It ain’t easy being from Kalamazoo. Caught equidistant from Chicago and Detroit, you can’t rightfully claim either major Midwestern city as home. Just ask Seth Troxler. After he moved to the suburbs of Detroit he spent plenty of time in the trenches at record stores, parties and the music scene, but it took a long time before he was finally accepted as one of the Motor City’s own. In his recent Fireside Chat for Red Bull Music Academy Radio, Troxler recounts how Carl Craig finally presented him with his official Detroit credentials.
When I was 12 or 13 I moved from Kalamazoo to a Detroit suburb called Lake Orion. In the first few weeks of school I met some kids that were going to a party in Detroit. Lake Orion is about 30 minutes away up the highway, and it’s right near where the Detroit Pistons play. I always make the joke that I’m about as Detroit as the Detroit Pistons.
So I was just this kid driving down to some warehouse space – it was still rave times. It was a Sonic Groove party with Frankie Bones and Heather Heart. It was 1999 or 2000. My parents listened to dance music, but I never knew that you could listen to that music in places like that. I never knew that culture was even there. And I guess I’ve been kinda going to a rave every weekend ever since. I was like, “This is it! This is what it’s going to be like.” [laughs]
Detroit is very romantic in a way. Even when I go back there is a certain energy there that is so incredibly special. There is such a rich line of tradition. Not even just music and art. Just generally. The landscape of the city, the feeling. There’s something more there. To paint a picture, it’s kind of like Gotham City after Batman’s death.
Thom Yorke and Radiohead played in Detroit once and they were so scarred they’ve never come back. It really kind of mentally messed them up. It’s dark. Stark. To be from a place like that... When you’re there and it’s happening, you don’t look at it the same. You don’t think about it. It’s just how life is. In hindsight – upon leaving or getting older – you start to find the effects that it has had on you. It’s incredible. When we had to move from Kalamazoo to Detroit I was so mad at my Mom. I was like, “I have to leave all my friends behind, I’m just about to start high school.” But, in hindsight, it was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.
I wasn’t born in Detroit technically. I’m from the suburbs. But I worked at one of the main record stores for a really long time. The Visionquest guys are from there. We threw raves there. We were part of the clubbing culture and the musical culture. But Carl Craig, he always messed with me. We had a joke about it. They did this Detroit 25 thing and a couple of guys were like, “Oh, we gotta get Seth on board.” And Carl was like, “Seth’s not from Detroit!” [laughs] And I was like, “Come on! I wasn’t born here, but I was really part of the scene until I moved to Europe.” I was here for most of my musical life. And most of my musical development was in the Detroit club scene.
When I got #1 in the recent Resident Advisor DJ poll, Carl tweeted something like, “Detroiter Seth Troxler #1! Way to go!” We had recently become friends through all of the traveling we’ve been doing. So I tweeted back to him, “So now am I in?! You’ve accepted me?” And he was like, “You’re one of us!” So maybe I’m a bit more validated nowadays from some of the older guys. It’s kinda funny to be from a city like that where the musical heritage is so deep and people are very protective of that in a way – and rightly so.