60 reasons to celebrate the legendary Carl Cox - Features - Mixmag

60 reasons to celebrate the legendary Carl Cox

Carl Cox forever

  • Words: Patrick Hinton, Megan Townsend, Gemma Ross, Aneesa Ahmed, Becky Buckle | Photo: Uli Weber
  • 29 July 2022

As if we needed an excuse to celebrate the big man, but Carl Cox is 60, and what better opportunity to reflect on his legendary career. He's been present through all the seismic shifts of dance music, from the beginnings of rave culture to the gargantuan festivals the industry has sparked. And throughout it all, he's stayed humble and focused on the music, rightfully earning his place as one of the best ever. Read on for 60 reasons why — and we could have gone on and on...

Starting a mobile disco business at 16

Coxy’s first ever lean-in as a DJ came after the purchase of a mobile soundsystem costing all of £2.50 per week in instalments which he used to perform at weddings, bar mitzvahs, and pubs alongside his regular supermarket and grass cutting gigs. You could argue this is what made our favourite DJ’s career, but that could well be down to his contagious grin, too.

His pioneering three-deck mixing

An innovator with skills beyond belief. The three-deck-wizard adopted, curated as well as shared this style with the world. This holy-grail skill from our Saint Cox can only be performed by the most-skilled DJ and when he was first caught breaking it out it also broke the waves in the djing scene.

His legendary 15 year Space Ibiza residency Music Is Revolution

The greatest residency Ibiza has ever seen. Coxy’s commitment to making it great is exemplified by the conditions he put in place when offered the opportunity. Rather than just leap at taking a residency at the best-loved club on the island, he coyly said he’d think about it, and made some key demands: “First, I want to change the DJ booth because it’s in the wrong place. Second, the toilets smell so you need to sort that out. Third, the soundsystem sucks, so you need to change it.” And when he returned next year ? “Boom! – they’d done it all. I thought, ‘I’d better do this then!’.” What followed was legendary — right up until the very last tune, when many tears were shed to a remix of Angie Stone’s ‘Wish I Didn’t Miss You’.

In his book Oh yes, oh yes! Coxy writes: “The level of quality we delivered at Space might be equalled one day, and I hope it will be. But I do not believe the magic we created at Space will ever be bettered.” Not many who experienced the magic would disagree.

Starring in Channel 4 documentary Space Is The Place

Carl has made his fair share of TV and film appearances over time, and in 2016, his loveable face popped back onto the box documenting his time at Ibiza’s iconic Space. His legacy here needs no words, but this 30-minute doc perfectly captures those raucous days leading up to Space’s closure, and the end to his 15-year residency.

His “Oh yes, Oh yes!” catchphrase

We dare anyone to try and think of four words (or two words repeated) that are more synonymous with our Carl. From his early career until present day, Coxy has been delighting crowds with his penchant for picking up the mic and uttering “Oh yes, Oh yes!” over an expertly timed drop. In an interview discussing his memoir Oh Yes, Oh Yes! (duh), he admits that the saying came out accidentally during his early rave days. In an attempt to connect more with the dancefloor, he picked up the habit of talking to the crowd using a mic, mostly asking “are you OK?” he’d be met with a barrage of requests such as “play harder” or “play faster,” to which Carl would reply “Oh yes, Oh Yes!”. The rest is history!

Starring in electronic music documentary What We Started

You know you’ve really made it in life when the premise of a whole documentary, which went on to be a worldwide hit, focuses on you and your career. What We Started, a 2017 documentary that chronicles the phenomenon of EDM heavily featured Carl Cox and his influence in shaping the very popular genre. It shows his European influences and narrates the tale of how a humble, British house and techno DJ took influences from Europe over to the USA. It also stars Paul Oakenfold, Martin Garrix, Louis Vega and even Ed Sheeran - all of whom make a nod toward the incredible influence of Cox himself.

