Tuesday, 24 August 2010

LSD Magazine Interviews - Carl Cox (Issue 5)

We could gurn on and on about the absolute sparkling legend that is Carl Cox, and let’s face it - we will be getting joyously stuck in shortly, but before we go any further, something needs to be said about the man himself. Very few people if any within dance music have scaled quite such heights of international fame and adulation, and for many of us on the underground that presumed superstar status to be an inherently corrupting force, Carl is towering proof that belief, passion and fundamental humanity can take on the heady seductions of such extraordinary prestige and emerge pure, unscathed and ready for the next 20 years...

As a soul boy – how did it feel when Acid House hit you?

That’s a bloody good question that not many people have asked me! I grew up with black music where artists sang from the very depths of their soul. If someone was in love, they passionately wanted you to feel that love – if someone was getting divorced the record would not only mention divorce somewhere, but be infused with all the emotional pain they were feeling as they expressed their experience. So any record you heard from a soul perspective – you really explicitly heard, but when the drum machine and the 303 came along, people were like ‘so where’s the song, where’s the breakdown, where’s the middle 8, where’s the uplifting bit?’ It stepped directly outside the usual frames of musical reference, but for me personally, it was definitely something that was pushing on to the next phase of music. So when I, who was known for playing rare groove, funk, soul and hip hop started playing acid house and techno, people assumed I had completely freaked out and you could see them thinking ‘you know what – whatever you’re doing is never going to happen because soul music will always prevail’. I had a massive divide between the people coming to my parties right there, and between 1986 and 1987, all the rare groove and disco heads that used to come down to my nights stopped coming because of the change up in music, but simultaneously, I had a whole new generation piling down to hear the newest house and acid house. My direction was guided by whatever was driving things forward, and apart from anything, contemporary soul at the time had moved away from the traditional sound into swing beat and that whole MC Hammer, Bell Biv Devoe sort of stuff - it wasn’t me anymore, it wasn’t a sound I was feeling or aspired to. What I instinctively felt I did aspire to and did want to keep pushing was the sound that got me to where I am today. 

Do you equally feel that during that period as dance music began to unify all kind of genres beginning with house, soul, disco, funk and hip hop and then taking on Jamaican flavours, it helped unify wider communities in the UK...

For sure. If you look at the Ragga Twins who had a fusion between Jamaican patois toasting and calypso beats / rave sound, you suddenly had this amazing combination that hit urban black kids and white society in equal measure. That original crossover that the Ragga Twins harnessed was a defining moment in the next cultural movement in music, and for me, being black, I understood it while at the same time, it pushed all the buttons of the clubbing experience. That’s why the evolution of dance music at this time was so interesting to so many people, as they watched the music and the movement develop in sync. Well what happened next was drum n bass, jump up, UK garage and all that finally morphed into dubstep. But without what we were fighting for in the beginning, to get the new musical movement heard and energised, we wouldn’t have any of this today. It was a music that you really had to look for, that really represented your identity and the movement around you, and that is where real power in music as a cultural force lies. Someone like The Streets was just poetic in the way that he put a raw voice and lyrical honesty onto urban beats and people understood and felt that. Meanwhile , the sound of the 4/4 kick drum was still the key rhythm that made people want to move. It’s very primal and very easy to dance, wriggle and shake to the 4 beat, but in between, you have jazz and you have funk elements, soul elements, techno elements, ragga overtones – and everything within the circle of that 4/4 kick drum. So much is possible within that structure and it has this incredible ability to lock in references and ingredients from almost any musical genre while being universal and having this inherent power to make you move.


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