'When you go into a club you're supposed to feel at home,' the Detroit DJ tells EW

By Jessica Goodman
Updated June 14, 2016 at 12:00 PM EDT
Credit: Brian Killian/WireImage

Club icon Carl Craig came up in Detroit’s booming techno scene in the late-’80s, and his musical presence — both in person and through the speakers — became a staple in nightclubs with hits like his remix of LCD Soundsystem’s “Sound of Silver.” Now 47 years old, Craig reflects on the importance of dance culture and keeping nightclubs a safe haven in the wake of the Orlando, Florida mass shooting, which left 49 people dead at gay nightclub Pulse early Sunday morning.

When I went to clubs, I looked at it as a way of being enlightened musically and to be around people that were like that the same way. They came to dance. They came to hear something that was really quite powerful and mesmerizing. Getting together, whether guys or girls or whatever, it was almost like when you go to a church revival when there are 500 people in the tent and people are dancing and the preacher is getting amped up. I didn’t go to clubs to go to a pick up joint or for liquor. I went to clubs for the music.

Back in the ’90s when it was really about house music, again, it was like going to church. It didn’t matter whether you were straight or gay. You went and the DJ who was playing was really the preacher. For us in Detroit, that was Ken Collier at Club Heaven. He was the preacher. He was the brightest light and the brightest inspiration musically when at the time was playing weekly in Detroit. We went to get schooled.

It’s difficult to make sense of [the Orlando shooting]. Unfortunately you can go online and find other scenarios — a bombing at a club in Bali, Carl Cox playing a gig in Venezuela and a gunman comes in and starts shooting people. When you’re doing something for the love of it sometimes you can get into a situation that can become more tragic than anything else. If you believe in who you are and what you are then unfortunately there are consequences that other people feel they’re more right than you’re right. It happens whether you’re religious or based on your sexual orientation or just being a black man these days.

We can look at this as being an attack on a gay community — which it was. We can look at this as a terrorist action — which it is — but what can we do to make a change?

When you go into a club you’re supposed to feel at home. And we want to protect it. In the club community, we’re going to have to look at this seriously. When we go in to these temples to worship this music, to hear this music, we should feel protected and we want to protect it.

We are very resilient people as humans so I think there will be a lot of rebounding that will be happening very quickly whether or not we’re emotionally able to get past it quick enough. People still want to let go of their inhibitions. They don’t want to be guarded all the time. They want to be free in every way that they can. It doesn’t matter what your affiliation is, everyone wants that.