Interview: Carl Cox (UK) talks relaunching Space Ibiza club, the future of dance music and his legacy

Techno music is associated with a strong history after emerging in Detroit, uniting Berlin after the fall of the Berlin Wall, fostering an underground rave scene and now attracting thousands of people at festivals year round. British DJ Carl Cox who now resides in Melbourne has been a part of it all and at age 56 has no plans to give it up any time soon.

With a wealth of experience like no other, his love for music means he has always lead with passion and innovation, never chasing short term popularity, credit to his longevity in the cut throat industry.

After a 15 year residency at the iconic club Space Ibiza in party capital Ibiza, Spain the close of this club in 2017 led many to assume the retirement of Carl Cox. This European Summer he returned to the island performing six one off performances and is now bringing his Mobile Disco back to Australia with friends Eric Powell, Cece Peniston and Robin S.

Described by many as the worlds best “real” Dj, on top of his 15 year residency Carl Cox is a label owner and now has his own stage at Ultra Music Festival, EDC Las Vegas, Tommorowland and more, encouraging longer festival sets and underground music at major festivals.

As a hero for thousands of other Djs they all mention his supreme talent, support for others and overall kindness and genuineness which we were lucky enough to see when talking to Carl about his plan to reopen Space Ibiza with a no phone policy, his future, why he loves Australia and who is going to lead the next generation of dance music.

As another European summer comes to a close, what have we got to look forward from you next year and from then on?

Im excited. Every new year throws up new opportunities and the idea of pushing things forward. We will see how I treat the next couple of years, developing new sounds, finding new artists and making new music. I’m always forward thinking. It is then to be able to keep the scene alive, happy and vibrant. I’ve always had a fire burning inside me where I’ve wanted to do more than what is expected. I think people have always been treated by the energy of what I do and to be able to do that for 35-40 years is amazing!

Speaking of emerging artists, you have always supported the up and comers. What’s the main legacy or piece of advice you would want to pass on to them?

Well more than anything I always try to encourage people to be themselves and to not follow trends. If you follow in any fashion someone has already been there before you, so you have to really believe in what you are doing and create it for yourself, whether it is popular now, popular in the future or may never be, but at the end of the day you have to do what you believe in. I’ve never really followed anyone. I know it’s hard, if you see one person playing hard techno you want to follow that path and play hard techno because they have made a good go of it. But there is only so much room for Dj’s to  play that one sound and you don’t want to be the worst of those people playing that sound.  You have to be the best of those people or do something else. That is the thing about trying to get into the music scene, try to be first by whatever you do.

You are bringing your mobile disco to wineries around Australia again which we are all very excited for. What do you hope to see at these events and what makes them different from other festivals?

The thing is about these mobile discos is there is no expectations on it really. We have been doing them for 10 years now so if people want to know how they are they can go online and see the videos and how  people have enjoyed themselves over the many years. We really tried to start doing the country towns because of popular demand. When we first stepped out from our comfort blanket we took it to Adelaide and had a fantastic response which led us to have it on our calendar for ever more. Then we stepped out and did Brisbane and that was phenomenal. We pushed the element of that one as well because we had a full band as well.

I don’t think people realise how special what we do is, especially  the as we get the people who sang these songs. Imagine you are singing “Show me love” by Robin S at the top of your voice… we are bringing Robin S to your dance floor right now, you’re going to see her perform that record. That’s an amazing thing to watch in our time, when we can actually show people if you do make a good record and it is timeless that these things will be appreciated forever more. So our events are about people sharing the love of records that we grew up with and having a lot of fun with it. Although it’s called a mobile disco its just having fun on the dance floor with records you know and can sing along to as well.

Earlier this year you featured in the documentary “What We Started” with young star Martin Garrix, discussing the origin and future of dance music. Do you think that Martin Garrix is the person who has the potential to reinvent dance music and if not who can? Is this reinvention what the industry needs right now?

Yeah… bloody good question that. You want me to have a smart ass answer for that! I mean, the thing is when this movie came about I did not want anything to do with it. I said no. The whole Idea of EDM and the power and success of it could ruin what this movie could stand for and for me to be a part of it wouldn’t make any sense. What was really nice about it though was the ideal of the story was more about the parallels of what got me here and still relevant today and what got Martin where he is today, with mine and his family support. Because I had a family support but no where near as significant as Martin’s. Also Martin grew up in the “now generation” where you get on wifi and social media and reach out to people. Whereas where I came from, I had a pager and a car and telephone boxes. So to see the two elements come together with what we have been involved in from our own beginnings is what people get to see with this movie.

If you think about how old Martin is, over the last five years he’s rose to fame and it goes even beyond himself now. I have been able to handle this quite well, knowing it took me quite a while to get to this point. With Martin he has got another 30 years to last, and I don’t know if he will even last that long. If you think about Hardwell he had the same amount of time being at the top of his game and he has already announced his retirement. Who do I think can carry the torch of dance music if already the ones who are there right now pulling the biggest crowds, have already decided by the time they are 30 that they are over it? I turned to Martin and said “Even though you have got to where you are now and I am really happy and proud of you because not a lot of people your age have got to this point, but, I wish you well in the next 30 years.” I’ve been carrying the torch for 30 years and now I’m slowing down for it to make sense in my life but I don’t think he is going to have 30 years. Maybe not even five.

So I think it will be difficult for a lot of these new generation DJs who only play 1-1:30 hour sets and just get flown around in private jets to festivals and they aren’t going to be used to doing clubs. They are playing music they are not used to playing any more. Im able to go and play a mobile disco for eight hours straight and play my favourite songs I grew up with. They won’t be able to do that. So answering who I think will be carrying the torch next for dance music… I don’t think there will be any. None of them cut their teeth on what our generation did. If you think about Eric Morillo, Richie Hawtin, the list goes on. I think we will keep doing this until we are 70/80 years old or until arthritis kicks in or our hearing goes. You know, the natural human stuff that happens when you’re older. But the spirit of what drives us will always be within us as long as we keep doing it. I have no signs of hanging up the turn table. I will continue to keep doing what I’m doing.

