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Artist Profiles :: Carl Cox

Carl CoxYou’ll have to look hard to find anyone with a bad word to say about Carl Cox. The big man is renowned for his outgoing, friendly personality and is always ready to stop and chat with his legions of fans. People might occasionally moan about the music he plays, but no-one can deny his skills. One of the few DJs accepted in both commercial and underground clubs, Carl Cox is a living, breathing advert for dance music.

Carl Cox was born in Manchester, but grew up in London. His first taste of DJing was playing records at his parents house parties and from an early age he juggled his tastes in both dance and rock music. Although a decent footballer, he left school with just a couple of qualifications and trained as an electrician at college. Young Carl was a bit of a naughty boy at times and spent three months in a detention centre at the age of 17, an experience he now describes as educational. In his early twenties he moved to Brighton, danced on long-forgotten TV show Solid Soul and pursued a career as a mobile DJ, playing soul, disco and funk around Brighton.

On the strength of his reputation, Danny Rampling brought Carl in to DJ at Shoom in 1987, one of the defining Balearic house clubs of the age, only to sack him after two weeks because, Carl has alleged, he outshone Rampling on the decks. Carl retreated to Brighton where he took up a residence at The Zap Club and built his name on the rave scene. It was at Sunrise’s Midsummer’s Night Dream event in 1989 where Carl really made his name, as fifteen thousand ravers saw Carl play on three turntables, mixing and scratching it up in a way few had ever seen before. The ‘Three Deck Wizard’ nickname stuck and soon Cox was headlining every major rave in the country.

At the turn of the nineties, the UK dance scene began to fracture, splitting down the middle. On the one side were clubs like Boy’s Own, Flying and Venus, rediscovering dress codes and playing as much rock and indie alongside Italian house. On the other was rave, and it was here Cox found his place for the next few year, rejecting what he saw as the elitism of the London club scene. Yet as rave went darker and darker, descending into the hardcore from which drum’n’bass would ultimately develop, Carl’s party-pleasing instincts told him that it was time to move on.

Flyers began to appear with the words ‘Carl Cox (house set)’, although he was essentially playing the same set he’d played at Sunrise years before, an open, accessible, good-times blend of pumping and uplifting hard house and Euro techno. Cox’s versatility began to pay off and spent the mid-nineties period criss-crossing the globe, able to play different sets in different clubs in a way few others could and reaching an enormous global audience.

In 1994, Cox released his first mix album, F.A.C.T. The following year he headlined the last night of the first ever dance tent at Glastonbury, pulling a crowd of thousands - far too many to fit into the tent itself. In 1996 he launched his own club night, Ultimate BASE in conjunction with Jim Masters and Today Ultimate BASE is one of the few remaining techno/underground nights in London and continues to pack ‘em in every Thursday. Yet in 1998 the punishing pace of his DJ schedule and the stress caused by his divorce caught up with him and he was rushed to hospital suffering from exhaustion.

His recording career began with a bang in 1991, when Paul Oakenfold signed him to the newly-formed Perfecto label for a five-album deal. Carl scored a top twenty hit with his first release, the ravey I Want You (Forever) released under the name of The Carl Cox Experience. But musical differences soon became apparent and, under pressure to produce pop hits, Perfecto dropped Cox.

He fought back by launching his own label, MMR, which ran for a couple of years, before being replaced by Worldwide Ultimatum, a spin-off of his Ultimate Management company which, for a good five years, represented many top techno DJs like Laurent Garnier and Josh Wink. As well as Carl’s own material, Worldwide Ultimatum largely concentrated on new or little-known artists like Josh Abrahams, Earl Grey and DJ Dan, as well as the output of Carl’s old friends like Trevor Rockcliffe. Last year Carl launched his latest label, In-Tec, to release club-oriented singles from the cream of the European techno scene.

Cox’s own recording career has never really come close to matching the success of his DJing, however. To date he’s released two solo albums, 1996’s At The End Of The Cliché and 1999’s Phuture 2000. Despite considerable publicity, neither received much in the way of critical acclaim or sales, but he continues to record in his home studio, saying that it’s his status as an international DJ which has so far prevented people taking his solo work seriously.

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