British house and techno legend Carl Cox is such a fixture at the Ultra Music Festival that he gets his own tent – twice. Yes, you can check him out Friday and Saturday at his Carl Cox and Friends tent, along with Laurent Garnier and Loco Dice (Friday) and Yousef, Afrojack, Steve Aoki, Fedde Le Grand and Moby (Saturday). Cox even gets to hand-pick the DJs each year. He talked to Miami.com about what we can expect from the show – and even offered some advice for both WMC and Ultra planners.
Do you think it was a good idea for Ultra to expand to three days?
[Laughs] No, I have to say. Because the thing is, there’s a saying in life – “less is more.” So when Ultra started and it was only one day, people went there and got everything they could possibly have wanted. And then it went to two days and people had to set themselves up for a two-day event. But when it went to three days, you would have heard anything you possibly could have wanted over the first two days. So what now do you really want on an extra day? I really don’t know. If I paid my money for Ultra, I wouldn’t want to be there for three days. If there was camping, that’d be a different story. So I have to say I love Ultra, but if you make it two days of the best it could possibly be, I think people would be satisfied. And they have been in the past.
What can we expect from your shows?
I’ve been sorting some really amazing music over the last year, so my set will be really different from last year and the year before that. What I really enjoy is being able to go as far underground as possible on Friday night, because it’s just me, Loco Dice and Laurent Garnier. And on Saturday, we’ll maybe sober it up a little bit commercially by having Afrojack and Steve Aoki play first before me. So I will play accordingly, with big-room stadium tracks. So it’s really dynamic for me to go from underground on Friday to a stadium sound on Saturday. I’ve just got so much great new music to play, I just can’t wait to get myself behind those turntables and rock the house.
Other than the generic “techno” or “house,” how would you describe your sound?
It’s difficult to describe my sound, I think, because primarily it has a 4/4 beat, primarily it has elements of house and techno. But I always go for music that has emotion in it, and I get to push those buttons when I get to play those tracks. And it’s always a journey – I always make sure to start somewhere and end up somewhere else within the confines of the music I play.
Are you performing anywhere else that week?
This will be my third year now of doing a kind of funk and soul disco party on Sunday, at Mokai. We’ll play like James Brown and Al Green and all sorts of stuff – people love it because it’s completely different.
Do you prefer playing a festival like Ultra to a long night in a club?
I don’t think I prefer it, but when you have a big crowd like that, I just rise to the occasion because it’s a big celebration and I embrace it. And when you keep going to the same club all the time, it can get really boring – I mean, you know where the toilets are, you know the door staff. A club is somewhere you go week in and week out, and you get comfortable with that. At least with Ultra, you have to wait one year to find out what will happen.
What do you think of the split between WMC and Ultra?
Well, it’s a bit strange, really. I mean, you always have safety in numbers. With house music as a whole, we’re supposed to be in this all together, and they decided to do that for whatever reason. I mean, they could put [WMC] on whenever they want, January, February or even July – it’s up to them. But to stand there and go, “We’re not going to do this” for whatever their reasons are, and therefore Ultra has to stand on its own, I just found that strange. It’s become more of a power struggle than anything. But people have to decide what they want to do, where they want to go. Only time will tell if what they decided is worth it.
How often do you get to Miami, and what do you think of the city?
Oh, man, I love the city of Miami – I always have a really good time when I come there. It’s got some of the best food around, and I love food [laughs]. There are so many great places to eat – it’s just amazing. But I just like the spirit of Miami, but unfortunately I’m not able to be there as much as I’d like. I try to do at least one event outside of Ultra per year, like I did last year at Mansion for Halloween, which was an amazing night. So it is worth trying to fit in Miami as much as possible outside of Conference.