Commonly referred to as “the people’s deejay,” Carl Cox is one of the dance-music world’s most popular and respected figures. One of the first deejays to use three turntables simultaneously in live performances, Cox is also revered for his ability to appeal to diverse crowds, especially those into techno and house music, and to build incomparable energy levels in the dancers for whom he’s spinning. In addition to his mixing prowess, Cox possesses eclectic musical tastes and a massive record collection that is reputed to number over 75,000. While he is lauded for his own productions and remixes of other artists’ work, Cox has earned his legendary reputation primarily through marathon-length deejay gigs before huge audiences around the world. Unlike most big-name DJs, Cox prefers to perform at floor level rather than in an elevated booth. He inspires warmth and enthusiasm among crowds, often whipping dancers into frenzies with both his selections and his words on the microphone.
Born in Manchester, England, to Barbadian parents, Cox developed an interest in music at an early age. His father possessed many soul and R&B 45s, and his son was manning the record player at family gatherings and block parties by the time he was eight years old. Cox recalls that his friends would go to McDonald’s to spend their allowances, while he preferred to spend long hours at a local record shop. Cox’s fervent interest in music led him to purchase his first turntables at age 15 and to follow emerging styles in the 1970s and 1980s such as soul, disco, synth pop, hip-hop, and electro. He became a full-time deejay in 1985, and his first bookings were at weddings and other gatherings, where he learned to adapt to various situations and to please a variety of crowds. This open-mindedness and versatility served him well when he progressed to higher-profile events.
By 1987 Cox started to focus on dance music, especially Britain’s burgeoning acid-house movement. His breakthrough performance was the 1988 Sunrise Rave outside of London. There, he rejuvenated 15,000 dancers at 10:30 a.m., since which, confesses Cox in this website autobiography, his “phone hasn’t stopped ringing.” Cox furthered his reputation by playing the opening night at Danny Rampling’s Shoom club, a hotbed of Britain’s house scene, and worked at other important English venues like Spectrum and Land of Oz as well. These successes propelled Cox’s career to yet more prestigious appointments worldwide. His exhausting itinerary has taken him to such far-flung places as Tanzania, Peru, Australia, South Africa, Israel, as well as comprehensive travels around the United States and Europe.
After signing to Paul Oakenfold’s Perfecto label in 1991, Cox scored two hits: “I Want You (Forever)” and
For the Record…
Born on July 29, 1962, in Manchester, England; married and divorced Rachel.
Began professional deejay career, 1985; first big deejay event at the Sunrise Rave outside London, 1988; debut single “I Want You (Forever)” reached number 23 on the British charts, 1991; appeared on the television show Top of the Pops; second single, “Does It Feel Good to You,” charted in 1992; issued first deejay-mix disc, F.A. C.T.,1995; started Worldwide Ultimatum Records, 1996; debut album as a producer, At the End of the Cliche, 1996; released well-received mix discs F.A.C.T. 2 and Sound of Ultimate B.A.S.E. in 1997 and 1998; released follow-up album of his own music, Phuture 2000, 1999; launched Ultimate Music Management company to oversee the careers of deejays such as Josh Wink and Laurent Garnier; acted in the Justin Kerrigan film Human Traffic, 1999; live deejay documents Mixed Live and Mixed Live, 2nd Session appeared in 2000 and 2002, respectively; performed at Berlin’s Love Parade before 1.5 million people, 2000; appeared at Moby’s Area: One and Moby’s Area: Two festivals, 2001-02, respectively; issued mix CD Global, 2002.
Awards: International Dance Award, Deejay of the Year, 1995-96; voted Deejay of the Year in DJ magazine’s readers’ polls, 1996-97.
Addresses: Record company—Moonshine, 8525 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood CA 90069, website: http://www.moonshine.com Marketing—Warner Strategic Marketing, 10635 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90025. Website— Carl Cox Official Website: http://www.trustthedj.com/CarlCox
“Does It Feel Good to You.” When the former reached number 23 on the British charts, Cox appeared on the popular British television show Top of the Pops. But he didn’t feel comfortable in the role of pop star, and subsequently concentrated on deejaying, where he derived greater satisfaction exposing large numbers of people to the explosion of underground dance music. As rave culture grew in the United Kingdom, Europe, and America, Cox emerged as one of the key figures on the scene. He educated the masses with his extensive knowledge and kept them dancing for hours (he prefers his sets to last six hours). In his website autobiography, Cox commented: “I have always been very globally minded, which comes across in my choice of music, which I use to cross physical and cultural boundaries to bring people together. Essentially my heart lies with house and techno, and it was for this reason that I chose to take a back seat from my impending career as a pop star and be true to myself by going underground and re-discovering my roots.”
