Carl Cox

Having recently released ‘Electronic Generations’, his first album in over 10 years, veteran producer and house/techno DJ Carl Cox digs deep into his formative influences

Illustration: Joel Benjamin

CRATE DIGGING

“From about seven or eight years old, I was exposed to Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin, Sam & Dave, Booker T & The MG’s through my father’s record collection… I was already conditioned to explore music.

“My first record store, Diamond Records, was opposite the train station in West Croydon. I became very friendly with the owner. It was £1 to get there and £1 to come back on the bus, and I had enough left to buy one or two records. I liked raw, uncut funk, so Mass Production, early Cameo, Parliament – music for late-night smoky rooms. I chose very carefully. I wanted to know that what I bought I would enjoy for the rest of my life.”

AUSTRALIA

“I used to build sound systems when I was 19, 20. I wanted people to hear music at its best – to feel that bass. If I had 200 people in front of me, I was a star in Carshalton. Then, in the 1990s, the rave scene came about and it was my time. I made a record called ‘I Want You (Forever)’ and Paul Oakenfold signed it to Perfecto, so I found myself on ‘Top Of The Pops’.

“It crossed over to the Australian radio stations, and I got the opportunity to go there and play. Can you imagine that, from Carshalton all the way to Sydney? That was a massive eye-opener, knowing where I was in my life and what I was doing. I fell in love with the place, and now I live in Melbourne.”

MAYDAY, MAYDAY

“When the Berlin Wall came down, I got asked to come over from the UK and represent my music. The Mayday festival in Dortmund was the first event I’d experienced that had massive production, and the sound was the best I’ve ever heard. It blew my mind, and I grabbed the opportunity with both hands. People were like, ‘Why’s this clown playing in Germany?’, then I’d play these rave, hardcore and techno records, and they’d say, ‘Wow, he’s great!’. Phew!

“Like a lot of the early festivals, there were primarily Germans there, but now there’s a cross-pollination from all over the world. Playing in so many different countries and becoming culturally aware, I can see what this scene has done. It’s brought people together who would never normally stand as brothers-in-arms. It really has been a phenomenon.”

BARBADOS

“My mum and dad came over to Manchester from Barbados. When people talk about Barbados, they talk about Saint James, where Tiger Woods has a house, but my family lived in a place called Blades Hill – very rustic – where my dad had a convenience store. He’d be playing music, giving out rum and banana bread. Me and my sister were born in Manchester, so it was a culture shock for us to go back. The island music is soca and calypso, and my music comes from seeing this energy.

“Before she died, I knew my mum needed to see me perform for the very first time in her motherland, so I played Club Sugar and she and her friends had a VIP area in the corner. I incorporated a bit of calypso to keep them happy, but they wanted to hear the modern music too. I looked over and I could see it in her eyes… she was so happy about what I was doing. I hope when I’m 70-odd I still have that same passion for life.”

DRAG RACING

“When you talk about drag racing today, people think of RuPaul. No, this is actual drag racing, where two cars take off from the line and get to the quarter-mile as quickly as they can. I love American muscle cars – the Ford Mustang, the Chevy Impala, the Pontiac GTO. I’ve had them all in my collection. I used to take any piece-of-shit car I had down to Run What Ya Brung at Santa Pod Raceway in Northamptonshire. I’d blow them up and get towed home.

“I stopped drag racing for years, until I came to Australia in 2004 and a friend took me back to the strip. I’ve built a car which gets me down the strip in 5.9 seconds at 251mph, so I’m into professional drag racing now as well.”

SANDS IBIZA

“For me, music and food is a match made in heaven. In Ibiza between 2009 and 2012, I had an opportunity to become a restaurateur and create something unique. It was a daytime beach bar where you could go with your family, wearing a bikini or a pair of shorts, hang and eat the best food, while I played music you would never hear on the island – funk, soul and jazz.

“I’ve always loved food, whether it be pie and mash, a good steak or Asian fusion. I enjoy food with an essence of where it came from, where you’re exploring your tastebuds.”

ALWAYS EVOLVING

“My musicality stems from school where I played drums in a band. I was pretty good, but no Cozy Powell. My mum got me piano lessons and I hated it – I was playing ‘Swan Lake’ and ‘The Blue Danube’ – but knowing the rules and chord structures came into my life heavily, so it was worth doing. Even back in the 1970s, most of the seven-inch cuts would fade at three minutes 20 seconds, so I would tape-splice the parts I enjoyed and turn them into six-minute records. In 1994, I took six months off, built my first studio and made my first album, ‘At The End Of The Cliché’.

“In 2011, I released ‘All Roads Lead To The Dancefloor’ – it had a bit of acclaim, but I got disheartened by it. With the attention span of youth today, I felt, the album is done. When the pandemic hit, I had all this equipment in my studio so I thought I might as well bloody use it. I gave the results to a guy called Matt King at BMG – he got back straight away and said, ‘That’s the best music I’ve ever heard you make, I want to sign you for three albums’.

“It was a ‘Wayne’s World’ moment. ‘Sorry, what? You’ve signed a 60-year-old DJ on a three-album deal?’ He didn’t want me to change a thing. I’m now going out as a live artist, performing all my shows from these machines. It’s another step into being who I am, and maybe the start of something new.”

‘Electronic Generations’ is out on BMG

0 Shares:
You May Also Like
Read More

Adrian Sherwood

The man behind the mighty On-U Sound label, dub kingpin Adrian Sherwood, shares a few of the formative influences that have shaped him and his considerable studio smarts
Read More

Time Gane

Krautrock aficionado and one-time Stereolab man Tim Gane takes time off from his Cavern of Anti-Matter project to tell us what makes his creative juices bubble
Read More

Pierre Bastien

On ‘Baba Soirée’, his new collaborative album with Michel Banabila, mechanical instrument maestro Pierre Bastien revels in unusual ways to manipulate the sound of his cornet. His influences are a steady diet of artistic rule-breakers… and tiny circuses