DJ and producer Carl Cox is preparing to return to Clapham’s SW4 festival, where he will have his own arena, this summer. We caught up with the rave scene legend


AR: What does the year ahead hold for you? It’s been quite a busy year for you so far, do you want to explain what you’ve been up to for the past 4 months?

CC: I’ve been in Australia where I go to every year to play festivals and parties and with it being the summer, it sets me up really well for the parties to come as I start making my way back to Europe via South America and North America.

This year I got to play in Peru, in Lima for the first time in about five years which was an excellent party at a place called Loop.

It seems as though the infrastructure of these parties has got a lot greater since when I started playing them about 15 years ago and people are now starting to understand more so than ever about this music and the culture of this music and what it stands for.

It’s amazing to see somewhere like Lima really gets the party vibe and what it’s all about - It’s almost like being in Ibiza, based on the setup of a lot of these events.

So I got to witness how amazing that was this year and also playing in Buenos Aries for Ultra as well was just truly amazing.

Just to see a new generation that are really getting into this culture of electronic music is incredible - it’s become a phenomenon not just in South or North America but worldwide.

It’s really coming together now and I think what’s happening more than anything now is the social media aspect of everything.

You know, people are talking about DJ’s they like, the music, where they go to a lot of these events, the tracks that they enjoy, the sound of whats created by the DJ’s in the sense of the moment of when a record drops and they’re like ‘I was at this party when he played this record or she played this record’.

People are talking so much about it, it’s incredible now that anywhere you go, people have an opinion of how your set was, how you were as a person if they got to meet you - "I got a photo with them" and all that kind of thing.

It’s amazing now how it’s all spreading like wild fire in a sense of what is music now. So for me to be doing these sorts of events then eventually getting to Miami for the WMC and to play Ultra which is my premiere festival event based on that we have a Carl Cox mega-structure tent, which is by far the best produced tent I’ve ever played in - and that’s coming from me but the people that went there and the DJ’s that played also said the same.

It’s just phenomenal to see how there was a demand for two weekends and each day there was a minimum of 40,000 - 50,000 people on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and then the next week there was 55,000 people on Saturday and Sunday.

You just don’t get to see that very often at any event. I don’t think there’s many events with many artists, rock bands, country and western artists that have this amount of attention at the moment, it’s just amazing, so I’m walking away from all of this experience and thinking ‘My god after all these years’ it’s just getting bigger and more understood I suppose, the theme of it’s been more understood which is why more people are buying tickets to go to these events.


AR: You see more than most just how much the scene is exploding on a global level - Do you think it’s going to continue to grow or do you think it’s going to plateau at any point?

CC: It’s continuing to grow because the thing is now it’s the next generation. You know, it’s the new entry level clubbers that are going to check out what’s going on and that’s what this things always been about.

You had people that were going to rave events that were into more rock music and then they would stand there and take a stock view of what it’s all about and the next thing they knew they were ravers.

So, now you’re getting entry level clubbers, people that are probably more into RnB or more into pop orientated tunes and this kind of thing and where they would normally go and see a pop act they are now quite happy to go and see Avicii or Tiesto and still have a very good time.

It’s got better because of this unified sound, you’re all jumping to the same thing. It’s easy to get into it and to enjoy it in such a way so it’s not going to stop, it’s just going to get bigger because people now have understood it even more so from a worldwide point of view.

People are moving around, they’re getting on a plane, they’re flying into these events, they aren’t even driving to these events anymore.

They’re quite happy to go from coast to coast to see their favourite DJ or their favourite artist - it’s just phenomenal to see how people are really looking forward to the next festivals or the next club event.

I had an amazing time in New York at a small club called Output which is in Brooklyn and it’s probably the best club I’ve played in New York since Twilo. On a Wednesday night, it’s got a capacity of 1000 people and 1200 people turned up and it was snowing.

That’s amazing! We never normally see people come out on a school night and here I am in Brooklyn, freezing, on a Wednesday night in a club which is full to capacity.

That’s really saying something, based on where everything is at the moment.

There’s no signs of it slowing down, you know, the people that were going to my event seven, eight years ago in Miami at the mega-structure, they’ve grown up with the sound and the music of it so when I book people like Adam Beyer or Richie Hawtin or Loco Dice or any of these DJ’s, people are coming in to hear their music, their sound and they take them in as much as they take me in as well, which is just brilliant.

They are getting cultured as well, from the main stage acts into what happens next and we’re still on the forefront of what happens next.


AR: What do you see the next few years beckoning? Particularly in America where there is a real focus on the explosion of electronic music at the moment?

CC: All the DJ’s are going to want to move on with their music. They’ve got to want to develop and grow and turn themselves into a longer lasting artist.

I mean I’m a testament to that. I’ve been involved in this music for 28 years and I’m still at the forefront of the music. All these DJ’s that are coming in now, they are between 23, 24, 25 years old and they are going to want more longevity in what they have created for themselves.

It’s going to work for some and it’s not going to work for others because people just get bored and they will move on.

This is the thing about what’s happening in America, it’s an explosion at the moment. It’s all going really well but it’s going to come to a point where it’s all about money and not about the scene which is where things start to go wrong.

Once the people that are currently investing in the industry don’t see the money coming in anymore they’ll just turn to the next thing, and the next thing could be selling potatoes on the stock market.

At the moment everything is very fruitful because they are getting record numbers at these events, which is amazing.

It’s all coming from the more commercial aspect of what the scene is about and me and many other DJ’s, we see what we do to be longer lasting so we take the smaller events, we do the clubs, we feed the people based on what’s going on in the rest of the world and into the America’s so the Americans and the Canadians can see that there is more water in this world because when people see something that is really growing, the question is ‘for how long?’.

