Editor’s note: Two days before this article was meant to be published Theo received a cease and desist letter from a record company that shall remain unnamed. They barred him from using his ten year old producer and DJ alias. So this will be the happy obituary for the artist formerly known as Paxton Fettel.
Theo Nic, better known to the connoisseurs as Paxton Fettel, is one of Copenhagen’s finest when it comes to DJing and producing on the softer sides of house. I invited him for a cup of coffee, which turned into a two hour conversation that covers more bases than America in the Middle East. Here are fragments from those 120 minutes. But first, why.
How did we end up here?
Love.Rave was serving up some Sunday shenanigans realness and Theo was first on the bracket. Even though the room really wasn’t filled to capacity it did not seem to mind the loose limbed dancer behind the decks. As he throws on one soft boiled, jazzy house buster after another he simply danced and smiled his way into my heart. I came straight into the Love.Rave, but came out with a man crush and a phone number for a later interview date.
Man crush Monday arrives and my doorbell rings. After a hug and some pleasantries we place our asses on my semi comfortable chairs, pour some black tar and oat milk into our cups. Fast I learn what I suspected: The road to house music was not a straight one for Theo. From a young age he was playing keys, bass and drums, but never to perfection. That came later.
– I started our playing drums in a metal band, but that all changed when I met a guy who was producing progressive house and trance. It didn’t take long for me to know that this made it tickle in all the right places. It kind of blew my mind that I could control all of the elements of a track, just from my computer. It didn’t matter that much that it all sounded like shit for a long time, says Theo, without even trying to wipe the grin off his face.
Nothing is ever really perfect in the first try and a lot of water has passed under the bridge. Theo has moved in the direction of old-school house and techno with undertones of disco, funk and jazz. For that, I thank him!
Breaking the ice
After Theo discovered Ableton and started playing with beats on his computer and putting some stuff online, things moved very fast. Russian Fusion Netlabel got in touch and released some Paxton Fettel tracks just to create some hype – and it worked. From there the music blog Little White Earbuds got in touch, Costa Rican label Side B Underground wanted to release Paxton Fettel for real and around the same time Greta Cottage Workshop played some of his tracks one their radio show. As a side note it should be mentioned that today Theo is part of running Greta Cottage Workshop. But back on track; Per Laksø, from the legendary and long gone club Dunkel, heard some of Paxton’s stuff and wanted Theo to come and play.
– Per loved my stuff and wanted me to do a DJ set. I told him that I honestly had no idea about mixing, but that I could do a live setup with my computer. I was nervous like never before, but it went super well. Well enough that I got some more gigs at Dunkel and soon after I got to play in Odense, Aarhus and Aalborg too. It was an amazing time. I even got a shoutout in Soundvenue. Plus, I also met some really nice people. Daniel Savi, Central, Jesper Ryom og Dee Brown. All in all just a lovely time, says Theo.
Having flown high after getting his first shout out in the press and doing his sparse live shows across the main cities across Denmark and even Strøm festival the down period came – hard and long.
Getting the cold shoulder
– It felt so good to do something I love and to get recognition for it. But for some reason nobody was interested in my shit now. It sucked, because I really felt like I was only getting better at producing. At the time I was working part time at a hotel, so when I got home I would typically produce till I was half asleep on my equipment. I wanted to keep riding this wave, but something had changed. This period was filled with a lot of self doubt and not feeling any kind of adequate. Two years it took before I started seeing the creative light again when Jimpster contacted me. He had previously remixed my track “She’s alright”. Now he wanted me to do an EP for Delusions of Grandeur. That pulled me out of the darkness to produce “Night Waves” for Jimpster and soon after “Better Days” on Greta Cottage Workshop. But while not releasing music I was just super busy practising. Keys, Bass, Drums, Guitar. All of what it takes to recreate that fantastic funky music that I love so much. And while being gone for a while I was finally free to do exactly what I want. Not having to actually finish any music was a fantastic boost to the speed in which a learned to play and become an even better producer, mix engineer and musician. Finally I was free from my own expectations. Or at least somewhat free, says Theo.
After Jimpster showed an interest in Paxton Fettel’s sound, things have been looking up. Theo got to know some magnificent artists: Detroit Swindle, Andy Hart, Francis Inferno Orchestra, Cinthie, Anna Wall, Fouk, Nachtbraker, Loz Goddard, Ben Gomori plus more. He got invited to play abroad at both clubs and festivals in Germany, France, Romania, UK and the Netherlands. But still the thought of not being good enough hunts Theo to this day.
