It's certainly not Carl Craig's first visit to this small record shop in the centuries-old city center. The Detroit DJ/producer has had a long relationship with the store, which over the past 10 years has come to encompass a distribution company, a record label and party organization. As a matter of fact, in 2005, Rush Hour released Craig's revamped version of his then 10-year-old Landcruising album, titled The Album Formerly Known as…. It should be no surprise then that the techno figurehead is feeling right at home almost 4,000 miles away from home, listening to records behind the decks on the store counter. It's dark and rainy outside, but Rush Hour's label manager, Christiaan Macdonald, only has one road to cross from his company's HQ to meet Craig on the shop floor. “Christiaan is like my brother,” the DJ says. “I know it wasn't from my mom's womb, but…. Actually, I think it was through [Detroit producer] Recloose. We just clicked!”
Macdonald is one of the first to congratulate Craig in person for his first Grammy nomination. After a very productive remixing stretch that goes back to the late '80s, including (just in the last couple years) phenomenal reworkings of records by Throbbing Gristle, Beanfield, Theo Parrish, Goldfrapp and LCD Soundsystem, the nod finally came with his remix of Junior Boys' “Like a Child.” “Finally!” exclaims the producer, who is up against a Benny Benassi remix of Public Enemy and an Eric Prydz version of a Pink Floyd track, among others.
Although hitherto lacking in Grammy awards, there aren't many dance music producers and DJs with a track record quite like Craig's. Coming into his own at the dawn of the '90s, his discography is lined with classic tracks released under various aliases such as Psyche (“Crackdown”), Paperclip People (“Throw,” “Oscillator,” “The Climax”), 69 (“Jam the Box”) and Innerzone Orchestra (“Bug in the Bassbin”). There is a great musicality at work in Craig's tracks, without losing sight of the machinelike power that propels a dancefloor. It wouldn't be hard to argue that a Grammy award is long overdue.
And the nomination couldn't have come at a better time. Carl Craig's new double mix album, Sessions (!K7, 2008), features a selection of personal career highlights, including his own releases and remixes. Whereas most dance producers tend to actively pursue remix jobs in the early stages of their career to establish a name, Carl Craig is busier than ever crafting new versions of other people's tracks. It has been over three years since he last released a 12-inch of original material, 2004's brooding Just Another Day (Planet E).
“I've gone through those years of making my records somebody else's records,” he says of his remixing style. “It's cool because of the creativity, but at the same time, there hasn't been enough of that person's record that's there. Derrick May used to say that he was tired of giving people his music in a remix. I guess the end story is that you want people to hear a record and boost the career of the artist. They hire you in order to do something for the artist. It makes the artist popular with a market that they don't see.”
With remixing inspiration in mind, Craig dives into a pile of records. “Let's listen to some Rush Hour stuff, some Dutch stuff and then maybe some Detroit or Chicago!” It's a few hours before his gig at 11, a club with a fabulous view situated on the eleventh floor of Amsterdam's former postal distribution center. “Usually when I listen to records,” he says, “I listen quite fast. Sometimes I'll throw something in a pile where I don't buy it, but then I hear somebody else play it and it sounds really good. Sometimes one man's garbage is another man's treasure.”
While Craig can definitely get his share of records for free, vinyl freeloading his not his style. “You gotta support!” he says. “If you don't support, then labels go out business, the stores go out of business. Okay, maybe a few people will buy it after I play it. But if it weren't for those guys buying my record and playing it, I wouldn't be making records anymore. I wouldn't be able to afford to do it.”
“Confessions of an English Opium Eater” (InFiné)
I don't know if it's the greatest record for a dancefloor, but the rhythm is pounding, and it's got a lot of elements I really like about it. I can really appreciate it. It is a bit like what I do. It's kinda like “Throw.” Sorta. But…darker.
It's nice to lead into the end of my set and give myself time to settle into the idea that I'm done for the night. It's like a nice meditation that puts me into a trance. When I hear it, I can imagine walking through a dark tunnel and finally arriving to the light at the end. That light is an oasis with fresh air and a waterfall. I would play an Âme track after this.
FRED HUSH & NOSEDA
“In the Dark” (Rush Hour)
I love the soundscape of “In the Dark.” It reminds me of some early electronic experiments from the '50s where strange sounds were used to display “the amazing potential of stereo.” It's a nice record to build up the momentum in the room before I would play my remix of Alter Ego.
The Dead Bears (NWAQ/Delsin)
What attracts me to the music is the dream quality. It seems to be very inspired from what Kenny Dixon and Theo Parrish and those guys have been doing over the years, and it's something that's completely like in another world. I like music that doesn't necessarily fit in any restrictions or any boundaries that somebody would think of as house music, techno or whatever. It's very dramatic. It reminds me of the feeling I would get listening to Manuel Göttsching's E2-E4.
“Rush Hour (Rolando Remix)”/“Rush Hour (Original Version)” (Rush Hour)
Rolando just decided to wipe the slate clean and do his own thing. It was a Rolando track, not a Rolando remix. This is…it's just the bass and a sound. If I were to remix something like this, I would probably just add like a hi-hat and a clap, and that would be the remix! There's not really anything you can get from it other than the sound. The sound is the track.
Firecracker EP 03 (Firecracker)
I picked this one for Linkwood's “Hear the Sun” and Fudge Fingas & His Fidgety Friends' “Aksman” tracks. I like the creative sampling and the feel of the grooves. They're nice tracks to start an eight-hour set with, where the room is full of fans of the music who want to hear something a little different. I would play these with some Theo Parrish or Norma Jean Bell tracks.
Waajeed Presents the War LP Part Two (Fat City)
I'm always interested in what Waajeed does. It's funny 'cause I'd always heard the name but I'd never met him for a very long time. In fact, I think it was here in Amsterdam that I met him! That one track with Jay Dee I think is fantastic. I like the whole CD, though.