A large man with an even larger laugh, cheery Brit Carl Cox is also a giant in the worldwide DJ arena. Collecting records since the late-'60s soul era, Cox still manages to wow dance floors with a funky futurism few DJs can match. A regular winner of international awards, Cox is touring on Global — his first major label mix CD — making stops to showcase his world-class triple-deck wrecking and preview tracks from his upcoming album of original material, coming in September.
Creative Loafing: So, did you get into nightlife because there was always music around your house or because you were out one night and, as the old proverb goes, a DJ saved your life?
Carl Cox: When I was about 8 years old, my mum and dad always used to have parties at home. So one evening I came down quite curious as to the noise, and my dad said I was going to get in the way. So he wanted me to sit and put on music. After a while I realized people were dancing and having a good time, and I thought that was pretty cool. So I would then go record shopping with my dad to find out more about the artists, and it really just kept going from that point.
The new mix CD, Global, has a very tech-house sound with a prominent steady beat. Did you explore early post-punk and industrial music or just stick primarily to disco and house?
I kind of went through the realms of what music was coming out within each era. I checked into Ultravox and Human League, Gary Numan, Thomas Dolby, stuff like that. But you could play a Roy Ayers record up alongside Blondie. Then on the other table would be Billy Idol's "White Wedding." No one really cared long as it was good music with something to it.
Is there room to be as eclectic now?
Not really, because I think that the people to whom I play now do not have the background I have. But on the dance floor, I'm all about progression and what's going on right now. And what's going on for me is what you hear on Global and what you'll hear on my next artist album.
A lot of Global is very warm, yet with icy elements. It has a wide appeal but a central focus. What draws you to this sound as opposed to say swooshing trance or deep psychedelic San Francisco house?
I suppose because I perform so worldwide I don't get influenced by any one thing. I take music from Japan, Croatia, Holland, Germany and France, and put it all on one album. So really Global doesn't represent anything but that good music could be from anywhere. Every track is something I experienced while getting around globally, hence the album name.
Do you think one of the reasons you're continually rated so highly in DJ polls is because you know how to play to different markets, or do you consider your sound so universal you can play it anywhere?
I can more or less play the same thing anywhere, but to be honest with you, in America I tend to lighten up a bit. I try not to be quite so educational. I also don't want to be perceived as someone who plays trance or progressive. I don't want to be seen as one of those DJs coming over to "conquer" the U.S. I'm just a DJ who has played in the U.S. for many years and built my name based on musical integrity.
There have been two major pushes to break electronic music in America, and one was this past summer with Moby's Area: One. Though, unlike DJs such as Paul Oakenfold, conquering is not what you're about, you were part of the tour.
Yeah, the thing about Area: One, you saw night and day by seeing me on the same stage with Paul [Oakenfold]. First and foremost, I can match Paul in whatever he is doing in the sense of performance in terms of DJing. Not in what's around me, but with the focus of me behind the turntables. People come to hear me because what comes out of the speakers is good. With Paul, he has a whole show built around him, around his idea of who he is in America, which I don't want because it amounts to hype. And sooner or later hype dies down and people go try to find something else. I will still be here after the scenario of what is considered to be "breaking" America.
Carl Cox spins Thurs., March 21, at eleven50, 1150B Peachtree Road. J-Luv and Hymn also spin. 9 p.m. $15-$20. 404-874-0428. www.eleven50.com.??