40 years in the game, Carl Cox is one of the longest-serving veterans in dance music — and there's absolutely no doubt that he's still got it. As he approaches 60, he's showing no signs of washing his hands of partying just yet. A decade after the release of his last studio album, the Oldham-born, Melbourne-based DJ and producer today announced his next project is due for release this coming September. Titled ‘Electronic Generations’, it's a mammoth 17-track LP that's well worth the 10 year wait.
The dance music icon has re-signed to BMG for the release, three decades on from his first venture with the Sony sublabel. To celebrate such the news, we sat down with Cox to find out more about his next release, and chat all things Ibiza, motorsport and punk music. Read our Q&A below.
Whereabouts are you at the moment? Is that your studio?
This is a really good background, right? Because this is my studio in Melbourne, Australia, but I'm actually in the Isle Of Man for the motorsport racing that they do here.
So you’re there just for fun, not work?
Hell no, I’ve had enough of all that malarky! This is the first time that they’ve got back to racing after the pandemic. The only time they ever stopped it out here before that was 1907. So yeah, it was a big thing for the island because there was no tourism here. I've got a house here and I've always been into my bikes, always been into racing and have my own cars and motorsport team. My guys here are doing quite well, I’m just here to support them really.
Do a lot of people spot you on the island and recognise you?
Yeah, you have a lot of old ravers, people that were around 20 years ago and don’t go to parties anymore because they’re married or had their time, but they’re secretly into motorbikes or motorsports in some ways. So, our paths have crossed again based on my affinity for motorsport too, and the music. They're like, ‘oh, where are you gonna do a party?’ I have to tell them I'm not here for that, I’m here for the racing. They can't believe it!
The last time we chatted was before the release of your memoir, Oh Yes, Oh Yes!. What have you been up to since then?
I've been doing quite a lot of remixes in the studio, and I've been really enjoying that. I feel like I'm on a bit of a roll with my sound at the moment. I’ve gotten back on the road again doing a big tour in America and playing Ultra Music Festival in Miami, then Creamfields, and Riverside in Glasgow. It’s been pretty non-stop since the end of lockdown which has been great, but there have also been awful flight delays because of understaffing and the airlines can’t handle it. If I do get a delay on a flight, that means I often won't be able to make the event like last weekend, I was late to play Creamfields. I was nearly about to cancel it, but we did have a glimmer of hope that I could make it so I went for it, got off the plane after a five-hour delay and ran through Creamfields, got my music out and put it in. I was like, boom! There we go!
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And you’ve just landed a residency at DC-10, right? How does that compare to your time at Space all those years ago?
I've always been there for the island, and Space filled a great opportunity for me to do something at that particular time. I made the best of it for 16 years straight, I did nothing but play that club as a resident every Tuesday and people don't really understand the time it takes to do that. It’s not just a Tuesday, I’d have to get there on Monday to play on Tuesday to recover on Wednesday. To go back and do a residency again is a big deal. The reason for me being there is because I love the island and always have done. DC-10 will be a challenge because it’s half the size of Space, but I think musically, you can basically play whatever you want, you're not pandering to the masses. I'm going to curate The Terrace which I've always loved, and my record label Awesome Soundwave which only signs live electronic artists will curate the main room. I think that'll be really cool for people to walk through the door and experience something different, there’s something for everybody, hence me playing more live events than DJ events now.
Are you going to start doing more live shows off the back of that, then?
Yeah, definitely. If I’ve just made a studio album and never supported it with a live show, it's just another studio album. I would've made 15 tracks and I would've been happy with it, but I would've been making music to fit a narrative. ‘Electronic Generations’ is made from me playing and performing live, that's where the energy comes from. I love the fact that, when I go out with all my live gear, even I don't know which direction it’s going to go. It all happened because I was stuck in the studio and I was like, ‘what am I gonna do with all this equipment?’, so I thought to put it all together and see what I can do. I found myself creating rhythms and sounds that I would never have thought about making and creating, and that's how the album was born. It was conceived just like that. There are no apologies for the album if it's too hard, too tough, not manic enough, or if it doesn't have any vocals.
I'm just making music that I believe is based on how music was made in the first place, you know, all that early drum ’n' bass, jungle, jump-up Metalheadz stuff was just purely based on punk. They didn't care then, they would just go: ‘check this out’. It just comes at you. We need more of that at the moment, everyone just seems to be making records to get on the Beatport Top 10.
So, ‘Electronic Generations’ lands this year a decade after the release of your last studio record - why did you choose now for this next project?
The thing is, my last studio album was done on the premise of putting it out on my own record label, and what I really should have done is make a punk album. I felt like I had my hands tied behind my back at the time, ‘All Roads Lead To The Dancefloor’ has some punk elements to it, but the rest of it is quite acceptable in today's society of music. Everyone was like, ‘oh, nice album’, it was okay. After all the money and effort and time it took me to make it, I thought I’d never make another album again. But now, I’m here with ‘Electronic Generations’, my fifth studio album. It doesn’t sound like anything I’ve ever done before, and that’s what I like about it.
I didn’t choose to make this album now, it chose me. When I was making all this music, I was recording it and after about an hour, I was like: ‘That’s a track. That’s another track’. I made about 20 tracks and then started working on each and every one of them, but I hardly changed anything because I liked the live energy, they were almost like jam sessions. I wasn’t really thinking about it as an album, but I’d made an album’s worth of music, so I didn’t want to waste the opportunity. BMG heard it and loved it, they got behind my music and re-signed me after 30 years of being signed by them in the first place. I don't think any artists have ever been re-signed by the same label 30 years later! They turned around and said, ‘that’s the Carl Cox sound we wanted’. I was like, 'really? You couldn’t have told me this 10 years ago?!'
Where did the name derive from?
‘Electronic Generations’ is basically me starting out in this generation, getting through it, and getting into this new generation of music. I kind of fell in love with making music more and more when I spent more time in my studio in Melbourne. When the first single came out, the original track ‘Speed Trials On Acid’ with Norman Cook (aka Fatboy Slim), I gave him the parts to do it and the idea was to kind of enlighten Norman to not fit into anything, just to add his own essence to it. When it went out, people realised it was quite different. The energy and sound came from a different place. He hadn’t used a TB-303 in a long time, so when he heard that I’d used it, it encouraged him to do something around it and create this acid track.
It was very easy, to be honest. They're all prolific artists and amazing producers in their own right. They just needed a little nudge to hear some music and they come back with power and energy and passion. I don’t ask them to make music for the dancefloor, just to represent themselves in what they’ve been given. I’ve been playing them out and everyone's like, ‘oh my god, amazing’.
Outside of the release of this next album, what’s next for you?
I’ll take a rest, I think! I'm going to need a holiday. At the moment, I really am working on the live aspect of what I'm doing musically and my label Awesome Soundwave. It keeps going from strength to strength, so I’m looking forward to seeing how that's going to flourish in the years to come. And I'm also trying to have a balance between what I'm doing musically and my motorsports! I don't think there's much more for me to do really, I like meeting new people, but I’ve not stopped partying for years and years and it gets to a point where you can’t keep up with the intensity of it anymore. I still want people to go out and have fun with everything I’ve made, you know, I built this city so I’m excited to see what happens next!
Gemma Ross is Mixmag's Editorial Assistant, follow her on Twitter