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Carl Cox picks his top 5 festival memories

King Carl picks his favourite festival memories and the tracks that go with them

  • Interview: Louis Grogan
  • 24 May 2019

Summer is approaching and the dance music world is collectively preparing to emerge bleary-eyed from dark basements and embrace the great outdoors as festivals become the flavour of the season.

No festival season is complete without the beloved selector Carl Cox smashing it at the top events around the world. So with that in mind, we caught up with Carl to hear about his favourite festivals, his cherished memories from the dances, and the records that accompany each memory. Read his thoughts below.

Underworld 'Born Slippy'
Glastonbury, 1995

"I think this was the first year Glastonbury had any dance music of any kind. It was me, I think System 7, Kevin Saunderson, Danny Rampling, Fatboy Slim. We all got booked to play in this tent area that they had. At the time Goldie had his album ('Timeless') out, and The Cure were on at the same time as well. I remember thinking, we've got no chance, everyone's gonna go see them instead. Little did I know, a lot of people really embraced the whole culture. We had 25,000 people come to an 8,000 capacity tent. They had to roll the sides up and then let it just spray out. So you can imagine myself sitting there thinking ‘What's happened here?’. Everyone was going absolutely bananas. It was magical, I just love moments like that. I played 'Born Slippy' and everyone got swept up in the piano drop and the strings and the "lager lager" and all that. People just followed the record in every moment, and then the beats dropped and the whole place just lost their shit.

"There's actually an aerial shot of that moment, which was in the middle of a newspaper, because of what happened. When I see the shot I just think, I was in there playing at that time. You're not expecting anything really, and then something amazing like that happens. The music and the scene at that time was still on the way up and up, people were still kind of discovering it. So Michael Eavis decided to continue that, and here it is now, one of the biggest things that happens there, and I'm still a part of it after all these years. For me, Glastonbury gets the double thumbs up. It made a big difference for me in my life, and of course, I'm going back again this year to do it all over again. I'm very pleased to put that one on the list."

Josh Wink 'Higher States of Consciousness'
Ultra Music Festival, 2001

"I can't not mention Ultra Music Festival. I've been there for 19 years, and now they are a worldwide brand. It's hard to define a particular moment, but I would say, many years ago when we first started, I remember Josh Wink being there playing 'Higher States of Consciousness' in its early days. I just remember how the crowd were going off to it, it was the first time they heard it. When you see the whole place go mad, the people behind you, left and right, security guards, everyone. Right there at that time, that's what made the room. You know when a record connects with everybody, It was an amazing thing to see.

"I've grown into the idea of what Ultra stands for. Not only do they have their kind of commercial EDM side of what they do, we created a new brand called Resistance, and Resistance is basically what keeps Ultra underground, or at least gives people an experience of the music that we play and listen to. Ultra is still continuing to be a company that is pushing the boundaries of what a festival entails, by having the Resistance Island now. The idea is this defined festival within a festival, so if you are interested in EDM then you'll enjoy that, but then you can walk down the road and experience something else, based on what the sound of what the DJs are playing down there, like Dubfire, Laurent Garnier, Sven Väth, Loco Dice, Seth Troxler, the list goes on. I'll continue to be an advocate for Resistance Island, and what they're doing now.

Thomas And Filterheadz 'Sunshine'
Kappa FuturFestival, 2012

"So we’ve got Kappa FuturFestival in Italy, and of course the Italians really make the party. It's always down to the people there, and they embrace this like you cannot believe. It's open air, there's no kind of closure, there's no tents. I was one of the first DJs to play for them, and it’s great to see it grow into a major festival with worldwide attention.

"My highlight would probably be the first year that I played. That main area, I kind of stood there like, 'What the hell's this?! Who built it, and what's its purpose?!'. It's phenomenal, it's amazing. I'm going back there this year but not the main room this time, I'm gonna be doing a new area which they've created. I'm really looking forward to playing at their new stage and then taking that into the next realm."

Plastikman 'Spastik'
Awakenings, 2012

"Awakenings festival is electronic music, end of story. There’s nothing more or less to it. They've always been advocates for that sound and the DJs that play it and embrace it, and I've always been into that sound. They have, I think, seven areas of just electronic music all over, every top DJ. and the actual production is second to none.

"For me, the highlight would be going back to about 10 years ago, when I first started playing Awakenings and played Richie Hawtin's 'Spastik'. That was the track that really got people up and losing their minds. I love the idea that there aren’t any boundaries or barriers to the sound, and the set up has always been really, really cool. I mean each tent has a dance floor, so you're not dancing on gravel, or grass, or mud, you actually have a dancefloor in all the tent areas, which I've never seen before. They see it as important for people to not be too fatigued by dancing all weekend long. I think at the end of the day they care about the people, so that's really cool. It's such a nice festival, they've done such a great job with it."

DJ Rolando 'Jaguar'
Tomorrowland, 2018

"Tomorrowland is probably one of the biggest festivals in the world, and one of the reasons why is because the production that they put into it is second to none. People from all over want to go to Tomorrowland, it's on a lot of people's bucket list of festivals to attend. I've been playing Tomorrowland on-and-off for nearly 15 years now, and the arenas that they create for me are just incredible, It's hard to explain. It’s almost like an Alice In Wonderland type event where nothing is the same, anywhere. There really isn't anything like it. It's hard to pick one year, because even if the DJs aren’t playing, you walk in and your jaw just drops. Last year was phenomenal, based on what I had done, and the set up and everything, it's just amazing.

"The last two years I've been the first DJ on the Friday when they come in, and the reason why is to educate the people to the fact that the music they are listening to now, the music that I'm playing, is what got me here. I play a lot of old techno records that mean a lot to me, and meant a lot when I used to play them. There's nothing commercial about it at all. It's just my sound for three hours. I don't do anything apart from just be myself, and play the music that gives them the experience."

Louis Grogan is a freelance writer, follow him on Twitter

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