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Exclusive Interview: Carl Cox opens up a brand-new chapter in his musical journey

To celebrate Space Riccione's opening, in Italy, and his extensive tour with his Hybrid set, we decided to pay homage to the King

  • Words: Rocio Flores | Photos: Dan Reid
  • 16 May 2024

Talking about Carl Cox is not just about an abundant source of inspiration in the contemporary dance industry, it's about dance music history.

He's a professor in the perfectionism of playing with sounds and styles, but above all, he's an impeccable, humble human being.

Despite playing in the most epic clubs and festivals worldwide, his humility shines through. If we were to name them all, this story would be more extensive.

He's also opened the doors for countless artists into this circuit. Many of you may know him as the Three-Deck Wizard, the King of Ibiza, but we would love to describe him as a true inspiration for past, present, and future generations of electronic music.

On the occasion of the opening of Space in Riccione, Italy, and his extensive tour with his Hybrid set, we decided to pay homage to the King.

We bring you a deep story in which Carl shares his profound relationship with our country's audience.

His music has touched the hearts of many, and his upcoming projects, including the latest release of 'Concentrate' in collaboration with Paul Oakenfold in Perfecto Records, were eagerly awaited.

Read an exclusive interview!

Hi Carl, Thank you very much for having us and welcome to Mixmag Brazil! It is a GIANT honor to have you on the cover. How have you been so far?

Thank you Rocio! It is you that is giving me this huge honor, Obrigado!

Mixmag has supported the dance music scene and me from the start and continues to champion the industry we all love so much. We’ve done some great things together and for sure will do many more.

We just saw that Ultra Australia was incredible, so many happy faces! You have lived there for quite some time. What initially made you want to be around Australia?

I kept being booked there and enjoyed the people and the culture every time I visited.

Moving between two bases, the UK and Australia, allowed me to perform all across the world. My touring schedule is still around 100 dates a year without taking into account my motorsports and studio dates.

International travel has become much more straightforward, so I’ve been spending more time in Australia and still reaching the same level of shows across Europe, South America, and America.

How is a typical day for Carl Cox?

Every day is different but features some or all of the following ingredients: performing, studio work, motorsports, family, friends, making music, playing music, listening to music, having fun, and, of course, just being me!

We would like to start by mentioning that Space has been crucial and unique in your life as an artist. We’d like to explore the specific moments when you fell in love with the club and what your reaction was the day you played for the last time there.

That last night in Ibiza was full of emotion! Ibiza had made me so welcome, and I knew that the last night of Carl Cox at Space would need to be something extraordinary.

It was essential for me to leave such an impact on that dancefloor and that the energy we created, and be we I mean the artists and clubbers, would resonate across the island and around the world.

People still talk about that night, even people who weren’t there or even old enough to be out then, so hopefully, we succeeded.

A new chapter will be open in June, ‘Space’ opens in Riccione, Italy. What does it mean to you this new chapter at Riccione. What can we expect? What would you say makes a difference from the one in Ibiza?

When I heard that a new Space was opening, this time in Italy, I was pleased that the ethos behind Space would have a new life.

I was happy to be asked to perform in their first season. It will be different from Ibiza, and so it should be, and hopefully, they can inspire the next generations to keep pushing electronic music forward.

"When I put a line-up together, I don't see race, sex, gender, or socials, I only see talent and musicality. That has to be the starting point."

How have you personally handled the changes in this industry? Do you feel the essence between the audience and the music has been lost? We mentioned it because nowadays, people are more aware of their validation on social media than looking for that moment of self-discovery through dance.

Most changes happen gradually and over time, so you evolve as the scene evolves.

There have been some significant changes like the switch from vinyl to CD and then to digital, but it has always been about discovering new music and sharing it with as wide an audience as possible.

Social media is a double-edged sword it is great that it allows people to connect more, but at the same time, it needs to be a small part of what goes on as opposed to being something that takes over your life.

People like to share pictures and show they are part of something in the same way that some people collect autographs or concert posters.

Social media is a bit like a virtual dancefloor, it allows you to connect with like-minded individuals and share experiences, and people use it in a way that suits the world they are in.

When doing the research for this interview, we found a part where you talked about leaving a legacy. How do you visualize it? How would you like the new generations of artists and audiences to remember you?

Hopefully, my music and the energy I bring to the dancefloor will be part of my legacy, but I’ll just be happy to have made a contribution.

I’ve definitely played and continue to play my part in the evolution of dance music and modern culture and being remembered in the distant future for what I do now means I will have achieved what I set out to do.

Not so long ago, you started to present your Hybrid Set. How did this idea come about? Which machines have surprised you the most while you are in action?

While I’m in action, many machines surprise me, but the ones that I’m using predominantly are the Moog subharmonican, the Moog D fam, and the LXR Drum Synth, which is really powerful and usable and a lot of fun.

I also use the Pulsar 23, which was a gift from Joseph Capriati, and it’s been in my set ever since.

You’re back to Brooklyn Mirage, showing this set as well. Tell us, is it going to be something different than what you are going to showcase at Space Riccione?

All my sets are different. I usually have an idea of what I want to play but it depends on the energy and feedback I get from the dancefloor while on stage. This is the same whether I am doing a DJ set, playing entirely live, or going Hybrid Live.

Set times and durations play a part and I’m fortunate that I get to perform at unique venues with amazing sound systems to amazing audiences. With me, people know what to expect, I’ll give them 100% of myself and then a little bit more. Oh Yes!

Another thing that caught our attention was the line-up for the show in NY. We see a strong presence of female artists like your dear friend Nicole Moudaber, Magdalena, Juliet Fox, or Milhuska. What did you take into account when you invited them to be part of this party?

When I put a line-up together, I don’t see race, sex, gender, or socials, I only see talent and musicality.

