Seth Troxler is no stranger to throwing a party.
Famously booking Magda when he was just 15, the Detroit-raised DJ/producer has been a staple on the electronic circuit for years. More recently he's rejoined the production ranks, throwing down a 12" on Guy Gerber's Rumours, and another two-tracker on his brand new label Tuskegee.
Meanwhile, Seth's established himself as chief commentator and agitator of the commercial dance scene in the US - making Avicii's manager shift uncomfortably in his seat on panels, writing irate editorials and railing against horse drugs.
In August, Wapping's Tobacco Dock will see Seth Troxler leading an influx of world class artists celebrating the history - and future - of acid house. The one-off night pays homage to the explosion of large scale raves that shaped British culture and united all types of clubbers, bringing together TB-303 strains of Chicago house via the likes of DJ Harvey, Craig Richards, Marshall Jefferson and many more.
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You've been outspoken about EDM in the US. In the UK, our idea of that scene is a whitewashed one that's been hijacked by frat boys who have little sense of the history of dance music. Is that fair? Are we exaggerating?
Couldn't've said it any better myself! I think it's getting marginally better, you know. It's funny, I just started dating this girl who's pretty WASP-y. Her friends are a great example of this, they started with EDM stuff, but now are really into Dixon and All Day I Dream, things like that. And now she's dating me I'm getting her into all types of weird music...
You feel like you need to educate her, then?
Yeah totally, it's the best, it's so G! I think a lot of people want really good music - it's not that they don't crave the good stuff, they just don't know it's out there. That's our job as DJs - to be educating people through music and playing a wide selection of incredible tracks. Not playing songs that people know you for and know you'll play every fucking set. Which really annoys me, even about the commercial underground DJs.
They're playing these vocal hit things which sell really well, but it's not the hardest thing to go and be known for playing the same fucking 10 songs. Commercial or not. That's why you go out to hear a DJ... to hear music you don't know, and it's their job to go out and buy records that people don't know. That's always been the concept of the DJ - to expose people to music that they wouldn't otherwise have a chance to hear.
Your upcoming party in London comes at a time of crisis where we're seeing pivotal clubs closing - Plastic People, Madame Jojo's, etc. Have you noticed the impact on club culture over here?
I mean, it's really sad to see so many of these legendary places go. But I think it's also a kind of a generational change, at least with Plastic People, you know, to see going for so long. It's time for a new generation of people to come in. I'm not really in London that much anyway and when I am I always end up going to some afterparty in some dirty weird warehouse. I think that's where the good ones always are... just somebody's flat.
London really needs a new cool, mid-sized small club. There's so few institutions left. Just generally, in dance music. I mean, Trouw was earlier this year... We need people to come in and build something. Fabric's really lucky to have Judy Griffith running the Saturday nights, who's dedicated her entire life to the cause. All these great venues are always backed by great people.
So when is someone gonna step up - I mean, I don't even live here! Just trying to have a restaurant here is impossible.
So having enthusiastic people backing an event is vital, what are some other key ingredients you think help make a night?
Passion. If you look at all the great movements in music, even Detroit techno, there was a crew of kids who had an idea and they stuck to it. In England when dubstep happened, it was a crew of south London kids who were just like, "yo, this is what's up" - and then being really excited about it.
What was the last exciting thing in England? Like... shuffling? Maybe if there were some very enthusiastic shufflers who went out to make a shuffle-friendly zone - then that could have been the shuffle institution! It just has to be based around an idea.
Right now there's a lot of young, really cool record collectors in England who are kind of geeky, I don't think they really go out, but they could just make their perfect dance night. That's what me and my friends did, and now I'm here.
We actually have a 10-year anniversary of a party we're doing in Detroit in a couple of weeks. My friend Ryan [Crosson] and I - we were like, we go to these parties in Europe that are really cool in the daytime, let's try to build that in Detroit. 10 years later we've got one of the most successful parties in America. I played a party in Amsterdam the other day for 300 people and the whole thing was incredible, we played for 10 hours. Tickets were 10 bucks, they sold out in a day, and you could only buy them at a cheese shop.
I was watching your interview with Chuck D this morning, where you were talking about music as a means of escape, and just protest music in general - growing up was music an escape out of something specific for you?
Definitely. I remember growing up I used to have this thing where I bought used records and would try to imagine the people who owned them before - the emotions, the events in their life where they put the record on. I remember this old record by LoSoul - it's called 'Warriors' - on Playhouse, and there's a bunch of pictures of them travelling through Germany, pictures of this club with a night that Kompakt had just started back at that time - 14 years ago, 2001 maybe.
