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April 5, 2011 / rocksandgravel

An Interview with Carl Craig

Did someone say techno? Well, I’m on the phone to Carl Craig, who’s sat in a deli somewhere in the States (it’s breakfast time over there) with his mateDerrick May, who seems to be talking to him in his other ear at the same time. This could be a tiring fifteen minutes. But fortunately I’m rather charmed by his Michigan drawl and he’s not put off by my inexplicably high pitched phone voice.

This March in Ewer Street Carpark, Carl’s label Planet E are hosting their first party, to celebrate reaching the grand age of 20. This is the first time the label has thrown a showcase party in London, and as Carl explains it’s simply because “20 seemed like a good number”.

The rise of Planet E is well documented – Carl got his break when Derrick, his ‘mentor’ brought him to his label party to play in support of Inner City in London back in 1989. Upon his first visit to the UK acid rave was exploding, so I wonder if he has any stories to share in the hope of an anecdote involving glow sticks and Andy C (or something), but all he cares to tell me is that he “got a really bad haircut”. Somehow I think it may all have been too wild and inappropriate to discuss at this time of day.

I’m also intrigued as to why to this day he still resides in Detroit, a city reported so negatively for its high crime rates and derelict landscape, after all these years. “It’s cheap.” Eh? “I can have a great lifestyle here. I can live as an artist and do what I want to do because it’s just so much cheaper.” OK, but… what about the music scene in the city? “Well, we don’t really have that many clubs or anything. People keep to themselves, but it’s a city full of artists doing their own thing, expressing their own individuality, and I like that.”

As well as the label party, Carl is also releasing a Planet E compilation album, entitled ’20 F@%&ing Years of Planet E’. So is he feeling too old? “No, I just didn’t expect it to have the longevity it had. I’m fortunate enough to have never worked in the real world.” Other projects include various community projects to help disadvantaged young people in the city, giving them access to music education. His label seeks to nurture young and local talent too – as long as they have “passion and something new and good to bring the table”.

Carl leads by example, and although he is a renowned player in the world of techno, he’s in no way limited to just that. Sometimes deemed an ‘experimentalist’, his portfolio ranges from jazz ensembles (check out ‘Bug in the Bassbin’) to beatbox loops, to epic house tracks as well as the exquisite techno beats. Each track is new and very different from the last. There was also the Grammy nomination for his remix of ‘Like a Child’ by Junior Boy.

So, what should we expect from the night? Besides of course, some delectable techno from the likes of We Love resident Paul Woolford, Radioslave and Francois K, as well as recent signing Psycatron. “Well, we’re all friends, ya know?” Carl replies, which I guess means it’ll be just as much a party for them as it will be for us. So he still goes raving himself? “Well, of course! I love music, and yeah I get out there from time to time. My real place is behind the decks though”.

At this moment, Derrick interrupts, in a rather bemused tone: “Are you, like, some kinda rock star over there?!” and they break into infectious laughter. That’s what it’s all about. I wish him and Derrick a lovely day, and I tell him I’ll see him soon… maybe I could be his friend too?

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