Cox’s talents shine brightest in the context of the mix CD, and his discography illustrates his impressive technical capabilities and track selections. His early discs, F.A.C.T. and F.A.C.T. 2, rank among the best-selling deejay-mix albums ever. F.A.C.T. 2, a two-CD set, flaunts his ability to move deftly among genres without jarring transitions. Disc one reflects the darker side of tribal trance, electro, funky breaks, and techno, while disc two embodies more of the festive spirit Cox purveys at large events, as evidenced by the inclusion of Underworld’s smash “Born Slippy” and Dave Clarke’s remix of Death In Vegas’ “Rocco.”
Throughout the album, Cox maintains a fine balance between accessibility and cutting-edge material. Sound of Ultimate B.A.S.E. represents the vibe of Cox and partner Jim Masters’s midweek club nights they organized from 1996-98 at intimate venues like Velvet Underground and the End. An air of anything goes pervaded these events, and Cox clearly pushed the envelope with many of the selections here. This collection is one of Cox’s most adventurous and sonically diverse, yet he never lost sight of attending to dance-floor needs. The impressive lineup includes techno and house icons like Purpose Maker (Jeff Mills), Freq. (Sean Deason), Green Velvet, and Joey Beltram. Aric Laurence Allen observed in All Music Guide:”Cox does well to incorporate a variety of house sounds while maintaining a heartfelt, deep, and bass-induced sound, but you would be wise to keep the volume low and not to use headphones.”
On Global, released in 2002, Cox refined his trademark mix of pumping techno and house that is psychedelic, mesmerizing, and sensual. In the disc’s liner notes, Cox stated: “[Finally] I feel I have managed to capture the mood of the many American club goers for the first time onto a CD.”
As fine as Cox’s studio-based mix CDs are, he really excels in live settings, so it’s not surprising his albums Mixed Live, released in 2000, and Mixed Live, 2nd Session, released in 2002, stand as crowning achievements of his recording career. The former was recorded at Chicago’s Crobar while the latter occurred at the Detroit leg of Moby’s Area: Two festival. With audible crowd noise and exhortations from Cox himself, these discs recreate the ecstatic communal experience of Cox’s live gigs. In this setting, the listener can hear Cox working the faders, EQ levels, and filters to highlight the stomping, powerfully hypnotic tracks’ best components and to increase the inherent drama within them. On these deep journeys into dance music, Cox maintains a fierce momentum that makes it nearly impossible not to dance.
Cox’s albums of his own productions have received generally positive press, but they haven’t generated the same enthusiasm as his deejay-oriented releases. At the End of the Cliché (1996) is a functional compendium of acidic techno and middling excursions into the then-popular trip-hop genre. In a review on the All Music Guide website, John Bush called At the End of the Cliché”a soulful, genre-spanning journey through ’90s clubland, not unlike his own deejay sets.” Cox’s sophomore album, Phuture 2000, released in 1999, is superior to its predecessor, exhibiting his eclectic tastes to stronger effect. Touching on drum and bass, Chemical Brothers-style big beat, dancehall reggae, Latin-flavored house, and futuristically soulful techno, Cox consolidated his wide-ranging influences into a potent display of technical skill, especially on his two collaborations with fellow British techno icon Dave Angel.
While Cox’s career certainly has been filled with triumphs, he has suffered his share of setbacks as well. His hectic deejay schedule caused him to fall into poor sleeping and eating habits, resulting in a kidney stone, stomach infection, and gout. The jet-setting lifestyle also put stress on his marriage. He divorced his wife Rachel, to whom he had handed the reins of his Ultimate Music Management company so he could focus on his music and deejay commitments. He has since cut back on his demanding schedule, but his evangelical fire to spread the dance-music gospel remains undimmed; he still runs Intec, one of the most respected techno labels in the world and deejays in front of large audiences nearly every weekend around the planet. While many disc jockeys of his stature rest on their laurels, Cox perpetually seeks to evolve. As Ki-eran Wyatt noted in URB magazine: “Where the likes of Paul Oakenfold or Roger Sanchez are content to plough their narrow musical furrows, Cox constantly does the unexpected. In short, he’s probably the only premier-league deejay keeping it real.”
F.A.C.T.: Future Alliance of Communication & Tecknology, React, 1995.
At the End of the Cliché, Worldwide Ultimatum, 1996.
F.A.C.T. 2: Future Alliance of Communication & Tecknology 2, Worldwide Ultimatum, 1997.
Sound of Ultimate B.A.S.E., Moonshine, 1998.
Carl Cox Non Stop ’98, London, 1998.
Phuture 2000, Moonshine, 1999.
Mixed Live, Moonshine, 2000.
Global, FFRR/London, 2002
Mixed Live, 2nd Session, Moonshine, 2002.
URB, January/February, 1999.
“Carl Cox,” All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (March 30, 2003).
“Carl Cox,” Full Frequency Range Recordings, http://www.essential.us.com (March 30, 2003).
“Carl Cox,” Moonshine Music, http://www.moonshine.com March 30, 2003).
Carl Cox Official Website, http://www.trustthedj.com (March 30, 2003).