On the twentieth floor in one of the executive suites of the hotel I was ushered into a room where I shared a dynamic and interesting fifteen minute conversation with one of the worlds most renowned and influential electronic dance music legends. Whilst outside in the corridors whisky was swished up into brand new cocktail combinations flowing endlessly along with a variety of gourmet finger foods.
After brief introductions we got straight into talking; I ask Carl Craig what may have been the best piece of advice he’s received musically over the years that significantly enough stands out to him.
“Overall I’d have to say it’s been the harsh criticisms of my productions that has pushed me to work harder and be even better at what I do” he says.
As many a DJ has; does Carl Craig have a track that he labels as one that can save an either dying or slow set? I wonder out aloud.
“Nah, there are no rescue tracks. I try to pick out tracks that are ok from the start that I know the audience I’m playing to will appreciate. I’m not some cheesy house party or wedding DJ that plays purely to make the people happy. My history is from an art background perspective. So I play good music that the fans will appreciate.”
Indeed I couldn’t have put it better myself. I probe and try to find out after experimenting and playing around with the world’s variety of electronic genres which one still excites Craig the most?
Hmmm, I’m starting to feel like I’m being let in on something. Ignorant?
“Yeah ignorant. I like when I check out young people making music today and they go at it with little technical capability or experience either on ‘Reason’ or ‘Protools’ and just mash it up, get in there and go crazy. This way most of it comes out of their passion versus what a certain track is supposed to sound like.”
“Was it like this for you more than twenty years ago when you started out with your own record label Planet-E?” I ask.
“Definitely. Good music is like scrambled eggs. You gotta get in there and just mix it all up, add in all the flavours that is gonna make it taste that much better” he elaborates.
So how does he feel about his ‘Innerzone Orchestra’ cut ‘Bug in the Bass bin’ released in 1992 as being credited as the spark that influenced the creation of Drum and Bass that many of us (including myself) dig so much today?
“I’d say it’s probably just a small influence. When it comes to making music I grabbed what I felt worked and genres all lend from each other. And that is exactly what they did ‘cos music is about collaboration and communication” explains Craig.
“The legendary ‘Amen break beat’ a six second loop off a track titled ‘Colour him Father’ by ‘The Winstons’ in 1969 is also credited as an influence on the wide development of electronic dance music and especially Drum and Bass….” I add.
“It’s definitely a go-to beat for a lot of producers. There are a lot of elements that go into developing new music and that break is one of those influential sources. I don’t use it myself though. I try to come in raw” he closes.
Just a little bit after chatting to him I head off to Fiction Night Club in Long Street with a few of my friends for one of their ‘Killer Robot Techno Nights’. As I walk in, I bump into Craig chilling on the couch with Culoe De Song. They’re both getting a feel for the local Techno flavours. We chat some more and end up having a little rave on the wooden dance floor together. Nice.
The next day – Saturday night finally comes and we make our way to the city’s ‘Castle Of Good Hope’ for the much publicized, hyped and anticipated J&B Start A Party experience.
The high tech lay out and LED light set up on the walls and in the panels of the constructed dance floor creates a feeling of a futuristic blast into the promise of a high quality party that has the most advanced and developed tuneage we could hope to hear. The music and sets of all three supporting DJ acts and Carl Craig himself all live up to every bulleted expectation of those who came for the music and not just the hype.
There are a few draw backs to the Start A Party co-ordination though and speaking as the voice of the fans I’m obliged to point them out. The first would have to be the limited five hundred only guest list which mostly consisted of local and international media along with a few lucky winners. The unavailability of sold tickets to the public left out a huge part of the audience who deserved to be there. The venue was large enough for this and could easily have hosted at least five hundred more, especially when considering the global fan base of a DJ like Carl Craig. Second would have to be the disconnection between the DJ and the audience.
While we were set up to dance inside, underneath a covering of the building, separated by windows of Perspex, the DJ box stood about five untouchable meters away surrounded by a moat of water that was the Koi-pond of the castle it had been built on.
For a DJ and his dancefloor to connect you can’t have him isolated behind the decks away from the audience and this cardinal error was made by the Start a Party organisers. This resulted in most people roaming the castle feeling less phased by the intended vibe of the event and the music and more into the fact that they actually got invited to come.
Despite this the dancing went on anyway but alas, it was a half filled dance floor of whisky drinking corporate guests, countless camera men, red/yellow pants and suspender wearing staff carrying trays of finger foods and a few Techno lovers who kept it going until the end bit of Carl Craig’s closing set.
Just by overlooking a few vital party set-up essentials, J&B missed out on what could really have got the disco ball rolling this time around. Instead it felt like a corporate event, despite the cutting edge music being delivered, to a crowd who for the majority I doubt even knew who Carl Craig was.
WORDS: Mary Honeychild