Carl Craig: I'm Not A Fortune Teller!

Carl Craig had the amiability to answer Beat Factor's questions during a phone interview taken on January 29. Read about his musical roots, influences, his latest compilation on !K7, Sessions, and plenty of other interesting stuff.

Carl Craig is a Detroit-based producer of techno music, and is considered to be one of the most important names[1] in the Detroit second generation of techno producers and DJs. Carl Craig has approached techno using inspiration from a wide range of musical genres, including jazz and soul.

He began recording at the turn of the '90s, using a number of aliases to release innovative ambient, techno, breakbeat and future jazz sounds. One such alias, Innerzone Orchestra, issued "Bug in a Bassbin" in 1992, the track largely responsible for moving drum 'n' bass away from the sounds of hardcore and ragga. Craig heads Planet E Communications, a peerless dance label employing the same eclectic and futuristic ethos that informs his own music. He reconvened Innerzone Orchestra as a jazz/techno combo, recruiting jazz composer/keyboardist Craig Taborn, former Arkestra member Francisco Mora and Planet E signed Matt Chicoine to help him record 1999's Programmed.

With releases under BFC, Psyche, Paper Clip People, 69, Designer Music and Innerzone Orchestra, Carl Craig has more personalities than Sybil. As much as his different guises can confuse though, his music is always easily recognized because whatever he does, it retains that certain Craig-ness. A deep commitment to soul and jazz has always been the watermark of his music. Even when Craig is destroying dance floors with such songs as the classic "Throw," there is always a subtleness and attention to detail that separates his music from that of the typical Johnny-come-lately dance music producer.

I can't change people's perception; I can put the music out there, but I think it's a matter of taste. It's like a great wine, you can either like it or you don't...
Beat Factor: Hello Carl, how things are going at the moment? What you've been up to lately?

Carl Craig: Well, traveling, playing music, hanging out...

Beat Factor: Your voice sounds like you're tired...

Carl Craig: I'm always tired man. I always got a lot of stuff going on.

Beat Factor: You've recently compiled a double mix CD called Sessions, it's out on K7. Since the compilation features only your productions, what's the main idea behind it?

Carl Craig: That is a collection of my work, of remixes and original productions. It's basically a collection of things; is not meant to be anything like an anthology or best of...whatever. I was really nervous about the idea of doing a Best Of CD, because I still haven't got my best work. So it's just a collection.

Beat Factor: Then why did you decide to release it now?

Carl Craig: Like I said, I was nervous about doing something that would be considered a "best of". This project came along at a time which I think it's best for what I've been doing. Actually to sum up my career in the sense of CDs it would probably take 10 or 12 to put together. So, this is a good starting point of what I will do next.

Beat Factor: Do you have any expectations from this mix CD?

Carl Craig: Yeah, I will sell like 200 billions of copies, or maybe more.

Beat Factor: Ok, that's a silly question. You own a record label called Planet E Communications which features a large area of musicians. What's new cooking on the label's headquarters?

Carl Craig: We have a new Kenny Larkin album, there's a new album from Tribe which are Phil Ranelin, Wendell Harrison, Doug Hammond, Marcus Belgrave, they are jazz legends from 70's, we have a new Ican release, DJ S ², he DJs with Underground Resistance; we also have a new Martin Buttrich coming up, something from Jona, and some other good shit to come.

Beat Factor: So, how hard is for you to maintain the record label, with your schedule?

Carl Craig: I have family that works at the label with me, my dad and my cousin, so they usually handle the day to day operations. I just pick tracks and put up things that I will enjoy, and stuff like this; so that makes it easier.

Beat Factor: Do you happen to remember how did you found the record label?

Carl Craig: I founded Planet E as a state of freedom. I was pretty tired of people making decisions of my music, and I wanted to make my own decisions so I started the label.

Beat Factor: I've heard you were working on a project involving jazz music. Can you share to the readers any news about it?

Carl Craig: Yes, it's not done yet, it's close to be done. I want to make sure that this will be the best record representing those guys as possible (Tribe). I've been working on this with Marcus Belgrave, Wendell Harrison, Phil Ranelin and Doug Hammond.

Beat Factor: Your multiple personalities in music are reflecting your personality as a human?

Carl Craig: I think so, yes. I'm a Gemini and Gemini's have supposedly double sides, dual personalities. So it comes personally from that, I believe, but also it comes from the history of Americans, escaping the identities that would give to them. There's a whole thing about that in "Space Is the Place", a book written by Sun Ra, and it really makes sense.

Beat Factor: What's the future of techno music in your opinion?

