Seth Troxler: "Dance Festivals are The Best and Worst Places in The World"
As one of the biggest DJs in the world, Seth Troxler has a special vantage point over dance music culture. Behind the decks he's tighter than most, but off the decks is where he really lets rip. Outspoken as hell, and with the summer festival season fast approaching, we figured Seth would be the perfect man to tell us exactly what he thinks about dance music today - and he didn't hold back.
The current state of dance music is crazy. It’s so flooded. Everywhere you look, there’s a new festival and a new party. I lived in New York City for 4 months recently, and there were about 50 Resident Advisor parties on one weekend. I mean, what the fuck? It’s the same with festivals now, too. Everyone is going into the boutique festival game and whilst I think it’s cool that people are going out and enjoying themselves, where do we draw that line over quality?
In light of this craziness, here’s my take on festivals, clubbing, and not being an asshole.
FIRST OFF, GOING TO DANCE FESTIVALS IS NOTHING LIKE GOING CLUBBING
I was in Switzerland recently, and a promoter complained to me that there’s a big problem in the country’s club scene because of how many festivals happen around Switzerland. He said that in the summer, it’s hard to get people to come to your club. People would rather spend their money going to festivals abroad, than going to clubs in their home cities.
But that dude missed something: dance festivals and dance clubs are not the same. At all. This new generation care much more for the festival experience than the club experience. Kids who like dance music now have grown up with no first hand experience of original club culture; techno, house, even rave in the 90s. Festivals are their “dance music experience” now. Festivals are fucking holidays.
EDM FESTIVALS SPOON-FEED US BULLSHIT - AND WE CAN'T GET ENOUGH OF IT
When I get booked to play these massive festivals in the US, I often walk around them to see what they’re all about – and 90% of the time, it’s fucking horrible. We’re breeding a generation of impatient, annoying festival kids. I say impatient because the patience of the clubber is different to the patience of the festival-goer.
At these festivals, you get it all on a platter up-front. Lasers! LED screens! Pyrotechnics! DROPS! CAKE IN YOUR FUCKING FACE! – wait, nah man. That’s not clubbing, that’s a concert of cunts. Just, go out for a night in a dark room. Be cool.
I was talking to a good friend of mine Craig Richards, and he said that back when he started going to clubs, there was even more patience: you’d vibe on the dance floor for hours, with space for your body and everyone else’s. Now people consider a “good event” something that’s really packed with bodies and “energy”: energy-packed-extreme! That’s not clubbing, man. Clubbing is a culture, but EDM doesn't promote that. If you’re Suzie who just graduated high school in Florida, you go to Ultra and think “Holy shit , Avicii is about to blow my panties off”.
LET'S FACE IT, EDM DJS ARE THE WORST PEOPLE EVER
Speaking of Avicii, Avicii is a cunt. When he went to the hospital during Ultra in Miami, my tour manager Alex was with the nurse assigned to him. The fucking cunt wouldn’t even speak to the nurse. She would have to tell his manager what to tell him, and they were sitting next to each other. You’re in the hospital. You can’t talk to a nurse who’s trying to look after you? The insane stardom syndrome of these massive EDM DJs pisses me off.
It’s not just a personal thing either. Their music is just shit. I’ve seen Steve Aoki play at these festivals. He keeps turning the music off, jumping around onstage, saying “This is my new single! Out next week!”, and playing the next song. You are not a fucking DJ. You’re an overpaid, untalented, cake-throwing, performing monkey. My best friend Frank from high school is now my PA, and he’s in the Little League Hall of Fame for being a crazy good pitcher. We’re going to him with that cake, man. I’m coming for you, Aoki.
EDM IS NOT A CULTURE, BECAUSE IT GIVES NOTHING BACK
Look, I’m generally really happy for everyone. I try to keep positive about all this craziness. But if you’re not critical of the culture you live in, and love, then you’re doing yourself and everyone around you a disservice. EDM plays host to a profound delusion about what electronic music and dance culture are. It’s ridiculous music, made by ridiculous, un-credible people.
