"Kids who thought I was a weirdo for liking techno, now they're all at Ultra," the artist tells Billboard.
Seth Troxler first arrived in Ibiza 10 years ago, a young man of Midwestern origin enchanted with the island's dazzling beauty, freewheeling artistry and endless party swirl that swept revelers into extended tears through the beach parties and dark clubs pumping out house, techno and that distinctive Ballearic sound.
Now, as a ten year resident artist of the island's legendary underground techno mecca DC-10, Troxler is firmly rooted in the Ibiza scene. When Billboard Dance catches up with him, he's on the couch at his place on the island, enjoying a glass of wine with his parents -- who he moved to Ibiza from their native Michigan so they could be closer to him.
Troxler himself make nearly constant departures off the island while on tour, and recently landed in London, where he and producer Phil Moffa erected their immersive art installation Lost Souls of Saturn as part of the Saatchi Gallery's Sweet Harmony: Rave exhibit exploring the birth of dance music and the impacts of rave on youth culture. The show is on at Saatchi through September 14.
Tonight, Troxler is beaming the underground to the world via Boiler Room. Curated by Troxler, the eight-hour show is DC-10's first-ever livestream, and features a lineup including Chris Valdes, Dr Rubinstein, Muallam and more. For Troxler, this show is an opportunity to share the underground dance music culture that shaped his life, mind and world, and to extend DC-10's special sound and ethos far beyond the confines of the island.
Troxler discusses the changing identity of Ibiza and his place in the underground.
Given that this is the first-ever livestream from DC-10, what responsibility do you feel to represent the club's particular vibe to the world?
I feel a deep responsibility. I mean, as one of the main residents of the club and having been so for almost ten years, the image of [DC-10 party Circoloco] is very much tied to my own personal image and legacy. I strive to have some influence with the things I program at the club, or just talking with the management on keeping that identity as something that's also close to my identity. I think any person in my position would do the same.
How have you seen the nature of entertainment and music on the island evolve in the last ten years?
It's changed drastically. Before when I was here, I think the laws were drastically different. Now, the tourist board here in Ibiza has made a conscious decision to change the image of the island and shift the demographic towards families and holistic living. Ibiza was always the place of freedom and hedonism. I think the Ballearics as a whole has a mission to kind of clean up its image for the people who are coming now. With this, they've changed a lot of the laws -- whereas once in Ibiza you could go out partying for days, the clubs now have to close at 6:30 at night.
Ibiza before was this place where you could live this free, transient, affordable lifestyle. Those things have gone. I also think a big catalyst behind bottle [service] culture has been Ushuaïa and now Hï and the Matutes bringing in Hard Rock and all these things. They're trying to gentrify that area. That is actually a plan. They're investing a billion dollars into Playa d'en Bossa and gentrifying that area and turning it into a Las Vegas-type situation. That also changes the demographic and the crowd coming to Ibiza.
What are your thoughts on the influx of this new demographic?
Once [the crowd becomes] more middle-class, it's a different ideal system than people who consider themselves other or outside. I think the type of person who wants to show off and buy a bottle at the club isn't the same type of person who wants to come to the party we're trying to present at Boiler Room. It's a very different ideology there. Cocoon and these other places very much represent a more socialist, liberated idea of what freedom looks like. Within that there had been hedonism -- now a lot of the hedonism has turned more into decadence going off of wealth and access, rather than just trying to be free and loose. There's a big difference and change there.
Has everything you just described created a palpably different feeling on the island?
It's just that at one point through gentrification, as you would have in a city, people get pushed out and they're just not there anymore.
Where have they gone?
They go to Croatia, Albania. There are places popping up where people can go, there are festivals there. You can see a lot of the same [artists] because we’re playing both places. Kids can go to these places, spend a fraction of the money and actually stay out later than you can here.
The parties here are still great, I’m not slacking it off, because I love my island, but I think right now we're in this time of change, and it's a really important time to try to contribute different ideas that can maybe take off and drive the island back to like the wonderland of open-minded freedom and hedonism I once loved.
What do you feel you're bringing?
It's open-mindedness, and an experience of something with a bit more depth. That's what I'm looking for -- things with a cultural heritage that are rooted in the essence of classic dance culture, but are also looking forward to the future and trying to present some new ideas around [that culture.]
If you look at commercial and pop music, its sales formula is not based on the same type of experience and reflection of society. [Commercial interests] aren't the things that bind us to creating a classic album. If you look at the times we're living in and what the social message from music should and could be, [what's out there] is not really representative. I think at that point, music becomes a commodity and the people performing it become entertainers rather than artists. I think it's not by chance that the music often pushed to the top of Billboard is often pushed and marketed by companies that don’t have the best interests of society or culture at mind. Especially if you look at some of the urban music that's pushed.
When that [O.T. Genasis] track "I'm in love with the Coco" came up, it wasn't by chance that this track telling people how to make crack was pushed in urban neighborhoods. There's a very defined, divisive way to use media in America and throughout the world, and music's one of the main sources or ways to infiltrate minds and program society. So I think right now, generally and as a whole, underground music and culture is a place where at least there's some type of freedom to express the idea of what freedom is and what that actually used to mean.
Is it important or worthwhile to try to push underground culture to more mainstream audiences?
Maybe if record companies put the same amount of money as they do behind these made-up stars behind people who are actually making good music, and put some people in A&R positions who actually care about culture and music, then tastes would change. The music that these big companies promote, they choose to promote. It's not like there's a lack of good music out there. People consume what they're told to consume. That's how the capitalist model works. That's the whole system. If you play something a million times on the radio, people are going to be like, "This is great." If you have someone telling you that these are the top ten, people think that's what the best in the world has to be. Most of the time it's not.
I think right now we're in an age of tribalism, which is actually separating people more than ever. When I was going to raves, there was no safe space, because the rave was a safe space. But now with the gentrification of electronic music, people who actually never considered themselves as other -- people that many of us tried to get away from -- are now at all the festivals. Kids who I went to school with that thought I was a fucking weirdo for liking techno, now they're all at Ultra. It's like, 15 years later, welcome to the party.
Do you feel a sort of gut reaction against that?
No, I'm totally happy. I'm like, "Come get in the party. Check out the ideas." But a lot of the levels that they now come into electronic music or under underground culture through -- before EDM and underground music were quite different. But now, given what tech house has become, it's really a lot closer to our music, but still being kind of commercialized. Big EDM was really a gateway for fans and people who are now into tech house, or kind of commercialized tech house music, which a lot of my friends and peers are making, which is cool.
I'm not saying anything bad about any of this music. I'm just saying it's not the experiences I had and the culture I came up with and which I am just trying to keep alive and give an experience of to another generation, because the ideas I encountered and the people I met through those experiences, that's what's changed my life and progressed me consciously and socially.
That's the beauty of the real electronic music scene and culture, it lets you be in a place that is really the most liberal and culturally accepting universe. Maybe not bro-jock-EDM raves, but parties like this Boiler Room that celebrate different cultures, backgrounds, sexual orientations, and also just deeper, cooler, more experimental music. That's the place where I feel comfortable, and what I want people to experience.