Demon master

Techno legend Carl Craig speaks . . . and spins
By DAVID DAY  |  April 17, 2007

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Carl Craig

Boston hasn’t always been a major stop for big-league DJs. But that’s changed in recent years, and there’s no better gauge of just how far things have come than the arrival of CARL CRAIG to spin at after-hours club Rise this Friday, April 20. The Detroit techno icon, Planet E label owner, and international star makes his Boston debut under the banner of his new party concept, “Demon Days.” As he explains from the Planet E offices in Detroit, “Demon Days is pretty much the days that we live in now. There’s always been craziness, but it’s our time and our craziness. And we make music that embodies the times and music that’s meant to be an escape from what we’re living in. Making a new world in our own music.”

Techno has always been about escape, whether made on the bleak streets for Detroit or in a German industrial park, and it’s rarely happy like trance or house. “Sometimes it can be dark. It’s just like with anything in life, you have dark times and times that aren’t so dark. There’s a dark party aspect of it, but there are uplifting moments.”

Craig is a part of what people call the “second wave” of Detroit techno, after innovators like Kevin Saunderson and before its new international phase. His often dark music is superior because his taste is so broad. (Go record shopping with him at Circuits on-line.) “My music is an inspiration from what’s happened in the past. I’m sitting here with Kevin Sauderson and guys like Derrick May, so there is going to be that aspect of what’s borrowed from them. But music molded me in the ’80s: I was listening to shit like Skinny Puppy, SPK, Severed Heads, and that kind of stuff that was dark at the time.”

He produces some of the finest techno, and production is his first love, but lately the demand is for his DJ sets, which can be exuberant and even a bit messy but are always on the cutting edge. “Almost every weekend I’m gone somewhere or other, the pace and the schedule is kind of crazy. I went from playing in Germany, France, and Belgium to fly directly to São Paulo and Rio, flew back to Italy, London, and Spain. Came back home and went to Disney World with the kids. And then went back to Spain. And Belgrade, the crowd was amazing in Belgrade.”

He admits it can be a grind, but he’s remarkably lucid. “It’s pretty intense, but that’s my job. It’s a wonderful job. Maybe I’m not making as much money as Donald Trump, but I’m doing what I love.” The experience of the DJ set — the ebb and flow of the crowd, the peak-time jams — have fed his talent as a remixer, and in 2005 his remix of “Falling Up” by soul dynamo Theo Parrish was easily the biggest club track of the year. Last year’s remix of “Poor People Must Work” was a Circuits favorite. “ ‘Falling Up’ was the perfect collaboration. I took what Theo did and consolidated it. The original was 15 minutes long or something. So I just replayed the parts and consolidated it and there it goes.”

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