And I remember looking at these pictures of these people and just imagining Germany, the German minimal scene. I'd lay on my bed, smoke a joint and look at this record cover, these really weird records coming from Europe.
Ricardo Villalobos, for example... when I was a kid I was really into him, but I'd never heard him DJ. He came to Detroit once and me and my friends were all these geeks who were really into his music 'cos it was really artistic and far-out, modular stuff. So we were like: yo, who's this crazy guy making this fucked up, micro-house, weird music? Then we saw him DJ and were like woah, this guy's a maniac!
Cos were all quite geeky, considered, Pitchfork kids, with dyed-blonde hair and thin glasses... analysing stuff, you know! It was a way to bridge ourselves away from the urban image that was portrayed around us. But now sometimes I'll just put on a little Sade and think: I need to chill the fuck out!
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There's so few institutions left...
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You've put a global range of artists on the bill - from Amsterdam to Glasgow to Chicago - and one of the cool things about London is how ethnically diverse it is. You've spoken before about feeling like one of few minority people at a rave, what do you think dance music can do to be more inclusive and welcoming?
The thing we're trying to do with Tuskegee is create some type of label or brand for people who are outside electronic music who define themselves as outside of 'urban' culture. Just creating platforms is a way to encourage people to get involved.
The same idea is, how can we encourage more women to get involved in dance music? 'Cos it's also lacking. Why is that? Why has it become that, more so? It's something that, with access to press, we have to bring up to encourage these people to take part in our culture. There's the feminine perspective and the ethnic perspective - that's quite different, you know.
On that note, the Acid Future lineup is I think exclusively male? Or at least incredibly male heavy...
There's a girl in Rework. It's male heavy because there's just not access to many females. We did try to book Magda to play, but she was already booked. There was a consideration. There's not really many other girls who'd go with that lineup. Statistically... it's a fact. Same with the ethnic thing.
Are you optimistic about the future of dance music?
I'm an optimist in general, I'm always looking at a glass that's completely full. Any time I talk about these things in the past it's just me wanting to start a conversation and trying to get that topic out and into the public...
Everyone says you can't make any change but if you're a person in my position, the one thing you do have access to is people caring what you say, which I think is ridiculous in general. But at least with exposure you're allowed to expose ideas. God forbid someone has a fucking opinion these days, you know! The idea of Paris Hilton DJing is taking over this culture that I've given life to.
Would you ever go and see her play?
I'd totally go and watch her play because I've always wanted to go to a foam party, in Ibiza. But I don't really like the idea of getting in the pool. Your pants won't dry and you're all cold. Even though the idea of the pool sounds great, I like looking at the pool and people in the pool, but actually wanting to be in the pool? Not so much. I had a couple of friends who went to her party last year in Ibiza just as a laugh, they thought it was funny. So who knows? I might have a day where I'm feeling adventurous.
Has every set you've played always gone smoothly or have there been times where everything's gone wrong?
I remember this one time I was playing in Granada at this techno club, it was pretty early on in my career. It was this club Industrial Copera, and there weren't that many people there, no-one showed up. Every record I played these kids were giving me the gun in the mouth sign, the cut your throat sign, the throw-up sign...
And every time I would put on a new record to try and make them happy, it would just gross them out even more. The entire time I played. So there's these moments, you know.
[Asks the other guys in the room for suggestions]
Oh, Ed says I shat myself once when I was DJing. It was kind of a shart. It was a fart that contained some substance. But that wasn't really a disaster, more of a mishap.
Then - 10 years ago - I was playing in Philadelphia for these weird vegan techno hippies. The guy throwing it told me I was staying on his couch, and he had had this dog which had this skin disease, it was shedding loads... the couch was covered in dog hair, and I was like, thanks. Then before the gig they screened this documentary about Buckminster Fuller, the guy who invented the Airstream.
So I was like, I'm just gonna go sleep somewhere, so I went on the floor with this oriental rug over me. Then I had to go play and it was these bikers and weird vegan hippies... no drugs or alcohol were allowed at the party. In the morning they had this vegan buffet brunch thing and I was like, someone take me back to New York as fast as possible. That was the worst.
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Words: Felicity Martin
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Acid Future takes place on August 8th at the Tobacco Dock, London. Tickets and more information can be found here: http://www.sethtroxlersacidfuture.com/