In Conversation: Carl Craig on Party/After-Party and his favorite Moritz Von Oswald tracks

Written By: 
Phil Cho
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Don’t miss Carl Craig, Moritz Von Oswald, King Britt, and DJ Holographic this Thursday at MOCA Geffen.

Detroit techno visionary Carl Craig needs little introduction, but for our readers who are further away or new to the techno and dance music world, here’s a quick breakdown of one of the greatest to do it:

Carl Craig emerged from Detroit’s second wave of techno in the early ’90s alongside Underground Resistance’s (Mad) Mike Banks, Jeff Mills, Robert Hood, and others. Under a multitude of aliases including Innerzone Orchestra, 69, BFC, Paperclip People, Psyche, along with his own name, Craig has amassed a seriously deep catalog of innovative and influential records ranging in styles from techno, breakbeats, future jazz, ambient, and more. As label head of Planet E Communications, Craig has elevated and influenced generations of artists including Moodymann, Recloose, Urban Tribe (DJ Stingray), Kenny Larkin, DJ Minx, and many others.

Craig’s latest project is something entirely new, though not unfamiliar to those who have been following his musical career. Party/After-Party is an immersive sound installation that invites visitors into the mind of a touring club DJ. Originally commissioned by Dia Art Foundation, the piece has recently found its second home at the MOCA Geffen in Little Tokyo. Admission is free to the public.

“The work itself is a reflection of my reality — the visual, sonic, and emotional connections or disconnections that I have experienced over the past thirty years as a DJ on the road.”

From MOCA Geffen: “Party/After-Party is a visceral sound and somatic experience that evolves with each new iteration. Drawing on Craig’s 30-year career as an internationally touring DJ, Party/After-Party guides visitors sonically through a club night from the perspective of the DJ. Starting in those moments before the crowd arrives and the DJ spins alone, before reaching its crescendo with the party’s pulsing apex, and finally slipping towards the melancholic embrace of the after-party, the work evokes the collective ecstasy and desolation found only on a club dance floor.”

Carl Craig’s Party/After-Party Sound Installation at Dia Beacon

This Thursday, May 25th MOCA x Insomniac & Secret Project will be presenting the first of three Party/After-Party live sessions. Join Carl Craig, Moritz Von Oswald, King Britt, and DJ Holographic for a not-to-be-missed dance party in the museum! Later sessions will feature Moodymann, Kenny Larkin, Kyle Hall, DJ Minx, and Erno…

Tickets available now: https://www.moca.org/program/party-after-party-sessions-1

In anticipation of the show this Thursday, In Sheep’s Clothing’s Phil Cho spoke with Carl Craig over the phone to learn more about his installation’s latest chapter in Los Angeles, post-club listening rituals, and his favorite Moritz Von Oswald tracks.

Hi Carl! First of all, happy belated birthday and thank you for taking the time to chat. Are you in Detroit or LA right now? How was yesterday?

I’m in Detroit. It was a good birthday. Had a lot of friends around. I have too much food here at home now so I have to find some people to eat it…

I’m sure there'll be plenty of people around. I'm excited for the concert this Thursday. Party/After-Party was first shown in 2020 at an unprecedented time when museums were open, but clubs were not. With this second chapter of the installation, and clubs fully back open, how does it feel presenting the piece in this context?

It’s become more important to me now, especially with this piece, that it doesn’t follow the path of the club world, if you know what I mean. When we did it at Beacon, what was important about it from the beginning was that it was not in New York City. New York City has enough clubs, so to do an experience like that in the middle of all that, it would have felt like people had too much of a reference point. Doing it in Beacon, you had to go out to get the experience and it’s different than if it was competing against a club or something because there’s no bar. Beacon has a beautiful landscape outside which makes it even more poetic how the piece presents itself. 

In comparison to New York City, Los Angeles is different but it’s the same in some kind of way. Club culture isn’t huge in LA. There’s more of a warehouse culture but it’s not like you can go every Wednesday through Sunday to these clubs that are similar to what I’m referencing in my piece. You can get the warehouse experience, but the West Coast feels like it’s more festivals, more outdoor stuff. Coachella is a big thing. So to do this in LA, it actually worked out for the philosophy of how I made the piece because, again, you can’t just go on a Wednesday to Ministry of Sound, or go on a Friday to Fabric, or go on a Saturday to Tresor or something.

Carl Craig remixes “Domina” by Maurizio, an early project by Moritz Von Oswald

I’ve only experienced it once, but I read that in terms of the music played the parts evolve, interact, and change so that no two playings are exactly the same. Can you talk a bit about the composition?

So the first segment, the Party, is designed to make you feel the build that would happen in going to a club or warehouse party. The second part, the After-Party, is to give an idea of how I deal with tinnitus and the angst after the party is over. The energy is still going through my veins and through my body, but I’m getting nervous that I’m going to lose my hearing, et cetera, et cetera. So the second part has a lot of stray sounds, and it has high pitches and tones, some that are very high and then some that are lower. White noise. All these elements that I hear when it gets quiet in the room, or like right now, tonight, I’m just hearing a high pitched tone that’s always there. Then the heavy droning basses and all that kind of stuff represent that angst, that high energy that I feel after the party is done. Sometimes you just can’t go to sleep.

