A moment with Carl Cox
Carl Cox is one of the most popular and well-respected DJs on the international circuit. He has been around for almost 30 years, playing various forms of music from soul, right up to tough techno, house and drum’n’bass. This summer, he’s one of the mentors at the Ibiza-based DJ school run, called the Burn Residency, and has been juggling that position with touring the globe, his residency at Space in Ibiza and numerous other music-related projects. I caught up with him in Ibiza a few weeks ago to talk about his work with Burn…
As someone with as much experience as yourself, can you shed some light on what qualities you think a young artist in this day and age needs to have in order to push themselves ahead of the crowd?
It’s a lot harder now because everyone wants to become a DJ. The equipment that you get to use now, you don’t necessarily need a skill to get started with – but you do need to be able to inject some heart and soul into whatever you’re trying to achieve, and not everyone has that. For instance, if you have a drummer with natural talent, they find their way around the drum kit with no problem, someone else though will be like, ‘Tap, tap, tap. Bang, bang, bang!’ and it could take a few more years to get to a good level. That’s what is happening now, people who are naturally gifted, or have a good selection, or have passion for the music… all of these qualities will stand out in an individual and for me, I’ve always had the music inside me. I didn’t know what I was going to do and how it would manifest itself but I knew that music was something that I would nurture and develop into something. Basically I created my own monster!
It came from an early age, the passion and the belief I could do something and, eventually, when I had my chance, I took the choice to do the three-deck mixing. I was there at the height of the rave thing and I was like, ‘Duh duhh! This is me!’ That took 15 years, from the time I started up until people actually knew who I was.
It can seem as though you can become a star overnight, whereas your generation worked for a lot longer to get somewhere. With the internet in particular, do you think people can be thrust into the limelight much quicker?
Absolutely. The thing is, now we’re living in the digital age, it’s the twenty-first century and things have moved on so hard and fast. I was always working in dingy warehouse basements, old wine bars, pubs in the back of beyond – I was doing all of that, I had my own soundsystem, I’d get paid, I wouldn’t get paid, I’d get robbed, my car would get broken into – all of these things. But the music pervaded and kept me going up to where I am now. Nowadays, you can make a track in your bedroom, put it on YouTube, get over a million hits, some clever git spots you and thinks, ‘Oh, this record’s got some attention, let’s sign him for a million dollars’ and eventually you’re playing at Tomorrowland in front of 45,000 people, and you’re not even 18 yet! That doesn’t happen to everyone but it happens to certain people in this world.
You can’t really keep your eye on the prize, you just have to do what feels best for you, whether you’re playing drum’n’bass, techno, trap or whatever. You have to do what you feel and that’s what’s so good about the Burn Residency, because all the DJs that are here right now are doing what is right for them. There’s a lot of diversity and I believe all of them will do well in their own right at some point.
Has there been anything in particular that you’ve imparted to them in order to help them progress?
I’ve never had this situation before, I’ve never had anyone to look up to or mentor me because in some ways because I’ve always done everything myself – but here I am. My experience of me being who I am and to have been doing what I’m doing for almost 30 years – and I’ve been through everything, musically, more or less – all I can do is give words of wisdom as to why I exist. People always ask, ‘Why are you still here?’ and I say, ‘Well, I don’t know why. But I can tell you one thing, I still love music.’
Do you think that’s one of most important aspects to the durability of your career?
It is, and no matter what you’re aiming for as long as you have that inside you, something will always happen. If you’re looking for a goal or an end game you get frustrated – ‘Why hasn’t this happened to me?! I made this record, I got this manager, blah blah blah…’ and you get to a point where you’re so frustrated and so annoyed that you just think, ‘Sod this, I’m gonna go and cut grass or something’!
Do you think it’s important for artists to keep that natural passion and need to love what they do, otherwise it becomes calculated and that’s what leads to people losing their direction?
Exactly, and that’s why I try to instill into all of them here that, no matter what, you won’t all go through to the finals here, the idea is you’ve had a good time, you’ve learned a lot and you’ve had an awesome experience on this island. It might not happen today, but somewhere along the line, if you keep going and keep believing in what you do, it’s gonna happen. It happened to me, so I’m a great example of that.
Read more of this interview at marcusbarnes.com
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