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It was at the age of 15 that Carl bought a set of turntables and began working as a mobile DJ. Disco was the first music that captivated him but by the early 80s Cox had moved on to playing the same music as other young London DJs – rare groove, New York hip-hop and electro. He was perfectly placed to hear Chicago house music in its earliest forms, and when the epic ‘Acid Trax’ by Phuture (a.k.a. DJ Pierre) came out in early ’87. “It was then that I thought, ‘This is it,’ says Carl. “I would do my parties, and I’d play old rare groove and hip hop and soul and I would say ‘Right you’ve got to hear this Phuture track’ and people would just stop and listen.”
As a founder of the sound, Carl rode the exploding British rave scene. He played the opening night of Danny Rampling’s legendary Shoom, co-promoted The Project with Paul Oakenfold, held a residency at the Zap Club in Brighton and at the Sunrise rave in 1988, hooked up a third turntable for his dawn-breaking set, got 15,000 people back on their feet, and established a personal rep for three-deck wizardry.
The next step was to make music, and Carl’s 1991 debut single for Paul Oakenfold’s Perfecto label, ‘I Want You,’ gave him a top 30 hit and a Top of the Pops appearance. Two more singles also made the charts. But Carl was a reluctant pop star and as the masses moved onto fluffy house and trance, and the hardcore created jungle, Cox retreated into the club world that had nurtured him, and instead embraced the underground sounds of techno. “Techno drives home somewhere,” he says of his core music. “It takes you to an element of surprise, not knowing where you’re going. It’s scary but wonderful at the same time.”
Carl’s classic releases include his 1995 mix CD, ‘F.A.C.T,’ which became a techno benchmark, selling over 250,000 copies, and the 1996 EP ‘Two Paintings and a Drum,’ which again broke the British top 30. Alongside Carl’s ‘Ultimate Music Management’ company, which counted Josh Wink and Laurent Garnier among 27 clients, there was the Ultimatum record label, for which Carl recorded his third top 30 UK single, ‘Sensual Sophis-ti-cat.’ In 2005, Carl’s third album, ‘The Second Sign’ caused a stir across Europe and reached number 3 in Spain’s national chart. Also gaining critical acclaim was ‘Dirty Bass,’ a collaboration with Christian Smith, and the funky ‘Give Me Your Love’, both released on 23rd Century Records, an outlet for his own burgeoning production output.
Carl formed his own label, Intec Records, in 1999, scoring a series of underground hits and enjoying eight years at the forefront of electronic music. After its closure in 2006, Carl was still inundated with new music, finally deciding to re-launch the label as Intec Digital at the start of 2010. It’s been a triumphant return, thanks to exclusives from some of the biggest names in techno. “The label couldn’t be going better,” says Carl. “It’s great to be back at the helm discovering underground DJs.”
Intec Digital was also the home for Carl’s 6th studio album, ‘All Roads Lead To the Dancefloor,’ released to critical acclaim in 2011 on state-of-the-art, self-updating USB technology.
2013 saw the re-launch of Carl’s seminal Pure Intec series, 9 years after the hugely successful original ‘Pure Intec.’ The release also coincided with the launch of a new series of Intec club nights where Carl and label head, Jon Rundell, played to a sold out XOYO in East London, dates have since followed in Ibiza, Madrid, Switzerland, Amsterdam for ADE, and London’s fabric, where they’ll be returning Easter 2015.
“Jon and I thought it was time,” says Carl. “We’d been working hard the last few years to get Intec back to the forefront of Techno. We have a great roster, with very talented DJs that deserve recognition. This is our way of celebrating the label’s success, showcasing some of our artists, and of course putting out some amazing tracks.”
Carl’s legendary Ibiza residency also continues to break boundaries. Celebrating an astounding 14 consecutive years at Space in 2015, Carl and Safehouse Management have built their weekly residency into one of the Island’s most popular nights, acclaimed for its adventurous and forward-thinking line-ups, musical direction and state of the art production. This, along with Carl’s highly involved and passionate role as promoter, programmer and host, is why each year has seen a growth and progression from the last, both in terms of quality and size. “The night’s popularity and demand has increased year by year, so it’s enabled us to bring even more talent to the island. We have a successful night because we just batten down the hatches and stick to what we do best, which is give value for money,” explains Carl. “People come back to us, as they’re big believers in our brand.”
Summer 2014 was also a record season for Carl in Ibiza – on top of his residency, he also played the Space closing Fiesta, along with dates at Amnesia, Sands and DC10.
Beyond Ibiza Carl continues to deliver his Carl Cox & Friends stage at Ultra, for what has long been one of the festival’s highlights. “2015 will be our 11th year at Ultra, and I’m certain it will go on and on,” says Carl. “We have a very special thing there. They give us free reign in everything. The look, staging, sound, what DJs we book, all of it is down to us, and that’s a great thing, and why we keep going back.”
All this and still Carl’s ‘Global’ radio show continues to break records, now reaching over 17-million weekly listeners worldwide and is syndicated across over 60 terrestrial FM, satellite and DAB stations throughout 35 countries, making him one of the most important broadcasters on the planet, and the most followed DJ on Mixcloud.