The Mancunion

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Interview: Carl Cox

We chat with the Techno legend Carl Cox in anticipation for his set on the Sunday of Parklife Festival.

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Don’t be fooled by the wide-toothed smile, Techno giant Carl Cox has a formidable reputation as one of the most respected pioneers of the genre. I spoke with the loveable legend to discuss risqué track titles, Vegas residencies and how what he only really cares about is what’s happening on the dance floor.

His new EP See You Next Tuesday is another collaboration with the afro-doning Mood Records boss, Nicole Moudaber. Cox is quick to praise her work. “What was really amazing about Nicole was that she was able to do a remix of my track ‘Chemistry’, and since Chemistry was the only Drum and Bass orientated track on my last album she took up the opportunity, or rather the challenge, to make a Techno record out of it.”

Ask any Techno fan and they’ll remember the remix that quickly became an anthem of last summer. This in mind, I was shocked to discover that the whole track came from just four seconds of the original bass line. “To me what was amazing was that Nicole took the bass line, slowed it down and cut it in half to make an initial bass line. From that, she created all the rhythms, drops and sounds for the new track.” It quickly became one of the most popular tracks of the year. “It was amazing to have that kind of accolade, so I thought ok, this is good”.

That’s how the See You Next Tuesday EP came about. Carl tells me “one day I’m having dinner somewhere with Nicole and she says I’d like to do another track so send me the parts to something that you’re working on. I said “ok, but why don’t I give you only a four second bass line based on what you’ve done before?”. She said “is that it?”  and I said “…yeahh!”. So when you’re hearing ‘See You Next Tuesday’ today, the bass line that you hear when it breaks down is all that she was given for inspiration”. Meanwhile, Carl reveals that the seemingly risqué title is actually the result of an in-joke between him and Moudaber. “The title actually came from when Nicole would come to Ibiza to play with me at Space and it was great to see her command the room. There was one day where she was going to come back two weeks in a row so I just said “I’ll see you next Tuesday” and that’s how the title was born.”

However, the collaborative process isn’t always so smooth for Cox, who describes difficulties in the studio that often makes collaboration over email an easier process. “Sometimes the process of sitting side by side in the studio can be a little daunting when you’re sitting there flashing out ideas. Around half of your ideas won’t work and it can be difficult to get what you really want from a track. That’s why collaborating over some distance can be useful. You can get mutual respect between each other without being forced into the situation.” Late night moments of inspiration also help to play a key part. “If you’re making music in a studio and someone goes “alright, go and make a hit record in the studio”, it never happens. But you’re kind of just messing around and you stumble across  something and you think I may as well just put it out, that could become the biggest thing that you’ve ever done in your life and it’s because if you’re forced to do something, you can over think things. Inspiration can come at 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning and then you wake up and think “oh my god! I’ve got it!” . You go to your computer, lay something down, think “there you go!” and then go back to sleep. That’s the best way to create music.”

Production aside however, Cox’s charismatic performance style that saw him named the “three deck wizard” in the late 1980s will be returning to Vegas as Carl undertakes a new DJ residency at Light Nightclub this year. Whilst it’s no secret that EDM and commercial house music has dominated the music there thus far, Cox comments on his hopes to bring credibility back to Vegas. “Before the EDM wave, all the Vegas clubs were playing Hip-Hop which when it first started was very underground, very credible. Now Vegas has become poptastic and the same records are getting played. Often in the same order as the DJs are just doing it because they’re getting paid.” He hopes this residency is perfectly timed to change that. “People are starting to find out that there’s more water in the well of Dance music. In Vegas, they don’t really care too much about the music because there are so many distractions – the casinos, drugs and shows. Music is the least paramount of what you’re going to Vegas for but it should be the most important. Everything around it should be a bonus. If this kind of music is going to become big in Vegas then I want to be part of the growth and the rise of something that is credible enough to sustain itself because the music is good and if it doesn’t work then it wasn’t for the want of not trying. That’s what’s in my head. I haven’t taken this residency on lightly but I hope that the timing is now right for me and my music to go in there and make a difference in Vegas. That is the only reason why I am doing it.”

To Cox, this problem is linked with the new obsession around the cult of the DJ. He reflects “many years ago, we didn’t have any big screens or production so if anyone wanted to see how talented you were, they would come down to the front to have a look at what you were doing. The problem is that now commercial interests have confused stage presence with an ‘act’ so if I do have a big screen production behind me, I make sure that there’s a camera showing my mixer and my hands so that the crowd can see that I’m sweating, I’m working. I’m choosing records, I’m putting them in and out and finding the right record for the time. For me, the most important is what is coming out of the speakers and happening on the dance floor, but the full performance is about what you can do as a talented artist and how you approach the task of producing music live.”

For any aspiring producers Cox thus advises “ at the end of the day, you’re seen as a performing artist and behind all of the machines, there has to be some sort of personality and passion that people can see. You have to be doing what you’re doing because you love it. If you really do believe in what you’re doing and you’re not following any fashion, then you’ll be successful. I’m testament to that. I’ve not really followed anything, in fact all I’ve done is share the music that I love and that I believe in. I enjoy that.” The artists he pushes on Global Radio reflects that ethos. “At the moment I’m loving a guy called Chris Count” Cox comments. “I’ve been following his music for the last two or three years and it’s absolutely unbelievable. He’s been very consistent in his sound and has had a few releases out on Intec already. I love that he moves from different genres into tech-house and that he’s always changing his style.”

Carl Cox will be heading the ‘Bugged Out! stage’ on the Sunday of Parklife festival alongside Nina Kraviz, Skream, Scuba and many more. Cox comments “expect the unexpected as I haven’t played in Manchester for quite a while. The last time I played in Manchester was Sankeys, which was great as I played after David Rodigan and people lost their minds. If people know my music then they’re in for a good time as I’m going to collate the very best of what I’ve been playing recently to make sure that Manchester gets the very best of what I have to offer.  I was born in Oldham so it feels like coming home.”

See Carl Cox at the Parklife Weekender in Manchester 7th – 8th June. For more information please see www.parklife.uk.com