You were talking about technology. Streaming and social media makes sharing music and discovering new artists a lot easier than it has ever been. On the other hand we all know how annoying it is with everyone focusing on their phones in clubs and festivals instead of dancing with their friends. Do you think the benefits of technology outweigh the negatives and do you think there is anything that can be done to bring the focus back to music?

Well, I am going to at some point, if I can try and resurrect the Space Club in Ibiza. I can’t talk too much about that at the moment but I would love to have a no phone policy. When Space started we had a no camera policy. That meant if you fell down drunk, fell asleep on the couch or were hanging out with two boys or girls or whatever, you wouldn’t have a camera in your face being recorded for a joke. These things are not a joke, they can actually have a knock on effect on your personality, psyche and your relationships based on what happened or didn’t happen.

You don’t want to see people who are in a disposition because it can be taken out of context. You do want too see people having a really good time but it gets annoying when you get a recording that is distorted and you get a DJ who has played a record you didn’t like but out of a three hour set surely there was a record you did like. There are so many misconceptions with people who are using their phones to record all the time. Once they have their recording they spend so long trying to upload it to social media missing the best part of the music and the atmosphere. If you’re a DJ and always looking in front of you where everyone has their heads down then you just think “What am I doing here?”

We have to make a turn around here. If I go in to a studio and make a nine minute record and I know its good, all I want to do is play it in front of people. And then I play this record and nobody cares about it because their too busy on their phones then what’s the point of me making the record and making something I feel proud of. It is completely mad that this has happened in our lives, but is as happened and we have to get back to the music and the reason you go to clubs in the first place.

You meet people better that way as well. You know someone will say “I love this record” and they’ll say “Hey do you want to get a drink and talk about it some more?” Rather than now when you are on your phone you bump in to someone, then you drop your phone on the dance floor and you’re trying to find it and then a fight starts. If you didn’t have your phone out in the first place that wouldn’t have happened. I’ve seen this happen so many times and if you do lose your phone when you’re out you have the worst night out ever and you blame it on that club. It’s not the clubs fault you couldn’t look after your phone!

In one way it’s brilliant because you can capture the essence of the night that you had.  But… find that essence, capture it and then put the bloody phone away!

I do tests. I play the most obscure underground records you’ve never heard and you hardly see a phone up. Then I play a record which is number 10 on Beatport and all the phones go up. Why would you want to film that record? Enjoy that moment! I go on youtube and you see people go “that Dj is shit” because it’s all distorted, it’s just ridiculous people having such an opinion on a moment they weren’t even there for! So I think it has turned in to a necessary evil!

In Australia we all go on holidays to Europe and America to experience the night life and music scene we don’t really get here, but then you chose to move to Australia? What do you love about the country and what do you think could be done to improve our night life?

I love Australia! When I first came over in 1989/1990 coming from England it was a massive travel experience for me. I never thought in my life I would get to Australia, its the land down under! I couldn’t believe it, The Opera House, Bondi beach, Sydney Harbour Bridge, I just loved it. The mad thing is, In England I used to watch Home and Away, Neighbours, Skippy and The Sullivans. I just found it so intriguing. So that was my learning of Australia. Then I grew up and Mad Max came to the theatre and I was like “This is what I’m talking about!”

I think no mater what, I could have lived in Los Angeles, Berlin, Barcelona but when I got to Australia I just feel at home. Eveytime I came over at that time, which was November, December and January it was Spring going in to Summer. I would think “where else would I rather be.” The UK is freezing at that time so I would always make an effort to get over there and do a mini tour or play at whatever clubs or festivals were on at that time.  It just became normal that I was over there at that time. It got to a point where I was sick and tired of staying at hotels, and I was like why don’t I try and find a place to stay for eternity and call my home. So eventually I chose Melbourne to be that place and on the peninsula, which is quieter than being in the city and I found a place in Frankston and thats where I live at the moment and have been for the last 12 years. I wouldn’t change it for the world!

And also the people make the place! I’ve met some amazing people. I mean I am talking to you now and it’s brilliant you ask me this question cause I can basically talk about it with infinity because I have a soul and heart for it. I can’t wait to get back. Even though I grew up in England, I have found being in Austria another life which I really enjoy.

Unfortunately I only have time for one more quick question. You don’t have to be humble when answering this! Without your initial push for Djs in the 70s and 80s, your Space residency and your overall contribution to music, what do you think would be different about dance music today without you?

Oh wow… I don’t really know.  All these things sort of came up and I had doors opening with opportunity. I have always felt blessed and excited to be given these opportunities as most of these things fall flat on their face. I was in the building trade before I was a Dj, so I could be a builder right now and have done none of these things. But I have always loved to be able to create and party and always been happy to be the person I am and share my love of music. These elements have enabled me to be so successful in all the things I’ve done.

I did used to say, if I ever get to 45 years old then I will retire and here I am, becuase I am just so happy doing what I’m doing! I would  to say I will continue the legacy of what I have created for at least another 10-15 years.


To find out more about Carl Cox’s Mobile Disco and his New Years Space Ibiza sets in Melbourne and Sydney click HERE.

Carl Cox and Eric Powell’s Mobile Disco Australia dates:

Saturday, 17th November
Roma Street Parkland, Brisbane

Saturday, 24th November
Venue Botanical Gardens, Canberra

Sunday, 25th November
Seppeltsfield Winery, Barossa Valley

Photo Credit: Carl Cox Facebook