The imposter syndrome
The story about a struggling artist who can never seem to be happy with what he does is a boring one, but nevertheless it is a feeling that follows Theo since he started working as Paxton Fettel about ten years ago.
– When I finish a track I am never really happy with it, and I honestly don’t want to listen to it for a while. I feel like an imposter. What I made has already been done a million times before and I should just quit. It is the same reason I learned so many instruments I never really thought I was good enough to play with the others. But when I have a look at my back catalogue of 60+ releases plus white labels and vinyl I can only say that a lot of them have stood the test of time. That makes me pretty damn proud, says Theo.
Finding out that it is more about the journey than perfection has helped Theo a lot in his work.
Extremely specific inspiration
Inspiration for a DJ can come from anything. It is normally a question I don’t ask, but in Theo’s case it is so specific that we are talking niche on a very niche based level.
– I draw inspiration from everywhere. A nice track, a DJ mixing in a certain way or just my everyday life. But a lot of my samples and inspiration comes from funk and disco in the period between 1978-1983. The vocals are to die for and the smooth bass sends me to heaven. I’m not saying that disco is only good in that period but after ‘83, it became more sample based and electronic. Nothing wrong with that, but I just think those five years are golden, says Theo.
I guess this is one of the reasons that Soundvenue plus more has called Paxton Fettel “your producers favorite producer”. Listen to this mix below and you will know what’s the T:
To say that Theo has a non-binary look would be an understatement. The skinny pink braid hanging casually to the side of this face is mesmerizing. His attitude and words scream acceptance and it is no coincidence that he is the only male artist who have been invited to command the decks at a Housefrau party. But being just a little fluid with your looks can get you into trouble when drunken idiots take over the streets.
– At the Distortion street party in 2018 my appearance must have been on point. One guy, who have had about ten too many beers thought I looked like a ‘faggot’. At least that’s what he was yelling as his fist connected with my face. And since it was during Distortion he got off with a very mild sentence for his hate crime, because during those days all of Copenhagen is considered a club. I really wish that there would be much more tolerance in the Copenhagen nightlife. Less violence and harassment seems like a small thing to wish for, says Theo.
As Theo finishes his cup of tar and pours up another I can’t help but think that this is one of the big reasons I have have gravitated towards the house scene. Less toxic masculinity – YAS please!
Without a paddle
To get away from a conversation hanging in the negative part of the woods, I change the pace. Knowing that Theo recently quit his 9-5 duties and is working on his music full time I want to know more. The answer caught me slightly off guard to say the least.
– Yeeeeaaaahhhh. About that. I have made this decision based on absolutely nothing. I only have a few upcoming gigs and not too many prospects. So right now it feels like I’m on a river going downstream and I have started cutting up the wires connecting the raft, right after I threw my lifejacket overboard. It is a bit scary to be honest, but as Tyler Durden said in Fight Club: “The lower you fall, the higher you fly”, says Theo with a grin on his face.
Luckily there are a few things coming up for Theo. He has more studio time coming up and has been signed by Imported Paris.
Music is communication
Over a two hour conversation, you are bound to repeat yourself a time or two. Naturally, this was the case with Theo as well, whose mouth has the speed and volume only matched by Adderall enthusiasts. As he lights up the room, one thing is up for repetition: Music is communication.
How he loves to play b2b-sets because he loves the musical communication between like minded artists – Session Victim being a very memorable experiences. How he constantly thinks of the communication to the listener in his productions. How dancing is its own form of musical communication, and that everybody should dance more. But most important of all, how to communicate as a DJ – a tricky part for anyone, but especially for Theo who considers himself a producer and musician first and DJ second.
– When you can count to four and have your beat matching down, then you can DJ – more or less. The tricky part is reading a room and keeping a dance floor going while still educating people and not being a jukebox that just plays peak time banger. I want to take people on a journey when I play. If I can incorporate a little jazz, dub-techno, Detroit, classic house, deep house, disco and so on into my set and keep the dance floor hot and grooving, I come out of the DJ booth on a high that no drug can give me. When this communication between DJ and dancers becomes unity it is pure magic, says Theo.
As the door closes
Those were not the last words spoken, but for the sake of a beautiful ending to a conversation between two hopeful realists, we’ll call it the ending. We hug goodbye and as the door closes and I can hear the light footsteps going down the four flights of stairs I stand still for a second and think. It is rare that an interview just feels like a conversation between two old friends. I know one thing for sure. I’ll be listening to the mix below while writing and that I will come out to hear Theo play over and over again – let’s see under what alias we will get him next.
R.I.P. Paxton Fettel
BY MARTIN ESKESEN