When he made a cameo in Human Traffic as club owner Pablo Hassan

There’s a multitude of reasons why Carl Cox’s appearance as Pablo Hassan in 1999 rave classic Human Traffic is so iconic. For one, Coxy playing a hardened, mean club owner — oscar worthy. For two, the cringey performance of a genuinely intimidated looking John Simm as he stands before Pablo/Carl and claims to be writing an article for Mixmag as a reason he should get into a club for free? Identifiable. His performance has become so beloved in dance music circles, that in celebration of the film’s 20th anniversary Carl reprised his role as Pablo for a special NYE mix. Assuming Carl’s BAFTA got lost in the post?

Opening his debut book by owning an exploitative childhood neighbour

It’s something we all dream about, isn’t it? Holding onto a petty grievance against someone who’s slighted us in the past and taking the best revenge of living well and successfully. That’s exactly what Carl Cox had the joy of indulging in with his book’s Welcome chapter. In it, he recites a tale of a childhood neighbour who offered him £1 to cut his hedge then refused to pay up after letting young Carl labour away in the rain — jibing “Save it for your book, sonny!” when he complained. “Well, here’s the book - say hello to karma from me!” writes world-conquering legend Carl Cox some 50-odd years later. The second-hand smugness is a joy to bask in

Playing the opening night at Shoom

Shoom is one of the parties that changed dance music forever. And naturally, Carl Cox played its first ever set and even providing the soundsystem, after being picked by Danny Rampling to hold down warm-up duties. Unfortunately there’s a sad tinge to this story — he was dropped after two weeks, and even his soundsystem was replaced by Norman and Joey Jay’s. “It was a real blow,” said Coxy. Fortunately, as we all know, this didn’t stop his rise to top. See next point..

Playing at pretty much every legendary party under the sun

M25 orbital raves, era-defining parties such as Fantazia and Dreamscape, Fabio & Grooverider’s Rage at Heaven, The Haçienda, fabric, every Ibiza superclub, Glastonbury, Burning Man, Ultra, Tomorrowland, ADE, parties on every inhabited continent, the list goes on and on.

Protesting at the Freedom To Party rally in Trafalgar Square, 1990

Carl Cox has never been shy to fight for his right to party. When the establishment started to crack down hard on rave culture he was there on the frontlines — despite being harassed and labelled as a “kingpin” in the mainstream media. “Telling us we couldn’t party was like telling us we couldn’t breathe,” he recalls.

Clashing with the Pay Party Unit in a Fiat Panda

Another way the establishment targeted rave culture was the formation of a police task force called the Pay Party Unit, who stalked rave organisers in the hunt for trophy busts. Carl Cox was identified as someone to track on the weekends, which meant he had to move covertly and talk in code. But that didn’t stop him ditching the hire van he used - a branded Fiat Panda. “Whenever you saw the Panda van you knew it was Carl Cox. Thinking about it now, I should have probably hired a different van every so often,” he wrote in his book, alongside a chaotic anecdote involving a rave in Abergavenny, which turned out to be a big sting operation filled with undercover cops. “It went from hands in the air to ‘hands up’,” Cox spent that night in jail, but luckily he got away with no charge.

Still standing up strongly against the government for dance music in 2020

When the UK Government said that dance music is “not viable” during a Q&A at Brighton Music Conference, 2020, Carl Cox quickly shut them down. Dance music is in his blood, and he’s never afraid to stand up for his community and for the industry. “It’s not right that the government thinks that we’re unviable,” he said. He then called the government “100% wrong”, which is very correct. He’s been in the game for long enough to know it better than anyone, and he made his point clear. Making reference to his many years in the field, he hammered home that dance music continues strong and dance music won’t be going anywhere.

Playing midnight sets at two different Millennium New Year's Eve parties across continents in 1999

Experiencing the turn of the millennium not just once, but twice, is flex in itself. But Carl didn’t just experience it twice, he DJed into the new millennium twice on two different continents by utilising the time zone difference to his advantage. He first played at Sydney’s Bondi Beach, before flying from Australia over to Honolulu, Hawaii to help the people of the tropical island party into a new millennium and celebrate a new year. Now, you can even hear the recording of the set he played in Hawaii and relive it like it’s 1999.

