Planetary Evolution: 10 Game-Changing Moments in Planet E History

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As Carl Craig's pioneering second-wave techno label Planet E turns 20, we chatted with the longtime Detroit-based producer, DJ, remixer, and label owner about some of his, and the company's, finest moments.

1. Starting Planet E
When I started the label, I released [my] 69 [record] 4 Jazz Funk Classics and it was a big deal for me, because not only did I have my own independence, but I had done it as an underground thing, where there was no information about who was doing it. It was quite interesting to get people who didn't know who did it and hearing what people had to say about it.

2. Signing Recloose
I used to order these sandwiches at Russell Street Deli down in Detroit's Eastern Market. I ordered a carry-out and my wife at the time looks in the bag and there's three sandwiches in there. One of the sandwiches had written on it "Demo Tape on Rye." That was really quite an amazing and funny experience, and with him, Recloose, it really fits his personality because he's really quirky and funny like that. So I knew when I saw that, I had to listen to that tape—I couldn't not listen to the tape. And the rest is history.

3. Releasing Moodymann's Silent Introduction
The talking, the narration that caused so much controversy—all that. That was the first time that I ever dealt with anything that had all that controversy. He made some statements—Detroit militant statements—that were more him being silly than anything that he ever believed. Of course, it always seems like when it comes down to race, that it's a one-sided story with a lot of folks, and I think people got that kind of concept from it. But he's not that kind of guy.

4. Seeing Moodymann's promo video for the first time
I gave Moodymann a camera to shoot what would be considered a promo video, and what I got back was just incredible—just legendary. He goes to a liquor store and tries to buy liquor with an IOU. He's got this girl, topless, braiding his hair. It's really on the edge. It's so legendary that releasing it had to be done right, and I didn't think we could do it right. But I just found the tape the other day, so I'll have to dump it to a file and give it to him so he can do whatever he wants with it. But he was young then, so maybe he's not feeling it anymore.

5. Working with jazz group Tribe
Working with Marcus Belgrave, Wendell Harrison, Phil Ranelin—that was a big deal for me, especially because I had wanted to do it for such a long time. I had talked to Marcus and asked him about it and he'd say, "Yeah, we want to do it," and Marcus was really busy, but when I met Wendell, he really helped to make it happen and we did this album that I think is really fantastic. Tribe was a big one.

6. Starting Antidote Records with Lacksidaisycal (a.k.a. Ta'Raach)
I got involved in some hip-hop stuff here and there, starting a label that was called Antidote with Lacksidaisycal. He worked with Erykah Badu and Big Tone. So that was getting my feet wet in the hip-hop world and learning a little bit more that I needed to stick with my roots instead of trying to walk outside of them so much.

7. Having J Dilla remake "People Make the World Go Round"
Having Dilla remake Innerzone Orchestra's "People Make the World Go Round." I think we only had two situations with Dilla—that, and the Big Tone track. Dilla had let him use a beat on that, which was great.

8. Recording the Innerzone Orchestra album with Francisco Mora
We had Rodney Whittaker on there, Craig Taborn... That was a really fantastic time. The first one that we did together, which was a jazz version of "Bug in the Bassbin," was really a major thing for me. Francisco is the one who turned me on to Sun Ra and electric Miles [Davis] stuff. He was really a mentor for me, for my excursions into jazz. When he brought in Rodney Whittaker to play on the "Bug in the Bassbin" thing, it just worked on that particular section. I think if it was a day earlier, a day later, it probably would have fell apart, but that day, it just worked. That was a fantastic time.

9. Getting nominated for a Grammy for remixing Junior Boys in 2008
The Grammy nomination was a big one, I can't forget that. That was a great time. I wasn't expecting it—I didn't know it was even submitted. I didn't know how things got submitted to the Grammys; it just happened and I got nominated. I was really happy about it and I went all the way out there, to LA, to be part of it and, of course, I got pissed off when I didn't win. That's just the way it goes. People get pissed off over less important things, like when their football team doesn't win [laughs]. It was a truly amazing thing for me.

10. Founding the Detroit Electronic Music Festival
The first two years were great years. And definitely the first year was beyond incredible because it wasn't gonna happen! It got kinda forced to happen, which was great, but there technically wasn't any money until Friday at six o'clock [laughs], and it started Saturday at 12. But, the first day, with Kenny Larkin and Stacey Pullen closing out the main stage, we were looking at this whole sea of people out there—this is something that we've always wanted to see—any type of festival could happen that spotlighted our music. As an artist, that's one of your greatest compliments, when you can play in your hometown and it looks like you're playing some crazy huge-ass rock festival.