Speaking of tinnitus, do you have a particular listening practice at home or ritual that you follow when listening outside of a club context?

A long time ago I started listening to classical music after the club. That was going in the right direction, but right now for me, it’s brown noise. Brown noise is white noise with the high end cut down. White Noise goes maybe all the way up to 15,000 Hz. Brown noise maybe only goes up to 8,000 Hz or maybe a little lower than that. It’s supposed to stimulate waterfalls. I’ve always felt that the natural sound of water was healing for me to go to the beach or to be out in the ocean. With brown noise, I can put it in my headphones real low on a plane or walking around, but low where I can still hear everything. I can talk to people, I can do all these things. That Brown noise is just a constant, almost like cleansing of my hearing. I do that because I also want to be able to hear and concentrate on sounds that are low in level, so that I can interpret what it is and it can be intelligible.

When we get older, and I see it with my parents, the TV volume goes up and it stays up all the way, and even when it’s super loud, they still can’t hear it. Of course, that happens from when you’re a kid anyway, that you listen to stuff loud. Nobody’s trying not to listen to loud things when you’re a kid. You’re listening loud and it just keeps getting louder and louder and louder. I do it in the reverse where now I listen to things low so that I can understand this conversation that we’re having on the telephone without being turned up to 1000%.

“Party/After-Party is definitely not a piece that plays to the crowd so I don’t want my DJs and live performers worried about having to play to a crowd as well. They should have total freedom of artistic expression.”

I’d love to know more about the upcoming live sessions. Did you approach these shows differently than you would a warehouse party?

Definitely. I wanted to make sure that we had a good representation of the music that I’m involved with or that influenced me. That was really important to pay attention to. Also, because it’s an art museum event, having King Britt do a total modular set is something that I feel really works quite well with this angle, in comparison to being at a warehouse party. In some warehouse parties, you find that people have less patience for artistic endeavors. And I want this to be a complete artistic endeavor so I’m open for King to do whatever he wants to do, for Moritz to do, for Holographic. I want all of us to just have a great conversation, and play the music that we really are going to feel most comfortable playing in this environment instead of trying to play to the crowd. Party/After-Party is definitely not a piece that plays to the crowd so I don’t want my DJs and live performers worried about having to play to a crowd as well. They should have total freedom of artistic expression.

The first concert is on Thursday, May 25th and features DJ Holographic (Detroit), King Britt (Philadelphia / San Diego), and Moritz Von Oswald (Berlin). How did you choose the lineup for this session? 

Moritz Von Oswald (Berlin): Moritz was with me for the opening of the piece at Dia. We did a hybrid live set together, so it was only logical for me to have Mo come again. Every time this piece opens, I would love to have Mo come and be a part of it. He’s a great friend and musical partner.

King Britt (Philadelphia / San Diego): I’ve known King Britt since 1991. When I put out my first Planet E record, King was working at Tower and I sent it to him because I knew he was a buyer for the store. That was the beginning of us having this great musical love affair over the last 30 odd years. Also, King was a part of Alex Sloane (Curator of Performance and Programs at MOCA) chasing after the project to be at MOCA. So that made complete sense to me as well to have King involved because I feel that King is part of the reason why Party/After-Party is at MOCA today. 

DJ Holographic (Detroit): She’s a wonderful DJ, but a wonderful person as well. Her and DJ Minx are real hot coming from Detroit right now. With Holographic, I felt she was a great addition to what we’re doing because I think that she’ll understand what we’re going for musically and she’ll follow through with it in her own special way.

You’ll be playing a live set with Moritz Von Oswald on Thursday. Can you share a few of your favorite productions from him?

Basic Channel – The Climax (Basic Reshape)

Moritz’s work with Mark Ernestus as Basic Channel and Rhythm & Sound is definitely still music that I listen to for inspiration. That whole dub techno sound that they were able to pioneer.

Moritz von Oswald – Watamu Beach Rework

This was for Loco Dice’s label Desolat and was by a guy named Sebbo. I think that’s a great remix. 

Carl Craig & Moritz von Oswald – Attenuator (Moritz von Oswald Dub)

Our recent track together “Attenuator,” I think it’s a great piece. Both mixes are wonderful. 




Moritz von Oswald & Ordo Sakhna

He brought that album over to my house before we started working together. That was definitely a piece of music that cemented me to say, okay, let’s work on some new tracks together. Let’s definitely work on some new tracks together…




Moritz Von Oswald Trio – Vertical Ascent

Cosima Von Bonin is the sculptor who made those pieces on the album artwork. Cosima is really a lot of fun, quite a funny person to meet. Moritz including those pieces on his covers was quite inspirational to me. It harkens back to old jazz records where there was this combination going between visual art and music. I’m really hyped that he did that for those albums.

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