With our Ask The Experts Maceo Plex feature still in the works, we're already moving on to announce our next one—this time with Carl Craig, a creative visionary, an electronic music icon, an esteemed Grammy-nominated composer, a world-class DJ, and an ambassador for his native Detroit.
Craig released his first track in 1989 on a Virgin UK compilation album, before two singles followed on labels run by his first collaborator, Derrick May. After a series of ambitious releases for his co-owned Retroactive imprint, in 1991 Craig launched his record label Planet E, with the groundbreaking EP 4 Jazz Funk Classics, under his alias 69. Planet E turned 20 in 2011 and Craig celebrated the label’s history by taking the label artists and collaborators on a world tour for the first time in the label’s history. As well as this, Planet E invited friends of the label including Luciano, Kirk Degiorgio, Loco Dice and more—to pick their favorite Planet E track to remix and re-release.
Looking back now to Craig's early releases from 1989-1992, one can see how much the wild variety found in his early music set the groundwork for his diverse career. He's fortunate to serve as an inspiration and influence to countless artists in the underground electronic music scene. His 1992 Innerzone Orchestra cut “Bug in the Bassbin” was credited as the spark that inspired the evolution of drum & bass. In typical Craig fashion, “Bug...” continued to develop, morphing into a live jazz composition in 1996. In turn, those experiments laid the ground for Craig to incorporate jazz elements onto his 1999 I.O. album Programmed. Then in the '00s, Craig explored jazz further still as a producer on the albums The Detroit Experiment and Rebirth (2009) for legendary Detroit Jazz collective, Tribe. This is but one example of Craig's continually evolving exploration of sound.
Craig’s prolific nature is reflected in the many recording projects he has used throughout his career including 69, BFC, C2, Innerzone Orchestra, No Boundaries, Psyche, Paperclip People, and Tres Demented. This rotating cast of aliases has enabled him to continually explore new directions through a long succession of full-length albums, mix CDs, and singles.
Craig’s interest in collaboration continually grows and is realized in full with Versus, one of his boldest endeavors to date. For Versus, Craig merges techno and classical music, opening himself up to working in a new format by collaborating with pianist Francesco Tristano, French orchestra Les Siècles, conductor Francois Xavier Roth, and Moritz Von Oswald. Inspired by well-received performances in concerts halls in Paris, Milan, and Germany in 2008, Craig started the process of developing the project into an album, which features eight of his techno masterpieces recomposed into classical pieces.
Craig also performs as a trio alongside Von Oswald and Tristano. His occasional appearances with the electronic collective jam band Narod Niki, alongside Ricardo Villalobos, Luciano, Richie Hawtin, Zip and others, led to him appearing in part live / part DJ gigs with Luciano. Additionally, he’s taken to bringing keyboardists like Mike Banks (UR), Amp Fiddler, and Francesco Tristano into the DJ booth with him for special one-off gigs. Outside of this, Craig also continues to be one of the most sought-after remixers in the world.
In the same way that he likes to make tracks he's remixing his own, Craig’s commitment to his home in Detroit is also something very personal. After launching a festival to rival that of any in Europe with the Detroit Electronic Music Festival in 2000 (now entitled Movement, which today he still has a strong role in). This commitment to Detroit music also extends to how his Planet E family of labels is run. Not only has it given a home to a wide range of Detroit-based artists, it has also been serving as a distributor for Detroit imprints including Derrick May's Transmat and Stacey Pullen's Black Flag. In 2014, Carl Craig also began a new event concept Detroit Love, designed to bring together and support the sounds of Detroit and take a little of the techno brotherhood to clubs and festivals the world over.
Now is your chance to ask Carl Craig your questions on music, life, or anything you wish. All questions should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org with "Carl Craig" as the subject line. We'll pass them along to Carl who will then select his favorites, and soon we'll publish his answers.
On Sunday, August 13, Carl Craig will join Red Bull Music Academy for a session and club night in Glasgow. More information here.