Carl Cox: The People’s DJ

An exclusive first interview with the dance-music veteran on his Light residency


“Oh yes, oh yes!” If you hear an enthusiastic British accent coming from the DJ booth along with some sweet house sounds, Carl Cox is in the building. Dubbed “The People’s DJ,” Cox is one of those spinners who never plays the same set twice as he masterfully takes partiers on a journey, feeding off dance-floor energy. Over three decades, Cox has earned respect from clubbers and contemporaries alike. Vegas Seven got the exclusive word that the legendary DJ will spin the first gig of his new Las Vegas residency at Light on May 25, so mark your calendars and read up on why you should go.

House-music fans were pretty stoked when it was announced you’d have a residency at Light. But you’ve got quite a history of playing Las Vegas, don’t you?

I’ve been trying to play music in Vegas since 1988 or ’89. The first kind of after-hours club party happened there [at Utopia]. DJ Dan used to play there, Doc Martin and all the boys. At that time, that was the place. It got burnt down, then it came back again and everything changed. Then there was Ice. Then I got booked to play at The Bank and at Jet. Then I took up my first residency at the Palms. That was OK for a minute; I was at Moon, I did their pool party, which was pretty cool. But it was never regular, it was sporadic.

Long before Electric Daisy Carnival was in Las Vegas, you played the Love Festival at the Palms as well.

But then they had Paul Oakenfold’s party happening and he was a resident DJ at the time and that sound was more predominate than my sound. Then I had a really bad experience at I think Jet or the Bank—it was all hip-hop orientated, it was all about just about trying to get as much out of the puddle as possible. The guy or the girl that would spend money at that club liked hip-hop music, therefore that’s what got played. So I would be waiting and waiting and waiting to play, then when they were happy with their figures, then they let me play, but by the time I got to play, there was no one there. In Europe, this would not happen. So I was pissed off by that, and I was like “you know what, I’m done.” Until EDC wanted to do an afterparty at Drai’s, and I was like “really? Which way is this going to go?” [Laughs.] It was one of the most amazing afterparties I’ve ever had in Vegas, I absolutely loved it. And then of course, EDC was phenomenal.

Fans are a bit worried you’ll go the route of other major headlining DJs in Las Vegas and, for lack of a better term, “sell out.”

People are always asking, “What am I gonna do when I get to Vegas? Am I just gonna sell out and play David Guetta records?” I’m going completely left field. I’m gonna be playing music that I would be playing at Time Warp Festival in Mannheim, Germany. This is the vibe I want to bring to Vegas. And if I’m not able to do that, there’s no point in me being there. So I’ve got my fingers crossed that this is the time that things start to change in Vegas.

Do you know how often you’ll be spinning at Light? Because the definition of “residency” has changed a lot over the past few years.

I’ll put it this way: I won’t be there every week for 52 weeks, but I will be there at least four to five times this year.

You’ve been called “The People’s DJ” and focus more on constructing a good set than producing.

As far as I’m concerned, most DJs who want to be producers start producing their own music just so they can make more money. That’s not the reason you’re called a DJ, you’re basically trying to be seen as something. If you’re a producer, you’re a producer. If you’re a DJ, you’re a DJ. If you’re a producer and you go in the booth and your record does really well, by all means, go out and show people what you’re about. But if you’re a producer first and never DJed in your life, you rely on a computer to perform, that’s what happens. So many of these guys go out there, they don’t really know how to perform—apart from throwing cakes at people, crowdsurfing and all these things—to get the attention off of what they’re not doing. I’m not doing that stuff because I’m too busy DJing!

Do you know if you’ll have dedicated visuals and performers based around you at Light?

My idea has always been like this: If you had no lighting in a club whatsoever, just a DJ booth and some speakers, there’s nothing to set you apart from what you’re hearing and what you’re feeling. Then you put in some strobe lights or some color inside the area, and you have to create a mood from the floor. Then maybe put in some art installations or an LED wall and some lights for a graphic effect. Then, if you want to, go the extra mile and hire some dancers from Cirque du Soleil to add to what you’re seeing. All those things are an absolute bonus. If you have all the lights on, get all the dancers going, get all the confetti cannons? Boom! You’ve got nowhere else to go, apart from down. My idea is less is more. Therefore people can concentrate on what I’m doing, and what the sound is primarily. My idea is to give people more of what the music is about, and less what it looks like. Difficult in Vegas, though.

Will they let you spin more than a two-hour set?

It will be. I can’t go there like the superstar DJs and play for one-and-a-half hours and be good! I’ve got to more or less start at the beginning and take it right to the end. That’s what I do. There’s the possibility of me having an unknown warm-up DJ, and if that’s the case, I’ll be choosing those DJs. The idea is that the night has a story, and I’m the only one who can tell that story. So it’ll be much longer than a two-hour set.

To what would you attribute your long success in the industry?

Every day I want to know what the next record sounds like, where the next artist is coming from. I want to still excite myself by listening to music. I want to play those records and share them with people. I enjoy it; my office is behind the DJ booth. … Without all the sparkles and lights around it, at the end of the day, it’s just me and the music.



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