Schön! talks house mu­sic, psychedelics and rib-stick­ing grub with one of techno’s most iconic DJs.

Schon! - - All Night Long -

Seth Trox­ler is not your or­di­nary DJ. He is per­haps one of the few who cham­pion an au­then­tic rave ex­pe­ri­ence, where mu­sic – not commercialisation – is at the core of it all. He has played at ma­jor fes­ti­vals such as Coachella, Glastonbury, Burn­ing Man and Sonar and, in 2015, founded three mu­sic la­bels. As well as a new al­bum planned for 2016, he is about to open a res­tau­rant in Lon­don and re­lease a DJ-Kicks al­bum this Oc­to­ber.

Born in Kala­ma­zoo, Michigan, Trox­ler was in­tro­duced to mu­sic at an early age by his step­fa­ther, who had a ra­dio show and DJed at club nights play­ing R&B, hip-hop and ’90s house. At 14 years old, Trox­ler moved to a Detroit sub­urb. “We used to go to raves with my friends and I would think, ‘This is off the hook!’” he ex­claims. “I’ve been go­ing to a rave ev­ery week­end since.”

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from high school, Trox­ler was asked to join a mi­nor Euro­pean tour play­ing at Ger­man clubs such as the Panorama Bar. He con­tin­ued to fre­quent Ber­lin’s nightlife un­til ac­tu­ally re­lo­cat­ing there sev­eral years af­ter­wards, join­ing friends such as Ryan Crosson (his for­mer room­mate) who were part of the Vi­sionquest record la­bel. “Ber­lin was just a re­ally good, log­i­cal hub to be in,” Trox­ler re­calls. The in­ter­na­tion­ally hipster land­scape of the city at the time pro­vided a play­ground for him and his friends to en­joy life, but even­tu­ally, he re­alised that things weren’t re­ally get­ting done there: “which is one of the rea­sons why I moved to Lon­don. I also moved for a girl, but it didn’t work out in the end.”

The DJ not only em­braces the English mu­si­cal land­scape, but also thrives on it. He feels that the Amer­i­can and Euro­pean fes­ti­val scenes are vastly dif­fer­ent due to cul­ture and so­cial ex­pec­ta­tions: “Amer­ica is the place to de­velop the Amer­i­can dream, but Europe is the place to re­alise it. Ev­ery­thing in Amer­ica is all about money.” Trox­ler be­lieves Europe is open in mind and spirit, with an over­all at­ti­tude of ac­cep­tance, where its Amer­i­can coun­ter­part is per­haps not cul­tur­ally ma­ture just yet.

It is un­de­ni­able that drugs are a big part of rave cul­ture. While most of the press has been ex­tremely crit­i­cal of the ir­re­spon­si­ble use of cer­tain stim­u­lants such as ec­stasy, Trox­ler sees hal­lu­cino­gens as a tool to achieve clar­ity. “One day I mi­cro-dosed my­self and went about my day: go­ing to meet­ings and work­ing,” he says mat­ter-of-factly. “No one no­ticed, and I had a great day. I like to get into a re­ally pro­duc­tive headspace where ev­ery­thing just flows. It’s al­most like a trance. Our gen­er­a­tion is one that is open to ex­per­i­men­ta­tion and shar­ing ex­pe­ri­ences.”

Trox­ler shares his ex­pe­ri­ences through his three record la­bels Tuskegee, Soft Touch and Play It, Say It. “I wanted to work with other gen­res of mu­sic that I re­ally care about,” he says. In col­lab­o­ra­tion with Chris and Steve Martinez, who form The Martinez Broth­ers, Trox­ler aimed to gen­er­ate a sound re­flec­tive of their black and Latino Detroit roots. The la­bel Soft Touch en­com­passes in­die-rock folk mu­sic from artist friends that Trox­ler has met over time, whose work needed a plat­form to stand out.

In Oc­to­ber, fans can look for­ward to Trox­ler’s DJ-Kicks al­bum. First launched in 1995, DJ-Kicks was the first fully li­censed, com­mer­cially avail­able DJ mix se­ries and has been an in­di­ca­tor of the cli­mate of elec­tronic mu­sic cul­ture ever since. For his mix, Trox­ler “wanted to do some­thing that was hon­est… to cu­rate some­thing for peo­ple to easily lis­ten to and that got you in the mood to do your home­work or drive that hour long trip. I see this mix as a gay man named Rod­ney, or a big black woman named Bertha.”

In ad­di­tion to Trox­ler’s var­ied mu­si­cal ven­tures, he is about to launch his very own res­tau­rant in East Lon­don. Smokey Tails orig­i­nally func­tioned as a pop-up eatery com­bin­ing food with ex­per­i­men­tal bar cul­ture and nightlife. It first ap­peared in Hack­ney Wick last sum­mer, and this year was a fea­ture at fes­ti­vals like Glastonbury, as well as Trox­ler’s own Acid Fu­ture party, which he hosted at Lon­don’s To­bacco Dock in Au­gust. Trox­ler’s grand­fa­ther, a Na­tive Amer­i­can from Kala­ma­zoo, taught him how to make Smokey Tail’s unique sauce be­fore dy­ing from can­cer. By serv­ing smoked meats and pulled pork with this sauce, Trox­ler keeps his grand­fa­ther’s mem­ory alive.

At this point, a deep voice chimes into the con­ver­sa­tion: “You have five more min­utes. Think about wrap­ping up the in­ter­view now.” A faint click is heard. “Whoa, was that God?” Trox­ler asks. He goes on to dis­cuss the new al­bum he’s fin­ish­ing that in­cludes a col­lab­o­ra­tion with a bal­le­rina, de­mon­strat­ing that he isn’t just about mu­sic, but rather the com­plete artis­tic ex­pe­ri­ence. When asked what the word ‘iconic’ means for him, Trox­ler wit­tily replies, “I feel that iconic is a so­cially in­duced word. If you think about the big­gest icons, they are prob­a­bly Je­sus or Madonna. I’m not an icon. I’m just a cool guy.”

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