Carl Craig: (Laughing) I'm not a fortune teller man! I can't predict the future of any type of music for a long time. I don't want to start predicting things, because I think old men predict. I think it's a vision to have an idea of what the future is going to be, but is really the guys making the future what is gonna be that makes a difference. I'm not really interested in trying to predict the future.

I know about the musical directions, but I still can't tell you what the future is really going to bring. There's somebody in a basement making some cool shit that I wouldn't know anything about.

Things on the internet are happening so fast, you could put your tracks out there. Who would ever believe that Mark Ernestus with his Basic Channel would be such a wise spread phenomena within making music? What they were doing (Mark Ernestus and Moritz Von Oswald) was Basic Channel and they were breaking things down to a simplest way as possible. And it's bound of the creation of minimal music.

When I did Bug In a Bassbin, I would never expect that people to listen to at 45 years old, or get inspired by it to put together drum and bass, so I can't predict it man. All I can do is make music and people can be influenced or not influenced by it, and make their own music.

Features Archive


Carl Craig: I'm Not A Fortune Teller!

January 30, 2008 at 3:42 PM CET


Dragos Rusu

Beat Factor: Speaking about internet, do you thing that it helped at the developing of electronic music?

Carl Craig: I think the internet is a great platform of getting information, a great catalyst for some ideas that people have. The problem I have is when a major artist like Radiohead puts their records on the internet. I have a problem with that, because people say "oh, shit, I have the Radiohead album for 50 cents, so why should I pay 10 bucks for yours?" I also think the internet gives at least the possibility for people to become famous that might want to be famous.

The internet makes it possible for people to get their product directly to whoever is interested, without a middle man. The other way, they have to go to a middle man, they have to go to a store, and they have to do whatever, but people were still putting out music, whether is good or bad.

Beat Factor: What inspires you when producing music?

Carl Craig: Well, off course, my experiences, whether is living in Detroit or doing day the day operations at home, or my family, my kids...The traveling is a inspiration, I get inspired by television, by music; it's just the experience, the day to day experience. Is not anything in particular, like going into a park and looking at a tree;

Beat Factor: How do you split time between an artist and a father?

Carl Craig: I just got to do it. I work for myself, I have my own companies, I can either focus on the companies or not. I can go traveling or not traveling; so when I can, I spend the time with my kids. I try to do this as much as I can.

Beat Factor: There are a lot of people who discovered the C2 sound recently, through the Luciano and Villalobos hyped DJs. Being a musician for so many years, do you feel comfortable with this?

Carl Craig: Yes, off course. When everybody does something in the creative field, is always good when your product gets recognized. With the younger generation I think is always a pleasure, because there's so much music that comes out, by people who are younger or older than I am; so you have the choice to pick up music.

The way I've always seen on music industry, and people, and relations, is that most people are not interested to learn. Most people want to be entertained, but there will be a percentage of people interested in find out more information. So, let's say Luciano is playing something like the remix from Faze Action - In the Trees, and he gets ten people who come up and ask him "who did this?", and he say that Carl Craig did that, they'll probably go online and go to discogs and look up for Carl Craig. And it's like "ok, I wonder what this is going to be like, I wonder what else do you do, etc". You can't expect everybody to appreciate something. Not everybody appreciated the most commercial music is out there, not everybody appreciates Madonna or Britney Spears or whatever. It's better to have a few that are interested, and be happy with that. I can't change people's perception; I can put the music out there, but I think it's a matter of taste. It's like a great wine, you can either like it or you don't, or peanut butter, vodka and orange juice, you can like it or you don't. So it's just taste.

Beat Factor: What Moodymann means for you, as a musician and as a record label owner?

Carl Craig: Moodymann is great, yes. He is another person who I really respect because of his independence, something what I also did, basically. He started his own label and put out music that he really like. Moodymann is like an artist in the true form, doing what he feels.

Beat Factor: After the last summer's gig in Romania, do you plan any dates here soon? Because it was "not so crowded"..

Carl Craig: Not so crowded? It was just a few people. I'm happy that the people who did come, came, and I knew from the promoter that it will be potentially some difficulties, because the best place to be at that time was the sea side. I liked the venue, was a nice one. Maybe next time will be done in a cool, rock & roll space, so that the people can be very close to the DJ, the stage not to be so high, and everybody have a bound.

Beat Factor: Do you know any Romanian artist?

Carl Craig: No, I'm afraid not, sorry.

Beat Factor: That would be all, thank you for your time, and hopefully see you this year in Romania.

Carl Craig: Yes, thank you, that would be cool.

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