Club DJs have a lot in common with fashion models. Both showcase the creative talents of others and while both species number thousands, there are but a handful of supermodels and even fewer "super DJs". Carl Cox, voted DJ of the year on numerous occasions, is part of an elite band of DJs, which also includes Paul Oakenfold and Sasha, who sell out huge venues and command four-figure fees for a few hours work.

Cox in particular is renowned for his ability to engage a crowd. "I've been putting the needle on the record for 25 years now," he reveals. "When my parents had parties, my dad wanted to dance, so he'd ask me to put the records on. I became sort of semi-professional - wherever I went I'd be playing music."

Weddings and parties earned enough to keep him in vinyl until he decided to take the plunge and become a full-time DJ around 1985. "It was a tough decision," he explains "but I wanted to inspire people with the music I played, so I started to put on my own parties. Sometimes I got pounds 2, sometimes pounds 30 or pounds 50, but I always believed that something would come up and that I could make a living from being a DJ."

In 1989, he played at a party called Sunrise and gave a performance of technical wizardry that has since become his trademark. "I was well known, but not the biggest name on the line-up," he remembers. "I try to give the people something extra when they hear me and push back the barriers. When I came on I was like, `Check this: three decks and a sampler'."

Dedicated clubbers judge DJs on their mixing abilities. While anyone can play your favourite record, few can manipulate it in such a way that you sense its arrival before you actually hear it. Cox builds up the mix before adding additional melodies and sounds, via a third deck and sampler. He sweeps the crowd along on a crescendo of sound until he raises his hand in rhythm with the beat.

"I'm not into 45-minute sets," Cox insists. "If people pay their money to hear Carl Cox, and I've already left, it's not fair. My sets are spontaneous. I'm trying to express myself because if I have a good night, so do you."

After two years his second album, F.A.C.T. 2, was released yesterday. "When I did the first album, I found it hard to find a record label that understood what I was trying to do [despite this, F.A.C.T 1 sold over 180,000 copies]," he says. "They have problems with people who have something to say with their music, so in the end I had no choice but to start my own label, Edel.

I had to find music that inspired me and represented what I do on stage. When people hear my stuff, I want them to think that I believe in the music."

Despite the fact that it's nigh on impossible to get tickets for his bigger events, it's still possible to watch him at close quarters. "I've gone back to running a Thursday night club called Ultimate Bass at The Velvet Underground," he explains. "It's about DJs expressing themselves and people hearing the best sounds around. My music is a way of giving something back to the people who've supported me."


To win one of five copies of Cox's F.A.C.T 2, send a postcard to Carl Cox offer, c/o Alister Morgan, The Independent, 1 Canada Sq, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL before 15 March