Making the first ever Mixmag mix

Did you know that Carl Cox was the first person to ever head up a Mixmag mix? In January of 1992, the DJ went up alongside former Mixmag editor Dave Seaman to create The Essential Mixmag Live tape which consisted of house classics from himself, Rhythm Section, Tech Noise, and more. The mix now lives on over on YouTube and in a long-forgotten drawer under the beds of a handful of very lucky people.

His response to a lengthy critique of his drum ‘n’ bass set

Having started DJing in the late 70s, Carl has seen — and played — it all. Chicago house, techno, jungle, disco, minimal, drum ‘n’ bass, tech house, old school hip hop, funk… you name it, he’s probably had it on his triple deck at some point. So it’s a bold move by any standard to try and give Carl some tips, and it seems commenter Theta Burn didn’t get the memo after leaving a lengthy critique of Carl’s Edible Beats drum ‘n’ bass guest mix last year. “Overall a decent mix, but it needs improvement” they wrote,”It’s obvious to me that most of the issues in your mix are due to the fact that you’re a house DJ and not a DNB DJ.” Classy as ever, Carl replied: “Thanks for your input, I will try to improve on my transitions for my next D and B outing. Nobody is perfect, just respecting the music and the people who make it.” Never change Carl!

His charity work

He’s not just a superstar DJ - but a generous one too! Coxy’s humbling charity efforts haven’t gone unnoticed in his 40-year career. Carl has helped to feed Ibiza’s music scene during the first struggling winter of lockdown with a charity stream, added to Last Night A DJ Saved My Life (LNADJ) initiatives, collaborated with Warchild aiding children in need, and played a gig in partnership with Mencap raising awareness for people with learning difficulties, as well as plenty, plenty more.

Co-founding a DJ Academy with Pete Tong

He may look like a bad boy behind the decks but he’s a cuddling chap backstage. Something that proves this is that earlier this year Cox teamed up with yet another legend, Pete Tong on a “game-changing” djing academy. The Pete Tong DJ Academy is made up of over 90 lessons covering every aspect of a DJ career in a “comprehensive programme” with everything from technical knowledge to industry expertise.

The Carl Cox scholarship

Look, we don’t like to gatekeep electronic music - and neither does Carl Cox. He partnered with Brighton-based music college WaterBear to provide scholarships for students wanting to do a bachelor's degree in Electronic Music and Business and gave them £15,000 for music equipment. The financial barrier in place for young people is a great deterrent from an industry that tends to favour those who come from privileged, well-off backgrounds - and big ups to Carl for breaking harmful cycles. He’s passionate about the industry, and he’s always sure to keep it thriving and accessible to younger generations.

When he appeared on Top of the Pops in 1991

Before you had Spotify Best New Music playlists, before you had SoundCloud “for you” lists – there was one sure fire way the British public discovered the hottest new music — it was by tuning into Top of the Pops on a Thursday evening. A true testament to Coxy’s influence as well as the domination of TOPT on the national zeitgeist, your favourite DJ and mine was invited onto the show in 1991 as his single ‘I Want You (Forever)’ hit Number 23 in the UK singles chart. In his book Oh Yes, Oh Yes! Carl describes the intimidating prospect of heading on the band-heavy TOPT: “I didn’t think I was a TOTP act” he says, “but something about a national institution like this calling you makes you come running.” Carl’s performance not only gave some the viewers at home their first taste of an electronic act, but also a preview of his slick moves.

His 16-year-long Global Radio residency

Coxy is the master of long stints - just look at that 15 year Space residency - but he one-upped that with a 16 year slot on Global Radio during the first few decades of his career. From 2001 until 2017, Coxy took on a resident slot on the show which, at its peak, had around 17 million listeners - oh yes! Coxy played a monster 2-hour finale in 2017 spanning three decades of his career in music.

