Carl Craig is described as a creative visionary, an electronic music icon, an esteemed Grammy-nominated composer, a world-class DJ and an ambassador for his native Detroit. Yet the common thread that runs through Craig’s broad musical canon and creative projects is a resounding fascination with futurism. The prolific producer has cultivated a unique path as an artist, entrepreneur and civic leader, guided by his tendency toward forward thinking. “My livelihood is making music that I can perform, whether I’m doing orchestral production or modular strangeness or generating club music. I don’t restrict myself,” said Craig. “I defined myself by being who I am.
The ultimate self respect is when you say you’re going to do something and you go and do it to the best of your ability.” Craig released his first track in 1989 on a Virgin UK compilation album, with two singles following 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 second 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 Planet-E and its artists and collaborators on a world tour for the first time ever. He also previewed the 69 Live show for the first time, at select festivals around the world, fusing masks, darkness and the music of 69, Craig created 69’s own entity. As well as this, Planet-E invited friends of the label – like Luciano, Kirk Del Giorgio, Loco Dice and more - to pick their favourite Planet-E track to remix and re-release.
Reflecting a year that was packed with events and releases, Craig readily admits that when he started the label he was hoping “it would last forever.” He cites artistic freedom as the highlight of running the label and adds, “It was never a struggle for the label to be an outlet for my or other people's music. It was always a struggle to stay in business, actually a war to stay in business.” 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 as well as crossover acts like Underworld, Hot Chip and LCD Soundsystem. His 1992 Innerzone Orchestra cut “Bug in the Bassbin” was credited as the spark that inspired the evolution of drum‘n’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 00's Craig explored jazz further still as producer on the albums “The Detroit Experiment” and “Rebirth” (2009) for legendary Detroit Jazz collective Tribe. This is but one example of Craig'scontinually evolving exploration of sound.