That has to be the starting point. I’ve made some amazing friends, and I’m lucky to be able to perform alongside such phenomenal artists.

"Social media is a bit like a virtual dancefloor, it allows you to connect with like-minded individuals and share experiences."

During your visits to many South American capitals where the culture of Latin sounds is rooted, you have had the opportunity to meet artists who are marking the current moment, those who are vital and are driving the evolution of electronic music. Who are they?

I’d definitely say DJ Anna. She really knows her music and her sound and the way she produces music so well - it’s really crossing continents and really making a difference.

And also, Anderson Noise, who’s been around a long time; I’ve known him for many years; he’s actually just put a two-track EP out on my label - 23rd Century Records.

We’re having a lot of fun with that. And Renato Ratier, I got to play with him on the last tour I did. Renato Ratier has been keeping the scene alive with his music, not only as a DJ but also by putting on live events for the local crowds.

From your visits to the region, which do you think is the country that is generating the strongest techno movement with the incorporation of Latin sounds?

That is an interesting question!

Music crosses all boundaries, including geographic, but you get a sense that the Latin rhythms are present in music from Argentina and Brazil, but then again, there is Latin influence in tracks produced as far afield as Romania and Japan.

Many of us are big fans of the whole Latin Jazz Funk scene so it is only natural that these influences and in particular the amazing percussion elements have made their way into all types of music.

Speaking of our own, what can you tell us about the first experiences in our country? What made you fall in love with Brazilian culture?

My family comes from Barbados, where they’re really proud of their heritage, of who they are as people, and of music. I see that same passion and pride in Brazil.

It feels the same. People seem to really enjoy their lives in Brazil, and music gives them so much more to feel good about.

That’s one of the reasons why I connect so much with Brazilians.

You are an authentic inspiration to people out there. However, who is still your inspiration? An artist or someone close to you… Who inspired you to be who you are today?

You could fill a whole magazine with this question. I am inspired by many artists, past, present, and future, from Stevie Wonder to Nicole Moudaber and from Nile Rogers to Franky Wah. My late parents were my biggest inspiration.

My mother always encouraged me to try to be the best person I could be, and my father’s love of music opened my eyes to a vast array of sounds way beyond the chart stuff my friends and I were hearing on the radio.

After my father passed away, I played his record collection as one of my Cabin Fever shows, connecting to him through the music that inspired me.

"People seem to really enjoy their lives in Brazil, and music gives them so much more to feel good about. That's one of the reasons why I connect so much with Brazilians."

Thirty-one years have passed since you presented your first release in ‘Perfecto Records; please take us a little back. How was the first approach? What happened in this long gap?

Paul Oakenfold heard me play across three decks and asked me what the record was – when I told him I just put some tracks together he brought me in to the studio so I could recreate it and that was how ‘I Want You (Forever)’ came about.

We’ve always stayed in touch and been on many festival line-ups together. Paul showed me how to release a record as the dance music scene started to take shape, and he opened up the world to many of us when he became the first ‘Superstar DJ’ by going on tour with U2.

Now, that you released ‘Concentrate’, how did the collaboration come about?

Paul and I have been friends for a long time and I’m really proud of the huge success he’s had with his music, his label and the movie soundtracks.

When we performed together at Stonehenge, we had the idea for the track that would eventually become ‘Concentrate’.

Did you guys talk about all the multiple changes that you have lived in this industry?

Most changes happen over time, often so slowly that you hardly notice they’ve happened.

We do talk about the good old days, but I think anyone who has been part of something the way we have is happy that things have progressed to such an extent.

Against all the odds, dance music conquered the world, so what could we possibly want to change?

"Hopefully, my music and the energy I bring to the dancefloor will be part of my legacy, but I'll just be happy to have made a contribution."

Awesome Soundwave. How is the label doing so far?

Awesome Soundwave was set up by Christopher Coe and me to introduce exciting live electronic artists to a wider audience, which is one area where I felt the club and festival scene was falling short.

The criteria that we follow to release new music on the label is that artist must perform live acts, ant that they are currently performing in real world. The music must be awesome, it doesn’t have to be techno, and they must deliver an album, that’s it!

Are you having some exciting releases coming out soon?

I have just done an ASW mix compilation which includes new artists like Momec, from Denmark, Jani Ho, Harmonik Kontrol, even Vitalic! And many more.

Then we have a fantastic new project from Christopher Coe where he recorded entirely improvised modular sets on remote islands off the coast of Ireland and filmed them.

Charlie Thorstenson’s new album is just about to drop and it’s a masterpiece! An amazing record by De Sluwe Vos out of The Netherlands is coming soon.

Down the track, we have Mat Playford’s long-awaited 2nd LP and an amazing record from Australian psychedelic electronic act Oolluu!

What are the things that inspired you the most about emerging talent?

It is that word, ‘talent.’

When you discover someone, who has the passion and determination it takes to create their own music, and you know that they are at the start of their journey, it is really inspiring.

Everyone works differently, and I really enjoy seeing the various processes that artists use and how their set-up evolves as their sound develops.

Where do you think Awesome Soundwave will head musically in the next few years?

There is yet to be a definitive strategy, but the plan is to keep championing live electronic artists and to enable these artists to have a global platform that encompasses both the underground and the mainstream.

To finalize, if you had one chance to go back in time. What would your advice be to young Carl Cox?

Looking at where I am now, I would have to say to a young version of me that was starting out to do everything just the way it felt right and to stay true to your ideals, although if a young me was suddenly confronted by me from the future, it might change their destiny – it would definitely be a shock!

Anyway, I’ve already been back in time when I played in Australia on December 31st, 1999, into January 1st, 2000, and then flew straight to Hawaii, where it was still 1999, to play into the year 2000 again.

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