February 11, 2011

Carl Craig: once upon a time in Detroit

Carl Craig is marking the 20th anniversary of his Planet E label with a compilation album, live tour and monthly remixes of classic archive tracks throughout the year.
In this extensive interview, the Detroit icon talks to FACT’s Justin Toland about the origins of his label, overlooked and influential Planet E recordings, the difficulty of finding young producers to carry on the Motor City’s techno lineage, new works and plans for the future.

“It’s always great to go back to the old DAT tapes.

Planet E is 20 years old this year: What are you doing to mark this milestone for the label?
“Well, we have an LP coming out that’s called 20 Fucking Years. It’s a collection of releases from over the 20 years that Planet E’s been in business. And we’re going to release that next month and we have a slew of remixes to commemorate it as well, because we have  friends and fans and family. You know, family’s everyone that has been good over the years and has been supportive, and we just want to show how far that support lays.”

How did you go about selecting which tracks would appear on the compilation? Was it difficult to choose?

“Yeah. I think that because there are restrictions involved, even when you’re doing digital: you don’t want to end up with a hundred tracks, too many tracks for people to go through, so we wanted to offer what we felt was a good representation, that were some of our best tracks, as well as some of our long lost tracks. It was a journey going through it, but for years we’ve been kind of preparing because we’ve been archiving and listening and finding things and rediscovering things. It’s been really great – it’s always great to go back to the old DAT tapes.”

understand you’re also launching a competition around the vinyl edition of the compilation, or a kind of listener’s poll: can you explain more?
“Well, because there’s so many tracks I feel it’s better to let the fans A&R what they’d like to see on the vinyl in comparison to us just telling you what we’re going to give you on the vinyl, you can actually select. So, from the tracks that we have on digital the people can select what they feel that they are missing on vinyl, what they’ve missed or just what they’d really like to see on the compilation.”

I guess some of the selections are going to be pretty obvious. Are there any particular Planet E tracks that you think have been under-appreciated over the years, that you’d like people to listen to again, or for the first time?
“Well, the ‘Nort Route’ track [by Balil], which is a big favourite of mine. It’s something that defined the label between what my influences are and what friends’ [influences] are. ‘Nort Route’ was on Kirk DeGiorgio’s label as well, and Kirk’s been a great friend of mine for, well, over 20 years. And there are some records like Attias’ ‘Analysis’ which I think kind of went under the radar, but then there are things that probably are a bit more known.

“It’s hard to surprise me.”

You also mentioned this series of remixes. How did you go about selecting which tracks people were going to remix?
“We kind of fielded it to the people that we asked – ‘Hey, what would you like to mix?’, and people gave us an idea of what they had always wanted to touch or thought that they could improve upon. So it wasn’t a situation where I walked in and said: ‘You shall remix this!’ It was more like, ‘Okay, here’s the catalogue, are you interested in doing a mix?’. ‘Yeah, I’ve always wanted to remix Recloose.’ ‘Okay, let’s do it’.”

Has anyone surprised you with what they’ve picked to remix?

“Nah! It’s hard to surprise me.”

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