to pass him. I’m sure if you ask Schumacher if he gets nervous, I think he’ll say yes.
Do you prefer being up high away from the crowd where people can see you, or right down in with the crowd?
I always try to be in with my crowd or as close as possible. The way I perform my sets is all about people seeing what I do behind the decks and not just pushing buttons and twiddling knobs. Sometimes it gets difficult because people want to jump up on stage and talk to you when you’re djing and your right in with the crowd. But I don’t like to be too far away from the people — I want to enjoy it while I’m there. I want to be able to hear and feel as much atmosphere as possible so I can get into what I am doing.
People say that you are an artist not only to be heard live but also to be seen. How conscious are you about the visual side of your performance?
I work hard at what I do. I’m not one of these stagnant djs that just stand there and look blindly into the crowd and don’t even move his feet – I was a dancer before I was a dj and I’ve always moved to music and with this, I was always very creative with my ability to mix music together. I think people need to see how much artistry goes into it. You know, if they see it they can appreciate what we’re actually doing, which is most important.
Do you feel yourself under any pressure at the top to constantly re-invent yourself?
Not really no. I’ve always been someone that’s always decided that ‘now I think I should play something which is consistent’ to what people think that I am playing and kind of more aware a little bit by what people expect me to play, then put something new into it to keep it fresh. But I think by me being who I am & my personality and how I’m positive about the scene and everything that goes with it, I think that just keeps me where I am. It’s something’s I’ve always had as a trait.
Whereas some djs that were there at the start have now faded in popularity to rising newcomers, your profile continues to grow: what’s the key?
The key is my attitude to what I do. When I started I never had an attitude about what I’ve done. And where I’m at today I still haven’t got attitude. I always thought people are the most important things first and foremost. If you see someone come through that needs help, then you help them come through. I mean I’ve been in this business for nearly 35 years now doing what I do. I’m positive to whatever I’ve put my hand to and I always see good as opposed to bad in everything.
I’m not saying I see life through rose coloured glasses but there’s a lot of shit that goes on in the world and just for a moment in our lives to enjoy ourselves is very important.
If you could do it all again, what words of advice would you give yourself or even up and coming djs/producers?
I would say keep off the booze, try and get some initial rest because after a while you cannot stay up forever – it’s not possible. You got to believe in what you’re doing as a dj. Also you have a responsibility when you’ve got people coming to hear you play. So it’s no good you being tired, pissed up or anything else like that. You need to perform and respect yourself and others based on your position and responsibility to give others a good time. There are a lot of djs that don’t do this and unfortunately they don’t last long. Remember you are the key for a lot of people’s happiness.
When you’re on tour, how do you keep up with upfront releases?
I have a tour manager, so if I’m away for quite a while he will go back and get my records and bring them. At the moment a lot of people are into uploading tracks – so now I just download the mp3 and burn them to cds. This has changed from the early days of rave and other parties before when the new releases were put onto dub plates which were only good for maybe 10 plays on the turntables. That’s really old school. Now most of the stuff we get is on cd
Do you still spend time practising or is it purely track selection now and studio work?
No, I don’t practice at all now. I spent 6 or 7 years practising and then once I got the knack of doing what I wanted to do on the turntables and my performance as a whole, it was just down to what music I played at any given place, it’s just something I’ve been able to do. It sickens a lot of people. I could be away for 3 months, not look at a turntable, then go straight into the mix.
How many months ahead do you think some of your set material is?
It’s not months, it’s years!! Some of these tracks I play don’t even come out you know, it’s kind of bizarre. There’s so much music that we get it’s impossible really to try and make any of these records a hit or anthem of the year. A record that maybe came out two months ago may not even see the light of day until about a year & a half later when people start to get it, “the sound of what the artist created”. Because some music that’s being made at the moment is ahead of its time as well, if I play it in two years time the reaction could be fantastic. Then when you say it was made two years ago they can’t believe it! This is what it’s like out there at the moment. I like to think a lot of my music is about a year ahead.
What’s your favourite bit of studio gear?
I actually have this module called a Mini Moog – now this is proper old school. It’s a 1968/9 synth which creates the most awesome baseline sounds that I’ve ever heard. So it’s the Mini Moog which I still to create my baselines
So tell us about your radio show which you do.