This 30 minute conversation covering 30 years of DJing with Channel 4’s Krishnan Guru-Murthy

As one of the few people who are qualified enough to talk us through 30 years worth of dance music and DJing history - Carl Cox has done our community proud in this video made with Channel 4. He eloquently explains the history of DJing itself, how it has changed over time, how technology has impacted the industry, and the sometimes daunting reality of being a DJ. He also predicts what he thinks will happen in the future of dance music. Filled with anecdotes and with nods toward his contemporaries in the scene, this is the best quick introduction to show anyone who wants to know more about Carl.

When he headlined the first ever Mixmag Live party at fabric

Look, if we do say so ourselves, it can’t really get much better than a Mixmag party at fabric? Right? That is unless a certain Mr Cox comes down to delight the masses with a Naughty mix of acid, 90s house and booming techno. For the first ever Mixmag Live stream from the epochal London nightspot in 2016 we enlisted the help of none other than Coxy himself. The full mix is on YouTube, we dare you to watch more than 50 seconds and not cluck for a mind blowing night in Room 1.

Playing The LAB’s 10th Anniversary Mega B2B

It was with a heavy heart that we couldn’t invite the masses into our world famous office party to celebrate its tenth (!!) anniversary last year, and to make up for not being able to welcome you all into our workplace we knew that to mark the occasion the only choice was the most epic B2B imaginable. So for a “global” lab we enlisted the help of Charlotte de Witte, Fatboy Slim, SHERELLE, Jamie Jones, Kerri Chandler and of course, you’ve probably guessed it due to the title of this article… the Cox man. Opening up our B2B live from his home Down Under, Carl showed us his gigantic stack of records, his jazz hands and most importantly some slick vocal house that got us all ready for our big relaunch to the outside world. Cheers Carl! We’ll see you for the 20th!

When he become (one of) the first DJs to play at Stonehenge alongside Paul Oakenfold

A time-defying example of human ingenuity, a source of national pride and inspiration and a continuous, bewildering enigma – Carl Cox really is something isn’t he. Guess Stonehenge is alright too. Back in 2018, Carl joined Paul Oakenfold in becoming the first DJs ever to play at the 5,000-year-old stone circle for a crowd of just 50 guests. The pair had joined forces for the special sundown set to raise awareness for English Heritage — donating all proceeds of the event to the preservation of landmarks. You rock Carl!

DJing in front of the Château de Chambord in France

Dressed in a tee printed with “sunrises, house & techno”, your royal highness Carl Cox, performed a genius set at Château de Chambord, a castle in France. This iconic set is not only beautiful to the eye but also the ears. Oh oui, oh oui!

Playing b2b with Fatboy Slim in the Saatchi Gallery

Carl’s beautiful blossoming friendship with another Mixmag favourite - Fatboy Slim - has proved many incredible collaborations over the years, one being the pair’s back to back set at London’s iconic Saatchi gallery for Mixmag. How many DJs can say they’ve performed amongst world famous artwork?

DJing at the House Of Commons

When we say Carl has DJed everywhere, we really mean it! In 2016, he DJed in the House of Commons. In aid of the charity Last Night a DJ Saved My Life, he played a set in the House of Commons to raise awareness for the charity’s cause and show the good work the electronic music scene does. VICE reported that he played “banger after banger”, and we expect nothing less from our legend who always knows how to cater to the masses - even those who walk the halls of the Houses of Parliament. Despite none of the “big name” politicians reportedly being present, Carl got the room full of government workers happy and swaying to the music - something that he’s never failed to do before.

His set at Paris’ 1998 Techno Parade

In 1998, the man the myth the legend belted out some bangers from the likes of Dave Clarke and Adam Beyer to a mammoth audience at the first-ever Paris Techno Parade. The spectacle of multi colored strobe lights along with the most enthusiastic hype man/dancer emphasise how special this set was.

His set at Love Parade Berlin, 2000

The turn of the new millennium was a huge moment for our Cox, who managed to squeeze a hefty amount of gigs into that first year. And he wasn’t just playing in the UK - Carl appeared overseas at one of Europe’s largest events at the time, Berlin Love Parade, for what would later go down in history as one of the most attended festivals this side of Europe. Coxy’s set at the 2000 edition of Love Parade was certainly a fan favourite.

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