Exclusive Interview With Seth Troxler
What can be said about Seth Troxler that hasn’t already. World class as a DJ and as a personality, Seth’s commitment to the music and culture of electronic music runs deep, from the back alleys of Detroit to the warehouses of Berlin, and now the allure of London.
Having ignited the world of house and techno over the past decade, Seth’s constant barrage of sultry vocal jams has landed him, in consecutive years, voted number three, two and one in the Resident Advisor Top 100 DJ Poll, as well as landing much-vaunted residencies at DC10, Trouw and Output. Internationally, there isn’t a venue left untouched with notable gigs at fabric (London), Panorama Bar (Berlin), Warung (Brazil), Womb (Tokyo), Tenax (Florence), Robert Johnson (Frankfurt), The Rex (Paris), Fuse (Brussels), The Electric Pickle (Miami), plus The Detroit Electronic Music Festival, Glastonbury, Coachella, Sonar and Burning Man. Studio-wise, Seth Troxler has collaborated with such dance luminaries as Matthew Dear, Art Department, Tiefschwarz, Deetron, Subb-an, in addition to groundbreaking remix work done as Visionquest alongside fellow astral refugees Shaun Reeves, Ryan Crosson and Lee Curtiss, remixing artists like Tracy Thorn and David Lynch.
Last year saw Seth team up with The Martinez Brothers in launching their new Tuskegee label, drawing attention on Afro-Latino American icons. In addition to this he’s currently plotting two additional new imprints called Soft Touch, focusing on indie rock, and Play It Say It, putting out straight up dancefloor jams.
We are very excited to have been given a chance to speak with Seth Troxler during his hectic summer touring schedule. Never one to shy away from choice quotes and issues of awareness, whether they be scene-related or part of a wider social dialogue, we spoke on his early days, launching Tuskegee, Amsterdam memories, and much more. Be sure to catch Seth at Free Your Mind on 6 June, where he will play alongside Jamie Jones, Art Department, and Guy Gerber (to name just a few). If you are in London in August you can also catch him at his latest concept event, Acid Future, to be held at the Tobacco Docks, with The Martinez Brothers, DJ Harvey, Skream, and a ton of other big time names.
Hi Seth, how are you doing today?
Steve-o! I’m hanging out, man!
Nice! It’s nice weather today in Amsterdam, which is always welcome!
I wanted to ask you about the “way back,” picking up and moving to Berlin with your friends. Can you look back and give us some of your impressions on the move?
It’s been a while now! Like 8 or 9 years. There’s a whole story about how Ryan Crosson and myself lived and moved together, which all started as he was my first customer at the record store I worked in Detroit when I was 15. It is insane!
We were a bunch of kids raving just like everyone else; much like the kind of thing going on in Amsterdam right now. We were listening to the German House/Techno stuff, like Micro-House. I was in High School and everyone else was in college. We would go out to parties, and eventually headed to Europe. There, we saw these parties that would happen during the day and we realised that we didn’t have that back home so we started throwing these kinds of parties in Detroit. Lee (Curtis) and I had been living together for a while, which was already a very experimental period. We would spend long periods of time in the basement experimenting with LSD and playing records for days. At the time, Lee was a used car salesman, Ryan sold machinery, and I was in University. After a while we just decided to pick up and move to Berlin.
At first, we stayed on Shaun Reeves couch for about three months. Imagine three guys laying on a futon together for three months looking for an apartment, trying to save enough money to buy a donut. It was very funny! These were the best times of our lives!
We had this one summer, maybe in 2005, where John Roberts, myself, and six other creatives were living in a one-floor flat. We would have these pull down projector screens separating our “bedrooms”. It’s so nice to see all those people now succeeding in their creative careers. It was all a dream!
In coming from Detroit, I know you embrace the urban aesthetic of that city. When you first moved to Berlin, how did its aesthetics compare?
Aesthetically, the differences between Detroit and Berlin aren’t so great. They are both kind of post apocalyptic; Berlin with the war and Detroit being the first major post-indutrial city to go bankrupt. One of the biggest differences was how safe Berlin was. You could really walk around with a total feeling of freedom, which was mind exploding for me.
I remember the last time I was in Berlin. I was walking home quite a long distance late at night and I had asked someone if it was cool to walk through a certain area, based on safety (I have learned my lesson the hard way walking around parts of Brooklyn) and he just laughed and said, “of course, man. This is Berlin”.
The music was also a lot different. I think what made us stand out was our style of DJing and the way we chose music. We were a couple of Americans playing German music with an American style. It just worked.
Also, the spaces where the parties were happening were very familiar to me. Everything was done in these post-industrial warehouses.
If an 18 year old came up to you and said they were thinking of picking up and moving to [insert dance music hot spot name], is it something you would advise them to do?
It’s a lot different now. Back then, everyone wasn’t trying to be a DJ. At that time, at least in America, no one wanted to be a DJ. Considering now, everyone wants to move to Berlin to try and make it happen, which makes it harder. For me, I had a couple of records out and also had an agent, so my career was already starting. I would say, to anyone on the cusp or has had the dream forever, definitely go. If you want this to be your job, give up on everything else and focus on it. If you truly believe in your talent and you have the possibility, Fuck it! Just go for it. Take the risk!
Eats Everything is a good example. His wife gave him a year to make it and in the last month his record came out and went big. He was doing construction before that year, believed in himself, and made it. That’s the same thing we did. We really believed and had a dream. We threw shit to the wind and said this is how it’s going to be.
That Eats Everything story could almost be a film plot!
It really happened!