Seth Troxler is one of dance music’s most recognisable characters, the guy with the big hair and the even bigger personality who doesn’t take himself, or life, too seriously.
Seth Troxler is one of dance music’s most recognisable characters, the guy with the big hair and the even bigger personality who doesn’t take himself, or life, too seriously; a straight-up human being who plays by his own rules. These qualities, along with his passion and seemingly endless knowledge of house and techno, have established him as a figurehead for a new wave of underground electronic music that flies in the face of the disposable idiocy of mainstream ‘EDM’.
“I’ve always been kinda bat-shit crazy”, explains Seth. With his sporadic dreadlocks and well-twizled ‘tache, he comes across part streetwise Lothario, part Napoleon Dynamite’s creepy older cousin. Descended from a family of cowboys and Baptist preachers, he’s part African-American, part Egyptian, part Cherokee Indian but while his heritage is all-American his global outlook transcends his small-city Mid Western origins.
Seth was born in Kalamazoo, a college town in the centre of Michigan half way between Detroit and Chicago, when his mum was just eighteen. His parents split when he was two but soon after his mum met his step dad who hosted a local radio show in his hometown called ‘Fade2Black’. “He’d play hip hop and early house,” recalls Seth, “but after midnight it would switch over to a show called ‘The Love Zone’ which was straight up fuck-jams. His DJ name was ‘2 Fine’ which was also his car registration plate. He was my father figure.” A pre-teen Seth would be allowed to stay up late and sit with him in the studio. “Being surrounded by that much good music from such an early age there was never an option for me not to become a DJ.” When Seth was fourteen his mum married his step dad and moved to the outskirts of Detroit, “This was a really big jump for me, losing all my friends and moving to such a big city.” A year later his house burnt down and he lost everything apart from, by a strange twist of fate, his turntables and mixer that he’d left at a friend’s house. “After that I dropped out of sport at school and decided to spend all my free time playing records.” His step dad was into early Chicago house like Dance Mania and Trax but living in Detroit he started going to underground techno raves. “I went to the same high school as Matt Dear and a friend of mine’s brother used to go raving with him.” Soon after moving to Detroit Seth threw his first illegal party and booked Magda to play for him. At fifteen he landed a job as techno buyer in Detroit’s ‘Melodies & Memories’ record store working alongside deep house legends Theo Parrish and Mike Huckaby.
Through working in the record store he met Ryan Crosson, who would come in to buy vinyl from him, and through Ryan met Lee Curtiss and in turn Shaun Reeves who used to throw many of the most notorious illegal raves in Detroit at the time. It wasn’t long before Seth had moved in with Lee and the four found themselves throwing their now infamous ‘Tesh Club’ parties in Lee’s basement (a name taken from the German pronunciation of techno as ‘teshno’). It was there that the magic really began to happen; experiments in psychedelic substances and scientific examinations into the history of house and techno brought about a deep bond between the four, laying the foundations of what would later become their Visionquest partnership. This honeymoon period came to an abrupt halt when Shaun got robbed after a successful New Years Eve party and decided to quit Detroit and make a fresh start in Berlin. It was only a matter of time before Seth, Ryan and Lee followed suit.
Moving to Berlin was the making of Seth both as a DJ and producer. Just a week after his arriving in the city, having only just graduated from high school, Seth found himself booked to play infamous Panorama Bar alongside Omar-S. He flourished in the permissive German city, and was soon resident at Club der Visionäre, as well as playing regularly at clubs all over world like fabric (London), Watergate (Berlin), Output (New York), Warung (Brazil), Womb (Tokyo), Tenax (Florence), Robert Johnson (Frankfurt), The Rex (Paris), Fuse (Brussels), The Electric Pickle (Miami), plus festivals like The Detroit Electronic Music Festival, Glastonbury, Coachella, Sonar and Burning Man. Meanwhile, in the studio he has collaborated with such dance luminaries as Matthew Dear, Art Department, Tiefschwarz, Deetron, dOP and Subb-an in addition to groundbreaking remix work done as Visionquest, who have remixed tracks by Tracy Thorn and David Lynch (yes him). Together their Visionquest project has spawned one of the most exciting techno labels of recent years, plus a multi-deck DJ spectacular that saw the four of them rolling out their Visionquest Thirteen world tour throughout the whole of 2013. The combination of these achievements, alongside constant touring, have resulted in Seth being voted number three, then two and then one in the Resident Advisor Top 100 DJs poll between 2009-2012.
Since, Seth has continued to grow as an artist and curator, leading him to release a DJ Kicks album in 2015: “a proper DJ mix – a house mix. It’s good music that works to listen to at any time.” Later that same year he also curated a sold out warehouse party, Acid Future, at the Tobacco Dock in London, to pay homage to acid house through the years. Music aside, Seth has immersed himself in various projects close to his heart. Most notably last year, he curated his own Absolut Art Bar, Tomorrow Today, with artist RUN that extended over two days in Ibiza. Then, contrastingly, later in the summer, he took two weeks off touring to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in aid of Cure Brain Cancer Foundation and raised over $100k.
Through 2017 Seth will be pushing the boundaries with new projects and partnerships in the works, whilst also maintaining his core relationships with the nightclubs that have been integral in moulding him into the DJ he is today: quarterly appearances at fabric (London), Output (New York) and De School (Amsterdam) along with his usual 10 week residency at Circo Loco (Ibiza) across the summer. His dance floor focused label, Play it Say it, has some dance floor tracks lined up for the year, starting with its first album from the Mekanism; Seth’s “failsafe party starters”. In addition to his touring and collaborations, this year his restaurant, Smokey Tails, will continue on in the Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen in London serving up his family’s secret Midwest recipes.