WAYN Radio/ Matthew Morley
Ascending the stairs into Motor City Wine I look to my left and see Detroit-based techno producer Carl Craig setting up his gear. A few of his friends are sitting at the bar, chatting casually, drinking various glasses of wine I can’t even pretend to know anything about. My knowledge of the stuff starts at “white” and ends at “red”. I pour myself a glass of water.
There’s at least a full hour before Craig begins his four-hour long DJ set in this small, intimate venue. Rather than doing a dozen uncomfortable, canned interviews he’s decided to “hold court” with the press, inviting us to his gig early to just hang out, chat and see what conversation comes up.
Not everyone gets the idea right away. There are a few awkward moments when he’s referred to as a legend – “I guess because of my age,” Craig responds – and when somebody mentions his “beautiful home in Florida.” But once the press vibe is lost the conversation loosens up. He and I talk about the crossover between hip-hop and electronic music, Hudson Mohawke, A$AP Rocky, sampling and the difference between cash-grab tracks and labors of love.
“You could kind of feel that direction when people were using Benny Benassi or people like that when they were trying to make these trancey rave records that they could rap on top of… they were seeing a pay-day,” Craig said about the earlier days of EDM and hip-hop crossover. “…with Kanye, after seeing him on Saturday Night Live, he wants to be like Trent Reznor so I think that’s quite interesting, I like that,”
Aside from the obvious fact that we were approaching “Movement Weekend” and the city was officially in pre-party mode, Craig wanted this evening to be an opportunity to talk about his new “Masterpiece” 3 CD box-set coming out June 24th via Ministry of Sound. The first disc includes music Craig has been inspired by. The second features music he’s currently playing. And the third is something he calls “Meditation”.
“Each piece is ten minutes, where you can sit, close your eyes and just kind of meditate, and the music flows very slowly and smoothly, there’s nothing in there that’s supposed to be shocking, because it’s meant to be a meditative thing,” said Craig. “So hopefully it will be a good tool for when you come from the club and your ears hurt and you put it on and you want something that still sounds like the club but it’s not the club. Something that could help you from one high to the next, or come off a high, or whatever the scenario is.”
You could really get a sense for how meticulous Craig is in his work when even in casual conversation he tells you what frequency his tinnitus resonates at. He also has an interesting story regarding how he damaged his hearing in the first place.
“It’s like sex, right?” Craig responds when asked if he does a good job of protecting his hearing. The press panel made up entirely of women (excluding myself) blushes, giggles, sits up straight. One woman who had been taking notes up until that point fumbles through her bag for her audio recorder.
“You’re in the situation, you’re in the heat of the moment, the condom doesn’t go on, ya know? The protection doesn’t go on. And ear plugs, I consider them ear condoms,” Craig said.
The heat of the moment came at 10 p.m. as our chat ended and Craig manned his CDJs and laptop. Guests began to arrive, Motor City Wine reached capacity and a line formed down the block and things stayed that way until the bar closed. Craig spun for four hours straight and didn’t let up. It was a night I won’t soon forget.