Wonderland were invited round to the uber-nomadic DJ’s Dalston pad for Mama’s homemade meatloaf and a chat about life on the road and his Haggerston hangout Smokey Tails.
With 150 gigs under his belt this year alone, DJ and producer Seth Troxler has massaged many an ear with his soulful mix of Underground House and Techno. The suburban boy turned mega-DJ has played to some of the largest festivals and clubs in the world, being voted the winner of Resident Advisor’s Top 100 DJ Poll in 2012. He co-founded the DJ collective and record label Visionquest and has collaborated with Matthew Dear. The Michigan-born Renaissance man is about to launch three new record and lifestyle labels not to mention seeing success from his own pop-up BBQ restaurant in Hackney.
What was it like growing up in Detroit and did you feel as though there were options available to you?
Well I grew up out in the suburbs, 30 minutes outside of Detroit. I’m not some inner city kid but I come from a working class background and my mum works at a department store. Growing up around other affluent kids and going to a very good school definitely left me with the idea that there were so many options because my parents instilled that into me at a very young age: ‘You can do whatever you want, you just really have to go for it’.
In your opinion, what makes a good party?
Having a good vibe. As long as the music’s right and the people are in it together, it’s really perfect. You’ve also got to feel comfortable in the venue. LED screens aren’t necessary but the sound and bass have to be good. That said, I’ve had some of the best nights of my life at the worst venues, with the worst music with a great group of great friends, we were all just up to have a great time.
What is the best part of your job and the worst?
They are probably the same thing funnily enough. The best is definitely being able to see the world and meet new people, cultures, everything. I mean being a kid from Michigan there are offers for me to work I never thought I’d have in a million years. On the flipside the part that sucks about the job is having to travel to all those places. I think last year I did 150 gigs, that’s 150 different cities, having to travel 150 different times.
So has being on the road ever got the better of you?
Oh, definitely. Where I’ve wanted to quit all of this. A couple of years ago, I was engaged, that’s why I came to London, for a girl, she was a ballerina. I was travelling all the time and it broke up our relationship. I also feel I’m the most luckiest guy ever, I do live for it. I’ve almost gotten to a point where I don’t know how to relax in just one city at a time.
What do you love about London life?
Technically I don’t live here but I’ve been in London for three years. There’s a real villagey vibe going on. I love New York as well, I’m going back to live there in a week but due to fact that everything’s on top of you, you feel that competitive vibe and pressure.
Dare I ask, what do you think of chart dance music?
I’m not really so into it and I think that’s the most polite way I can put that, musically it doesn’t really touch me at all, but some stuff… I’m really happy for the disclosure guys, who are just two kids, really nice guys, out there doing their thing and they’re turning a whole generation onto dance music, which is so positive. Also my friend Ben Pearce had that track “What I Might Do” and that’s in the charts, cool beans. But when it comes to American EDM stuff and these Steve Aoki characters, this really sonic ear rape (I don’t know if I can say that!)… some of these guys are pricks and they’ve got so much money behind them. It’s just all this packaging.
It’s a business, isn’t it…
It’s a business, it has nothing to do with music and I hate that it’s reflected badly upon the culture of Electronic and House music that I’ve dedicated my life to, that’s what really annoys me.
Who is your icon?
Someone who’s an icon who also happens to be a really good friend is Craig Richards. Craig is my man, who’s been in this music for so long, before he was in Tyrant with Sasha and Lee Burridge as a resident at Fabric and is probably one of the most astute music collectors I’ve met in my life, across all genres. An unknown, silent icon in many ways but for me he’s so iconic and the epitome of cool.
Which DJs are you loving right now?
I love Ben UFO. He’s dope. He’s taking a risk and that’s what I really enjoy. Ben’s an incredibly reckless and talented DJ as well as being a really kind person. It’s amazing how many people are out there not playing chart toppers.
If you weren’t a DJ what would you be? I know you’re very keen on cooking.
I went to school for advertising and graphic design so I would probably have done that for a while but I just hate the corporate side of it, you don’t really ever get to do anything cool. I’d probably be a cook. That’s going to be my next career: owning restaurants and making bars. I just like to make people happy. When this is all over, when I want it to be over. We already have a restaurant called Smokey Tails and I’m trying to launch a new sub-brand of that, Buddy’s, a dive bar.
So what would you cook for Wonderland?
Well you did just taste my meatloaf
I can’t deny it [laughs]
In winter I would cook you guys something homey and saucy! I’m all about home cooking because that’s what you want at the end of the day, something that your nan made you.
What’s happening for you right now?
I’m in the middle of starting three record labels and the first releases will come out during Winter Music Conference. One is a pop label called Soft Touch with my friend Ben and he is creating an Indie lifestyle brand. The biggest thing I’m working on this year is called Tuskegee with The Martinez Brothers and it’s a platform for us to make clothes and release music from an urban American perspective, taking a lot of our heritage as black and Latinos on board. We want to bring back what it is to be young, American and kind of from the streets. So I’ve got the Indie rock label that’s ‘Suburban Seth’, Tuskegee which is the ‘Detroit Seth’, I’ve got this other thing called Play it Say it that’s just me putting out club hits, bombs, something that will destroy a stadium, which is hard to find at a record store.
So finally describe your sense of style.
I’ve got this whole trick. I like to look like an American Conservative but being a rebel so I’ve got this shirt that says “Rush Limbaugh for President” who I think is like the biggest American Conservative prick in politics. I’m wearing it so it’s funny, you know? Buttoned up shirt, tight jeans, Docsiders: Connecticut.
The ‘Seth Toxler Goes Clubing’ tour begins in early 2014 in which he will play Circo Loco (Ibiza) on a ten date run of shows starting in mid June and running through to the closing in October; Fabric (London) where he will play once a quarter throughout 2014 beginning on Saturday 15th February; Trouw (Amsterdam) in which he play a quarterly residency at Amsterdam’s best loved underground institution alongside some of his favourite DJ’s starting 21st February; Output (New York) another quarterly residency starting on 22nd March. He will also be playing multiple gigs throughout the year at other venues that have played a key part in supporting him over the years like Panoramabar (Berlin), Womb (Tokyo), Warung (Itaji), Lux (Lisbon), Fuse (Brussels), Robert Jonson (Offenbach), D’Edge (Sao Paulo), Sub Club (Glasgow), Bobbeaman (Munich), Spybar (Chicago), Coco Rico (Riccione), Stereo (Montreal), Mint Club (Leeds), Sound (LA) and Nordstern (Basel).
Words: Ellie Sigman