Being a full-time travelling DJ isn’t all Ibiza beaches and champagne. It’s also delayed flights, schlepping around gear, barely sleeping, and praying incessantly that the airline doesn’t lose your bag. Seth Troxler is no stranger to the highs and lows of DJing life, diving into his music career over a decade ago with a residency at legendary Berlin club Club der Visionaere and frequent appearances at Panorama Bar, opening a BBQ restaurant in London, and now calling the island of Ibiza home in between gigs. We sat down with Seth Troxler ahead of the launch of his collaboration with Horizn Studios on their Pro Model ST DJ Trolley to talk surviving life as a travelling DJ, his early days in the Detroit rave scene versus his DJ upbringing in Berlin, and how he manages to stay relatively sane in a crazy world.
Do you have any travel horror stories?
A few times I've had my luggage completely lost by Lufthansa and then Air France lost one of my bags. It's frustrating because they offer you $200 bucks or something like that, which doesn't even cover the cost of the bag let alone the stuff inside. My friend Jackmaster, another big DJ, has lost his bag and passport so many times that the English government doesn't want to give them back to him. The only person who's lost his passport more is Pete Doherty from Babyshambles. Obviously the capabilities of having a GPS on your luggage could help you get your stuff back.
Since you travel a lot, do you have any airplane rituals?
I read the New York Times every flight and I try to make myself drink a bottle of water. Not so exciting but honest.
How did you start working with Horizn Studios on their DJ Trolley?
It's a really, really funny coincidence actually. My ex-girlfriend was at Soho House in New York and met Stefan, one of the co-founders of Horizn Studios. They were talking about DJ bags and luggages and other stuff and Stefan mentioned they were designing a DJ bag but we don't know any DJs. She's like, ‘Actually my ex-boyfriend, Seth Troxler’s a DJ, maybe I could hook you guys up.’ Best break-up of all time. That was the beginning of my relationship with Horizn.
Tell us a bit about the features of the DJ Trolley and how it's changed how you travel as a DJ?
The whole point was to come up with something very practical for DJs who travel as much as I do based on their actual needs. Before, the market had things for amateur DJs or pilots. People would use the Rimowa Bags. We sat down and brainstormed the actual things that people need. Horizon already had the incredible power charging station and GPS capabilities but then we went in further. All the zippers are waterproof for clubs. There's this great pack here that you can put your passport and boarding pass in There's some cool pockets on the front panel. Also, a place where you can fit a 15 inch computer. Then inside gets really fun with modular compartments where you can fit a Traktor box, controller, USBs, lights and all that stuff, as well as a removable case that fits 30 records. It's also got a secret stash pocket on the inside which is pretty nifty.
What’s the best pre-gig meal you’ve ever eaten?
I mean I've had some incredible, incredible meals at restaurants I've been taken to around the world by incredible promoters but talking about food provided by a festival or something like that, Coachella had the best on-site food that I could eat before a show. They had lobsters and stuff. It was crazy. I was there for three days, and at some point I started stealing other friend's tickets. Tonight I’m going to go out to Mao Thai here in Berlin before the show.
How do you stay sane as a traveling DJ?
I'm already crazy so that gives me a level of pre-sanity. I drink less than I used to. Where most people would be like, 'that's just too crazy.' I'm like, 'this is pretty normal'. Outside of 'How do you stay sane in today's world? How does anyone stay sane?'
How do you unwind after a week of touring?
I have a really comfortable couch. I don't have to actually really unwind - unwinding is not a thing I'm familiar with. I hang out with my girlfriend, I try to do normal things as much as possible and not go to parties. Unwinding is just not being in a club. I’ll watch some Seinfeld, a little Curb Your Enthusiasm, only comedy. I only watch comedies. That's how I unwind, comedies.
What do you like to wear while you’re DJing?
There's this artist from New York who I'm really about who is an incredible painter but he also makes clothes, Scooter Laforge. He makes these one of kind handpainted shirts that are off the hook. I've got maybe 15 of them now. I know him and stuff and at a really big show I’ll always wear one of his suits. Outside of that I just wear T-shirts and stuff that you would wear to bed. I don't really care that much. If it's like a big show, like 2,000 people and above, I'm like, “Oh, it's Scooter time.”
Who’s your favorite b2b partner?
Craig Richards. We've been DJing together for a couple of years. Who else do I play back to back with? The Bros, the Martinez Brothers. Ricardo Villalobos as well, but Craig’s my favorite. We're like best friends. He's a gentleman.
Do you have any secrets to playing really long sets?
Not really. For a second I was trying out modafinil. I was fucking with that for a little bit but it got weird. It makes you really productive and on-point but at some point you become unemotional to anything and everything. But I was incredibly productive and analytical which I loved. It was great for DJing to because I'd be awake and in a good mood.
What differences do you notice in DJ culture or dance music culture now versus when you were getting your start in the 2000s?
As soon as I hit high school the raves started up. At that time in Detroit it was a very small scene. There was a lot of DJs but not many punters. When I came to Europe I saw a much bigger culture. That’s what Europeans do, they go clubbing. I like to say, in England it's almost your birthright to go to raves. What I see now with the rise of EDM is how big of a global industry it's become, really. It's real international culture. Every restaurant you go to, every gym, every everything is playing electronic music. It's become mass pop culture. It's funny how everyone talks about being underground. There is no underground unless you're some kid in his basement making up some stuff with 10 of his friends. That's underground.
How did living in Berlin influence your approach to DJing and music in general?
It was everything. I moved here when I was 21, in 2007. I had been going to Club Der Visionaere. I was a resident there and just being around those people and being in Berlin from 2004 - it was really the kind of golden age of hedonism and bohemia. Everyone was just broke. It was just happening. It's kind of funny because everyone was just a bunch of kids and now everyone is like really well-known artists. It's kind of funny to be in that kind of artistic movement. I guess at some point and being around all those people and now we’re all in our 30s and we're like, what happened? Some people stopped. Some people became superstar DJs. Some people are just now breaking out, 10 years later. It was incredible. It was an incredible time to be a part of everything. It's kind of funny. I would never think I would be creating a DJ bag on the Spree in this really nice building. It’s funny how life presents you with different things.
Which up-and-coming DJs or producers are you excited about?
The Acid Mondays, the return of Shawn Reeves. I also really like this guy on R&S Records, Lone. Aside from club music, I’m listening to a lot of Brazilian music at the moment.
For more of our Q&As, check out legendary DJ Stretch Armstrong on the 5 90s NYC Clubs that shaped him right here.