Sweatbox is a techno party crew based out of Seattle, WA that has spearheaded numerous weekly, monthly, and one-off parties across the city in its ever rotating cast of clubs, lofts, and warehouses. The focus has always been on presenting the most authentic and uncompromising techno experience possible through marathon parties and extended DJ sets of artists both celebrated and unknown. On March 31st The crew celebrates nine years of bringing techno to the masses with a ten hour party headlined by Cosmin TRG. Here is their story…
Tell me how it all started 9 years ago.
Chris Aldrich: Sweatbox started pretty organically. I moved to Seattle from Detroit in 2005 and started DJing around town at raves and small club events. I met Jonny Romero at a bar called Capitol Club in late 2007 where they were doing a “Minimal Mondays” night and we quickly became like brothers. We started DJing together a lot and got each other amped up for taking things to the next level by throwing our own parties. Key to our story is the fact that our ambitions flew directly in the face of local laws. In the States we have the archaic closing time of 2am and we subscribed rigidly to the idea that the party is just getting started at 2am. If we were going to do a party, it was going to be done right and that meant going til sunrise. No one else was really doing a high caliber, full throttle techno party at that time and it was not easy to find a venue that would take that risk. Eventually we found a shitty sports bar that would let us go til whenever we wanted and we did our first event in April 2008. We booked our local friends and a couple guys I knew from Detroit and have kept the ball rolling ever since.
How has it changed over the years?
Well, the biggest change in the early days was Jonny moving to New York about a year after we started Sweatbox. The parties were picking up steam and starting to get pretty wild and bam, just like that one half of the crew was gone. I thought maybe it was done after that but Danny started playing a bigger role in executing the events and once Jesse came on board it was clear things weren’t stopping any time soon. We bounced around to any place that would host us for a while, whether it was the back room of a Thai food joint, art galleries, or make shift “sound camps” at outdoor festivals but once we found Electric Tea Garden, a small loft style space that held about 200 and went well into sunrise, we finally had the canvas needed to develop the ideas and concepts we had in our minds. We did parties there for about 4 years until it got shutdown. Losing that spot was a huge blow and it took us a while to find venues that we felt were able to support our vision. We took about a year off from doing parties because we couldn’t find a proper place but Seattle is on the upswing again with a lot going on and several promotion crews and we have a couple spots now that are really nice to work with where we can go late and offer up what we feel is the proper techno experience.
What are three nights you will remember for the rest of your life?
Whew, that’s a tough one. A lot of great nights that I will never forget yet can’t fully remember haha. The three year anniversary instantly comes to mind. ETG had just gotten their liquor license and approached us about extending the hours of our events for special occasions in order to maximize their hustle since they could open the bar back up at 6am. The party went from 10pm-10am and this was the first marathon-style party that the NW had seen. We were uncertain if people were actually going to stay til the end but they took it as a serious challenge and we had a crowd there til the very end, no problem. It was all locals with Jonny and I as headliners, the vibe was so thick in there and watching the first rays of the new rising sun flood the dancefloor was a feeling of total victory.
Another one that comes to mind is the first “Yagottawantit” party during the 2012 Decibel Festival. We’d already done showcases and after parties during Decibel but we were inspired by the morning/day parties that we were experiencing during Movement festival in Detroit and had a strong desire to bring that experience to Seattle. The party started at 2am and went til 2pm on Sunday and the response was unreal, packed from the word “go”. We had Walker Barnard, Mikael Stavostrand, and Derek Plaslaiko as headliners and every one of them tore that place up. Once again, a situation where we were uncertain if people were going to stay til the end and it was throbbing all the way til the music stopped. Such a great night!
Another fantastic evening was during our five year anniversary. We did a double header weekend with Derek Plaslaiko booked on that Friday to do an 8 hour set in a warehouse and then a twelve hour party at ETG the next night with our friends from up and down the coast. We’d booked Derek many times by that point but had never given him the reigns for the entire night and holy shit, what an experience that was. He whipped that place into a frenzy like I’d never seen before and had everyone eating out of the palm of his hand. He ended up playing 9.5 hours and would’ve kept going if we didn’t have to stop because the business across the street was getting ready to open. We all went and after partied after that and were up forever. I got about 3 hours of sleep and had to wake up and do it all over again. That weekend probably shaved a couple years off our lives but man, so worth it. 10/10, would do again.
What are some important things to know if you want to start something like Sweatbox?
Working in this industry is pretty intense and can eat you alive if you let it. To throw techno parties you’ve really got to be all in. It can put such a strain on your relationships and working a full time job. Maintaining balance and knowing when to say “no” are very key. Additionally, even though it’s a party, it’s also a business and you need to treat it as such. Professionalism goes a long way in this game, once you lose that or get a reputation as someone who’s a little squirrely, it’s really hard to come back from that. Lastly, ego is the most self-defeating aspect of this whole thing. Ego is like cocaine in the sense that it can take an otherwise lovely person and transform them into the absolute worst version of themselves. It’s so frustrating and disheartening given the purity that lies within this music. I think Mike Banks of Underground Resistance summed it up perfectly when he said “I believe that if you put your ego in front of the music and place it in front of the speaker, the people trying to listen to the music can’t hear your music, they just listen to your ego.” If you are in this for the right reasons, really celebrating this music and lifestyle, then I believe you can have longevity in the game.
Do you have any final thoughts?
We just want to extend a sincere thank you to everyone who has supported us over these last nine years. It has been a wild ride and it means a lot to us to be able to share this music and create so many great memories with you.
Tell me how it all started
Jesse Farmer: I came to recognize Sweatbox as a vanguard of quality techno events in Seattle around 2009. The marathon parties I attended in Portland during my formative rave years in the late 90s featured almost exclusively Detroit and Chicago techno/house artists, so the vibe Chris and Jonny offered immediately struck a chord when we first came into contact. I became fully involved in organizing and DJing Sweatbox events shortly after the start of SpaceRock Saturdays at Electric Tea Garden in 2010. The events just kept getting better each month, and as things ramped up we really began to foster a fun sense of over the top techno heroism. We drove this attitude home especially hard in our promo videos, which often acted as a pep talk for the absurd feats of strength the parties expected of people, haha!
Has it changed during the years?
Venues have come and gone, the frequency of our parties has ebbed and flowed, but overall I think we’ve kept an uncompromising—but also fun loving—approach to the music and the party. It’s definitely been inspiring to see the new generation of talented Seattle techno promoters, producers and DJs seemingly come out of the woodwork over the past few years. There’s a real collaborative spirit in this city that you don’t see in many places, and the scene’s diversity and creative spirit only continues to grow,
If you want to start something like Sweatbox, what is important to know?
Know what you stand for, have an idea of what you’re trying to express, toss any ego and always put the music first. Also, do your best to be a nice, fun loving person. If your intentions are genuine, techno will provide.
Any last words??
Seattle techno has provided amazing experiences over the years and has led me to meet some of the most remarkable people I could have hoped to encounter. This music has a way of bringing out the right kind of people, and in turn bringing out the best in them. Thanks to all the unique people who have helped make these years so endearing!