Filed under: Interview
One of the world’s favourite veteran DJs, Carl Cox, had a chat with HigherFrequency about his travels, his labels and everything else in between. The big wig nutted out an email from his secret Melbourne suburbs hideaway just shortly before jumping across the ocean for one of his annual Tokyo sets.
Interview by Ryo Tsutsui (HigherFrequency)
HigherFrequency (HRFQ) : It’s been 2 years since you last came to Japan. And this will be your first time playing at Womb. What are your expectations for Womb and have you heard anything about the club before?
Carl Cox : A lot of my DJ associates played there a few times before, one of them being Ritchie Hawtin and Christian Smith plays there a lot, based on his CD compilation dedicated to Womb, he has a lot of heart and soul for this club. For me being the first time there it’s really exciting cause I don’t know what it’s going to be like, I have to always create the vision of what it can be like, and hopefully the expectations of what I think is higher once I play. People can always say “I had a great night at Womb” but I don’t know what that is until I’m actually there and feel the energy from the people and what I give to the party, then I understand. So from this point I can’t say what it’s going to be truly like for me, but what I can say is that I brought myself here, my heart and soul and my music to Womb.
HRFQ : Recently your sound has changed a bit, you’ve added some electro house and minimal into the mix, however you’ve maintained your one-of-a-kind “Coxy groove” is this due to your technique?
Carl Cox : I’ve always been able to get the very best out of all types of music whether it be funk, soul, house, techno, whatever. I’ve always been able to put all these elements together and create my own style, my own vibe, my own passion and feeling of creating a night of music. I’ve never really been a slave to one sound, apart from a lot of people feel that my music is always more of a techno orientation, meaning hard, fast energy. But then when I play House music it has that hard fast energy! I can’t get away from the energy of what I create. It’s just something that’s been within me all my life when I play music. And it’s quite funny because if I play minimal it still has an energy, if I play techno it has energy even more beyond itself. So I like to think that even though we have many titles of different styles and genres of music, that I put it under one umbrella of it just being music, which is created and made and compiled by me, Carl Cox, is what creates my style. So I have a feeling for all types of music but able to relate that type of music into the dancefloor purely based on it’s energy from my point of view. Armin van Buurin can play exactly the same record as me but I would play it in a completely different way. Not to say it’s good or bad it’s just the way I play it. It’s something which I’ve been able to control, develop, understand and get people to know that if I am playing that record because I believe it’s a good record, not because it’s minimal or techno or trance, in the end a good record is a good record, and that’s what I like to think I play, good records.
HRFQ : Ever since you started DJing, you have had such a wide variety of sound, how do you manage to keep finding good tracks from all sorts of genres?
Carl Cox : Well I’m very fortunate to be able to travel the world and within me traveling the world I always meet DJ’s and producers making new music, a new sound from Greece, or from the Baltic islands, all these different areas of people making music and I’m definetly one of the first DJ’s to get anything created from any of these countries, which I enjoy. Peru or Brazil someone’s always making or doing something, and if I hear something and I play it, and I know for a fact that I’m the only one that has it, then I turn that into a Carl Cox record. but meanwhile because of the radio station Global, people send me music to my house or send me files to my ftp site so everyday I’m always getting sent music. And sometimes if I’m looking for a specific sound or track which I like, I go to a website [beatport/trackitdown]. But I have a lot of music sent to me from all over the world and if they’ve made something that they feel that I’d like, then they get it to me by hook or by crook.
HRFQ : Do you actually listen to everything you get?
Carl Cox : I try to, but there’s so much music I could spend 6 months just listening to each and every individual track, so I basically put my music in files or CD’s when I have some downtime, 2 or 3 hours, I make my marks on the CD’s or download the file. Cause sometimes for 1 record there are 10 mixes, so you have to go through all those mixes to find the one that suits me, all the other music I won’t play and that one mix I will play, so to go through those 10 records will take 10-15 minutes to find one record, so it’s time consuming but it’s necessary for me to have new music for sure.
HRFQ : Your labels Intec and 23rd Century have a huge fan base here in Japan and many people are waiting for some new releases however they havn’t released any new tracks for about a year, are you planning on releases stuff next year?
