For a man who’s been playing in Ibiza every year since 1984, you might think Carl Cox would be somewhat jaded by the prospect of another hectic season on the White Isle. But then again, Carl Cox has never been your average DJ.
It’s a part of his being that makes him such an engrossing and enduring figurehead within the electronic music scene, and as he gears up for his 14th consecutive season as a resident at Space, it’s obvious that he’s as excited about Ibiza now as he was way back when.
When DJ Mag catch up with him he’s just back from a gig in Las Vegas, where he’s been playing at the Light Club in the city’s infamous Mandalay Bay hotel. Effusive in his praise of the city’s scene, he talks us through his gig, telling us how he played until 7am to a mixed bag of “ravers, pimps and dealers”.
Whereas many within the house and techno domain would scoff at the very suggestion of touching down in Sin City, Cox boasts a far more positive demeanour, and from talking to him you quickly sense that he seems almost duty bound to spread his musical message far and wide. A man with an infectious sound, he’s also someone with an infectious personality — and it’s little wonder really that he’s continued to stay so relevant over the years while many of his peers have fallen by the wayside.
Yet it’s far from just the burgeoning American scene that Cox is happy to wax lyrical about. When we question him about his thoughts on EDM — the love-it-or-loathe-it sound that’s dragged electronic music back into the mainstream — he is firm in his belief that it benefits the scene as a whole.
“I think what’s so exciting about this moment in time is that we’re starting to see a shift from EDM to more ‘underground’ sounds. A few years ago when the whole EDM thing was kicking off, it acted as a gateway to the scene for a lot of those guys who were then 17 or 18-years-old. Now, as they’re getting older, they’re getting a bit more cultured and they want to try new things. I think that’s where I step in.”
Cox isn’t wrong, either. Right now he’s as big as he’s ever been in the global hub of EDM — the U.S. — and the aforementioned Mandalay Bay gig saw him lay down tunes to more than 4,000 punters. But whereas Cox admits that the U.S. scene is still in the midst of a sort of learning curve (“I can play a certain amount of music that makes sense to them and a certain amount that’ll test them”), it’s clear that it’s the island of Ibiza — more than any other place — that’s played the most pivotal role in his career.
As he gears up for his 53rd birthday, has he any plans to call it a night?
“I’ve been asked this question a bit recently, and the honest answer is that I really don’t have a plan in place yet [for retirement],” he steadfastly affirms. And frankly put, why would Cox stop when he’s still very much at the top of the techno tree? At the time of going to press, the so-called “King of Clubs” has just headlined another spectacularly successful Opening Party at Space, while in Ibiza especially he’s as popular as he’s ever been. Considering the amount of competition he faces these days — both on the island and beyond — that’s no mean feat.
He has always been a sort of chameleonic character; someone who can almost seamlessly adapt his sound, style and bookings. At his Revolution party at Space, for instance, he’s championed numerous drum & bass acts, has hosted a ton of newcomers and has also made way for special annual appearances from the likes of NYC duo, Masters at Work. Much like the man himself (Cox was among the first DJs to popularize the three-deck mixing technique), his Ibiza night has always been one step ahead of the curve.
Refreshingly, he takes on the booking mantle himself — and this year’s crew of guest DJs is very much as impressive as it’s ever been. “The great thing about Ibiza is that it changes all the time,” he tells us. “The people change, the clubs change and the line-ups change. That’s something I’m extremely conscious of — I don’t want people to just replicate the same experience year-on-year; I’ve got to keep it interesting and invigorating for them.”
LOYALTY AND RESPECT
Keep it interesting this year he most definitely has. “I think the big news [this year at Space] is the return of Marco Carola,” he states with glee. “When he [Carola] steps out of Amnesia and we play back-to-back, I think that’s something really different for people.
“Another thing I love doing,” he continues, “is giving new guys a chance, and there’s a young guy called Javi Row who’s an incredible DJ and is someone who I’m really looking forward to checking out. We also have Nicole Moudaber doing four sets for us, and Eats Everything — who’s been crazy prolific recently — will be here a couple of times too. Then there’s Nina Kraviz, who loves that sort of Detroit sound that sounds really amazing on the system at Space. So yeah… there’s loads I’m looking forward to!”
As Cox’s Revolution rolls on with distinction, we’re curious to note what he attributes its success to. “It’s a team effort,” he says with some conviction. “I fly the flag for the night, but I have a really amazing crew behind me. Guys like Dave Browning and the Safehouse management team I just can’t speak highly enough of.
My name might be at the top, but really I’m representing a family of people when I’m doing my thing in Space. Without my team it wouldn’t have lasted as long as it has — and because of them it has lasted as long as it has. Most of these guys have been there from the very start with me too.” In a scene that was built on loyalty and respect, it’s somewhat apt that Cox’s rise has been built around these very principles.
This year, Cox will also be embarking on a new venture in the shape of the Float Your Boat boat party (a sort of pre-party before his Tuesday night throwdown), and although he’s recently sold his famous Sands restaurant on Playa d’en Bossa beach, he’ll still be there at regular points during the season, doing the thing he loves most — DJing — to a swathe of delighted holiday-makers.
Keen to give back to his legion of fans, his Sands gigs are free and always intimate affairs; the likes of which only enhance his standing as the people’s DJ. So in spite of his jetlag and a previously failed catch-up (DJ Mag’s Ibiza internet causing havoc at the final hour), it’s telling that Cox is still enthusiastic, gregarious and almost overly generous with his time, especially when our conversation surrounds music and Ibiza.
As our conversation draws to an inevitable conclusion, we decide to throw a couple of quick-fire questions his way, but it’s when we quiz him on his favourite island memory that we finally manage to briefly stop him in his tracks. For a man with over three decades of experience on the island, it’s an answer he understandably doesn’t tackle lightly.
“Well…” he pauses. “It’s hard to put into words just how great Manumission was. I’ll never forget the birthday party they threw for me. I’d just turned 37 and somehow it went on for five consecutive days! [Manumission owners] Claire and Mike went all out and were just amazing hosts, and going to Space on the Monday after for the carry-on was just epic. Getting into that party spirit that Ibiza was known for was really amazing, and I’ll never forget those truly hedonistic times.”
While Cox is quick to name-check the seminal Manumission as his favourite Ibiza memory, it’s telling that he’s created dozens of similarly great memories for those of us who’ve been lucky enough to catch him at his adopted home in Space. The good news, of course, is that he’s evidently in no mood to hang up the headphones just yet. So lets raise a toast to the enduring appeal of Carl Cox — the effervescent King of Clubs who just gets better with age.
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