Ahead of a mammoth gig on the sands at Atlantis, Rob Garratt spoke to the DJ legend about the state of music – and why he’s avoided Dubai for seven years
It’s seven years since you played Dubai. What did we do?
As I look back on this I think ‘how has it taken me seven years to come back?’ One of the mad things is that when I played this year in South Africa, the last time I played was in 2001. So seven years is not so bad – but it is a long time not to be back to a country that actually enjoyed my music to begin with. I’m going to put the wrongs right, and hopefully have seven years’ worth of catch-up with the music.
You’re also making up for it with a three-hour set. Do they pay you by the hour?
[Laughs] It would be nice, and if they did I’d probably be trying to play a six hour set and try and make as much money as possible! The idea really is to try and give you guys what I have full force – I always have at least ten hours of music to play and from that I try and pull out three hours of the best of my inventory of music.
This proves how much we missed you – last year we surveyed a bunch of Dubai’s best DJs and asked who’d they’d most like to warm up for, and several said you. Including Marko of Smokingroove, who is now warming up for you. He started off in the same London clubs as you, Heaven and Dungeons, so we asked him for a question for you: ‘How do you feel that experience compares to today’s DJs who skip the learning process and don’t put the emphasis on mastering the craft of DJing and warming up?’
That’s a fantastic question, and one I’ll be able to answer directly when I see him. I grew up warming up for other DJs, and then making a mark for myself to move into where I am now as one of the main DJs. It’s a very good position to be a warm up DJ, because you’re creating your own sound, your own fan base, people trust you. DJs talk – if he does a really good job and the people are rocking, I’m going to tell other DJs. If your heart and soul’s into what you’re doing, you’ll get found out by someone like myself. Because I always think that cream rises to the top eventually.
What’s the weirdest job you had before you were a DJ?
I used to knock up concrete mix underneath houses. It wasn’t a very good job and underneath houses it’s like four foot (122cm), and I’m five foot 11 inches (180cm), so I ended up feeling like a hobbit.
What’s the state of dance music today?
It’s in a very strange place because dance music has become very, very popular as a terminology. So what is dance music? If people just enjoy what they’re listening to, then great. But there is pop music in dance music, and then there’s the dance music that I think people with experience go to find that sound. It’s out there if they choose to find it.
How long will you keep this up?
Wow – how long is a piece of string? So far I’ve been DJing for 36 years. I thought I’d only go for five years and my phone’s ringing off the hook more now than ever before.
I did an interview in 1992 and said ‘by the time I’m 45 I’ll be finished’... and I’m 52 now!
Carl Cox plays Atlantis Beach on Friday March 21, 6pm-3am. Tickets Dhs200-400. www.timeouttickets.com