In all honesty, I find it profoundly sad. We’re trying to move on and be a real force of culture and conversation - a wider genre recognised as having real cultural depth - but EDM is wiping that slate. For being taken seriously in a musical sense, that’s frustrating. A lot of my work - especially with my label Tuskegee - is a revolt of that. That’s my passion. The rave changed me, and I want kids to be able to experience that tomorrow.
WHAT WE NEED IS PLUR - NO, REALLY
Image courtesy of Red Bull Music Academy
In the US, there’s this term PLUR. It’s got a crappy reputation now, but it stems from the values of original club culture: respect, being positive, communal unity. Once you have those values, they spread in how you conduct yourself and view the world.
I was in a club recently, and there was this guy there with one of the original Paradise Garage tee shirts on. We got talking, and he said the major difference with dance music now and back then, is real diversity. You had social, class, race, sexual diversity - and that’s cool. That’s what dance music culture is about. Everyone under one roof, exploring their own and each others identities. A celebration of something more, something outside of received norms. Not having a giant glow stick and getting on it.
The Red Bull Music Academy street party for Paradise Garage and Larry Levan Way last weekend was beautiful for that exact reason. You have a huge block party in a huge city, full of white, black and Asian people, young and old. Nobody looked wasted, and hardly anyone was on their damn phones. They were just dancing and singing together to beautiful music, for hours and hours. That is club culture.
THERE'S A FINE LINE BETWEEN FREEDOM AND IDIOCY
Straight from Eric Prydz's Twitter, during Ultra. Sorry.
I see some fucking crazy shit in clubs, and some fucking sad shit at festivals. It’s such a fine line. Like, that photo Eric Prdyz tweeted from Ultra? Of a girl doing lines of coke off another girls naked vagina? At a festival, that’s gross. In a dark club, it would be kind of hot. In Berghain, that shit stands for freedom. At Ultra, it stands for excess and trash.
The first time I ever played at Berghain, there was this big bear of a dude in assless leather chaps and a leather harness on the dance floor. I was playing ‘Yellow’ and when he bent over, this other guy came over and starts eating his ass. Everyone around them was just dancing and being all cool. I was like “……..that’s interesting”. But that’s a revolt against the world. That’s the freedom of the club. Falling in mud and getting cake thrown at you? That’s not freedom. You’re an idiot listening to shitty music.
EDM IS NOT ABOUT MUSIC, IT'S ABOUT MONEY
If you’re a band, a DJ, whatever, you’re only as big as how many people you can bring to a festival. EDM has really changed what commercial music consumption is. These purpose built clubs inside massive Las Vegas hotels? The music is shit, but they’re selling thousands of bottles of alcohol a night to rich idiots. Kids today would rather go out on a night out, listening to whatever music, and getting on it, than pay $40 to going to a rock show that ends at midnight. Everyone wants more, all the time.
You can produce a huge festival and not be shitty, though. Look at Tomorrowlands in Belgium. It’s a huge festival, with almost the same acts at some of the major EDM festivals, yet so much quality and care is put into creating an experience. Electric Daisy Carnival? It’s a stage in a parking lot, full of kids with fucking suckers in their mouths and gas masks on, getting wasted.
To me, the perfect festival is Burning Man, or Shangri-La at Glastonbury. There’s music, but it’s not just about the music. It’s about experimentation, and the environment in which you experience music.
BUT, WHEN THE BUBBLE BURSTS, WE'LL HAVE A NEW GENERATION OF DANCE FANS
Not everyone’s a lifer in this world, but what separates the wheat from the chaff is intellect. Intellect is a true indication of taste. Some smart kids are standing in these EDM festivals, in the mud and heat and sick, and they’re thinking, “Yeah, this is fine for now, but this can’t be it forever”. There’s got to be something better – but they have to find it for themselves. That’s the next generation right there.
Seth Troxler is playing a lot of festivals this summer, but his Big Titty Surprise party at Sonar Festival, Barcelona, looks pretty sweet.