Well now, I’m on my 105th radio show. It’s a two-hour put together show where I introduce all of the records I play. I talk a bit on there so it’s not just a two hour mix. I also have interviews, label mixes, where I find the labels that I want to push. Say like Mr C’s label “The End Recordings”. All the great music that comes out on that label some people may not get to hear it. I will then do a label profile and a mix and with that it gets distributed to 15 different radio stations worldwide and they have a listener ship of about 2 million people worldwide every Friday & Saturday. So I’m pretty happy with that.
How do you like to let your hair down then?
I normally try and chill as much as possible and watch a lot of telly. One program I really enjoy is The Bill and also Will & Grace. I also love food and eat really well and just love watching movies and basically chilling out. My life is quite hectic anyway and is very difficult to just walk away and truly relax. So by doing all I’ve just mentioned that’s enough for me.
If you wrote your autobiography — what catchy title would you give it?
I’d call it… “It”. Because the reason where I am is because I have “it” and nobody really knows what “it” is. So that’s what I’d call it, “It”.
When it all began apart from the dress code of dungarees & bandannas, has the scene really changed that much from the early days of acid house?
Yeah I think so because before, it all had a cult following – everything was exciting because it was an experience. We found what we wanted in our life at long last and we were able to express ourselves by what we wanted to do at that point.
Where we’re at now we can go to Creamfields, Global Gathering with over 40djs playing trance in that room, techno in that room, house in that room. All the parties back then were in warehouses, aircraft hangers or in the middle of a field somewhere in Oxford. And when you got there you were just blown away by it. The production at some of them were fantastic. Yes they were illegal but that was the excitement. Now you know you can dance till 6am at the festivals without it being stopped. But we had to go through what we did then to get where we are today… You know, we had to fight for our right to party!
You were once remembered at an early acid house rave (Sunrise 89, I believe) as coming on at 6am as the sun came up plugging in a third deck… What happened next Carl?
Well this was definitely the turning point in my career. But when I did that 3 turntable mix, what actually stood out were the records I played. At the time there was a track our called “French Kiss” by Lil Louis and another call “Let it Roll” by Doug Lazy. These two records were played by every dj that night. Now at that time I wasn’t the biggest dj on the line-up which was why I played so late in the morning. Meanwhile I had to make these two records work in such a way because I wanted to mix these records live so people could see that I was actually doing something unique. By that token I had two copies of “French Kiss” and I was mixing the two back and forth and dropping the accapella of “Let it Roll” over the top and it just went off!! People still talk about that mix today and of what happened. It was a seminal moment of what I did.
At the same time all the promoters were there asking who the dj was? I was going out with a girl called Maxine at the time, she used to manage me then. She said, “That’s Carl Cox”. She had loads of business cards on her and started handing them out like sweets saying, “If you want to book him, here’s his number”. The next thing you knew my phone was ringing off the hook and I’ve never looked back since.
So back then was it easy to adapt to the popularity and fame that then followed?
I suppose so yeah - even when I was at college when I was sixteen years old I would take a hi-fi down to the canteen and for one hour at lunchtime people would dance an enjoy the music. I’ve always had that pied piper effect; wherever I was it must be good. So when it came to doing more & more events it just seemed like a natural progression for me.
So I never really had to adapt to it – it’s just something which I’ve always understood. I still don’t know actually know how well my popularity is. I’m so kind of, not modest but I understand people like what I do but I don’t look or crave for it in any way. Because at the end of the day, I do what I do because I love it and it’s no other reason apart from that. If that gives me my popularity and fame then great, but I would never change the way that I am because of that.
Finally, do you have a message for your all your fans coming to Heaven on 29th April?
Yes, I just want to say I’m really happy to come back to Heaven, I think it’s one of the best clubs in the world. The last time I played there I had such a great time, but this time I’m able to do it in a way that I think it should be. And with that I mean it’s going to be very special. We’re spending quite a bit to make the place look different to what you’re used to seeing at Heaven. Also I’ve got something very special in my performances from other artists and with myself back in London, it’s going to be great home coming party – I’m really excited to be back in London……….. IT’S GONNA ROCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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