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