WMC 2010: Q&A with Seth Troxler, Playing Electric Pickle, Ice Palace and More

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DJ/producer Seth Troxler has to be one of the most archetypal characters in contemporary EDM. Born and bred in the Detroit techno scene, schooled by the scene veterans and absorbing all the sounds he could get his hands on at the record shop/DJ hub where he worked as a teen, then cutting his teeth on the decks before alighting in Berlin and taking that city by storm. Yet for all his textbook credentials Troxler is also one of the most unpredictable and whimsical artists in contemporary EDM, with a sound possessed of equal parts irreverent humor and dark brooding sensuality. In 2009's "Aphrika", a stark yet intoxicating jacking house number on the Wolf + Lamb imprint, he down-pitched a vocal recording of Maya Angelou's poem "Phenomenal Woman", rendering it into a tranny's self-affirming ode to womanhood. "Love Never Sleeps", another instant classic, is cavernously deep and moodily atmospheric while sustaining an oversexed hip-gyrating groove.

But despite his playful and laissez-faire approach to music-making, Troxler is by no means unselfconscious or unaware of the more solemn influences that have shaped his sound: the aesthetic foundations of classic house and techno from his native Detroit and the cutting-edge new forms shaping EDM in Berlin. In this regard he brings an uncanny maturity to his work, considering his young age -- a reverence for dance music's past and an intuition for its present that keeps his output sounding fresh yet vaguely classic.  

His DJ sets have become widely-anticipated events which people will continue to buzz about for months after, and in 2010 he is ranked among the Top 10 DJs in the world by Resident Advisor, while staying firmly rooted in the underground. This week we caught up with Troxler during his stop in Tulum, Mexico for the 2010 Crosstown Rebels label "Rebel Rave" tour and en route to Miami for Conference. And despite his occasional signature impish interview answers, he shared his profound and insightful views on the state of contemporary dance music.

Read the full Q&A after the jump.

Crossfade: As a Detroit native now living/working in Berlin you're sort of straddling the two transatlantic EDM capitals. How much of what you do and who you are as an artist can you attribute to your Detroit background and how much of it to your life as an expatriate in Berlin?

Seth Troxler: I think I can attribute 80% of my artistic ideology to the two. In many ways my Michigan upbringing shaped my personality like anyone's, however there is something special about Detroit. I think the way people interact in Detroit, and the sense in the city that there is nothing more, is real. It's a tangible quality of the place that has made the city a hot bed of creation in the arts for such a long time. I think Berlin is some ways has that same feeling.  I think both cities have seen so much, and its people have been through so many hard times it makes people more real. However I don't feel Berlin is what it was like 3- 5 years ago. Its still happening, but in a different way. Detroit is harder then ever, I was just recently there and cant wait to go back in May to work on music, I really felt a lot of emotion and lot of tension.

Your DJ sets can vary from dark abstract minimal tech to buoyant melodic disco-house. Clearly you're a DJ of eclectic tastes. But what seems to strike a lot of people the most is that you're somewhat of an "old soul". Considering you're in your early '20s, there's a certain seasoned maturity to much of the stuff you play, e.g. your set at the 2010 Electric Zoo Festival in NYC, much of which had the flavor of a bygone era in house music. Did you grow up listening to old school house and techno, or do you simply go digging deep into the crates?

Ha, thanks. I guess that's growing up in Detroit. I was so luck to be at the tale-end of a generation where a lot of the people who really defined and created the Detroit dance music  scene were still around. I worked at this amazing record store Melodies and Memories when I was in high school and was able to get a great amount of knowledge from customers like Keath Worthy, Omar S, Norm Tally or my old boss Gary Koral, or go to the old Record Time and talk to Mike Huckabey or Vince Patricola and hear a lot of the old stories about Detroit dance music and get a lot of the old jams. This was also a time where Magda and Matthew Dear and the Spectral and Minus crew were coming up, and I was fortunate to be taken under the wing of these people, so growing up in many ways I was raised by all these  old "heads" and that attitude just stuck. Right place, right time I guess.

By this point you've played in cities all over the world. When push comes to shove, what is your favorite spot? What's the most memorable live experience you've had?

Wow, that's a really hard one. I would say my favorite is WMC! *winks*. Maybe sometimes at Watergate or Club der Visionaire in Berlin in the summer, or Detroit during the music festival, there are always a lot of emotions coming home. But I do always have a blast in Miami.

You recently mixed Vol. 5 of BPitch Control's Boogybytes series. What can you tell us about this mix?

Well it's a journey into space time, and the idea that dark matter both binds and pulls apart our galaxy. It's also about love, dreams, uh, carrots and hot dogs, and the idea that your soul's forever existing without bounds. Oh, and pixie sticks too.

The same eclecticism we used to describe your DJ sets seems to also be seeping into your production work as of late -- the minimalism of your earlier tracks giving away to more elaborate synth-pop forays like your remix for Fever Ray. Is this just a personal inclination, or do you think it reflects a general current in EDM, with so many producers returning to a more melodic songcraft?

I think you're right on target. I really like melody right now. I feel I am in many ways a minimalist: my nature, my dress, my taste in art, my general lifestyle. However I'm really into having fun right now. I'm in love, work is great, and it's like, hey, its a new decade. Minimal isn't dead, it's not going anywhere, just being lame and boring is. Open up, try something, maybe enjoy life. I think the term minimal was overused and overextended, and a lot of people weren't adding anything to the pot but just taking ideas. I'm into ideas and I want to add my own.

Where do you see EDM going in the next decade? Is the house/techno form here to stay?

I think house and techno are here forever. I feel in many ways in the next year the same thing is going to happen to "house" as what happened to "minimal" -- too many people jumping on to something and not adding to it. I'm really into the idea of tasteful crossover right now. It's cool in some ways to see this David Guetta thing happening. It may sound bad but, hey, at least pop is somewhat ready to dance again. It's not my idea of a tasteful crossover, but it's a start. I just hope that people want to go out and enjoy themselves for another 10 years, occasionally get off their head (or not) and dance to enjoy life. If techno and house are involved, perfect. Let's just enjoy.

How's the Rebel Rave tour going so far? Any favorite moments or interesting anecdotes?

I can say Rebels be ravin' it up 4 realz yo. Really, it's been great. We're having a blast together it's fun to travel and see your friends. Detroit was amazing, I'm just out of the beach in Tulum now, perfect.

What else do you have going on 2010?

Shameless self promotion time =).  Well I just became one of the new residents for Circo Loco's season at DC 10 this summer in Ibiza. I'm also touring to present this Boogybytes CD as well as Rebel Rave in Europe. Starting a label with Ryan Crosson, Shaun Reeves and Lee Curtiss, Visionquest, as well as turning it into a crazy live PA. I just made a new bomb with Deetron called "Each step" coming out really soon on Circus Company. And trying to find time to sleep.

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