“I don’t do that sort of set often,” he says, “and it’s a joy to share all those seminal records with people who may not know their story. It’s never fifty-year-olds remembering amazing times – most of them are in bed! It’s people who want to hear good music from over the years.”
The 1990s were also a time of excess, of course, and Cox remembers having 25 people back to his room at Liverpool’s now demolished Moat House Hotel after Cream, for excessive afterparties. “I lived the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle for a while”, he says – but 14 years ago he ended up in hospital with pancreatitis, an ulcer and an irregular heartbeat. They told him if he didn’t change his ways he’d be dead in two years, so he cut out smoking, drinking and red meat, and stopped the afterparties too. Which leaves him where he started, with the music.
“It’s fantastic,” he says. “I never set out to be anybody, but I love the fact that music puts smiles on people’s faces, I love that I’m still able to do that after three decades. I’m going to cut back but I’m still going to do what I do to the best of my ability – for instance, I’m playing Glastonbury for the first time
in three years – but it’ll get to the point where, if I’m playing a club or festival, don’t miss it, it’s going to be that bit more special.”
But it’s not just dancefloors that Carl has moved over the years. Several generations of DJs have been inspired and even nurtured by the big man, from underground heroes like Nicole Moudaber (“He’s the one that discovered me. He played my music on his radio shows. He was one of the first people to invite me to Space and I’ve been playing the club ever since.”) to EDM superstar Hardwell (“Carl’s departure from Space is a loss for Ibiza and clubbing as a whole. He’s always been fearless and creative with his approach to everything and for that reason he’s a true pioneer of our scene. His energy behind the decks has always been an inspiration to me. Few can match the passion that Carl brings to art of DJing.”) No-one can match his staying power. Carl Cox has seen off the end of the rave era, the rise of the superclub, big beat, prog house, the millennium’s superstar DJ backlash, the minimal wave and the EDM explosion – all while maintaining his status as perhaps the biggest star in the DJ firmament. That’s down to his passion and his humility; the way Carl treats the thousands of people he meets each year is a lesson to any bedroom producer who finds themselves catapulted to headline status. It’s also down to an unerring instinct for music, an ‘ear’ that at once transcends fashion and yet is completely contemporary.
Ultimately, though, it’s when he DJs that you feel the true power of Carl Cox. He continues to excel at infecting thousands of people at a time with his own joy and enthusiasm for the music he plays. He makes the Tobacco Dock at 10.20PM feel like 4AM at a warehouse rave. He sends the place bananas, ramming home a ballistic techno tidal wave at the peak of his set. If Cox is going to ration himself in future, we should treasure him accordingly. Oh yes. Oh yes.
Carl Cox: Music is Revolution, The Final Chapter is at Space Ibiza every Tuesday from June 14–September 20