Sometimes you just have to move on and to do it you have to take a little bit of a hit and I have to say someone like Avicii is one of the DJ’s that will move forward based on the fact that he really wants to create something special and unique for himself to become an artist that will be around a lot longer than most people think.

His set at Ultra wasn’t too well received but showed me that he’s really thinking about his long term career and not about taking everything now and running with it. So for me there are people that are thinking about what the future of the scene holds for them but in America of course what comes up has to come down.


AR: In many respects this encourages DJs to be creative, to take risks, to really push themselves, to make sure they are providing the general public an experience they are not going to see elsewhere…

CC: I think as long as you go into that entry level and you understand it then you can move along with it. To find out what Jamie Jones is all about, to find out what Art Department’s about, you want to find that next dubstep producer, you want to see what Drum and Bass is all about and you find your way within the music.

When you are hearing all the music on television ads, on MTV, on films and these artists are right in front of you playing your favourite tracks, you are having a good time.

But then, you want to find another artist that has the same ethos in the way that they are being portrayed and it gets to a point where you just keep moving on onto the next thing.

If you look at LMFAO, they will forever more only be know for the certain tracks that they made and also for Gangnam Style.

Outside of this, there’s nothing else because people will have moved on already. They would have had a good time at the time, but at the end of the day, you just want to find out what else is going on in the rest of the world and once you get cultured you’ll end up not just being at the main stage at festivals but you’ll be involved in other parts of the festivals in terms of what else is going on out there and I think that’s what’s really important with these festivals.

You never know whatever happens in the smaller tents could be the next big thing on the main stage. If you look at what happened with The Prodigy, for instance, many years ago, they were only seen at raves and underground clubs.

The next thing they are headlining Glastonbury. The same thing happened that with Pendulum was the same, playing the dance stage then next year playing the main stage to 85,000 or 90,000 people who were just digging them.

So we have to have those kind of events that are going on within the festival so people get to experience it in someways and realise that this could be the next big thing.

AR: When we have spoken before you’ve touched on Clapham Common being somewhere that really holds a place in your heart. Does it bring a sense of pride playing SW4 because of your heritage with the area?

CC: Nobody should forget that the rave scene did start in London and we’re going back to the roots of one of the reasons as to why this music is so now understood on a worldwide point of view.

We were doing some amazing warehouse events and open air parties in and around London for years and this is what’s so great about SW4 because we’re basically bringing it right back to the home of where it all started.

I remember after we’d go to any rave in London or any party that we would congregate on Clapham Common on a Sunday.

We just had people with their cars, boots up, listening to the radio, dancing away like nutcase’s on a Sunday afternoon, re-living what it was like to be in a warehouse party down the road and everyone coming together for this moment. It was almost like its own imitable Woodstock.

So for me to walk back onto the hallowed grass of Clapham Common to do exactly what I love to do is just unique and phenomenal that we’re able to still do something like this in our lifetime.

I never thought that Clapham Common would be a venue of where we are able to play this type of music and here we are able to do that in such a way that everyone now understands it.

We had to fight for the right to be able to be heard and be listened to based on this music. There was a time when you would get nicked for having more than five people dancing around a car listening to house and techno music where as now we are getting heralded for doing this and bringing people together.

Societies from all walks of life coming together and now people from all over the world have heard of SW4 and are getting their flights in and enjoying South London no matter of rain, shine, hell or high water.

From when I played the last time there, I had an amazing time on the main stage and now it’s time for me to go back into my arena and play exactly what I’d like to and offer up not only my services as a DJ but also those of others I enjoy as well and for me that’s the nature of what we’ve been doing over many years.


AR: Tell us what we can expect from your Arena, Carl?

CC: Me and Loco Dice are looking to do a b2b session right from the get-go. We’ve been toying with this idea from our nights in Space Ibiza, based on that every time we play a closing party set, he plays first, then I play then we play together and when we do play together it’s like an explosion. We really try to out-do each other.

In our music and our sound and it’s just awesome to see the reaction from the people when they know that Dice has just dropped a couple of amazing tunes and I have to react to that, I drop a couple of amazing tunes then it’s his turn, the energy is just immense so I’m really looking forward to working with him on that.

Marco Carola - he has been around as long as I have, but over the last couple of years he has been a force to be reckoned with his sound and his night at Amnesia Ibiza called ‘Music On’.

He is really putting the sex back into techno music. His sound is really something now on the top of people’s tongues and to bring him to the table for the first time is awesome.

Adam Beyer, also a techno god, he’s really been on fire. He played for us at Ultra in Miami and he was one of my favourite DJ’s that played that weekend.

He absolutely tore it up so I’m really looking forward to seeing him tear it up for me at SW4.

Guti is amazing. He really is live. He really plays live and he really gets into it. I just love how he draws people into his music. He is very different, he’s from Latin America and he has that appeal about him and I’m really looking forward to having him here with us.

Of course we also have our special guest Carl Craig who is just a Detroit techno legend and I spoke to him the other day about coming to play for us and he’s really excited to be there, he’s got something special.


AR: In 3 words Carl, could you sum up SW4 and what we can expect from your stage on the day?

CC: Emotional, special and exciting.

From the word go from when we announced that we were coming back to SW4 to do the Carl Cox and Friends Arena, everyone has been really excited about it, they really like nature of the line-up.

I’m really looking forward to playing and having friends along to have a really good time back in South London.


South West Four; Clapham Common; August 24-25, noon to 10.30pm £55 to £100; southwest