Carl Cox shows
One of the most charming DJs in the business. A musical ambassador and a veteran of acid house, a champion of techno, a dance music pioneer, label owner, King of Ibiza – you name it, Carl’s been there and done it, never losing sight of his passions – playing music, breaking tunes and celebrating life.
It was at the age of 15 that Carl bought 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. “It was then that I thought, ‘This is it,’ says Carl. “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 and listen.”
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, where he also DJ’d and did the sound system. He 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 people 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,’ reached Number 23 in the national UK charts and gave Carl his first 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.”
Carl’s classic releases include his 1995 mix CD, ‘F.A.C.T,‘ which became a techno benchmark, selling over 250,000 copies, and the 1996 EP ‘Two Paintings and a Drum,‘ which again broke the British top 30. Alongside Carl’s ‘Ultimate Music Management’ company, which counted Josh Wink and Laurent Garnier among 27 clients, there was the Ultimatum record label, for which Carl recorded his third top 30 UK single, ‘Sensual Sophis-ti-cat.’ In 2005, Carl’s third album, ‘The Second Sign’ caused a stir across Europe and reached number 3 in Spain’s national chart. Also gaining critical acclaim was ‘Dirty Bass,’ a collaboration with Christian Smith, and the funky ‘Give Me Your Love’, both released on 23rd Century Records, an outlet for his own burgeoning production output.
Carl formed his own label, Intec Records, in 1999, scoring a series of underground hits and enjoying eight years at the forefront of electronic music. After its closure in 2006, Carl was still inundated with new music, finally deciding to re-launch the label as Intec Digital in 2010, and it’s been a triumphant return, thanks to exclusives from some of the biggest names in techno. Intec Digital was also the home for Carl’s 6th studio album, ‘All Roads Lead To the Dancefloor,’ released to critical acclaim in 2011. In 2013 Carl re-launched his seminal Pure Intec series, nine years after the hugely successful original ‘Pure Intec.’ Pure Intec 3 followed in 2016 and the 4th installment in the series – Pure Intec 4 came in 2019. “I’ve always been about nurturing artists and supporting new talent,” says Carl. “Sometimes a release gets missed, or overlooked. Pure Intec is a great way to collate the best of our output and celebrate it.”
And of course Carl’s name cannot be mentioned without Ibiza. His legendary Ibiza residency at Space came to an end in 2016, after an unbelievable 15 consecutive years. Since 2001 Carl helped establish Space as one of the biggest clubs in the world. With carefully thought out line ups, and as much emphasis on new talent as big names, Carl always strived to keep his night at the forefront of Ibiza clubbing making it one of the most successful residencies in Ibiza history. Starting out in 2001 with just 6 nights, his residency grew and adapted as the club did, so for Carl it was only right to end his residency as Space itself closed its doors. And what a way to go out. Carl’s final 15 week season was his biggest ever, with every single night selling out, heralded by fans and critics alike as a triumphant finale to a piece of dance history.
Ibiza is still priority for Carl, where he has returned to play every summer since Space’s closure, carefully picking and choosing which nights he’ll play. He now has his roaming club series ‘One Night Stand’ and he’s enjoyed being back at Privilege, as part of Resistance, fulfilling the role of curator and headliner. On top of that he’s now known to pop up at other parties on the island across the season. “In my early days of playing Ibiza it wasn’t alien for me to play all the clubs,” says Carl. “I had the opportunity to do my own night at Space and define my sound in one club. It’s now nice to be able to share the love with some of the other clubs.”
Carl continues to be one of most in demand DJs in the world, with countless club dates and festival appearances every year. After 12 years delivering his Carl Cox & Friends stage at Ultra, Carl is now proud to be ambassador for the Resistance parties, for Ultra worldwide. He also has his own concept party Pure – started with Richie McNeill and Eric Powell and celebrating its 5th year in 2020. Built on the idea of taking things back to basics, Carl put the music first and foremost for some no nonsense, no frills techno parties, which grows by the year (2019 was a record-breaking year for them with over 20,000 revelers): “Pure is my thing. I’ve nurtured it from day one, striving to bring the best purveyors of techno together to deliver it in its purest form, and it works.”
Carl became an official partner of Babylon festival in Australia in 2018, a role he continues with each year, helping curate the lineup, the event’s ethos, and jumping onboard as Babylon’s headline act. Carl also has a long history with Burning Man, having performed at the annual event in Black Rock City since 2008. Carl started his Playground camp as a way to celebrate all that Burning Man is and as a way to give back to a culture that he loves. It started small and most who landed in the camp that first year were those just passing by to get someplace else, but the music and vibe pulled them in. “From that humble start it has steadily grown over the years and in a very organic way” says Carl. “The energy, music and people are what makes Playground so special.”
