Slater Hogan looks happy for someone who's about to turn 40.
Decked out in an orange sweater, plaid hat, white sneakers and gray dress pants, the in-demand house DJ is nursing an organic beer at the bar of his modish Mass Ave apartment. Through one door is his studio, with its foam-covered walls and shelves displaying thousands of LPs. Covers of the first electronic records Hogan issued with his DJ partner John Larner on their label Muzique Boutique line the hallway wall in picture frames.
It's been a wild ride for someone who entered the electronic scene at a slightly advanced age. Hogan, a Cathedral High School graduate, didn't start DJing until the mid to late '90s. Since then, he's played club parties nationally and internationally, and helped establish one of Indianapolis' most popular weekly parties.
"I didn't think it would ever amount to anything," Hogan says.
Growing up, which included eight years in California, Hogan was always into electronic music, artists like New Order and Depeche Mode. It was during his undergraduate studies at Butler University that he discovered house, a form of electronic dance music strongly influenced by soul, funk and disco.
"Once I heard house music and techno, it was a natural transition from the stuff I had been listening to," Hogan says.
He started attending raves and other parties. Hogan was especially taken by how DJs could isolate the core of any given song that they used in a mix.
"Two songs combined are actually better than the individual songs," he says. "That really intrigued me. I have no musical background whatsoever, but thought, I want to give that a try."
From raves to production
Hogan started DJing on the side, landing gigs at The Vogue and The Patio. He met John Larner, already a nationally recognized music mixologist, during a shift at The Patio.
"He was still pretty new at it, and still figuring out mixing on the technical side, but I recognized the way that he played," Larner says of Hogan. "He had a really good ear for what to put together and ways to take stuff from different genres and make them sound good together."
Hogan became a regular at Larner's house after that, since he didn't have his own turntables. At the same time, they started organizing house parties around the city with Kevin Ahern. These were events on the up-and-up, not raves as they're traditionally known. They rented legal venues and hired off-duty police officers for security.
"We weren't trying to do the illegal parties with all the drugs," Hogan says.
They were still affected by the law of unintended consequences. The federal government's RAVE Act shut down all such gatherings even those thrown by people trying to play by the rules. Hogan and Larner then shifted their focus to music production.
"I knew the scene overseas was a lot different, and the only way to break into it was through production," Hogan says.
Eventually they constructed between 20 and 25 house cuts, none of which they thought were even good enough to send out.
"We didn't know how they'd stand up on a dance floor," Hogan says.
They did muster the courage to send them to Mark Farina, a famous Bay Area DJ. Hogan and Larner never heard anything back. But three months later, Hogan listened to one of Farina's live sets online and noticed five of their tracks.
"I thought wow, we might be onto something," Hogan says.
Soon they were getting calls from record labels. Hogan estimates he and Larner produced 40 more tracks by the end of 2002. They caught another break when BBC DJ Pete Tong, known as the UK's dance music ambassador, added some of their songs to his essential mix.
"Next thing we knew, we were getting calls from promoters in England and flying over there to DJ," Hogan says. "That spread throughout Europe."
The pair spun in 13 countries during 2002. At present, Hogan and Larner average two to three months overseas annually. They're in Australia and New Zealand for five weeks at a time, and work 10-day stints in Europe.
"The first place I ever went was Leuven, Belgium, which is just outside Brussels," Hogan says. "That's where the Stella Artois brewery is. Stella at that point wasn't big in the states."
Hogan was DJ at a club connected to the brewery. He befriended the promoters there. They were on their way to Indianapolis during this interview to attend Keepin' it Deep, a weekly house party Hogan and Larner organize at Blu with Tyler Stewart and Scott McCorkle.
"I gotta go stock the fridge with Stella after this," Hogan says.
A boutique label
Through their travels, Hogan and Larner met enough fellow talent to start their own label, Muzique Boutique.
"What we like to do is buy one of their tracks and get a famous person to remix it and bring them up the same way," Hogan says of the imprint, which they don't use to release their own material. Counting remixes and 12-inches, he figures they've issued 100 releases.
"It's not quantity right now as much as quality," Hogan says. "We're releasing less but feel like our production has moved forward."
They're putting more effort into Keepin' it Deep, which features headlining internationally-known DJs along with local talent.
"We have so many great DJs in Indianapolis that are probably better than the national talent," Hogan says. "They might be on the same bill with them, they just haven't gotten the recognition yet."
Hogan boasts that Keepin' It Deep longest running weekly electronic music show in the city. It started eight years ago at Eden in Broad Ripple before taking up residencies at The Jazz Kitchen, Vapor Lounge, LuLu's, Therapy and now Blu.
Katelin Reeves, events coordinator at Blu, says Keepin' it Deep has opened the club to a whole new crowd.
"We've had Thursday nights here that are Saturday-night busy," she says. "That's something that hadn't happened for a long time. They've really created another weekend night here."
For the love of EDM
As Larner sees it, the reason for their success is simple.
"We like to party," he says. "We have a great time doing it."
Not that Hogan and Larner don't put time into pre-partying.
"The time, quality and money that goes into doing these shows, a lot of people don't understand," Larner says. "At the end of the day, it's not really important that they do, but that's why it does well. It comes off like we just go out there and do it."
Other hot spots around the city continue to embrace the electronic scene - The Melody Inn, 45 Degrees, Blu Martini and Talbott Street. The Red Room in Broad Ripple also hosts electronic music on Thursdays. But rather than try to outdo each other, Reeves says the clubs work together to make it as noncompetitive as possible.
"What helps with this genre is rather than being competitive everyone's doing what they're doing for the love of electronic music," she says.
As for Hogan's fourtieth birthday, he'll be turning the page in style. The Feb. 11 edition of Keepin' it Deep features The Hood Internet, who mash up indie rock and hip-hop, and of course Hogan. VIP pre-sale tickets include complimentary 40 oz. Pabst Blue Ribbons and a limited edition hand-screened 40 oz. bag designed by Mile 44.
"It's going to be the biggest party of all time," Reeves raves. "It's going to be ridiculous. Slater knows a lot of people. Thursdays have been crazy anyway. This is going to be above and beyond the usual crazy."