Carl Cox : With the two record labels that over the last two years things have changed from making records. From the pressing plant, to packaging, and artwork all of this now we don’t create anymore because we can not sell the records anymore. Times have changed where people used to go into a record store and buy a record to now wanting to download that record directly onto their mp3 or onto their computer to play. For me, when I made Intec 50, vinyl base, that was a mark of an era for what we’ve created from Intec over the last 9 years. And 23rd Century records was also my label for releasing Carl Cox music and anything else around that didn’t suit Intec would be on 23rd Century. But now I wanted to take a step back to see how I could still find music, put music out and promote it but from a digital point of view. For me it’s now not Intec Records it’s Intec Music, and 23rd Century Music because it’s going to turn itself into a download site. Somewhere where you can pick up your new music from a mp3 point of view. But the way of the future now is this way, which completely changed everything when pressing plants and distributors like Amato going down, it’s just showing you exactly what’s going on out there. And I didn’t want to part of a sinking ship in some ways so I kind of stopped everything while I felt it was necessary and now to do my research and development it has taken one year and then next year you’ll start to see Intec Music rise again with new music from what I’ve been collecting over the year of producers making music for the label and also my own sound as well, my new album will come out on 23rd Century and things like this have started to happen. So I wanted to take a step back for 1 year just to see where everything is and then to think it’s now time for 23rd Century and Intec to become what I believe it can be as a company that still believes in music. It’s a difficult and long process because people who used to buy records still want to buy records, but I find it really hard to carry on creating a label and spending this amount of money on people who want to buy records because it’s too expensive. Times have changed, for the better in some ways because people are still interested in buying music, just not from a vinyl point of view anymore. So I’m just moving with the future with releasing music from my record labels now. For 1 year I was losing 4 to 5 thousand pounds on each Intec release, which is a labour of love for me but for my accountant it was just losing money so I had to come to a conclusion of now having to stop, step back, cut my loses and move forward with creating a whole new way of maintaining Intec Music, which has been easy but necessary.
HRFQ : In a past interview you said “To become a Top/successful DJ you must make a track, release a record and make it hit” do you think this works with just a digital release?
Carl Cox : It maintains to be the same because over the years there are more and more people that want to become DJ’s, so 5000 DJ’s how does one DJ become successful. The only way to jump out of that is if you are able to make a record which the public like. For instance, Fedde Le Grande, nobody knew who he was 10 years ago but everyone knows him now because his 1 hit record that all the DJ’s played putting him in the arena of the next wave of new DJ’s coming through, without it he would still be along side the 5000 DJ’s. He was very lucky and fortunate, it doesn’t happen to everyone but you have to try to do it, try and make that record, try and make something that makes you unique or individual and that represent the reasons why you wanted to become a successful DJ in the first place. I’ve always been a DJ that just loves to play music whether I’m successful or not, so that’s where your heart has to lie, you have to understand the reasons why you are doing it in the first place. If you have that then being successful shouldn’t matter too much because you’re doing what you love anyway but no one’s going to say “don’t try”, keep the momemtum of your spirit based on your DJ’ing ability but your inroad to success is trying to make that record heard. Meet as many people as you can, send your music to everyone, inundate people with your music somewhere along the line something has to happen, it all depends if you really want and believe you can do it.
HRFQ : For the past couple of years, you have DJ’d the New Year’s countdown in Korea, which isn’t very well known for their club music scene, is there a special reason why?
Carl Cox : The first time I played in Korea I had a really amazing experience, purely based on I’ve never been to Korea before in my life. I never though that my success as Carl Cox had reached as far as Seoul and I didn’t know what to expect when got there, but I found that it was half westerners and half Koreans that were into the music. It’s also the only time I get to play in Korea so it was important for me to have somewhere where I felt it was necessary for me to be at the change of the year based on that Korea is probably the last place I’ve got to play. I’ve played Japan many times, China, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Thailand, all these places I’ve played many times but Korea no. so it’s kind of like me giving them a little bit more than I would anywhere else based on the time that I chose to do it, and to feel happy about that. And they really appreciated it. Also my schedule allows me to be on this side of the world before I go to Australia for my 2 month rest. I have a house in Melbourne in which I enjoy the summer, so it’s also on the way home in a sense
HRFQ : Could you give a message to all your Japanese fans?
Carl Cox : Japan for me has always been a place I’ve really enjoy playing, I felt that the people really know their music and with that I’m able to play some of the best sets here. I always feel that the Japanese crowd really appreciate good DJ’s who play good music so I’m always excited to be here and to play new music for the Japanese crowd and they always push me to play the best here so I enjoy the challenge of playing Japan for sure!!
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