One of the most charming DJs in the business – Carl Cox! A musical ambassador and a veteran of acid house, a champion of techno, a dance music pioneer, label owner, King of Ibiza – you name it, Carl’s been there and done it, never losing sight of his passions – playing music, breaking tunes and celebrating life. As a founder of the sound, Carl rode the exploding British rave scene. He played the opening night of Danny Rampling’s legendary Shoom, co-promoted The Project with Paul Oakenfold, where he also DJ’d and did the sound system. He held a residency at the Zap Club in Brighton and at the Sunrise rave in 1988, hooked up a third turntable for his dawn-breaking set, got 15,000 people back on their feet, and established a personal rep for three-deck wizardry. Carl was a reluctant pop star and as the masses moved onto fluffy house and trance, and the hardcore created jungle, Cox retreated into the club world that had nurtured him, and instead embraced the underground sounds of techno.
If you could summarise your answer to everybody that has asked why you swapped from vinyl to [digital software] Traktor, what would that answer be?
The Future. It’s the way forward, and the idea of being creative from a DJ’s point of view is to be moving forward. There’s nothing wrong with moving from vinyl to Traktor or onto any other digital platform. It’s all about getting the music out there, and having people [easily access] the music.
What are some of the other benefits of going digital?
If you grew up in the vinyl era, like I did, you end up with a lot of vinyl. I’ve ended up with over 150,000 pieces of vinyl, and that’s a lot in anyone’s house! I’ve had to purpose-build a garage for those records. If you don’t have the room, you can’t store it. But from a digital point of view, storage is limitless.
Is your music specially curated for such an event?
They do expect a little more than you just standing there playing the regular music. I tend to dig deeper into my collection and try and produce some amazing music [catered] to that type of audience.
Some random questions for you now. What’s your favourite track to listen to while putting on your face before a big night out?
Ha ha ha. You know what? Because I grew up in the late ’60s, I still listen to a lot of Tamla Motown records. Anything by Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, even the early Jacksons; they’re such feelgood records and they were produced so well. You just find yourself singing along to those tunes and it puts you in a really good mood.
What about your sense of fashion?
You know, it’s really difficult for me, because when I go out, I do think about what I’m wearing. If you ever see pictures of me when I’m out, I look and feel like a million dollars. But when I’m working, it’s jeans, a t-shirt, trainers and that’s it. I’m not there for a fashion show when I’m DJ-ing; I’m there to produce the music and to tailor the music the way that I do. And I sweat a lot, you know, because once you’ve got those lights on you… I’m not one for just standing around playing the music; I’m jumping up and down and going just as mad as everyone in front of me. It’s kind of like an elaborate Carl Cox step-workout program!
Do you have any rituals before a gig?
I don’t have a ritual as such but if I’m back stage and everyone around me is enjoying talking, smoking, doing whatever they’re doing, I kind of go quiet. I’m thinking and contemplating what I have to do next. And when I’m ready to go, they say “You’re on” and as you can imagine, the lights go on and everybody goes “rave, yeah, wooh” and I’ve got to do my thing. I love that bit, to be honest, where it kind of goes from nothing to everything. That first record is always really important. Once you’ve got that first record out the way, you’re sitting in the saddle and away we go.
Have you every thought about retiring?
Nah, not really. This one comes up all the time and I don’t know why it comes up. Do people want me to retire? I can tell you now, it ain’t gonna happen. I’ve been DJ-ing for nearly 40 years. If I retire now, it would all have been for nothing. So I will probably die over the turntables, or over the CDJs, or over my computer. That’s when I’m going to retire.
Buy Tickets to Carl Cox & Eric Powell’s Mobile Disco here