A musical ambassador since he was in short trousers, a professional DJ since his early teens, a veteran of acid house and a champion of techno, Carl Cox emits a love of his work that is dangerously infectious. Check him when he’s behind the turntables and you can’t mistake his ecstatic visage, dripping with sweat as his head bobs up and down to the beat, his hands pumping the air whenever they’re not manipulating the turntables, his body swaying back and forth, frequently taking to the mike to share word on the latest underground tune he’s about to break. You name it, Carl’s been there and done it, but he’s never lost sight of the point of it: playing music, breaking tunes, spreading love, celebrating life.
In 1977, aged 15, Carl got a set of turntables and began working as a mobile DJ. Disco was the first music that captivated him but by the early 80s Cox had moved on to playing the same music as other young London DJs – rare groove, New York hip-hop and electro. He was perfectly placed to hear Chicago house music in its earliest forms, and when the epic ‘Acid Trax’ by Phuture (a.k.a. DJ Pierre) came out in early ’87, “I was just ‘This is it.’ I would do my parties, and I’d play old rare groove and hip hop and soul and I would say ‘Right you’ve got to hear this Phuture track and people would just stop. It’s funny because all the people who thought I had freaked out then are the people who are making the music now.”
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, 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 kids back on their feet, and established a personal rep for three-deck wizardry.
The next step was to make music, and Carl’s 1991 debut single for Paul Oakenfold’s Perfecto label, ‘I Want You,’ gave him a top 30 hit and a Top of the Pops appearance. Two more singles also made the charts. But 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.
“Techno drives home somewhere,” he says of his core music. “It takes you to an element of surprise, not knowing where you’re going. It’s scary but wonderful at the same time.” A 1995 mix CD, ‘F.A.C.T.’, became a techno benchmark, selling over 250,000 copies. His own 1996 EP ‘Two Paintings and a Drum’ again broke the British top 30. With then-wife Rachel running the business side, Carl set up Ultimate Music Management, which counted Josh Wink and Laurent Garnier among 27 clients. There was the Ultimatum record label, for which Cox recorded his third top 30 UK single ‘Sensual Sophis-ti-cat.’ And inevitably there was a weekly London techno club, Ultimate B.A.S.E., for which Carl was resident.
After forming Intec Records in 1999, the label went on to score a series of underground hits. Continuing his mission to conquer the entire world, Carl now also has a weekly radio show fittingly entitled Global, which is syndicated to over 10 million people including listeners in the USA, China, Argentina, Colombia and Istanbul. The 2-hour global shows have been running for over 3 years and as well as FM Radio are also streamed on www.carlcox.com and Real Networks. The four-part shows take in Carl’s favourite track (Global Warmer), an exclusive 1-label mix (Global Lowdown), Global Alliance – which sees DJ’s including Todd Terry, Laurent Garnier and X-Press 2 in the mix- and finally Going Global, which features highlights from Carl’s international diary.
2002 saw him further add to his “little empire”, by launching 23rd Century Records, an outlet for his own burgeoning production output. “A lot of the industry isn’t signing artists anymore,” he laments. “And if they are it doesn’t leave much room for what I do! So I thought if the majors don’t really understand this music, then I’ll have to put it out on my own.” The label’s first release was Carl’s acclaimed collaboration with Christian Smith a speaker–freaker entitled ‘Dirty Bass’. The summer of 2002 also saw Carl launch his now legendary residency at Space in Ibiza, offering clubbers a chance to get into the club for half the normal entry price. Carl flew over a seemingly inexhaustible supply of worldwide DJ talent to join him behind the decks and the night proved such a success that he’s returned to the White Isle every season since.
Carl’s highly anticipated third album, ‘The Second Sign’ was released in Europe in May to coincide with the Carl Cox and Friends world tour. The album caused a stir across Europe and reached number 3 in Spain’s national chart, while the tour saw Carl and co thunder their way through France, Spain and Holland, as well as return to the UK for a marathon six hour extravaganza at Heaven nightclub, London. Album collaborators including Onallee (Reprezent) and Saffron (Republica) joined Carl on stage and an array of talent provided support behind the decks including DJ’s/ friends such as Michel de Hey, Joris Voorn, Johan Cyber , Umek, Valentino Kanzyani, DJ Clodagh and Tony Thomas. “It was amazing, in Rotterdam there were 12,000 people going crazy and we had DJs like Kevin Saunderson and Michel de Hey, alongside live percussionists and vocalists from the album. It went on for 7 hours,” he laughs. “I’ve been doing this for 24 years and I just stood back from it all and smiled. It made me feel great knowing that I could still move people that way after so long.”
After a short period of R’n’R Carl was back behind the decks for another summer at Space, where the newly restyled terrace allowed him to introduce the ‘Late Night Sessions’ welcoming guests such as Roni Size, Ashley Beedle and Gilles Peterson to play well into the night and next morning on the terrace, while stars including Fatboy Slim graced the decks inside. The residency was a massive success, even bigger than previous years and Carl is already busy planning how to better this next year, so expect something amazing. The residency also perfectly primed the techno don for his next adventure – the Road To Voodoo Bus Tour. The DJ road trip saw Carl visit an incredible twelve different states and twenty-five cities across America and Canada ably assisted at various points along the way by Evil Nine, Locodice, Mark Lewis and Victor Calderone.
This brings us up to date, with Carl planning to return to his current adopted homeland of Australia to work on new material before taking the Coxy experience on the road for his Antipodean fans. A documentary style DVD featuring a collection of interviews, footage taken in the run up to and during the Carl Cox & Friends shows in France and Holland as well as this year’s Ibiza residency is set for a release over the coming months, as well as a video of Carl’s Far East tour (Singapore, Japan, Indonesia, China) planned for December. Also coming soon is ‘That’s The Bass’ – Carl’s collaboration with Norman Cook, which sees the duo enlist the talents of Tim Deluxe on remix duties for this release. All this before heading off to Cancun, Mexico to welcome in 2006 at one of his legendary New Year’s Eve parties: “Even if I’m just playing records, I’m into the moment of playing and with that, if I’m dancing, and I’m enjoying this moment, then I’m sure you guys can too, without the record having to be the focal point of why we’re here. That’s why I find it a lot easier to push new music on people – because I believe in what I’m playing, full stop. And everyone can feel that, and go with it, and then they can walk away with the experience of Carl Cox.”