Always dressed for occasion, Carl Craig arrives to our Zoom a very fashionable five minutes late. DJ Minx arrives on the button at 6 o’clock and is wearing a T-shirt to remind everyone that she’s a proud ambassador for Detroit.
DJ Minx is razor-sharp and erudite and eager to talk about the city, as well as the importance of Chicago and New York, in setting the standard for the international scene. Already a legend, her profile is continuing to grow, and the reaction to her coming out last year can only be described as heart-warming.
Now after a string of well-received single EPs (including ‘A Walk In The Park’ and the brilliant mood-driven ‘Violet Groove’), Jennifer Witcher has just dropped her first single package specifically for Carl Craig via his acclaimed Planet E imprint. Originally on 2019’s ‘Detroit Love’ mix set, the track is called ‘Do It All Night’, and the record has been remixed by Honey Fucking Dijon, and Carl has also made a very special club edit, making this one of the hottest house music releases of 2022 already. It’s no accident that Minx is referred to as Detroit's ‘First Lady of Wax’.
‘Do It All Night’ just dropped as a single on Planet E.
Carl Craig: Yeah! When we did the track on the ‘Detroit Love’ compilation [in 2019], it was great to have it. Especially on mix compilations, I like to have exclusives and her track was one that helped take it to the next level and now it gets to come out with the bonus of a Honey Dijon Vinaigrette.
DJ Minx: She’s for juice!
And Carl, Planet E Communications now appears to be 30 years old.
Carl Craig: Yeah, we crossed the threshold!
Is a label turning 30 like a child turning 30? Is that the right analogy?
Carl Craig: I always take the past influences very seriously. One of the reasons I have always had different monikers was because of Parliament-Funkadelic who had Bootsy Collins and Zapp and Prince who had The Time and Vanity 6 and The Family. Rick James also had Mary Jane Girls and Tina Marie [as protégées] so those were huge influences for me. But the situation with labels, I always felt that labels should be timeless. Look at Mute, they had a presence, they were always going to be there.
Was longevity always the plan?
Carl Craig: Yeah, definitely. My Dad bought a suit back in the day, an Italian designer and it was naval cut and he said whenever you guys get new clothes, make sure they’re timeless. In the 1930s, people had one suit and it was something you could always wear and that’s how I look at labels: have that classic thing. At Planet E, you will always get a dose of what I think should be there. And I co-sign the releases.
Minx, your tee says Detroit Honey.
DJ Minx: I always try to represent Detroit! Detroit is the home of techno music and when I started in ‘89, all I looked for was Detroit tracks. At The Music Institute, the first place I frequented, I wanted to know where that all came from. I am a baby in the techno thing and I am a Detroit baby. We take pride in Detroit, wherever we go.
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Carl, you also rep Detroit hard. Have you always been that way?
Carl Craig: Yeah! The media conditioned me to be very Detroit-centric and people who went to went to school with me are also very Detroit-centric and overcompensate for the bullshit that’s been placed on us. It was crazy back in the ‘80s. What they were saying was even crazier.
What were they saying exactly?
Carl Craig: Talking about crime city, saying that you’re gonna get murdered! That’s how it was.
DJ Minx: If you’re going there, you’re not going [to be coming] back.
Carl Craig: I think the Black culture in the US… I feel that Black culture in America overcompensates for that. You see it with NWA and people talking about The Marcy Projects – people go there to see where Jay-Z has come from! We are proud for coming from the shits!
Carl, can you talk us through your installation at Dia Beacon. [Dia Art Foundation commissioned Carl to create a sound installation in dialogue with the unique architecture of the space in upstate New York].
Carl Craig: It is a 20,000 square foot all-concrete structure idea. And it’s in an established museum. It represents a true experience of what it is to be a DJ. So that’s why I call it Party/After-Party (2020). Although an after-party is where you hang out, but my after-party is in the hotel watching TV with my ears ringing!
Minx, what else is happening for you at the moment?
DJ Minx: I have a new residency at Spot Lite in Detroit. It’s been open a couple of years. It’s a bar and it’s really cute. It has a bar and a coffee area and people go there during the day, it’s a living room setting with a couch and a table where you can make a podcast but at night, it’s got a huge back-drop of vinyl records and turntables and CDJs and probably holds about 300 people, and people come from all over Detroit. It’s a mix of everyone: house, techno, LGBTQ+ — we needed this space.
Read this next: Celebrating Black History: Detroit techno icons
Are Detroit, Chicago and New York as important as ever in terms of influence?
DJ Minx: Yes! Chicago was Frankie’s home and the birthplace of house music, I played New York a lot of times recently.
Carl Craig: We all scratch each others backs. We needed to do that to push the next guy forward. So one time you could see this thing between Kevin Saunderson and Todd Terry and David Morales, Kevin made a track and Todd would sample it and Kevin would get a little mad! Then Morales comes on and does a mix of Inner City, so Chicago was super-important. There was always that connection to be able to get the music to the right places and you’d go to the Music Box - some of the parties back then were DJs like Bad Boy Bill – and it was important for us in Detroit. Now it’s harder to have these experiences. I think a lot of music gets to be more faceless and obscure as to where the music comes from, it’s not defined in the same way as before. So while Detroit and Chicago are important because of the legacy of all the great things that happened, while Chicago has great clubs, you’re not going to hear all the great Relief Records at the club. You’re gonna hear something else.
Carl, when you play in New York or Chicago, what scenes do you see? Are you optimistic?
Carl Craig: [Long pause] I am optimistic for people to come out to the parties and for someone to take control and make it impactful for the city. But there are some things I miss about clubbing. I miss The Music Box and The Paradise Garage. I was at Sound Factory more and there was a clientele that was exciting as well. I just don’t know if there’s a clientele that come to clubs any more, there is a clientele that come for the specific DJ….”
Minx, are you seeing the same faces?
DJ Minx: Definitely different every time. In New York, I play at Elsewhere in Brooklyn and maybe [there are] a few sprinkles here and there, but it’s not like it used to be. Like Carl said, it’s true that people go out for certain DJs. And sometimes people don’t surface until the headliner comes on, which is why some promoters refuse to post set times. You don’t see those same people coming out before you were a legendary DJ. It’s very different but of course seeing new people every time is also great! Sometimes people are learning and they do that by coming to hang out.
What other plans do you two have?
Carl Craig: “Whenever Jennifer needs some time or guidance, she can send me a text and I will text back: I am there for her.”
Ralph Moore Is Mixmag's Music Director, follow him on Twitter
‘Do It All Night’ by DJ Minx is out now on Planet E Communications, get it here