Carl also runs his label, Awesome Soundwave (ASW) with label partner, Christopher Coe. Launched in May 2018, the label is geared towards artists who make and perform their music live. And don’t forget Carl’s other major passion, his beloved motorsports. Having had a love of cars and motorbikes ever since he was a child, Carl has collected cars and bikes most of his life, with over 100 in his current collection. In 2013 Carl started Carl Cox Motorsport, which has quickly grown internationally with the incorporation of various teams and styles of motor racing. From the NZ & World road race Sidecar championships, The Ducati Tri-Options Cup in the UK, to the Post Classic motorcycles and V8 Drag racing in Australia, the teams continue to achieve amazing results with multiple lap records, race wins, championship placings and personal goals being reached. “To be able to utilize what I have learned from the marketing and brand side of my DJ career and to apply it to my passion for motor sport is a great thing. And it’s already made a difference. I never thought the motor team would grow like this, it’s been unbelievable. It’s a huge passion for me and I’m dedicated to continue making it a success.”
2020 was set to be another non-stop year for Carl. He was in the middle of a huge US tour in March – his first there in over 10 years, before COVID hit and changed life for everyone. The rest of the tour was cancelled and Carl flew back to Melbourne where he pretty much stayed home all year, like the rest of world, going in and out of lockdowns and learning how to use his new found downtime at home. Never one to rest on his laurels, Carl used the time to concentrate on production, remixing, live music and launching his hugely successful weekly live stream Cabin Fever – The Vinyl Sessions.
“I’m a person who’s been out and about for forty years straight, never seen a Saturday night in, and now I’ve seen more Saturday’s [in] in my life than I’ve ever seen before! At the start I thought well what do I do now?’ Well, if I go into my garage, half of it is all of my records. Over 150,000 of them. I’m sitting here watching T.V and I’m like, ‘I’m going to go get my turntables out, I’m going to go grab a few records and I’m just going to play them and do a Facebook Live and see what happens.” Nearly a year, and nearly 50 episodes later and Cabin Fever is one of the most popular live streams out there, watched by millions, and even winning ‘Best Solo Stream’ at the 2020 DJ Magazine Awards.
Carl has also played a huge number of virtual streams throughout the last 10 months. Highlights include the state-of-the-art virtual reality festivals Playground for Burning Man and Lost Horizons from the team behind Glastonbury’s Shangra-La plus some massive fundraisers like Beatport’s Reconnect, Ibiza Soul Food and two events for Last Night A DJ Saved my Life. Carl’s also performed numerous live electronic sets for his label Awesome Soundwave and Movement Selects Vol. 2. He ended the year with NYE+NYD: Absolut x Beatport Global Streaming: Carl opened and closed the online festival which celebrated NYE in 15 time zones, traveling the globe around the clock.
On top of this, Carl’s also used his time to create new music. He revived his 23rd Century Records label to release ‘Pure’ (El Rancho mix) his first new single in over two years and worked with Pharrell and deadmau5 for his acclaimed remix of their track ‘Pomegranate’. He celebrated two years of Awesome Soundwave by releasing a mix comprised exclusively of Awesome Soundwave releases, and re-worked a whole host of other tracks, including his DNB remix of ‘It Is What It Is’ (Bad Ass Disco), and remixes of ‘Call Me’ by Hanna Wants out on Toolroom Records and ‘Farmacia’ (Homage to Frankfurt) – Kennet Bager & Jez Phunk out on Armada Music. Carl’s also finally made his mark on Spotify committing to the platform with an official Carl Cox Playlist, Carl Cox’s Track IDs and a Cabin Fever playlist.
As we move into 2021, and we all hope to see a return to some level of normality Australian fans have already been lucky enough to catch Carl’s return to live DJing, with the return of Carl and Eric Powell’s mobile disco series, which saw the duo play two sold out COVID-safe events in Melbourne in January. But as things hopefully continue to move forward, Carl is reflective on what a profound effect 2020 has had on him. “It changed all aspects of my life. I’ve reflected on everything that I’ve done. I look back on everything and think, ‘I can’t believe I have done all of this’ even to this very day. And I’m still doing all of this, even though I’m here in Melbourne. It’s unbelievable when the merry-go-round stops, and you have time to reflect on what you’ve done. I believe that even if I never DJ-d out there ever again, I think I’ve made my mark.”