Carl Cox And Eric Powell Both Agree That Music Always Comes First

Published in Music  
Eric Powell and Carl Cox bring the Hot Sauce as well as Mobile Disco this summer. Eric Powell and Carl Cox bring the Hot Sauce as well as Mobile Disco this summer.

Jazz, funk, soul, disco, house, hip hop – anything goes at Carl Cox and Eric Powell's Mobile Disco; just don't ask them to choose between calypso and reggae.

The warmth and energy between these two scene stalwarts reflects a friendship dating back to the late 1980s.

Powell, the pioneering techno DJ-producer who would co-found and grow the acclaimed Bush Records into one of the scene's premier purveyors of techno and house, clicked with Cox, the 'oh yes oh yes' man synonymous with techno and Ibiza, at the famed Hacienda in Powell's home town of Manchester in 1988.

Similar musical tastes, truckloads of talent, and a shared love of and passion for an exploding rave scene fuelled a friendship and partnership that has grown over decades.

The Melbourne-based duo has brought us musical collaborations, the techno-focused Pure events and, of course, Mobile Disco, which has risen as an Australian summertime essential.

For a relatively simple format – two music lovers mining their record collections to take crowds on a feel-good journey – Mobile Disco's impact has been quite special, as 10,000 punters at Melbourne's Sidney Myer Music Bowl have witnessed over the years.

"We come from kind of similar backgrounds, [a] similar musical history, and when we go and do the Mobile Disco, we challenge each other," Powell explains.

"We try and find tracks that each other haven't got. We try and find stuff that we haven't played before."

Cox agrees: "Even though we're dipping into the past, we still try and find tracks that we're playing for the first time.

"There will be some times where I'll play some R&B or some hip hop. . . and I'm not known for playing that music, but here I am playing that music with conviction.

"That's what's really cool about being able to listen to such diversity in the sound of music, that Mobile Disco is what it is. We should be able to play whatever we really like."

The duo are hitting the road over the summer, visiting Rosebud's Village Green in early January for Hot Sauce, and St Kilda's Catani Gardens for Mobile Disco later in the month.

Hot Sauce will see Cox and Powell joined by guests including Simon Pentz, Richie Rich, and someone the duo label "an Australian icon", Christine Anu, whose performance at 2019's Meredith Festival, where Powell was also performing, sowed the seeds of a future collaboration.

"I've seen the [Meredith] performance and I thought she was incredible," Powell recalls. "I already liked Christine Anu. I liked her music and I liked her as a strong, independent Indigenous woman.

"One of our favourite Balearic tracks is Zoe's 'Sunshine On A Rainy Day' [and] when I arrived in Australia, Christine had released her version of that and I always liked that.

"Carl had heard and he liked it and we knew at some stage we'd like Christine to perform with us."

After decades of flying the flag for quality music, both Cox and Powell have been struck by the renewed, post-lockdown energy on dance floors.

For Cox, who committed to 52 episodes of his Cabin Fever live-stream series during lockdown, the return to playing live (he recently returned from a tour of the UK and US) has been amazing.

"I'm a people person, and I like to share my music directly to people. It's all I've ever done and not to be able to do that was a very, very weird thing," he explains.

"[So] after so many years I've been doing this, to see the crowd get reinvigorated again; that reset is the reason why we do what we do.

"We're connecting still with people, and I think because of the nature of where the music still is and how it still makes people happy. . . it's still a very exciting thing to be a big part of.

"This scene is not going anywhere anytime soon."

Powell agrees: "Music comes first for us. We're music lovers and punters first."

Even the closest music lovers have disagreements, though, and while they share similar musical backgrounds, there's one, seemingly sore, sticking point.

"Carl's parents are from Barbados in the Caribbean, and my Dad is from St Kitts," Powell explains.

"Barbadians are into calypso and Kittitians are into reggae. That's where we'll disagree. Carl wants to play calypso and I want to play reggae."

Cox, laughing, has the last word. "Whatever man."

Carl Cox and Eric Powell play Hot Sauce NYE Party & New Year's Day Party at Lorne Hotel (Lorne) 31 December, 1 January, Hot Sauce at Rosebud Village Green (Mornington) 9 January and Mobile Disco at Catani Gardens (Melbourne) 22 January. Their Adelaide Mobile Disco show (23 January) is sold out.



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