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, and since then he has consistently remained within the top 10 DJs as voted by Resident Advisor fans.
Last year, Seth returned to all the nightclubs that were integral in moulding him into the DJ he is today: quarterly appearances at fabric (London) along with Output (New York), his usual 10 week residency at Circo Loco across the summer and the closing of Trouw (Amsterdam). Among these, Seth curated his own sold out warehouse party, Acid Future, at the Tobacco Dock in London to pay homage to acid house through the years. Performing alongside Seth were friends from all over the world who he felt “embodied the spirit acid house in 2015”.
The year continued to see releases through his dance floor focused label ‘Play it Say it’ and indie-rock label ‘Soft Touch’ alongside promoting Afro-American and Hispanic producers with his newest label Tuskegee, shared with The Martinez Brothers. Tuskegee’s first release was a raw collaboration between Seth and The Martinez Brothers titled ‘Space & Time’, followed up by releases from Bas Ibellini, William Kouam Djoko and Butch amid others. Among various solo mixes by Seth through the year, most notably he launched his own DJ Kicks album described by Seth as “a proper DJ mix – a house mix. It’s good music that works to listen to at any time.” The album received a great reception, highlighting the honesty of the mix and is best summarised by Crack Magazine: “the whole [album] haemorrhages delicacy and elegance”.
The future of 2016 will see ‘cosmic’ events for Seth. He will be embracing new venues and curating new nights in true Seth style while also returning to the core clubs that have shown support for him from the beginning. Crowds may vary but you can guarantee that Seth will take you on a musical experience that will challenge, excite and inspire. Expect another album release exploring new concepts, accompanied by more releases of dance-focused, Latino-inspired and indie/disco tracks through each of his labels. Smokey Tails will also be reaching out to new venues and letting some chef-secrets slip along the way.