In 1999, Carl Cox headlined his first gig at Club Utopia, one of the Strip’s original electronic dance music destinations. Fifteen years—and several bum gigs—later, the English techno and house icon is returning to the Boulevard to re-create the vibe of his Vegas debut. During a phone chat, the man affectionately called Coxy looked back at his Sin City past and peered ahead at his new Light residency.
What made you jump on the Light residency? Did they come to you? My introduction to Vegas was Utopia, and this was basically considered the official afterhours party for the workers at the time. What was really great about that club was the vibe and the energy. People were in there for one reason only: to dance to this type of music that you couldn’t hear anywhere else. So I remember those kind of days, and I’ve always wanted to try to get back to the essence of the reason you go to a club in the first place.
I said to [Light], I’m only gonna play if I can play the music I play everywhere else in the world, and they said yes. It’s not my first opportunity to have a residency. I did play at the Palms two or three years ago, where I was also given an opportunity to play Moon, but I found that difficult because while the sound I had was great for Moon, management decided it wasn’t commercially viable. ... If I’m able to play my type of music all over the world, which represents me and the music I like to play (which is the opposite side of EDM), it should be represented in Vegas. You can be kind of blinded by all the LEDs and light walls!
Light orchestrates performances while the DJ plays. Will that be allowed while you’re on? We kind of do that type of show at my residency at Space in Ibiza, so I’m not adverse to having that. I think it’s a great complement between the two elements. The idea really for me is since it’s afterhours, you turn the lights down a little bit. I want [Light] to become seedier as the night goes in, because I don’t get started until 3 a.m.
Do you have music you prefer to play at 4 a.m. rather than at midnight? Yeah, exactly. There’s so much music in this element that doesn’t get played or see the light of day. For me to pull out those type of records is the appeal. There’s more to what you’re hearing right now. The mystery to what I do is based purely on what I pull out and the records I like to play from an afterhours point of view.
Has there been any effect from the whole “EDM” phenomenon on your career or exposure, despite the differences in that sound and what you do? Absolutely. We’ve just celebrated our 10-year anniversary with Ultra [Music Festival in Miami] this year, and my [Carl Cox] Arena [stage] has been the yin [to the EDM] yang of Ultra’s success. And I’ve noticed a lot of the [attendees] are not staying at the main stage anymore, because they have the opportunity to find out about other DJs and come over to us. For me, this is fantastic, as people don’t see EDM as a fad, but as a gateway to this type of music.
It’s great to have EDM the way it is. If you really want to know about this music, okay, start there, get used to the 4/4 beat to the point where it gets tribal, but the idea is to feel the funk and groove and energy of that music, and if you don’t get it at the main stage, we certainly provide it for you.
Carl Cox With Saeed Younan. May 25, 3 a.m., $40 men, $26 women. Light Nightclub, 693-8300.