Carl Cox on the Rise of Ultra Music Festival: "There's No Other Event of Its Kind"
Back when most of us were only concerned with what kind of Underoos we were going to wear that day, Carl Cox was already peddling dance music. And while DJs today enjoy playing atop enormous stages with seizure-inducing light shows, it's safe to say that in the late '80s, Cox was playing strictly underground clubs.
Surely, Cox deserves a lot of recognition for paving the way for today's EDM superstars. And for the past seven years, Ultra Music Festival has honored the legend by giving him his own tent.
The Carl Cox and Friends mega-structure feels worlds away from the main stage, which tends to cater to the DJ of the moment -- not always the DJ with the most talent. But Cox's careful curation (yes, Cox insists on complete control in picking the lineup for his tent) always showcases a broad yet forward-thinking collection of DJs and producers who understand that EDM is more than just the drop.
We here at Crossfade spoke with Cox about electronic dance music's rise in popularity, how he came to work with Ultra, and whether he expects to survive the two-weekend blitz.
-Ultra 2013: Ten Acts We're Excited to See
-Tommie Sunshine Says America's Youth Needs EDM: "It's Keeping Them Alive"
-Ultra 2013 Releasing Official Soundtrack From Tiesto, Avicii, 28 Others
Top Five Trap Stars on Ultra Music Festival 2013's Trapped Stage
-Ultra Music Festival 2013's Lineup and Set Times
Crossfade: Can you describe the Carl Cox tent at Ultra?
Courtesy of Ultra Music Festival Cox kicking it with Josh Wink.
Carl Cox: I think I've made a little niche for myself within the festival. Now that they're celebrating 15 years, I think that's something we should all celebrate -- that the music has lasted this long and still seems to be more popular than ever. And to part of that is great. I've been involved with dance music since '88 -- 27 years ago. To work with Ultra Music Festival, it's something I'm very honored and proud to be a part of. I'm really looking forward to coming back and doing what I do to the highest level.
How many years have you been doing the tent at Ultra?
I think my tent has been done for the last 7 years, and I played two years before that. I haven't performed at Ultra for the whole 15 years.
When Ultra first approached you about doing a tent at the festival, were you hesitant?
Courtesy of Ultra Music Festiva
The thing about it is when I played Ultra, I was alongside Donald Glaude, Paul Oakenfold ... It was like another DJ upon another DJ upon another DJ, and it was only an hour set. I knew I had a lot more to offer than just playing alongside other DJs and playing a small selection of music.
I've always created my own events and done my own parties in the past. But I really wanted the people to see I have more water in my well -- more water being that I was able to play longer, that I was able to create something within a festival, and to have not main act DJs, but DJs who believe in the music they are playing. I was able to exercise the fact that a different style of music existed that put me where I am today. And that's what I'm still basically purveying. Acts like Loco Dice, Richie Hawtin ... we can't put these guys on the main stage at Ultra. But now we can give them a space purely based on the music that they play.
When I was given the opportunity to do this I never doubted for a minute that it wouldn't be successful. We were offering something different and unique toward that festival. To me, it was a bit of a challenge, of course. But it certainly paid off.